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Using clear elastic to stabilise shoulder seams on knits

There are plenty of suggestions and rules when it comes to sewing with knits, but one thing that doesn’t always get talked about in sewing instructions are the importance of stabilising the shoulder seam. Yes this step might not make or break a garment, but it does make a huge difference when it comes to keep the shoulder seam in check. And if you look at even the cheapest ready to wear t-shirt, there is always some sort of shoulder stabiliser in place.

The most common options for shoulder stabilisation are:

  • A piece of self fabric cut lengthwise (the direction that have the least amount of stretch)
  • Fusible interfacing
  • Shoulder seam band (which can be quite rigid as they don’t tend to have much stretch)
  • Clear elastic
  • Power net

Of these options I use clear elastic the most. Why you may ask? Well for a couple of reasons. One is that the elastic is so thin that it doesn’t create much bulk if any. Another reason is that it is so discrete due to its transparent nature (obviously!). A third reason is it that elastic really keeps its shape, even when stretched out. As for drawbacks, the main are that it can be tricky to sew, as it can slip or get stuck to the presser foot, so this method does take some practice.

So let’s take a look on how I used clear elastic for the shoulder seam on my knit cardigan:

Step 1. Make sure the elastic has a 1:1 ratio to the original shoulder length

Since my cardigan knit fabric stretches the minute it leaves the cutting table I used the pattern piece as my guide. Then with a pencil I marked the corresponding notches on the elastic.

Using clear elastic to stabilize shoulder seams on knits

Step 2. Prepare the elastic so it won’t slip
Here are a few suggestions:

  • Attach the elastic to the fabric with a few zigzag stitches at the start of the seam before sewing the shoulder seam with a serger (on the back piece, see below). A little hand stitching will also do.
  • If you have a serger, the presser foot can sometimes have a slot for narrow elastic
  • Use glue stick to keep the elastic in place
  • Don’t cut the elastic before sewing, instead leave plenty of extra so that you can hold the elastic while sewing
  • If all else fails, use a teflon coated presser foot, it will keep it from sticking.

Step 3. Sew the shoulder seam
The elastic should be attached on the back bodice piece, so that when you press the shoulder seam to the back you won’t see or feel the elastic. Hold the elastic to keep in place while sewing, but do not stretch.

Using clear elastic to stabilize shoulder seams on knits
Using clear elastic to stabilize shoulder seams on knits

Step 4. Enjoy the result

Okay, enjoy might not be the right word! But isn’t clear elastic a pretty great way to stabilise the shoulder in a really discreet way?
Hope you enjoyed and learned a bit too about stabilizing shoulder seams on knits!


  • Donna
    May 9, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    Hi so glad that I came across your article about elastic in the shoulder seam,when I place the elastic on the back bodice shoulder seam, do I place the elastic in the seam allowance,because if I place it on the seam allowance right at the edge, I would have to trim it down,so wouldn’t I be cutting off my elastic? I hope I didn’t make this sound confusing.Thank You For posting this.

  • […] Using clear elastic to stabilise shoulder seams […]

  • Terry Ann Crofts
    May 16, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Ordered your ‘Sewing Activewear’ book which I love but now I am really struggling trying to sew clear elastic in the seams of a sports bra. You said in this article to use a glue stick but could I also use Wonder Tape?

  • […] curve, as it can slip and curl. Luckily, I’ve already done a pretty extensive tutorial on how to use clear elastic to stabilise shoulder seams that you can check […]

  • […] Using clear elastic to stabilise shoulder seams on knits […]


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