How to attach fabric-covered panels to van ceiling

We made a fabric-covered 1/4" wood panel, with a thin layer of quilt batting underneath, and need to attach it to the van’s ceiling. Using a drill causes the fabric to catch in the bit, pulling threads and making an unsightly mess of the fabric. In a test piece, we tried burning a small hole in the fabric (covered first with removable blue painter’s tape) with a heated nail, which works OK, but does anyone have a better solution that doesn’t include the possibility of setting fire to our panel?

Greetings & Welcome!

I think I read somewhere that when drilling through fabric it’s best to run the drill in reverse.


"Failures are merely a learning oportunity." ~ Rubber Tramp

Thank you, and what an intriguing idea. We’ll give it a try. Cheers!

Hi @Serenity and welcome!

Perhaps you could try using a small diameter (up to 6mm) hammer leather
hole punch to cleanly make a hole in the fabric (make sure the wood under the punch is supported firmly before hammering the hole punch.
Leather hammer hole punch
Then drill the hole, and to tidily cover the edges of the holes, use countersunk cup washers under the screws.

I hope this helps.

Thank you, WeyT5! An excellent idea. We’ll try that with the other panels. As for the ceiling panel, we installed it yesterday afternoon. First we tested the idea to run the drill backwards, but the fabric still snagged sometimes. So my husband made a device to hold a rod, to run the drill bit inside, pressing down on the fabric to help prevent runs. It worked sufficiently well, but your idea might be better. We’ll try that in the next week or two, when we finish a side panel. Here’s a photo of the device he made along with one showing the ceiling panel installed. Many thanks again!