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  1. #1
    Advanced BHUZzer Marianna's Avatar
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    How do you machine sew lycra?

    So I've been making costumes for a while - chiffon skirts, lycra skirts, bra and belt, etc etc.

    The lycra skirts I've been making were limited to straight skirts with a gather and slit on one side, or mermaid skirts (lycra/stretch velvet top, chiffon bottom). All of these didn't include much sewing of the lycra.

    I started making a fitted lycra skirt, the kind that has 4 or more petals to hug the hips, follow the leg line and then flare out at the bottom.

    When I try to machine sew them together I get so frustrated. I always use a zig zag sticth so they stretch, but also tried with a straight stitch. Neither one is very good and I get very annoyed. The pieces don't match together, they don't stretch together, there are snags, pulls, etc...
    How do you guys do it? I look at all these newer lycra skirts, where the pieces are so cleverly cut, and it must be very complicated to sew them together - yet the finish is very nice.

    helllllpp...


  2. #2
    Advanced BHUZzer Freddie's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Please please someone answer this one - I want to know too.

    I have a feeling that it has something to do with using a ball-point needle and/or inserting tissue between the layers of fabric first. But I could be making that up.

    God the way a lot of costumes are really simple in design these days, but effective with the cut and the drape etc, you could put one together fairly inexpensively with minimal beading and maximum impact. Having said that there are a lot of sewing-machine disasters gathering dust in my loft ...


  3. #3
    Master BHUZzer Jaseena's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    It's been a long time since I've sewn any lycra by machine. If you are getting snags from the machine than you may want to try folding some tear away material around the hem, (tissue paper maybe) that way you can sew the seam and then tear away the material and you have no snags. Try reducing the tension on the machine thread too, I think you may have too much tension in the stitch.

    Is your fabric 4-way or 2-way stretch? Using the 2-way stretch could be the problem.
    Last edited by Jaseena; 06-25-2008 at 07:24 PM.


  4. #4
    Master BHUZzer andalee-oriental's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    I would also make sure you have new thread, the proper needle and that the presser foot has the right pressure. A lot of times when I have trouble sewing fabrics, it takes more than changing the thread tension or stitch, it takes checking everything else too. Good luck!

    PS I like the tissue paper idea.


  5. #5
    Master BHUZzer tigerb's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    The people at Threads have some tips:

    Sewing Lycra Blends
    A Primer on Sewing Knits

    I've had the best luck on my sewing machine with a narrow zigzag or a triple-straight stretch stitch. If you see snags, that's usually a needle problem -- try a ball point or a universal, not a sharp.

    Be sure that you cut out all your pieces correctly on the grain of the fabric with the stretch going the right way. If you don't line up the stretch, the pieces won't match.


  6. #6
    Advanced BHUZzer mrsnj20's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    I just finished sewing a lycra skirt. don't put very much tension on it when you are sewing it and don't set the thread tension too high. Make sure you have a newer needle. Those are the best comments I can give. It is really hard to keep the fabric even because it keeps stretching!


  7. #7
    Mega BHUZzer gothique's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    It's been a long time since I've sewn lycra. So I hope I remember this right:

    It helps to put tissue paper UNDER the fabric (between fabric, and feed dogs).
    The feed dog is pushing the bottom layer fabric at a slightly faster rate than the top fabric. Top fabric is being held down by the pressure foot (making the top layer slightly longer than the bottom layer).
    I also apply just a 'slight' tension on the bottom layer fabric, to slow it down through the feed dogs.
    I used the straight stretch stitch, or the narrow zig-zag.
    As the other ladies said, lighten the tension on the pressure foot a bit.
    Make sure the thread tension isn't too tight, because it'll cause the thread to 'cut' into the fabric.


  8. #8
    I could get used to this! mandyt's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    You should use the recommended needle for your machine; I use a blue tip needle.

    Also use a stretch stitch (this goes backwards & forwards ) the stitch will not pull apart & does stretch with the fabric.

    I have had Egyptian costumes with newspaper on the seams that pulls off, so the Egyptian use newspaper.

    I make costumes & I have a really good machine that will sew any thing so if you are planning on doing a lot of sewing buy a good sew machine.


  9. #9
    Advanced BHUZzer Veil_Dancer's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    I cheat and use a 4 thread overlocker/serger.

    It trims edges, serges and sews all at the same time.

    Samiya


  10. #10
    Advanced BHUZzer NazirahDances's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    I use a ballpoint needle (of the proper thickness for the fabric) and a stretch stitch on my machine. Usually I am using thicker stuff like stretch velvets, so I dont need the tissue, but if I were using a swimsuit type lycra, I would use paper.


  11. #11
    Advanced BHUZzer Marianna's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    wow - the tissue sounds really good. I have seen it in some lycra costumes, but only in some places so I thought they used it only for reinforcement. I haven't seen it at the seams, but it sounds like it will work.

    I should have said : 4 way stretch. The 2 way stretch lycra/velvet is very easy, it's the 4 way I'm having trouble with.

