Before COVID, I wore elastic for quick change scenarios during my Broadway shows.
After COVID, an elastic waistband became my go-to. Slipping out of my sleepwear and into something comfortable for a day of sewing and filming… let’s just say that became the NORM in this household.
Beyond comfy shorts or stretchy sweats, though, there is an entire need for elastic in our daily lives. DIY enthusiasts, beginner sewists, and everyone between should master sewing elastic.
Whether upcycling an old garment or sewing your first dress, knowing how to sew elastic can take your sewing projects to the next level. So, let’s get started!
Why Sewing Elastic is Essential
Elastic… we all know it. It’s the stretchy material that adds flexibility and comfort to your garments.. From waistbands to cuffs, using elastic ensures a snug fit while making your creations stylish and functional. But how do you sew elastic?
Choosing the Right Elastic for Your Project
Before we dive into the sewing process, it’s essential to select the right type of elastic:
- Braided Elastic: Best for lightweight fabrics and necklines.
- Knitted Elastic: Soft and comfortable, ideal for waistbands.
- Woven Elastic: Strong and resilient, perfect for heavier fabrics.
- Clear Elastic: Invisible and lightweight, suitable for swimwear and lingerie.
Materials You’ll Need
How to Sew On Elastic
- Measure and Cut: Measure the area where you’ll attach the elastic, such as the waistband. Cut the elastic slightly shorter than this measurement, as it will stretch.
- Pin the Elastic: Using pins, attach the elastic to the wrong side of the fabric. If you’re sewing a waistband, pin the elastic evenly around the waist measurement.
- Begin Sewing: I recommend using a needle designed for stretch fabrics. A ballpoint or stretch needle are best for this purpose. These needles have rounded tips that help prevent snagging or damaging the elastic.. Place the fabric and elastic under the presser foot of your sewing machine. Start with a few straight stitches to secure the elastic.
- Zigzag Stitch: Switch to a zigzag stitch. This stitch allows the elastic to stretch without breaking the thread. Stretch the elastic taut as you sew, ensuring it’s distributed evenly. You can also use a narrow and long zigzag stitch for a more secure seam.
- Stretch the Elastic as You Sew: When attaching elastic to fabric, you should stretch the elastic as you sew. This helps ensure that the fabric retains its stretchability after sewing. Be careful not to stretch the fabric while doing this, as it can lead to uneven stitching.
- Secure the Ends: When sewing elastic into a loop (for waistbands or cuffs, for example), overlap the ends of the elastic by about 1/2 inch and sew them together securely. This prevents the elastic from coming apart at the seam.
- Fold and Stitch: Fold the fabric over the elastic, hiding it. Use a straight stitch or zigzag stitch to secure the fold, stretching the elastic as you sew.
- Finishing Touches: To finish the seam, you can trim the elastic ends carefully, leaving a small allowance. While it isn’t necessary, you can also use a serger to create a neat overlock stitch and professional finish.
- Press Carefully: If necessary, press the seam lightly using a low-temperature setting on your iron. Be cautious not to use too much heat, as excessive heat can damage elastic fibers.
Tips for Sewing Elastic
- Use a Walking Foot: If you have one, a walking foot attachment for your sewing machine can be beneficial when sewing on elastic. It helps feed both the elastic and the fabric evenly through the machine, reducing the chances of puckering or stretching.
- Zigzag vs. Straight Stitch: While a zigzag stitch is ideal for sewing elastic due to its flexibility, a straight stitch can be used for final touches or topstitching.
- Avoid the Raw Edge: Always fold the fabric over the elastic to hide the raw edge, giving your garment a polished look.
- Test on Scrap Fabric: Before sewing on your main fabric, test the stitch length and tension on a scrap piece to ensure it looks and feels right.
What tension do you sew elastic on?
When sewing elastic, it’s essential to adjust your sewing machine’s tension appropriately to ensure a secure and stretchy seam. Here are some general guidelines for setting the tension when sewing elastic:
Upper Thread Tension: In most cases, you should reduce the upper thread tension slightly when sewing elastic. Lower the tension setting by a notch or two from the normal setting you use for woven fabrics. This adjustment helps prevent the elastic from being stretched too tightly during sewing.
Bobbin Thread Tension: You typically do not need to make significant changes to the bobbin thread tension. Keep the bobbin tension at its regular setting, which is usually provided by the sewing machine manufacturer.
Test on Scrap Fabric: It’s crucial to conduct a test on scrap fabric using the same type of elastic and fabric you plan to use for your project. Adjust the upper thread tension incrementally and test the seam’s stretch and appearance until you achieve the desired result.
Balanced Tension: The goal is to find a balance where the stitches are secure and evenly formed on both the fabric and the elastic. The seam should stretch comfortably without puckering or causing the elastic to pucker.
Stitch Type: When sewing elastic, consider using a stretch or zig zag stitch on your sewing machine. These stitches allow the fabric and elastic to stretch without breaking the threads. Adjust the stitch width and length as needed to accommodate the elastic’s width and the fabric’s thickness.
Keep in mind that the exact tension settings can vary based on your sewing machine, the type of fabric, and the elastic you’re using. Always test your settings on scrap material first to ensure you achieve the desired results before sewing on your actual project.
How do I add elastic to my existing waistband?
Adding elastic to an existing waistband is a practical way to make a waistband more comfortable or adjust its fit. Here’s a great video tutorial from OnLineFabricStore on how to sew elastic directly into an existing waistband:
What stitch do you use to sew elastic?
You’ll typically use one of two stitches when sewing elastic:
- Zig Zag Stitch: This allows the fabric and elastic to stretch while maintaining a secure seam.
- Stretch Stitch: The stretch stitch provides excellent elasticity and durability. It’s a strong choice for securing elastic in place.
Do you need special thread to sew elastic?
You don’t necessarily need special thread to sew elastic, but using the right type of thread can be beneficial for ensuring the strength and durability of your seams, especially when working with stretchy fabrics and elastic.
Here are some considerations for choosing thread when sewing elastic:
- Thread Type: Use a thread that is suitable for stretch fabrics. Polyester or nylon threads are good choices because they have some natural stretch and can withstand the stress of stretching without breaking.
- Thread Weight: Opt for a medium-weight thread, such as all-purpose sewing thread (often labeled as 50 or 60 weight), which is suitable for most sewing machines and fabric types.
- Thread Color: Select a thread color that matches or complements the fabric you’re working with. Matching thread color helps create a clean and professional finish.
- Elastic Thread: In some cases, you may use elastic thread (also known as shirring or smocking thread) in the bobbin when sewing elastic shirring or smocking. This thread is designed to create stretchable, gathered seams. It’s typically used for decorative and gathering purposes rather than for securing elastic bands.
While you don’t need special thread to sew elastic, choosing the right type and weight of thread is helps to ensure strong and reliable seams when working with stretchy fabrics.
How do you sew an exposed elastic waistband?
To make an exposed elastic waistband, first, cut your fabric and elastic to fit. Sew the sides of your garment together, leaving the waist open. Now, join the elastic ends to make a loop. Divide both the elastic and the waist into quarters and pin them together. As you sew, gently stretch the elastic. Fold the fabric over the elastic, stitch it, trim any extra, and give it a good press. You’ll have a trendy and comfy exposed elastic waistband!
Sewing elastic might seem daunting at first, but with practice and the right techniques, it becomes a breeze.
Remember, the key is to choose the right type of elastic for your project, measure accurately, and use the appropriate stitches on your sewing machine. So, grab your materials, give it a go, and watch as your sewing projects transform with the added functionality and comfort of elastic.
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As always, thank you so much for reading, and happy sewing!