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Lycra. Most people are affraid of using lycra but it is not as difficult as it seems. If you have an overlocker, the most important thing is to get your tension right. I choose to use 3 cottons and no floss. Use one needle (closest to the blade) and two loopers. You must practice on scraps first and adjust your needle tension .If you stretch the material and the cotton breaks, you must loosen the tension until it does not snap any more.


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  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Oct 30, 2009, 11.23 PMby katexxxxxx

    I’ve just finished a set of Lycra projects, and I have to say that sewing it was easy…

    Because of the type of fabric I was using on the last one (nylon Lycra swimwear fabric), and the type of project (pods!), I used the widest cut on both my sergers and 4 threads. I used 120’s polyester thread from Empress Mills here in the UK. I fitted both sergers and both sewing machines used on the project with STRETCH needles, in size 80. There were small adjustments in tension from the ‘standard’ set-up on both sergers. I only ever use cotton or silk thread in the serger on cotton or silk non-stretch projects.

    For recent dance and swimwear projects I also used 4 threads because of the firmness of the fabric and the stress on the seams when the garments are in use. For lighter weight use and super-stretchy fabrics, knit lace and those that can ravel, I like to use wooly nylon in the loopers and a three thread stitch.

    Lycra fabrics I have used in the last couple of years include poly/Lycra velour, viscose/Lycra, nylon/Lycra swimwear, woven denim with Lycra, and a poly/wool/Lycra suiting fabric, also woven. I tend to do the seams on all with the overlocker/serger, unless I’m doing tailored things, when I’ll use the ordinary sewing machine and use a stretch fabric technique.

    2 Replies
    • 2008-05-09_oasis_visit_4_large

      Oct 31, 2009, 02.05 PMby styles

      I’m so glad to have met someone else who works with lycra. Very interesting the way you use your threads. It’s very different from the way I do it. I’ll keep watching for more tips. Thanks

    • Missing

      Jan 5, 2010, 08.52 PMby scheryka

      Me too because I’m a little lost when wotking with stretchy material. I can wing my way but I want to improve. Thanks for the great input.

  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Oct 31, 2009, 07.49 PMby katexxxxxx

    I will admit to being a bit OCD with thread. ;)

    I do quite a bit of historic dress recreation and wedding stuff, as well as the more esoteric Lycra insanity, and I try to match thread type and weight as well as possible to fabric type and weight, and to the process. I’ve also found by experimenting that using the correct needles for the fabric in both types of machine works better than sticking to Universals in the overlocker/serger, as so many instruction books seem to advise. So thicker, harder fabrics like polycotton curtain fabric, canvas, denim, etc. get Jeans needles all round, Lycra knits get STRETCH or SUPER STRETCH when I find them, fine fabrics get skinny needles and threads… Wool, linen, and cotton wovens get universal needles in the correct weight for the fabric and cotton thread, poly blends tend to get cotton wrapped polycore, and silk gets silk thread in the ordinary machine and either long-staple fine cotton threads like YLI and Aurifil, silk (if I can afford it – or if the customer can afford it, more like!), or good quality lingerie poly thread if I can get the colour in the serger/overlocker. I find that being this fussy gives visibly better results.

    I like woolly nylon for some things, but generally a decent quality 120’s poly or polycore will see you through MOST serger/overlocker processes. For rolled hems I’ve used woolly nylon, glossy floss, 120’s polycore, and occasional other threads, again depending on the effect I need to achieve.

    1 Reply
    • 2008-05-09_oasis_visit_4_large

      Nov 1, 2009, 12.25 PMby styles

      I’m amazed at the detail you go into concerning your cottons you use. Thanks so much for your info. Most of the time I do not have the time to experiment like that. September/October month I have been sewing for a modern dance show and sewed +- 80 outfits, mostly in lycra, so there was no time for experimenting. As I said before the three threads of cotton work perfectly for me with no breakages. Most of the garments I made were unitards wich take a lot of streching.

