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Why Won’t My Sewing Machine Sew Elastic?

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Trying to figure out why your sewing machine is not sewing through elastic? Even after properly threading the sewing machine and replacing with brand new sewing needle, the problem seems to not be resolved. 

If you are feeling stuck, then endlessly reading through the manual and researching online to find the solution seems like a nightmare.

Why won’t my sewing machine sew elastic? The most common mistake is that you need to adjust the seam allowance to sew elastic. In addition, you need to adjust the lower thread bobbin tension, reduce the foot pressure, and using incorrect the pressure foot instead of a walking foot can cause elastic to not sew well on the garment.

When you sew elastic and facing problems all the time, you do need to keep in mind certain things to ensure it to be done correctly. From sewing machine set up to fabric characteristics, there are lots to consider and double check that everything is good.

Using a regular Singer or Brother sewing machine with appropriate technique to stretch elastic while sewing, but have the wrong elastic type can cause issues. Or using short stitch or wrong thread to sew can jam the machine or break needle without caution. 

In this article, you will find out each scenario for why your sewing machine is not sewing elastic properly. Answered below are frequently asked questions so that you understand how to prevent these problems when sewing elastic along with knowing the quick fixes for sewing elastic easily.

Sewing machine jams when sewing elastic

When the thread on the sewing machine starts jamming and gets tangled into bird nesting when sewing elastic, which can result in sewing machine jams that may break the machine. This could be due to improper threading or using a dull needle.

Jammed sewing machine is easily preventable. Simply raise the presser foot up and entirely remove the thread from the machine. 

You may need to remove the bobbin area to detach any tangled thread. After all thread is cleared, go ahead and rethread the sewing machine and bobbin the right way. 

In general, the nesting is at the bobbin side which not imply an issue with the bobbin or its threading. However, you can adjust the bobbin’s screw on the bobbin case to see if it fixes the issue resulting from tension or strain.

Other reasons for sewing machine jams when sewing elastic include:

  • Dull, old, and worn out needle that you need to replace the needle on the sewing machine to avoid this issue. 
  • Bent needle not only creates jamming, but also damages the sewing machine.
  • Improper threading on sewing machine.
  • Placement of bobbin and also not properly threading bobbin may cause nesting on the lower part of the machine. 
  • Tension settings, especially when the tension is too high for the elastic or fabric, will cause the fabric jams.

Problems sewing elastic

The primary problem sewing elastic is that elastic, when it is not stretched, easily catches over the needle of the machine. The thread forms non-flat knots of thread called bird nesting. 

To fix this, use a special type of sewing needle, such as stretch needle, with a longer length of stitch about 3.0 to 4.0 while sewing elastic.

The following problems are commonly encountered when sewing elastic:

Bird Nesting

Problem: The thread gets nested during the stitch at the bottom of the elastic. This is a common problem while sewing elastic and could be due to a dull needle, improper threading or the bobbin case screw being too loose.

Solution: Checking the needle, thread, and tightening the bobbin case screw should help fix this issue.

Bobbin thread jumbled

Problem: This is somewhat similar to bird nesting. Here the issue is that the bobbin thread is jumbled while the needle thread is sewing fine. This can result in the machine making a loud noise, even with manually arranged tension settings and stitch length, sewing elastic can pose a problem.

Solution: In this case, you should alter tension a little over or below and check gradually. Try testing on a scrap elastic first, but adjust the tension setting to 4.5 should generally go well.

However, it can vary from one machine to another, so double-check that the needle is not to be old, worn, dull, or bent. Also, ensure the needle is positioned in the needle bar correctly without being too low.

Needle and Stitch

Problem: If needle is not able to get into elastic fibers and pull out the thread. This can result in locked, slowing, skipped or entangled stitches. It is difficult to move forward smoothly while sewing elastic in this case.

Solution: Use a ballpoint needle to cut the elastic fibers, and appropriately pull in and out the thread. Try sewing the elastic by employing a zigzag stitch, or even replacing with a presser foot is also helpful.

Bird nesting, jammed bobbin thread, and needle or stitch problems cause issues that require different solutions when sewing elastic. Identify the issue prior to solving the problem, it will help you understand what to replace or fix on the sewing machine.

Sewing machine won’t sew elastic

The sewing machine does not understand the stitch type of fiber you are using for stitching. The tension settings, needle type, and stitch should be set as per your machine manual and fabric type. 

If your sewing machine won’t sew elastic, then these are points to check and make adjustments to.

Elastic seams have to be stitched by reducing the tension of the lower thread to make the seams or stitches on elastic. When sewing elastic, it is essential to understand that the needle, thread and the bobbin thread are not elastic and that the lower thread can break easily.

For your sewing machine to sew elastic, do the following:

  • Select the right needle: Elastic materials generally get stitched well with a ballpoint or jersey needle. Even though you resewing woven, these needles have rounded tips to prevent damaging the elastic fibers, while still penetrating through them.
  • Make elastic seams: Use a narrow zigzag seam, simple zigzag or a three-step straight seam.
  • Make lower thread tension adjustment right: Keep the lower thread or bobbin tension low to prevent the thread from breaking while sewing elastic. At times, a little upper thread tension might need a lowering for the same reason.
  • Minimize the foot pressure: Lower the pressure of the press foot to correctly sew the elastic. Otherwise, use a walking foot to help glide the elastic under the feed.
Sewing machine won't sew elastic

Difficulty Sewing Elastic with Sewing Machine: Final Thoughts

As a beginner, when your machine doesn’t sew elastic and is causing problems sewing elastic, it is frustrating and delays the progress of the sewing project. Depending on the issue, there are ways to fix each area.

Start by checking the needle, threading, stitch length, and tension settings. 

When you see a bird nesting on the top or bottom of the elastic or fabric, verify you are using the correct needle size and thread tension on the lower bobbin. Generally, the bobbin tension needs to be adjusted to 4.5 and try on a scrap of elastic to see if it still creates jumble of thread then lower or increase the tension.

If you see the sewing needle does not go through the elastic and won’t catch the needle underneath, then replace the sewing needle to punch through smoothly. Due to elastic is knit material, a ballpoint needle will penetrate through but does not create holes in the fibers. 

Apply zigzag stitch instead of straight stitch to attach elastic to the garment. Also, use a quarter mark to stretch out while you sew the garment to help sew elastic properly without any measurement or sizing problems.

Always check the condition of the sewing needle, correct tension and seam allowance on the sewing pattern. Additionally, use a walking foot if needed to sew elastic professionally. 

If you face problems when sewing machine does not sew elastic, review these solutions to prevent them from happening to you. Test the sewing machine settings on a wrap of elastic before working on the actual garment. 

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