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skipped stitches on rubber/lycra

Brenn | Posted in General Discussion on

I had worked out how to sew swimming costumes made with nylon lycra/spandex fabric.  I sprayed a piece of cotton wool  or fleece with silicone spray and placed it under the thread on its way to the needle.  This just sewed fine with no skipped stitches.

This doesn’t work any more 🙁  I can attach the elastic with my overlocker no problem, but when I turn the fabric over to topstitch on the sewing machine it misses stitches badly.  BTW I don’t use regular elastic (the cotton covered stuff), I use what is called swimwear tensioning tape – it’s what you’ll find if you pull a commercially made custume apart – it’s just a strip of thin rubber, and it sticks to the needle like mad.  Thinking about it, it’s possible I’m using some from a slightly thicker batch…hmmmm

I’ve tried all sorts of needles with the silicone but nothing works well.  What works for other people?

I have another option too – I have a coverlock machine that would probably work but it’s so clumsy I don’t want to get it out of it’s box – I should do this it’s probably the anwer to this and a load of other problems.



  1. SewTruTerry | | #1

    What kind of needle are you using?  For lycra and all of those other materials you will need a sharp needle which is contrary to the thinking with the lycra or other knit materials.  Also what machine are you using and what brand of needles?  I sell sewing machines and we also do repairs and most of the time the problems that we see are based on the use of the wrong brand of needle for the machine.  Check your owners manual or call you local dealer for your machine and find out.  Then chuck all of the wrong needles that you have in the house so you don't forget and put them back in again.  Good Luck.

    1. Brenn | | #2

      I've read the articles that say use ball point needles and discounted them as mad - so that's not the problem.  On this last round I tried every kind of sharp needle I had including a microtex needle.  the best result was with a leather needle - but that seemed overkill - and there were little chopped out bits of rubber everywhere.

      I use a Bernina machine.  Actually I'm using a new one (an artista 165).  I thought at first my old machine (Bernina 1090) would work on the rubber (like it used to), but I got skipped stitches on both.  Thinking about it, maybe I am using a tougher or thicker batch of rubber. 

      The needles should be the right type and of good quality as I buy them from the sewing machine shop that sold me both machines.

      Maybe I'm trying to do the impossible with this rubber tensioning tape stuff.  that would be a pity though as it works well and I have no idea what else I would use.  Maybe that's the question I should be asking.

      1. Teaf5 | | #3

        Maybe the rubber tensioning tape you are using was designed to be inserted into a casing rather than stitched through. Many types of elastic vexed me in the same way until I learned from a sewing magazine that some weren't designed to be stitched at all!

        1. Brenn | | #4

          Good idea, but I don't think this is the case (sorry about the pun :-))  I've pulled a costume apart a couple of times and this stuff has been stitched through.  In fact my overlocker will do it fine, with just an ordinary size 14 needle in it and no silicone spray.  An old needle at that - I really must change it.

          This gets me to thinking about the physics of the situation.  What is different about an overlocker that will punch through rubber?  Speed?  Maybe the needle goes down further which eventually overcomes the resistance of the rubber and creates the hole.

          I think I'm getting beyond frustrated about not being able to do this, and more interested in why I can't.  Though I really do need a new costume.  I threw my last one away when it came close to see through and the tankini I'm wearing at the moment doesn't do me any favours :-)

          1. mygaley | | #5

            You mentioned serger speed; I saw a note recently that said to begin seams on another fabric.  We all knew that but the reason it works is the stitch speed is already revved up when it hits our garment.  Hope you solve this mystery soon.  Would baby powder on the elastic only (you'd have to wipe most of it off) help?  Galey


          2. Brenn | | #6

            I like the idea of baby powder - and it's the weekend , I'll try it and let you know. 

            I'll try: baby powder, speed (though I can't start on a spare scrap as I'm doing circular bits), a different batch of rubber, and a brand new microtex needle (bought yesterday).

            I might get the coverlock machine out and have a go too.  Watch this space!  cheers  Brenn


          3. solosmocker | | #7

            Get that serger out, girl! I think it will solve your problems.
            Have you tried using clear elastic? It is great in these situations, but probably not as strong as your rubber. Let us know how you make out.

          4. SewTruTerry | | #8

            I think you hit on the solution without knowing it. You said your serger could do it with a size 14 needle.  Have you been using a size 14 needle with the sewing machine or have you been using an 11 or even a 10.  I think you have to go with a larger eye needle so that the the hole that the needle makes is kept open long enough for the thread to catch and form the stitch.  I think that if you used a sharp needle in a size 100/16 you may solve your problems.  Good luck and I know that you will let us know what works.

          5. mygaley | | #9

            Brenn, this is such a puzzle, a lot of us are thinking about it.  I haven't sewn with that product, but I know with regular elastics and clear elastic we get a better result if we stretch and release the entire piece before sewing.  I have no idea why this works, but I thought I'd mention it.  Also, most manufacturers have customer relations--perhaps you could call them.  Galey

          6. ixs | | #10

            Have you questioned your thread? It's a long shot but maybe.......

