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Crazy About Cork

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

Hi–I’m Susan with and I love the look of cork! In today’s post, I want to show you my latest cork project–a decorative pillow embellished with wooden buttons. Cork is not a new material. It has been around for thousands of years, used to make bottle stoppers, flooring, and shoes. Today we still use it for these items and so much more. One of the latest uses of cork is as a fabric. It is actually adhered to a piece of backing fabric, which leaves it flexible but makes the cork sew-able. A natural product, cork is the bark stripped from Cork Oak trees, found in Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. The bark is not stripped from a tree until it is about 25years old but stripping the bark does not harm the tree and it regenerates naturally. Cork is sustainable as the trees can grow to be more than 70 feet tall and live to be about 200 years old

Cork As Fabric

When it comes to sewing, cork is similar to leather and vinyl, and is sometimes called cork leather. It comes in various thicknesses. It is also stain-and water-resistant. Sold off the bolt and as packaged yardage, cork fabric comes in a variety of colors and patterns. In its natural state, each piece of cork has a unique look. It can be stitched, painted, embroidered, and appliquéd, and is a perfect choice for making purses, bags, and wallets.

Working With Cork

Cork is easy to sew but there are a few things to consider as you work on a cork project. Do not use pins as the holes they make will be permanent. Instead, use clips to hold pieces together for stitching. Double-sided Wonder tape can also be used in place of pins and is especially useful to hold zippers in place for stitching. Cork can be pressed with steam and if needed and it can easily be spot cleaned using a small amount of dishwashing soap.

Stitching Cork

When sewing cork, use a longer than normal stitch length to avoid perforation. If the stitch length is too short, the surface of the cork may be damaged as you sew. Cork doesn’t ravel so there is no need to finish seams. You can sew cork pieces together with a simple seam, but the seam allowances will not lie flat. Topstitching next to the seamline will flatten the seam allowances, reducing bulk and creating a nice finished look on your project.

Presser Feet

Cork can often be stitched using an all-purpose presser foot but occasionally the foot may drag on the surface of the cork fabric. In that case, try a Non-Stick or Teflon coated presser foot. It will move easily across the texture of the cork. Another type of presser foot that works for cork is a roller foot. The rollers on the sole of the presser foot also do a good job of navigating the cork fabric. Another foot that works well is an open embroidery foot, which is what I used on the cork pillow project we'll share next week!

To learn more from and about Susan Beck, visit Happy Stitching!

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