  • 10th_aug_on_holiday_large

    Nov 1, 2009, 12.10 AMby katensew

    At one time I had a small business making ice skating wear and worked with lycra . I used a four thread overlocker and size 80 ( 9) ball point needles. To applique on the surface I often backed the shapes with stretch interfacing and used zig zag stitch – again with the fine ball point needle. If the skirts were of several layers I used a wide but close-together zig-zag stitch to affix to the bodice as it was often too thick for the overlocker.

    1 Reply
    • 2008-05-09_oasis_visit_4_large

      Nov 1, 2009, 12.40 PMby styles

      When I do applique on the surface of a leotard I choose to use two sided iron on vilene. The applique can be drawn onto the paper of the vilene.Then ironed onto the applique matterial (usualy also lycra) with a coolish iron. Then cut out the applique on the drawn lines. Then Iron onto the leotard and then either use a small ziq zag or sometimes a straight stitch, depending how fine the applique is, to secure it. No pins are then needed or fear of the applique moving. There is still enough stretch in the leotard as the violene is very thin and has some stretch to it.

  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Nov 1, 2009, 01.28 PMby katexxxxxx

    Styles, are you using actual Vilene, or Bondaweb, which is paper backed glue?

    When I’ve had to applique on stretch fabrics, I’ve tended to use a quilters spray baste glue (which evaporates after a few days), as this holds the shapes in place long enough to zigzag them down but doesn’t leave a stiff Vilene layer or permanent glue layer like the Bondaweb. It leaves them stretchier. I also find that it’s quite a skiddle to get ANYTHING to glue or fix permanently to Lycra… Well, my Kandykane tool seems to manage with the jewels, but just ironing shapes on is a bear! :D

    I don’t usually do large runs of stuff: most things are single items of specially designed bespoke stuff (sometimes based on commercial patterns, sometimes designed from scratch by me), and I build experimentation time for things like stitch quality and finish and jewel work into the schedule. After all, when you are paying your dress and costume maker £800-£1500 for a single item, you expect your dressmaker to take those little extras into account. I’m never proprietorial about my ‘secrets’: I learned through experiment (which is fun!), and from other generous fabric artists, and I’m a teacher, so passing things along is second nature.

    I’ve air-brushed silk, hand brushed, stenciled, dyed, and screen-printed yardage and garments, glued, hot-fixed and hand and machine stitched embellishments, eyelets and all sorts over the years. I’m hoping to learn new skills from both of you. :)

    1 Reply
    • 2008-05-09_oasis_visit_4_large

      Nov 3, 2009, 07.35 AMby styles

      It must be a bondaweb that I use, as it is very thin but I’m not as clued up with all these names as you are. Does this quilters spray baste glue get sprayed on to the piece being appliqued to the garment? Do you only sew it after a few days when the glue has evaporated? It sounds like a great time saver. What is a Kandykane tool?
      I’m not sure if there is much you can learn from me but I am always willing to learn from others and their eperience. So kind of you to share your ‘secrets’.

  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Nov 3, 2009, 08.27 AMby katexxxxxx

    With the spray baste, you spray the back of the applique fabric and sew straight away. If you wait too long, it’s gone! :) I use it for basting smaller quilts, but tend to pin baste the bigger ones. I usually have this one, but there are others: http://www.creativegrids.com/acatalog/info_N0227ABC.html

    The Kandykane is a hot-fix wand. It heats up almost like a soldering iron and melts the glue on the back of hot-fix jewels. You pick up the jewel with it and pop it on the fabric. Mine is PINK! http://www.gemnidiamante.co.uk/show.asp?id=344&cat_id=32

    This is the Bondaweb: http://www.aliceandginny.co.uk/page17.htm I buy whole rolls of it!

    This might be a good alternative, though I haven’t tried it yet: http://www.creativegrids.com/acatalog/info_N0380.html

    1 Reply
    • 2008-05-09_oasis_visit_4_large

      Nov 4, 2009, 08.02 AMby styles

      Thanks so much Kate. I’m going to look into these sites.