    My sewing machine actually just died 3 weeks ago and now I am using my friend's, and I haven't quite figured out everything on it. It is time to buy a new one, but what should I look for specifically to make lycra sewing easier?
    My old machine was $99 at Walmart 6 years ago, and although it was wasn't fancy it had everything I needed without confusing me.

    Thanks for all the advice, keep them coming :)


  12. #12
    Master BHUZzer tigerb's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marianna View Post
    wow - the tissue sounds really good. I have seen it in some lycra costumes, but only in some places so I thought they used it only for reinforcement. I haven't seen it at the seams, but it sounds like it will work.

    I should have said : 4 way stretch. The 2 way stretch lycra/velvet is very easy, it's the 4 way I'm having trouble with.

    My sewing machine actually just died 3 weeks ago and now I am using my friend's, and I haven't quite figured out everything on it. It is time to buy a new one, but what should I look for specifically to make lycra sewing easier?
    My old machine was $99 at Walmart 6 years ago, and although it was wasn't fancy it had everything I needed without confusing me.

    Thanks for all the advice, keep them coming :)
    The tissue is not meant to remain in the seam! You rip it out afterward. You shouldn't ever see it in the costume. You may be seeing interfacing or other stabilizers in a costume. But not tissue paper.


  13. #13
    Master BHUZzer andalee-oriental's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    [QUOTE=Marianna;194699]My sewing machine actually just died 3 weeks ago and now I am using my friend's, and I haven't quite figured out everything on it. It is time to buy a new one, but what should I look for specifically to make lycra sewing easier?
    My old machine was $99 at Walmart 6 years ago, and although it was wasn't fancy it had everything I needed without confusing me.
    [QUOTE]

    I have a WHITE Jeans Machine and I love it. Sewing machines should last for a long time. Mine was about $500 in 1998.


  14. #14
    Master BHUZzer Sonja2's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marianna View Post
    So I've been making costumes for a while - chiffon skirts, lycra skirts, bra and belt, etc etc.

    The lycra skirts I've been making were limited to straight skirts with a gather and slit on one side, or mermaid skirts (lycra/stretch velvet top, chiffon bottom). All of these didn't include much sewing of the lycra.
    Um... Can you tell me how to make these? Where you don't have to sew much? This sounds like some crazy world of new sewing glutton where I could find myself lost in ecstasy making skirts I don't have to sew too much on! I hate to sew with a machine! Please please please tell me what it is you are doing???


  15. #15
    Established BHUZzer ambriehlmagycblade's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Quote Originally Posted by Veil_Dancer View Post
    I cheat and use a 4 thread overlocker/serger.

    It trims edges, serges and sews all at the same time.

    Samiya
    It's SOOO not cheating...it is the preferred, most professional way to do so!



    I have only ever sewn lycra, or most stretch fabrics, with a serger.


  16. #16
    Advanced BHUZzer Marianna's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Ok, here's my "recipe" for simple lycra skirts:

    You'll need a rectangle.
    Height is from hip to ankle + a couple of inch for casing for the elastic- this skirt is not cut on the bias so it will not stretch.
    Width is your biggest hip measurement. This is the max. What I do is hold the fabric around my hips and pull it tight, as tight as I would want it to be on me and then cut off the excess. In the beginning you might want to skip this, you can always tighten it later. Some lycra stretches more or less, so you have to try it with each one.

    You will sew the two pieces together with a gather. I usually have this go from top hip to the top of my thighs, or you can go as low as you want. The gather is very important because it will give shape to the skirt: it will pull it together, make it go nicely around your butt and also give you a slight hourglass shape - it will follow the lines of your legs. I usually leave a big slit to show legs, this way there's very little sewing to be done.

    The only other sewing you have to do is to fold down the top of the fabric for making a casing for the elastic and you're done. You should hem the fabric by hand and use some kind of sequin/beads so it's not so plain but you can also machine hem it.

    I have done this a few time - the straight skirt with a gather is quick, simple but pretty and sexy. I love gathers. They look good and give shape to your skirts. A mermaid skirt is really not much more than a rectangle sewed together with a gather and chiffon circles sewn on the bottom.


  17. #17
    Advanced BHUZzer rscramer's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Quote Originally Posted by ambriehlmagycblade View Post
    It's SOOO not cheating...it is the preferred, most professional way to do so!



    I have only ever sewn lycra, or most stretch fabrics, with a serger.
    Thank goodness it's not cheating. My stretch fabric seams were never as pretty as I wanted them until a friend convinced me to get a serger. Sewing life is so much happier now. ..l;,


  18. #18
    Master BHUZzer Sonja2's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marianna View Post
    Ok, here's my "recipe" for simple lycra skirts:

    You'll need a rectangle.
    Height is from hip to ankle + a couple of inch for casing for the elastic- this skirt is not cut on the bias so it will not stretch.
    Width is your biggest hip measurement. This is the max. What I do is hold the fabric around my hips and pull it tight, as tight as I would want it to be on me and then cut off the excess. In the beginning you might want to skip this, you can always tighten it later. Some lycra stretches more or less, so you have to try it with each one.

