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How DO you make those Animal Costumes? (Fursuits)
My sewing machine hates lycra 
17th-Feb-2008 12:52 am
I guess this is not entirely on-topic, but since it is related to fursuit-making (namely, sewing lycra balaclavas ...)

My sewing machine hates lycra. I'm trying to sew lycra with a zig zag stitch. In the best case, my machine will do a zigzag for a couple of inches, and then start skipping stitches. Sometimes it will skip all stitches on one side, leaving me with a straight stitch. In the worst case, it will not sew the fabric at all. This is what the worst case looks like:

The machine is a Pfaff 362 -- an ancient full-metal monster that I inherited from my grandmother. I'm using regular polyester thread, a regular foot, and stretch needles. I have tried fiddling with the upper thread tension, the lower thread tension, to no avail so far.

Any ideas that might point me to the right direction? The machine has been serving me well and chews through the thickest fur, and I'm perplexed that it would quit me now when sewing puny lycra fabric.
17th-Feb-2008 01:31 am (UTC)
this may or may not help you... try folding some wrapping tissue over and putting it on either side of the lycra... it doesn't strech, so it won't pull your needle while sewing. when you're done, just rip the tissue off and toss it.
17th-Feb-2008 10:22 am (UTC)
Thanks for you suggestion, this might actually help! I tried it yesterday with a piece of newspaper, and it sewed through that all right -- and as you said, one can just rip it off afterwards.
17th-Feb-2008 02:07 am (UTC)
Im most likely going to replace my Singer 50 stitch teusday with a dual feed machine....so the Singer will be up for sale.
17th-Feb-2008 02:15 am (UTC)
It might have something to do with the tension and the needle size...
usually the needle packages will say what types of materials they are good for
17th-Feb-2008 02:32 am (UTC)
I had the exact same machine and had the exact same problem. That thing could go through 4 layers of thick longpile fur like a hot knife through butter, but for simple broad cloth even, it would run, snag, skip stitches or even rip the fabric. I never could figure out why, sometimes if you have a sewing machine repair shop near by they might give you a hand seeing as they know more about the mechanics behind it. Sorry I couldnt be of any help, but I feel your pain.
17th-Feb-2008 10:28 am (UTC)
Thanks for your sympathy! I've thought about taking it to a shop, as it has not been properly cleaned and adjusted for as long as I can remember (20+ years.) There's a couple of dedicated sewing machine shops in this city. This being Europe, Pfaff is actually rather popular here (I understand that Singer and Brother are the more popular brands in the US.)

Interesting tidbit: I was born in the city where Pfaff was founded.
17th-Feb-2008 03:30 am (UTC)
It's probably a tension issue, but here's a few things to try.

1. Try messing with the stitch length just a tad....sometimes machines are wonky on certain stitch lengths, and mine have skipped stitches at times, and adjusting the stitch length fixed it.

2. Make sure the needle is in correctly. Depending on the needle type, a backwards inserted needle can cause skipped stitches and torn thread. We've all done it at some point, it's honestly hard to tell on some machines and needles.

3. Completely re-thread everything. I can have triple checked my threading and found no errors, but re-threaded anyways just to be sure, and miraculously, it started working.

Beyond that, either borrow a friend's machine or have the machine looked at, although many times it's hard to find parts and people familiar with old machines.

Best of luck!

22nd-Feb-2008 10:16 am (UTC)
So ... I fiddled with the stitch length some more, and I seem to have stumbled upon the magic setting where it will not skip stitches! No idea which setting made the difference, but I will certainly not change anything until I'm done with this. And I will carefully note down the settings for the next time -- stitch length slightly less than 2, stitch width 4, upper thread tension 2, lower thread tension is indeterminate ...
17th-Feb-2008 03:56 am (UTC)
You should change your needle after 8 hours of of sewing. :) And for the type of fabric you'll want a ballpoint or stretch needle with the right size for the thickness of the fabric (75/11 - 80/12 or some such)
17th-Feb-2008 05:03 am (UTC)
Above user is correct: get some ball-headed needles for your machine. They're fairly common-- Joanne's usually has them.

After that, read the instructions about the right tension setting for this material: you may need to tweak it a bit.
17th-Feb-2008 05:50 am (UTC)
Actually, stretch needles, like what the OP is using, have always been more effective for me than ball points with lycra and spandex fabrics.
17th-Feb-2008 08:16 pm (UTC)
YMMV...we've always used the ball-points for spandex/knits with great success. Odds are, then, that the tension needs tweaking (and looking closer at the pic, that's probably the case). Getting the tension right is almost an art. See if you can either find the instruction book or a manual online to help with this (many companies have gotten their manuals online now-- or just google it).

You'll love this machine when you sew fur, leather and vinyls: it's a real workhorse and almost an industrial (especially compared to today's machines).
17th-Feb-2008 02:38 pm (UTC)
You have two options here- use a serger, or use backing where you're stitching. Broadcloth will do in a pinch, but buckram would be the better choice. Anything that DOES NOT STRETCH. Use some iron on buckram where you're putting the stitches down, and then back to back stitch them. The machine will then ignore the lycra.
22nd-Feb-2008 10:18 am (UTC)
Using backing sounds sensible, but it would rather defeat the purpose of having a seam that stretches with the material.
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