          7. SewTruTerry | | #11

            Have you also tried a zig-zag stitch perhaps if you are using a straight stitch it may be too tight or the tension is off. A zig-zag even a small one may work for you.

          8. ixs | | #12

            I usually don't have a problem with skipped stitches, but I'll have to remember your idea if it ever happens, as it sounds like a good one.....

          9. Brenn | | #13

            I finally found time to put your ideas into action - here are the results:

            1) I stretched the rubber a few times before I sewed (I thought this idea would fly) and sewed slow with a microtex (i.e. very sharp) size 12 needle (biggest I had).  Lots of skipped stitches on the LH side.

            2) Same but fast.  Same result.

            3) As above with a new top thread (all the thread was good stuff, gutermann or similar - no bargain or overlocker thread) and I used the silicone spray on a pad the top thread had to run over.  Fast and Slow. Same result.

            4) Same as 4 but stretched everything as I sewed.  It was a little better but not near good enough, and I don't want to stretch as I sew.

            5) As above (pre-stretched the rubber, with silicone) slow, but size 16 Bernina Jeans needle.  Interesting result.  I hadn't realised before but most of the stitches on the RH side were OK previously.  This time they were skipping on the RHS as well!  Interesting.

            6) as 5 but fast - just as bad.

            7) As 5 but with Smetch size 16 Jeans needle.  bit worse , fast or slow (though worse  was almost impossible).

            8) As 5.  size 8 microtex.  No LH stitches, some RM.

            9) Size 8 microtex, silicone, stretched the rubber AND put lots of talc on the rubber before I sandwiched it between the pieces of spandex fabric.  Didn't make any difference but it smelled nice.

            10) size 14 leather needle (stretched rubber first, with silicone spray on top thread).  Some LH stitches, all RH.

            11) as above size 16 leather needle.  Lots of missed RH stitches too.

            12) Last ditch attempt.  Normal size 9 needle, prestretch, silicone - but....I used a scrap of thinner rubber I used on a previous project.  No better!

            So........The alternatives now seem to be the coverlock machine.  If the overlocker works that might.  It's a bit daunting but it's about time I got to grips with the darned thing.  OR....I could use swimwear elastic - whatever that is.  If it's not used in ready to wear I'm not sure I want to use it  - Anyone know what it's like and where to get it?  BTW, someone suggested the thin see though elastic - I have some but it's not really strong enough for the job. 

            Thanks for all the help.  I will (soon) get the coverlock machine out and report!





          10. SewTruTerry | | #14

            Swimwear elastic is clear and I can get it at my local JoAnns.  Perhaps you need to use two layers of the elastic?

          11. FitnessNut | | #15

            The thin, clear elastic is useless for swimwear, IMNSHO. I use what is labelled at my local fabric store as "swimwear elastic" and it is a heavier, unbleached (natural ivory colour) elastic that has excellent stretch and recovery and is treated to be impervious to the chlorine in swimming pools. Usually the label states this. It is available (here anyway) in 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 3/4" and 1" widths on rolls to buy by the metre and is quite inexpensive. I use it for my exercise clothing as well because it is durable and makes for edges that don't roll or move on my body whilst I am moving. I apply it to the wrong side with my serger (3 thread as it is the most stretchy stitch) in a 1:1 ratio (no stretching) except at the waistline, using a Schmetz stretch needle in size 90. I turn it in to the wrong side and topstitch (stretching this time) with a 75/4.0 double stretch needle.Hope this helps.Oh, yes....I serge my swimsuits and exercise clothing with three thread overlocking, all woolly nylon (that fuzzy stuff) and also use it in the bobbin of the sewing machine when doing the topstitching. I put it on the bobbin using the regular winder, despite all I've read about hand winding it. I've been doing this for 15 years (!) with no problem. I'm sure you could use a coverstitch for this application, but I don't own one.

          12. mompea | | #16

            I just got my 6 month old Janome 644D "My Lock" serger back from repair (only used it once and didn't like the stitch quality-found out a piece was missing!) and the repairman told me NOT to put wooly nylon in the needle. I was trying to serge with a lettuce egde, using a 3 thread rolled hem stitch, on a knit so I could make one of those short, bolero type sweaters for my daughter. The repairman said the movement of the serger's mechanism against the WN thread will almost certainly guarantee breakage, since WN is so fragile. Interesting, no? He told me to thread the needle with regular thread and only the loopers with WN. I've only just now washed the material so I haven't tried it out. I still have it threaded with 3 spools of WN and I'm going to try this way as I like the appearance of the finished seam/hem. BUT if I have more problems I'm going to try following his advice. I'll let you know what happens. Sure wish people could make up their  minds, I have LOTS of reference books that tell me to use 3 spools of WN- not a one mentions the fragility of WN, or the ease that it breaks.

            Jackie aka mompea........still waiting on the London shrink method question

          13. FitnessNut | | #17

            Ha! That's too funny! My serger is now 15 or 16 years old and I bought it especially to make exercise clothes. (The woman at the dealer thought I was nuts...."Why don't you start with napkins like everyone else, dear?") I've been using woolly nylon from the beginning in the needle as well as both loopers. I've never had breakage, or any other problem for that matter. Quite the contrary....I've found WN to be very strong.;-)

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