Bumper fabric - as a long-time seamstress and sailor, here’s my take on bumper fabric for the non-sewer.
What has been recommended: “duck cloth” and Cordura (which is a name brand)
Problem: you’ll see descriptions including denier, weight in ounces or grams, and cotton/acrylic/nylon/polyester/blends. If you don’t sew or make sails, this means NOTHING. to you. “Cordura” is a name brand, so it’s even more confusing (and you will spend more $ for it).
What are we really looking for?
Polyester or nylon canvas that is heavy enough to take abuse. But not SO heavy that it doesn’t bend, or you can’t staple/sew through it
Polyester and nylon have a high melting point, so you can iron-on bumper numbers.
You can “seal” the edges by using pinking shears (the toothed-edge scissors)
- All the fancy water-repellent, UV coatings (like in Sunbrella and Cordura) - not needed here, and it’s an added expense.
- Acrylic… you are taking chances with it melting when you iron on numbers
- Cotton - can tolerate some abuse, but will tend to rip at the staples (because we are ALL stapling this to the bumper backing right? Of course we are). Cotton or cotton/poly canvas is a good choice if you have nothing else.
Great, so what the heck do I want?
Nylon or Poly canvas (also called “Pack cloth” or “sailcloth”), 7 oz/yard.
7 oz/yard is a good baseline. You can go heavier if you like, but it will be stiffer and harder to work with.
(Fabric weights are intuitive - 1 oz/yard is parachute fabric, 11 oz/yard is super heavy, stiff canvas - much heavier than denim).
example: Seattle fabrics - nylon pack cloth 7 oz/yd
Where can I get this or something like it?
Online. Your local fabric store is probably not going to have what you need.
(If you are desperate and need something NOW - head to a local fabric store and look for the heaviest polyester, poly-cotton, or nylon canvas-woven fabric you can find. Probably in the upholstery section. DO NOT USE FELT. “Rip-stop” fabric tends to be very lightweight, but if you can find it heavy-weight it could work).
Seattle fabrics has been a great source for me (for sailing) and decent prices (not affiliated with them, just a good source I’ve used). You can even get a fabric sample set from them. Sample set I have
Sample set of all weights/types nylon fabric
Also amazon.com (naturally), fabric.com, diyardage.com, google…
FYI - you’re going to see “Denier” like it’s important or something. Its really not. “Denier” is just a measure of opacity. If the fabric is white, you can “see through” 50 denier, probably can’t see through 400 denier.