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Apply Elastics to Your Garments

In the June/July 2014 issue of Threads, May Ray explains how to achieve this attractive ruched bodice technique using beading elastic.

In Threads #173 (June/July 2014), contributing editor Mary Ray gives an overview of more than 15 types of elastics and their uses. Here are two methods for applying fold-over and clear elastics to your garments in a few simple steps.

Bind an edge with fold-over elastic

There are two types of fold-over elastic. The narrower type is great for binding edges of lingerie (shown in brown) while the wider, novelty version (shown in green) is recommended for sportswear and children’s garments.

Fold-over elastic is unique in that it has a groove that runs lengthwise down the center, which marks the foldline. When the elastic is folded along this line, one half is usually slightly wider than the other to ensure that the underside will be caught in the stitching.

Foldover elastic Foldover elastic

Finished edgeStitch in place

1. To bind the edge, align the elastic’s foldline with the garment’s edge. Make sure the elastic’s wrong side is touching the garment. Fold the elastic along the foldline, and pin it in place.

Fold and pin Fold and pin

2. Edgestitch along the elastic’s lower edge, catching the elastic and fabric layers in between. You can slightly stretch the elastic while sewing.

Stitch in place

3. To finish, fold under the end or, if possible, bind the edges before sewing the final seam so the elastic can extend into the seam allowance.

Use clear elastic as a stay tape

Clear elastic (shown below) is very thin, lightweight, and can stretch to over three times its original length. It’s comfortable next to the body and is great for use in lingerie and swimwear, where a lot of stretch is needed. In addition, clear elastic can be used as a stay tape along neckline and shoulder seams, as well as on other areas of a knit garment that may stretch easily. While it is typically 3/8 inch wide, it can be cut lengthwise to narrow the width.

Clear elastic

1. To stay a seam with clear elastic, first sew the seam using the suggested seam allowance. Next, place the elastic between the seam allowances keeping the inner long elastic edge close to the seam.

Insert clear elastic

2. Using a straight or zigzag stitch, sew again through all thicknesses 1/4 inch from the seam. Trim close to the stitching.

Clear elastic

What do you typically use elastics for in your sewing? Do you have unique uses for them? Do you prefer certain elastic types over others? Share your thoughts below.


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  1. dreamie | | #1

    Did anyone get the video?

  2. StarrMarlene | | #2

    I love all these pretty and practical elastics, but I have to tell you that my all time favourite elastic is 1/4" clear swimsuit elastic. I use it on many things besides my swimsuits which have all the outside edges sewn with elastic so there's a few meters in every swimsuit. I use it instead of stay tape on the shoulder seams of T-shirts sand knit tops, on the crotch seam of pants, and along the inside tops of lace bra cups. My sewing friend and I buy it in bulk at our local fabric store for about $.30 meter and split the huge bag. It lasts forever! The best tip I ever had with this was from my swimsuit sewing instructor who told us to always "wake up" the elastic before sewing it by stretching it out several times.

  3. DannyJane | | #3

    I do largely historical re-enactment sewing, so the uses of elastic are limited. However as a quick 'n' dirty cheat, elastic necklines and cuffs make dressing a lot easier on a cold morning when camping for an event.

    I also find clear elastic very helpful in gathering long fabrics into short spaces.

  4. User avater
    LSRainbunny | | #4

    Since I usually use a serger for my knit garments, I stay shoulder seams by feeding the clear elastic into the seam on the front and without stretching. Then press the seam toward the back. Looks smooth and holds the sleeve cap on the shoulder where it should be. Also, if you press fold-over elastic in half before application, it goes on much easier.

  5. user-2418800 | | #5

    I would have liked to view the video....

  6. cathy7 | | #6

    This is great, but how can I find the Video. Thanks.

  7. Moosesews | | #7

    Why use fold-over elastic if a straight stitch is used to apply it? To keep the stretch, apply with a zig-zag stitch.

  8. dorothysheldon | | #8

    I was also looking for the video. Also what is ratio using clear elastic? I have not been successful with this product. Fold over elastic works well. Like the print on the fold over. Is this available in a variety of colors? Have not seen it at my stores?

  9. Buttonscreates | | #9

    Certainly would be helpful if there was a video like said!

  10. spunkie45 | | #10

    Still couldn't find the video after signing in (as an insider).

  11. erinsooit | | #11

    I would like to see the video mentioned in the eletter I received, would you please post it and send an update to the eletter too?

    I like to use elastic to gather side seams on knit tops instead of gathering using thread. I figured if the top is a knit, and has ruching in the seam, wouldn't you want it to stretch too? I've also used clear elastic to stabilize shoulder seams but have never placed it inside the seam. So guess what I'm going to sew tonight..... XD!!!!

  12. dawncmorris | | #12

    I have always had trouble using elastic in my sewing. For some reason I seem to always have much too long of a piece and my clothing item hangs loosely. I have reapplied elastic over and over to a lot of my projects but it doesn't seem to work. I'm very frustrated with trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong. This article was very helpful for me. I appreciate the tips!

  13. Evamarie | | #13

    Hello Everyone,

    Unfortunately, there is no video attached to this web extra. The “watch video” text link found in the 5/6/2014 Threads eLetter was indeed a typo. I apologize for any confusion this mistake has caused.


    Evamarie Gomez
    Web Producer

  14. AnnaRae | | #14

    I am surprised that fold-over elastic application on a neckline doesn't require "snugging in the neckline" a bit in relation to the length of the elastic so it won't gap. Maybe the neckline is first stay-stitched to insure it hugs the body?

  15. User avater
    ustabahippie | | #15

    I, as well, think stitching the foldover elastic with a zig zag stitch would be appropriate, if you want the elastic to stretch. I'd use a multistitch zig zag.

  16. user-3381419 | | #16

    Sometimes after I have finished sewing a pair of pants the waist is just a little too big because I have a slightly sway back. I add a piece of elastic from side seam to side seam at the back to bring the elastic closer to my back.

  17. Delores10550 | | #17

    I use elastic mainly in waist bands. If the band is a little bigger than I like, I just add a piece in the back to snug up the band.

  18. annybanny01 | | #18

    I think everyone is looking for the video??

  19. Efe | | #19

    I was also looking for a video on it.

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