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Bernadette Noll writes in:

I’ve got a question for you. We’ve been sewing rubber inner tubes recycled from the local bike shop. You can see a picture on our blog of the cool bags we’ve been making. We love the materials and there are oodles of them being thrown away but we’d like to make the sewing of the rubber simpler. Do you have any suggestions for running the rubber through easily?

The rubber has an extremely smooth, nonporous surface, the same as most sewing machines. The two surfaces stick together, making it hard to pass the rubber through the sewing machine. The only solution I’ve seen to this problem is to use a piece of tissue paper, newsprint, or other thin paper in between the rubber and the machine. Use a heavy-duty needle and thread to avoid snaps and tangles, and make sure your presser foot tension (how hard it presses down on the material) is set correctly for the thickness of material you’re sewing through. When you’ve sewn the rubber, you can simply tear the paper away; it will have been perforated by the needle.

If you have a question for Ask CRAFT, shoot me an email at [email protected], or drop us a tweet! We’d love to answer your crafty questions on any topic: technique, projects, crafty culture, or anything else! Each week the answers are here; include your name, where you’re from, and your website or blog if you have one!

Becky Stern

Becky Stern

Becky Stern (sternlab.org is a DIY guru and director of wearable electronics at Adafruit. She publishes a new project video every week and hosts a live show on YouTube. Formerly Becky was Senior Video Producer for MAKE. Becky lives in Brooklyn, NY and belongs to art groups Free Art & Technology (“release early, often, and with rap music”) and Madagascar Institute (“fear is never boring”).


  • Nobody writes them like they used to

    you can use masking tape. It will hold things in place, and runs easily through the machine :D

  • kat

    Thought I’d shoot you an answer. The easiest thing I’ve found is to purchase a teflon sheet, and a cut a hole in it the same size as the feed dogs on your sewing machine…. use double sided tape to stick it to the machine’s bed.
    The second part is to go and find a teflon coated foot for your machine, the two of these together are AMAZING.

  • martha bleakley

    couldn’t you just sprinkle some corn starch on the rubber before feeding it through and then whipe off when finished? That’s what I do to other stucky thigns to make them non-sticky. Seems like it’d work fine to me.

  • Anonymous

    i second the teflon foot & sheet. if you’re making more than one bag it’s totally worth getting.

  • Emory

    I agree about the teflon. I’ve never used a teflon sheet, but I’ve been using PUL fabric recently and it’s a mess to sew without my teflon foot.

  • Betty Andrews

    Wipe the needle with silicone pray. That helps a little too.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t that material the same as is used in rubber fetish clothing? A lot of the seams on that are glued, not sewn. I’m not exactly sure how it is done though, might be worth looking into

  • Marek

    Dust the rubber with talc.
    This is cycling tip. We coat our tubes with talc before mounting them on the wheel. It prevents pinches.

  • Leslie

    My problem is that the bobbin side thread was bunching but now that I changed the needle and the thread the thread is snapping. Not sure what the problem is. It was working perfectly before and now all I am having is problems. Ready to give up.

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