Join Haley as she walks you through everything elastic. From tips on testing it, buying it, and extending its life to choosing the perfect match for your next project. Get ready to take some life-changing notes!
Baffled by elastic? Let me teach you how to identify different types of elastic and where to use them. Hi, I’m Haley! I’m the pattern designer here at Seamwork you can find us at Seamwork.com. We are a community of sewists that are all about designing and sewing our own wardrobes, so make sure you check us out at Seamwork.com.
We’ve all been there staring blankly in the notions aisle trying to figure out what kind of elastic to buy. Sure, your pattern calls for half-inch elastic, but do you choose braided, knit woven? I mean, they even make sparkly elastic! The choices can be really
overwhelming and daunting. Fortunately, I’ve got you covered with the scoop on how different types of elastics behave, how to identify them, and where to use them all. I’ll be covering braided elastic, knit and woven, plus a whole bunch of specialty elastics, like clear swim, and lingerie. So let’s get started!
This category of elastic is reserved for your workhorse elastic. Typically these are non-decorative and they come in black or white but you can find them in a whole variety of widths. Braided elastic can be identified by the parallel ribs that run the length of the elastic. You’ll find that it becomes more narrow as you stretch it and it also loses resiliency when you sew it. For this reason, it’s gonna be more ideal for casings. Basically, you want to avoid using braided elastic where you’re sewing the elastic directly into the garment.
The neckline of the Loretta top is a really great example of where you’re going to want to use braided elastic. It has a neckline casing and because of this, the elastic is only sewn where it’s joined to itself. So, you’re not going to compromise the resiliency of your elastic in any way.
Here’s a tip: braided elastic is what’s most often called for in most sewing patterns, but
go ahead and skim the instructions. You might find that woven or knitted elastic
is a better alternative for your project.
Knit elastic has a smooth appearance and does not become more narrow as you stretch it. It also doesn’t lose resiliency when you sew it or you pierce it with a needle. So for this reason, you can use it for both casings and in cases where you’re sewing the elastic directly into the garment. Because it’s more lightweight though, you’re going to want to stick too light to medium-weight fabrics when you’re using that elastic.
The Dana set is a great example of where you’re going to want to use knit elastic. In the Dana panties, the elastic is sewn directly to the waistline and then turned over towards the wrong side and stitched again. Because of this we want something that’s going to hold up to all of that stitching, which is why knit elastic fits the bill.
Here’s a tip: knit elastic is a really great multi-use elastic. It’s actually what I keep in my stash, in a couple different widths just in case.
Woven elastic, often referred to as no-roll elastic, is your sturdiest garment elastic. You can identify it by the horizontal and vertical ribs, but basically, these just look like little rectangles side by side. You’ll find that this elastic does not become more narrow as you stretch it and also does not lose resiliency when pierced with a needle. Because it’s really heavyweight, this elastic is going to be more ideal for projects like outerwear or pants, where you’re using bottomweight fabric. I like using woven elastic on garments with fitted elastic waistbands for two reasons: The heavyweight elastic really holds up to the bottomweight fabric, and also, because of its no-roll tendencies, it doesn’t roll down when you’re wearing it.
Here’s a tip: use a strong needle when you’re sewing woven elastic. It can be really dense, especially when you’re sewing through more than one layer.
Specialty elastic are fancy elastics that are reserved for specific applications. Most of these are going to be derivative of either knit or braided elastic.
Clear elastic is a lightweight and transparent variety of elastic. It becomes more narrow as you stretch it but it does not lose resiliency when you sew it. Clear elastic is most often used to gather knits or to stabilize knits. In the Moneta dress, clear elastic helps us
to create the gathers at the waistline, but you can also use clear elastic to stabilize areas that are prone to stretching, such as necklines or shoulder seams.
Here’s a tip: clear elastic can become especially brittle with age. Make sure that you’re testing it before you sew it.
Swim elastic is a variety of braided elastic that is made specifically for swimwear. Swim elastic is made from rubber and cotton so it can withstand salt and chlorinated water. You’re gonna want to use swimwear elastic for all of your swimwear needs. We used it in the Reno and Dakota set in a bunch of different widths so your swimsuit stays nice and secure while you swim.
Lingerie elastic is a specialty variety of elastic reserved for lingerie. Most lingerie elastics are derivative of knit elastics so you can expect to see the same properties in lingerie elastic. Lingerie elastic comes in a variety of colors, finishes, and widths. Lots of lingerie elastic also has a plush back making it more comfortable to wear against your skin. You can use lingerie elastic to sew a whole bunch of lingerie—from panties to bras to bralettes. We used it in the Florence bralette to create the straps that hold it up and also along the neckline and bottom edges. The Florence bralette uses plush-back elastic making them comfortable to wear. Since lingerie elastic is often worn directly against your skin, make sure that you’re checking for the comfortability of the elastic before you buy it. I like to hold it to the inside of my arm just to check to make sure it’s comfortable.
Fold-over elastic often referred to as FOE is a decorative elastic that comes in a whole variety of colors. You can identify it by the ridge that runs down the center of it. This helps the elastic easily fold in half. Because fold over elastic folds in half, it makes it perfect for encasing raw edges on knit garments and lingerie. We use fold over elastic on the Ariane bodysuit to create an elasticized finish but also to finish the edges of the neckline, underarms, and leg openings.
Here’s a tip not all fold over elastic is created equally. Some can be a lot less stretchy than others, so make sure that you’re testing it to see what you’re working with.
I always like to go to a local store to buy my elastic rather than purchasing it online because I want to be able to test the elasticity of it and touch it before I can purchase it. You’ll find that some elastics are going to be stretchier than others and you really want to know what you’re working with before you start sewing it. That leads me to my second tip: I prefer buying elastic by the yard off of the roll rather than in a package. I want to be able to touch my elastic and stretch it to make sure that it’s of the quality that I need. Elastic is really inexpensive. Spend the extra ten cents on a little bit higher quality elastic, and last but not least, watch out for old elastic. We’ve all been there before where you pull out your swimsuit that you haven’t seen in a year and you go to put it on and the elastic is totally busted. All elastic has an expiration date, so just make sure that it’s not brittle before you start sewing it.
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