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What thread to use on Lycra/stretch fabrics

Renni's picture

Hi friends,

I love stretch fabrics and I don't have a good stretch machine. I have a good Singer regular machine though. My problem is that when I sew stretch/knit/lycra, it does not work. Am I using the wrong threads? Somehow the threads break all the time and then I can't use the outfit....HELP!!!!

stillsuesew's picture

If you are using a straight (post #32047, reply #1 of 14)

If you are using a straight stich, you wil get thread breaks. Use a stretch stitch - something that has a back and forth motion or use a short narrow zigzag. I haven't had problems using regular sewing thread on knits if I alow some room for the stitch to "give."

Renni's picture

Stillsuesew, Thanks. I do (post #32047, reply #2 of 14)

Thanks. I do have a stretch setting but I don't like using it because it's hard to undo and the finish product is not smooth. I heard you can just use a regular machine but a nylon serger thread instead of the regular thread. But I want to try your suggestion. How do I allow some room for the stitch to give? What adjustment is that on out machine?
Thanks again.....Renni

woodruff's picture

I almost never use the fancy (post #32047, reply #4 of 14)

I almost never use the fancy stretch stitches for the same reason: They are hard to rip out--and they sometimes "build in" too much thread into the seam, causing it to ripple a bit.

A normal length stitch set to the narrowest zigzag, so slight that it looks almost straight, will give you a lot of stretch. You don't need to stretch the seam as you sew it, either, to get the results.

You can try using a 'stretch' needle in your Singer, if one is available (I use the Schmetz brand in my Bernina, but I think you might have to use something else). Stretch needles have a differently shaped 'scarf' which helps them form the stitch when sewing lycra fabrics.

Third, sometimes it works wonders to use your regular thread on top and to hand-wind the bobbin with a special stretchy thread called "Wooly Nylon," which is available in most fabric stores these days:

It should be hand-wound to keep the stretch in it on the bobbin.

stillsuesew's picture

The narrow zigzag will give (post #32047, reply #3 of 14)

The narrow zigzag will give you the room for the stretch. I agree stretch stitches can be hard to "unsew" but some are better than others. I would think that nylon thread wouldn't stretch at all. Used on a serger it acts entirely differently because the stitches are made so differently. Try various zigzag stitches on some scraps to see what it looks like and how it gives.

QueenBee61's picture

Wooly Nylon Thread is the Answer (post #32047, reply #7 of 14)

Wooly Nyon is what is used by swimsuit manufacturers.

Teaf5's picture

I sew all kinds of knits on (post #32047, reply #5 of 14)

I sew all kinds of knits on an old machine all the time. Besides the right needle, you might want to play with the upper and lower tensions (loosening them) as you try out the narrow zigzag. Knits, especially stretchy ones, don't need tight, rigid seams, and you'll usually get better results if you can lighten the pressure foot tension or use a roller foot to prevent stretching as you stitch.

QueenBee61's picture

Wooly Nylon Thread is the Answer (post #32047, reply #6 of 14)

Use Wooly Nylon thread in your bobbin is your answer.  That is what swimsuit manufacturers use.

kate lamar's picture

what thread to use on Lycra (post #32047, reply #8 of 14)

Maybe this might help...I was recently hanging out at the local tayloring shop and picked up this tip.  She was not sewing on Lycra, rather a sigle knit, using a comercial machine that only did a straight stich.  After sewing the seam, she let about a six inch thread tail.  Then, starting at the beginning og of the seam, she quite vigorously started to stretch it, thus advancing the tread and relaxing the tension of the seam.

KharminJ's picture

hahHAH, Kate! "Reverse (post #32047, reply #9 of 14)

hahHAH, Kate!

"Reverse gathering" ~ or "ungathering" if you prefer! That makes perfect sense.   K

mirkata's picture

stretch fabrics (post #32047, reply #10 of 14)

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pinklily's picture

stretch fabrics (post #32047, reply #11 of 14)

Hello, i deal with stretch fabric everyday, and have been for years? where you would want the seams to stretch you would stretch the fabric as your sewing, as much as you want the fabric to stretch. After your done you may see some bubbling because of the stretching of the fabric, so then you would place an ironing cloth over it and put some steam to it and they will go away. some ironing cloths may have to be thicker than others, you dont want to burn the fabric.

pinklily's picture

stretch fabric (post #32047, reply #12 of 14)

Dual duty thread is the best thread to use for almost any fabric, especially stretch, because it hardly ever pop or break. Though any light fabrics like chiffon and others similiar this thread is too heavy.

aidabach's picture

what threads to use to piece stretchy parts (knits) (post #32047, reply #13 of 14)

Hi, Renni:


Did you figure out how to use a home sewing machine to obtain pleasant sewing result on the lycra/strtch materials?


I also do not like zig zag, it doesn't feel smooth at where the skin contacts and I also try not to use a serger (no room in the apartment to get another machine)



Pattiann42's picture

This post is so old! (post #32047, reply #14 of 14)

Use a very narrow ZZ stitch (it will look almost like straight stitches and will not be bulky or scratchy).  This will allow the fabric to stretch and the thread will not break.  Use polyester thread and do a few samples to get the results you are looking for.  Testing allows you to select the correct stitch settings as well as the correct needle.  You may find the Jersey/Stretch needle will work the best with fabrics that stretch; the ball-point may skip and a sharp may break the weave of the fabric and cause runs or holes.