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Why Won’t Your Sewing Machine Sew Elastic? – Find Out Here!

It’s always a bummer when an important piece of fabric or fabric layer refuses to be sewn into a garment, especially if you’ve just spent lots of money on a sewing machine and you’re hoping it will make your sewing experience more enjoyable.

But, alas, that’s just the way fabric is sometimes.  There are tons of different reasons why your sewing machine may not sew elastic, and the solution for each issue is different.

Tips for working with elastic

The elastic fabric is a great material for sewing pants and shorts: it saves you from having to make a waistband and can be used to make pants with drawstring style waistbands.

It can also be used to make waistbands for skirts, shirts, and dresses. It’s a very versatile material, but it does have its quirks.

Here are some suggestions for working with elastic fabric for the best results.

Choose the right needle

When sewing elastic, there are different needle types to use. Many beginners do not know which needle to use, and will try using a regular needle.

However, this will cause the sewing machine to come to a stop. While a regular needle will puncture the elastic, it has a blunt tip, and it will not go through the fabric. The solution is to use an elastic needle.

Make seams elastic

This is such a common sewing mistake. If you are sewing a curve or if you have a seam that goes over an elastic band, you will need to adjust the seam allowance so that it’s elastic too.

If you just sew the seam, as usual, the seam allowance will be too small to allow for movement and the elastic will just pop out of the seam.

When you’re sewing, make sure that the elastic is always wider than the seam that it is sandwiched in between. 

When you sew elastic, you want the seam to be elastic too — but how can you make that happen?

You could sew the elastic to the seam allowances with stitches that are shorter than the fabric. Or you could zig-zag the seam allowances to make them shorter than the elastic.

But there’s an easier way to get the same result: Sew the elastic to the seam allowances with a twin needle.

Twin needles have two sewing needles affixed to a single needle bar so they can both move together. You can sew with both needles at the same time, or in a staggered configuration — which makes seams 3/8-inch wide with elastic and seam allowances both sewn in one stroke.

Adjust lower thread (bobbin) tension

When sewing with elastic, it’s important to use the proper thread tension to prevent the elastic from springing out of the garment.

Elastic that is too tight will cause unsightly bulges in your garments. Elastic that is too loose will allow the elastic to slip out of the garment.

Sewing elastic is typically done using a zig-zag stitch.

To properly adjust lower thread (bobbin) tension when sewing elastic, first loosen the bobbin tension so that the bobbin can spin freely, and then adjust the stitch length to 2.5 or 3.0 mm.

The tension of the sewing machine varies depending on the fabric you use and the type of seam you are sewing.

If your fabric has a lot of ease, or stretch, you will need to adjust the lower thread (bobbin) tension to prevent the elastic from being stretched as it is sewn.

If you are sewing a seam that contains elastic, you must also adjust the top thread (needle) tension.

Reduce the foot pressure

When sewing elastic, it is important to reduce the pressure on your sewing machine’s foot pedal, as pressure on the foot pedal will cause the fabric and the elastic to stretch.

For instance, the pressure on the foot pedal when sewing elastic in a straight stitch is about 3 times normal pressure.

When sewing stretch fabrics, it is important to reduce the pressure on your sewing machine’s foot pedal, as pressure on the foot pedal will cause the fabric and the elastic to stretch. (Note: When sewing knits, it is important to reduce the pressure on your sewing machine’s foot pedal, as pressure on the foot pedal will cause the fabric and the elastic to stretch.)

Walking foot

Many sewers prefer to sew elastic on the sewing machine instead of the serger for the same reason they like to sew knits with a sewing machine rather than by hand—it’s faster.

But many sewing machine users are intimidated by the walking foot, which is required to sew elastic on the sewing machine.

Understanding the walking foot and how to use it is not difficult when you know the basics.  

The walking foot is designed to keep the fabric under the presser foot and out of the way of the needle, while still being pulled through by the feed dogs.

There are several ways to sew elastic and some are better than others depending on the type of elastic you are using.

When you are sewing elastic to fabric with a sewing machine, you want to use a walking foot to avoid puckering.  

An easy way to tell if you have a walking foot on your machine is to look at the bottom of it and see if there are two lines of holes going across the bottom of the foot. Most modern machines come with this.

In Conclusion

Elastic thread, which is also known as elastic sewing thread and simply elastic in the sewing world, is a very popular accessory for many clothing items. It is a wonderful choice for items like skirts and shorts that need a nice, smooth fit, and especially for items that involve a lot of movement, like dance clothes.

The ability to choose the right elastic for your sewing project is a valuable skill. While there are many considerations, the most important are: the elastic’s width, length, elasticity and color. Elasticity refers to the elastic’s ability to regain its original shape after it is stretched. The elastic properties of elastic differ by its type and manufacturer. The more elasticy a product has, the more stretch it has; it will recover its original form faster and better than less elasticy elastic. 

Kirsten Carter

Kirsten Carter

Kirsten Carter is a freelance content writer who specialises in writing about travel, technology and health. When she's not traveling between her home of Tanzania and England, she writes for her blog Rightminded Travelling and features on a variety of different travel and technology sites.View Author posts

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