    You will sew the two pieces together with a gather. I usually have this go from top hip to the top of my thighs, or you can go as low as you want. The gather is very important because it will give shape to the skirt: it will pull it together, make it go nicely around your butt and also give you a slight hourglass shape - it will follow the lines of your legs. I usually leave a big slit to show legs, this way there's very little sewing to be done.

    The only other sewing you have to do is to fold down the top of the fabric for making a casing for the elastic and you're done. You should hem the fabric by hand and use some kind of sequin/beads so it's not so plain but you can also machine hem it.

    I have done this a few time - the straight skirt with a gather is quick, simple but pretty and sexy. I love gathers. They look good and give shape to your skirts. A mermaid skirt is really not much more than a rectangle sewed together with a gather and chiffon circles sewn on the bottom.
    Can you post a photo showing the gather in one of your skirts? I think I could actually do this (faints)


  19. #19
    Advanced BHUZzer Freddie's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Quote Originally Posted by ambriehlmagycblade View Post
    It's SOOO not cheating...it is the preferred, most professional way to do so!



    I have only ever sewn lycra, or most stretch fabrics, with a serger.
    Aha yes the overlocker!! I have no idea if mine is that fancy but I will dig it out and have a look. Oooh though all those tension wheels and different threads, a bit intimidating, haven't sewn for so long now ....


  20. #20
    Advanced BHUZzer Marianna's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Yes, I'll try to take a picture by tomorrow. When I do the gather I also put a grosgrain ribbon behind it especially if the fabric is 4 way sytretch. That way the gather and slit will not go down, but stay in place.


  21. #21
    Advanced BHUZzer JasmineRose's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Marianna, I have to say, that the two skirts you sent me have been great teaching tools for making the lycra skirt with the slit and the skirt with the triangle godet inserts. I had this beautiful stretch velvet that I had sitting around that i wanted to use for a godet skirt, and I was a little scared too, but after analyzing the one you made I was like oh ok! I got it!!! So thank you haha!


  22. #22
    Advanced BHUZzer Marianna's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    You are very welcome Jasmine! The white skirt is the one I am talking about here - it was very small amount of sewing - only the gather and the casing. The copper skirt used to be a dress, so the only thing I did, I put a slight gather in the front (that always emphasizes your hips, and follow your curves), and insert the godets. Interestingly I had no problem machine sewing those...weird. The skirt is thicker than lycra, maybe that's why?

    Oh and just wanted to let you know I found a necklace I made out of copper beads, I will mail to to you today - you can use it, or take it apart for beads :)


  23. #23
    Advanced BHUZzer JasmineRose's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Ok that sounds awesome! Thank you!


  24. #24
    Master BHUZzer Sonja2's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Photos?? Please! ;-)


  25. #25
    I could get used to this! amanda_raqs's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    A little late to this thread but if you are using a sewing machine (not a serger) get yourself an "evenfeed" or "walking" presser foot for sewing stretch fabrics. It will change your life!!!

    amanda


  26. #26
    Just Starting! Na-ila's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    You can use the elastic waist but if you want to look a bit more professional or take a bit more time - no criticism to anyone intended - then do not use elastic.
    Use fine darts to adjust waist size and add a zip.
    At top of zip make sure you have a good strong fastening and re-inforce the waist with some firm material and /or that great iron on stuff which I forget the name noe!!
    I like the ovcerlocker idea - I had one year ago but it got lost in a move and I really miss it - makes great , easy , professional looking work.


  27. #27
    Advanced BHUZzer raqFariha's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    i use a serger too. if you don't have one a ball point needle will help.


  28. #28
    Official BHUZzer SpicyThai's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Aw, no photos were ever posted! I was hoping to see a pic of what Marianna was describing.


  29. #29
    Just Starting! Na-ila's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    But all in all, lycra is one of those fabrics that requires a bit of time and patience to get your machine ready for first.
    Normally if I make a few lycra skirts I try to do the basic work in one go so I keep the machine on the correct settings.
    Personally I do not use the tissue papaer - to be honest I had never heard of that option until I read the posts here.
    I tend to use a zig-zag stitch but not too big.
    Normally I use the first zig-zag setting and keep the tension fairly loose.
    I use a size 90 needle - I think thats the one.
    I have it written down somewhere but if I DO forget I have a quick search on google for " machine sewing lycra" and that normally gives me the info I need.
    The first lycra skirt I made was a 2-colour(green and pink) but not straight down - more in a curve.
    It was not easy because the pink lycra I used was a more hologram effect and the material was much thinner than normal lycra.
    I did get a bit frustrated but I just kept trying until I got it right .
    Certainly much easier than velvet!!


  30. #30
    Mega BHUZzer Lesedi's Avatar
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    Re: How do you machine sew lycra?

    Dito the ballpoint needle, zigzag stitch, and walking foot.

    It's also helpful to take a scrap piece of the same fabric before you start and play w/ different tensions and settings to get the right one. I usually end up spending about 5 minutes on that.


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