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Kevlar is an incredibly strong material and when used properly can provide a lot of protection. In this post, we’ll discuss sewing Kevlar fabric: it’s uses, sewing tips, and best practices.
The first thing to bear in mind regarding working with Kevlar fabric is that Kevlar is effective when it’s packed together in layers. A single layer of kevlar is not much, but multiple layers compressed together are incredibly strong.
One reason folks may wish to sew their own Kevlar materials is for motorcycling gear. Kevlar, even when layered, will not protect against impacts, but is very effective in mitigating abrasions.
Put simply, Kevlar won’t protect your body in collisions, but when sewn on as elbow or knee patches, can protect you from road burn. For collisions, the best options are foams, which are commonly found as the protective material in helmets.
To make the best use of Kevlar, a single layer won’t cut it. You need multiple layers, sandwiched together very tightly in order to achieve the protection you need.
If you’re looking to make anything with Kevlar, make sure you layer the fabric, and sew X patters all over it like you would in a quilt. This will help keep the layers bunched close together.
Interestingly enough, there are other fabrics which are better for abrasion resistance than Kevlar, but because Kevlar is very heat resistant, it indirectly works well for protection from road burns.
The extreme friction and heat generated from the asphalt will be easily absorbed and dissipated by the Kevlar material.
Like nylons and other synthetic materials, there are a lot of different types of Kevlar and each of them have their own particular properties.
Before you go and buy some, it’s useful to talk to the store regarding the final product you wish to make out of it and whether this will be effective or not.
There are also two types of Kevlar fabrics: woven and knitted. Many manufacturers make knitted kevlar, but knitted Kevlar is quite inferior to woven. So if you’re looking to buy, make sure you’re picking up woven and not knitted.
Finally, you must bear in mind that Kevlar is UV sensitive, so if it is exposed to sunlight, it will degrade and lose its properties. The solution to this is as simple as covering up the Kevlar layers with another fabric to prevent any sunlight from getting to it.
Most kevlar weaves are fairly loose. Kevlar is designed to resist high speed, blunt projectiles(like a bullet). However its not as effective against sharp, lower speed object (knives).
A sewing needle does not move anywhere near the speed of a bullet, and it’s much closer to a knife, so you should not have any issues sewing with it.
I would suggest however that you either use a heavy duty sewing machine, or at the very least, an antique all-metal sewing machine. These are much stronger and more durable and can handle the extra stress of the tougher kevlar.
It will also help to use a jeans or canvas needle, preferably titanium tipped.
There are certain newer variations of Kevlar that have a much tighter weave and they’re a lot more difficult to penetrate. Stay away from using these fabrics at home as they may end up ruining your sewing machine!
Since Kevlar itself is an abrasive material, you need to use stronger threads for it to hold together correctly. You can also use Kevlar thread, which is actually quite widely used for heavy duty applications.
This website here provides an excellent, in-depth guide for all the different types of Kevlar threads available.
Here are some of the more striking properties of kevlar thread:
As you can see, most Kevlar applications are actually factory made. For making something at home that can deliver the results you want, I strongly suggest you buy a small amount first and experiment with different combinations. Change around the number of layers, add a polymer/glue in between some layers, and so on.
After you find a combination that you like and that is adaptable to your needs, you can use that for making your final product.
We're a husband and wife team of craft enthusiasts! Mostly we love working with different kinds of fabrics - in fact, you'll be hard pressed to find a store-bought piece of clothing in our home. Most of the stuff we enjoy making by hand!