As I sat at this year’s Lancaster Quilt Show, I was drooling over the cork fabric in Amelia’s Garden, the stand straight across from me. I just kept walking over during a slow moment, touching it and thinking “what can I make with this?!”
Don’t worry—this story has a happy ending. The cork ended up being the fabric I chose for this fantabulous wallet, the Perfect Wallet! (Pattern review coming soon!)
But you might be wondering, just like I was, how do I sew cork!?
Sounds scary, right?
But it’s not! Cork is my new favorite sewing material and I’m just waiting for another cork project to come my way. Let me tell you all about it:
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Cork Fabric is Durable
Cork is a fantastic material for those projects that might take a beating. It’s adhered onto a cotton/poly blend woven backing, so it is just as tough as any fabric. Your dyed corks may take on a little fading and wear, but I think that it adds to the character of the piece, and it isn’t any less reliable. It just gives it more of a grungy look as it’s used.
Cork is Water Resistant
One fateful day I unwillingly tested cork’s water-resistant nature: I went out for quick antique run—just real quick, while the baby was sleeping and hubby was home—took a quick spin around the store and found JUST the thing I needed! My blissful 10 minutes ended when I checked out and came outside to a absolute downpour! All I had was my cork wallet.
And my car was on the far side of the parking lot.
Even though I was terrified that my cork was going to shrivel up at the site of the rain, it didn’t! Water had no effect on the cork whatsoever. So now we know purses, bags, wallets—whatever! Cork can handle it.
Cork Fabric Does NOT Fray!
Is there anything better than edges that will not fray? I think not! I was slightly nervous to create a seam with my cork, thinking it would crack when I folded it over, but it didn’t! If you’re working on a project that might make a bulky seam with cork, then just sew it with the raw edge out because it won’t fray!
3 More Reasons to Love Cork Fabric
You’d be surprised to hear that other than the pure glory of cork fabric; it’s natural look, and texture—that there are a ton of other reasons to love cork! Here’s a few of my favorites:
It’s Easily Renewable
I love a no-guilt product. Cork is one to add to your list because it’s not only a widely available resource, it’s a easily renewable resource and is good for the cork trees! No trees are harmed in the production of cork, the bark is simply removed and the tree continues to grow and create more cork! (You can read about the world’s oldest cork tree here—it’s quite fascinating!)
So Many Options and Rich Colors!
Part of what made me fall in love with cork fabric on that fateful trade show day was the colors! They were so vibrant but so natural looking—the different variations and beauty that cork fabric has to offer is really quite stunning. They even have some variations with metallics in them! (Where’s the drooling emoji at?!)
Guys Love This Stuff
There are so many things I want to sew for my husband but I just can’t find the right, masculine, or just plain boring fabric that he would approve of. Cork is the perfect option for projects for men—it’s natural, it’s a little rough, and it’s brown (if that’s the color you choose)!
If you need help getting project ideas, just head on over to my Cork Fabric Pinterest Board!
It’s Easy to Find
Tips for Sewing With Cork Fabric
Alright—you’re convinced—it’s time to try out a cork sewing project! Here’s a few tips for you as you get started:
3 Helpful Tools
1. When sewing cork, it’s helpful to use a sharp needle, not a ball point. This will help slice right through the fabric and give you the oh-so-satisfying crunch as you stitch!
2. Some have suggested using a teflon foot when stitching your cork. I haven’t found a need for this yet and was perfectly fine using my metal foot. If you run into troubles with your cork sticking, or not smoothly moving through your machine, try a teflon foot.
3. The secret with cork is not making any holes that you don’t want! It’s a little different than cotton and pin holes will stick around after the pins are removed. I’d suggest whipping out the binding clips in leiu of pins for a cork fabric project! This means you’ll want to be extra careful because ripping out seams might show in the finished project.
I suggest tucking the iron away for cork projects. Cork holds it shape fairly well with some finger pressing. If you must iron your piece, be sure to use a very low heat and iron from the wrong side of the fabric. Otherwise, you might create some little bubbles on the surface of the cork.
Last but not least: This is totally preference, but I suggest using a longer stitch when you topstitch your cork sewing project! It creates a really nice, finished look!
Finally, have fun! Don’t freak out if you have to turn your cork right side out after sewing it—it won’t crack—be gentle, of course, but don’t flip out the whole time. Cork is a sturdy fabric—it can take it!
Update 11/19: Two years after writing this post and making my cork wallet, I’m happy to say that it’s still holding up beautifully! It is a bit worn, but no more than any wallet would be after two years of hard use. I will say that experience has taught me that not all cork fabrics are created equal. I have found that corks from Portugal are of the highest quality. If you’re not sure about a piece that you’re looking at purchasing, crinkle it up in your hands: it should easily ball up and not resist or crack. If it does, it’s not the cork for you!