Sewing with elastic is an easy way to add comfort to any garment. Elastic is made from a series of rubber cores that are wrapped in polyester, cotton or nylon, according to Sewing.org. The outer threads are woven, braided or knit together allowing different degrees of stretch. There are a few easy to follow guidelines to make sewing with elastic enjoyable and simple.
Types of Elastic
Braided elastic is the most versatile elastic, according to Fabric.com. It is often used in waist and leg bands and in swimwear as it is unaffected by pool chemicals or salt water. However, braided elastic narrows when stretched, not making it ideal to sew through as a garment will lose shape when the elastic stretches.
Woven elastic is heavy-duty. It is typically used in home decorating and sewing accessories. It is thick and does not narrow when stretched. Woven elastic is often referred to as no-roll elastic. Vertical and horizontal lines distinguish this elastic from the others.
Knitted elastic is lightweight and does not narrow when pierced by needle or stretched, said Sewing.org in "Elastic--The Notion That Gives." Knit elastic is ideal for lightweight fabrics and can be sewn directly to fabric or inserted in a casing.
Before you Sew
Elastic comes in many different widths, lengths and colors. Read the packaging to determine what will work best for your garment. Pay extra attention to the care requirements to ensure the elastic will wash the same as your finished project.
Other rules for preparing to sew with elastic include: use a needle with a ball-point tip that will push around the weaves of the elastic instead of piercing and breaking the rubber; cut your elastic slightly shorter than the length you need when stitching directly on fabric, as it will stretch as you sew; and set your sewing machine to long straight stitches or wide zigzag stitches when applying elastic to material.
There are two ways to use elastic in garment construction depending on the fabric you are using or the design. Casing is threading the elastic through a pre-sewn tunnel on the garment. Braided and woven elastics are ideal for this method. To make a casing, simply fold the seam approximately 1/4 inch wider than elastic and sew the raw edge. Thread the elastic through and sew its two ends together. While there are tools on the market for threading elastic through casing, a large safety pin will work just as well.
Direct application is doing just that--sewing the elastic onto the fabric. This method is best with lightweight fabrics. Only use elastics that say "sewable" on the package. This method adds pretty gathers and does not add extra bulk. A special tool, called the Elastic Wizard by Bonfit, can be attached to your sewing machine foot to stretch the elastic as you sew, allowing the sewer to focus on straight stitching.