Hey, it’s Jillayne from Hazelnut Handmade again. And today we are talking about elastic.
Elastic is very stretchy but will return to its original size after being stretched. It is used in places where you need extra room some of the time, but not all of the time-like going over heads, hips, hands and feet.
Elastic comes in different widths ranging from 1/8” to very wide such as 3 or 4” and may narrow when it is stretched depending on the type of elastic. Elastic is bought in packages of pre-cut lengths, by the yard (cut at the cutting table of the fabric store), or in bulk. In the picture above, I’ve shown three elastics bought in pre-cut lengths. 8 yards of 1/4 inch elastic, 3 yards of 1.5 inch elastic, and 2 yards of 3 inch elastic. Recently I’ve been buying some of my commonly used elastics in bulk from Wawak.
In addition to different widths, elastic ranges in ‘stiffness’. Some elastic is very soft while others are very stiff. The softer the elastic, the more comfortable. But softer elastic is more likely to twist, roll, and fold or collapse in half on itself like a hot dog. Patterns will tell you a specific width of elastic to use but may not specify a type of elastic. So, know your project and the outcome you want when picking the type and width of elastic.
Type of Elastic
Knit elastic is generally a very soft elastic and bends a lot. Because it is soft and flexible and doesn’t narrow when it is stretched, it works well for sewing directly onto fabric and left exposed, like the pajama bottoms. But it will tend to fold over on itself.
Braided elastic may be the most common elastic. It has slight ribs that run parallel along the length of the elastic and will get narrower as it is stretched. Braided elastic is stiffer than knit elastic and is commonly used inside casings like for the Deer Creek Tunic and Dress.
Woven Non-Roll Elastic
Similar to braided elastic, non-roll elastic is stiff but tends to be even more stiff. It also has very prominent vertical ridges or ribs. It doesn’t narrow when stretched and as the name implies, doesn’t bend on itself (like a hot dog) or ‘roll’ easily.
Fold Over Elastic
Fold over elastic is another very soft and flexible elastic. It generally has an obvious line in the middle of the elastic, running down the length. It can be used similarly to bias tape to finish off an edge that needs to stretch. Lots of baby headbands and homemade hair ties are made of fold over elastic because it is so soft, does not narrow when it is stretched and comes in tons of cute colors and prints. Brick and mortar stores like JoAnn’s carry some cutes colors and prints but if you shop Etsy you are sure to find tons of options.
(photo taken from Amazon.com)
Swim elastic is made to withstand the chemicals and wear and tear that comes from swimming and pools. It won’t stretch out or lose its recovery when it is wet-both important when making swimwear! The packaging will specify it as swim elastic.
Lingerie Elastic is soft and flexible like knit elastic. You can sew it directly onto your fabric and it should be comfortable. It comes in lots of different colors and will sometimes have decorative edges like scallops and such. It should not narrow when it is stretched.
Like the name implies, clear elastic is clear! It feels a lot like thick stretchy plastic and is fairly stiff and less stretchy than most elastics. Clear elastic can work well for swimwear (it will not stretch out or lose its recovery when wet), or to reinforce seams you don’t want to stretch out over time. It is commonly used around leg openings in swimsuits, along shoulder seams, and waist seams when the skirt will have lots of weight. When used in leg openings, you will generally sew it straight onto the fabric, stretching it as you sew. For shoulder and waist seams, don’t stretch the elastic as you sew and sew it within the seam allowance.
Some cautions about clear elastic: the edges and cut ends of clear elastic can be slightly poky and irritating to the skin. So, use the width called for in the pattern so it doesn’t hang out of the seam allowance. Also avoid messing up and unpicking through clear elastic because the holes you make are permanent. I know-easier said than done!
Button Hole Elastic
(photo taken from Amazon.com)
This specialty elastic is often used in waistband of kid pants. It has buttonholes sewn along the length of the elastic so you can adjust how tight or loose the pants are by buttoning the elastic onto a button sewn on the inside of a waistband. It’s pretty slick.
Elastic can even come on a spool as thread! You generally wind elastic thread onto a bobbin and sew with regular thread on the top. This gathers the fabric slightly as you sew. You can create shirring or smocking with elastic thread.
Tips for elastic
So here are a couple general tips for sewing with elastic.
Elastic doesn’t fray, so you don’t need to worry about finishing off the edges of elastic. Just cut it, sew it, and leave it raw. It’ll be fine.
Sometimes elastic will ease out a bit after being stretched, kind of like how some fabrics shrink after washing. So, it’s a good idea to give your length of elastic a few stretches before you cut. A pre-stretch, just like you pre-wash your fabrics.
Although elastic doesn’t fray, it can get snags in it that may affect its elasticity unless you use a ballpoint needle. The blunt tip of the ball point needle will help part the elastic instead of slicing or distortion the fibers.
Use a stretch or zig-zag stitch to sew elastic. The stretch stitch will allow the elastic to stretch and recover as usual while a straight stitch will break or prevent the elastic from returning to its original size.
Hope this little guide to elastics helps you sort out what kind of elastic is perfect for your next project!