How to Sew Elastics the Right Way?

Active lifestyle demands dresses made up of such fabrics that give the freedom for easy movement. However, in most of the clothings, elastics are used for making them more workable and flexible with control over their stretchability. Not only garments, elastics are used for sewing and other craft projects too. Do you ever wonder why the elastic that you used in your last project doesn't seem to work with the present sewing project? Why the elastic in your cotton pajama is causing problems while the same elastic in your swim wear is working excellently? In fact, the type of elastics and the fabrics with which they are used plus the sewing methods, all go to contribute in the perfect working of elastics.

Types of Elastics and their Construction

Elastic is a flexible and stretchable narrow fabric made of rubber core which is wrapped in polyester, cotton, nylon or a blend of fiber threads. These exterior fibers are braided, woven or knit together to give various thicknesses and widths to the elastics. Most of the elastics are 1/8" to 2 ½" wide. However, elastic thread can be much narrower and the decorative elastic waistbands can be extra wide. Different elastics have different degrees of stretchability. Elastics are sewn to fabrics in two ways- direct application and casing. In the first method, elastic is attached to fabric by sewing directly through the elastic and fabric. In the second method, the elastic is encased into a closed tunnel like fabric and then sewed to the fabric often around the waist, at the neckline or lower edge of a sleeve or pant leg.

Braided elastics are used in casings as they get narrowed when stretched. They can't retain their stretch and shape if applied directly to the fabric. These light weight elastics are mainly used on sleeve hems, swim wear and leg bands. Braided non-roll elastic is appropriate for waistbands because they can remain flat when stretched.

Knitted elastics are soft, light weight, strong and appropriate for directly applying on almost any kind of garment. These elastics can also be sewed in casing. They ares best for lightweight fabrics. Many knitted elastics also have sewing line at their edges which don’t have elastic in them. So, it becomes much easier to sew these elastics to a garment.

Woven elastics, usually thicker than the other elastics, are very strong. When sewn directly onto a fabric, they can retain their width and stretch,. Woven elastics can also be sewed in casing. They are usually applied to heavy weight fabrics, such as home furnishings, car covers, bags, accessories, etc.

Transparent or clear elastics are synthetic narrow fabrics that can stretch up to four times their length and can completely recover the original size and shape. They are made of polyurethane and does not contain rubber which makes them appropriate to be used in kids garments or for people who are allergic to latex. It is primarily used in those areas that are prone to lose stretch, such as shirt bottoms, shoulder seams and necklines. They can't be used in casings as they'll roll over themselves.

Tips for Sewing Elastics

  • Choose an elastic that has the same care requirements as the finished garment.

  • Use those elastics which recover their original length after stretching.

  • Use cotton elastic with cotton garments. Wash the cotton fabric before sewing as the elastic will also shrink a little when washed.

  • Use nylon elastic for lingerie and swim wear. They can be machine washed but dry them in medium heat.

  • Polyester elastics go with almost all fabrics. They can be washed as well as dry cleaned.

  • Choose such threads that are compatible with fabric.

  • Use a ball-point needle when sewing.

  • Adjust the thread tension when stitching and stretching elastic.

  • Elastic should be tight enough to prevent fabric from drooping, but loose enough to be comfortable.

  • Cut the elastic according to the required length plus 1" for finishing the ends.

  • When applying elastic directly to fabric, cut it about 8% shorter than the required length. It will stretch during sewing.

  • Use a long straight stitch or a zigzag stitch when sewing the elastic directly to fabric. A long stitch having length of three or four is best for most of the fabrics and elastic types.

  • If doing too much work with elastic, consider buying specialty presser foot/machine attachment that applies elastic without having to stretch it by hand.

Comments 3 comments

VSA 6 years ago

This article tells a lot about different kinds of elastic, but it does not tell me anything bout how to sew it to a fabric correctly.


Tracy 6 years ago

Good list of tips using elastic in sewing.


Tracy Monroy 6 years ago

I've had a lot of difficulty doing this. Glad I cam across this hub. I wanted to make a new set of pajamas for my daughter. I'll keep your hub in mind during my project.

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