  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Nov 4, 2009, 08.57 AMby katexxxxxx

    There are some seriously fun things to play with out there… I want to try this stuff! http://www.creativegrids.com/acatalog/info_N0550.html

  • Toothbrushes_large

    Jan 4, 2010, 07.43 AMby jellybean

    Hi, I know I’m a bit late joining in on this topic, but I am going to make some swimsuits for my sons on my brand new overlocker. I’m thinking of adding some kind of picture to them like the suits I usually buy for them. The thing is — you mentioned ironing lycra, and I was wondering if it is possible to iron on a transfer? I always thought you couldn’t iron lycra due to it melting or something.

    2 Replies
    • 20150117_152733_large

      Jan 5, 2010, 04.51 PMby mlssfshn

      Sublimation printing may be a better option for you but you’d have to find a source.

    • 2008-05-09_oasis_visit_4_large

      Jan 5, 2010, 06.46 PMby styles

      What I would do is to iron on the transfer with a luke warm iron…just to get it slightly secured. Then I would sew it on with either a zig-zag or straight stitch, depending on the size of the transfer. In that way it will last.

  • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

    Jan 4, 2010, 02.36 PMby katexxxxxx

    You may well find that the nylon part of the nylon/Lycra swimwear fabric melts before you get a good bond with the transfer. Look for ones with a low heat bond, but experiment and don’t expect it to last.

  • Toothbrushes_large

    Jan 6, 2010, 11.05 AMby jellybean

    Thanks for your comments and suggestions about my query concerning the transfers. Kate, it is just as I thought about the high temperatures. Melissa, I’m not sure if anyone around here does sublimation. I hadn’t heard of it until I did a google search about transfers on lycra. It may well not be worth the cost for what I want it for. Styles, I may decide to use your technique for attaching appliques - which, by the way look great on the items you’ve made. Thanks again, everyone. :)

  • Sara_large

    Apr 10, 2010, 04.01 AMby Sara Pereira

    I just found this topic, and I know I’m quite late, but if someone could help me, I would like to know if it is possible to sew lycra with a regular machine, one that doesn’t have overlock stitch. Because my machine doesn’t have it, and I read somewhere that you could use the zigzag stitch because it has some elasticity but I’m a bit sceptic… Thanks in advance =)

  • Sewing_machine_large

    Apr 10, 2010, 11.39 PMby bjr99

    Yes. Use a zig zag stitch or if your machine has it a triple zig zag stitch and use a stretch needle. Also be sure to stretch the fabric as you sew. This gives the seams more elasticity. You might want to try working with scraps at first. It may take a while to adjust the stitch width and the tension but you can make a very respectable lycra garment with a standard machine. Good luck!

    2 Replies
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Apr 12, 2010, 09.38 AMby katexxxxxx

      BE VERY CAREFUL to stretch the fabric evenly and hold it taut WITHOUT pulling it through the machine! You must let the machine do the feeding and only stretch the fabric, or you’ll break needles and snag the fabric.

    • Sara_large

      Apr 20, 2010, 12.56 AMby Sara Pereira

      Thank you so much, both of you =)
      I have triple zig-zag!
      I just didn’t want to waste time in case it wasn’t possible at all. Knowing that it is I’ll know its just a matter of keep trying until I get the grip of it.

  • Sewing_machine_large

    Apr 12, 2010, 09.44 AMby bjr99

    Kate, you are sew right! Sorry I couldn’t resist. I have also found that you can get waves in the seam if you pull to much. It can be tricky but with practice is doable.

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Apr 20, 2010, 01.03 AMby katexxxxxx

      People ask ‘How much do you have to stretch it?’, but that’s impossible to answer: Every fabric is different, and you’ll find that the stretch length ways is different from the width ways stretch, so you have to experiment every time!

    • This is a question
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