How to sew fold over elastic

February 15, 2016 5 Comments

How to sew fold over elastic

February 15, 2016 5 Comments

How to sew fold over elastic

I got a comment a while back asking for suggestions on the best way to calculate the proper length of fold over elastic. This made me think I should do a post on how I sew fold over elastic. And since my new yoga top uses this notion plenty, now is a good time to do a post about this topic. First a caveat though, this is not an area of expertise for me – I suspect for instance that lingerie making bloggers are much more proficient with this technique. But at least I can share how I do it!


Calculating the length

As with many things, this depends. But the general rule is that fold-over-elastic should be shorter than the garment measurements, unless the garment has some substantial negative ease already. Also how much shorter depends. If you are using it for, say, leg openings on a bathing suit, I think the elastic might be tighter than for a neckline or an arm opening on a regular garment.

When unsure, making a sample is your best friend. Since the bra I did for my yoga top already had negative ease (85% of my body measurements) after a few samples I came to the conclusion that the elastic should in fact be the exact same length as the pattern, i.e 85 percent. But since fabric tends to grow after cutting, the cut elastic ended up being shorter than the armholes and neckline on the actual garment, so I still had to stretch the elastic while sewing. This is a situation when fold over elastic really is a great option as it restores the original pattern measurements.

For comparison my bike cap has less negative ease and for that project the length of the elastic was about 95% of the pattern piece.

How to sew fold over elastic

Evenly distribute the elastic

This is a super important step. I like to mark at least the half way point and sometimes also 1/4 and 3/4. So for the neckline mark the mid point on the fabric and elastic, match them up and stretch the elastic to fit. For a more extensive info on this topic, see my post about on how to sew ribbing.

How to sew fold over elastic

Basting the elastic

Proficient sewists probably skips this step and just use needles or fingers while sewing, but for me I find that a quick basting saves me from a lot of pain later on. Having to rip zigzag stitches in delicate fabrics is not my idea of fun!

How to sew fold over elastic

How to sew fold over elastic


Sewing the elastic

A medium zigzag is what works best for fold over elastic in my opinion. For this top I used a 2 wide and 2.5 long stitch, which worked great. Stretch firmly while sewing, making sure the elastic is evenly distributed. Also because the elastic is stretched the actual finished zigzag will actually be bit tighter since it bounces back.


How to sew fold over elastic

Also I prefer sewing the elastic on the flat. This means I first attach the elastic and then closes the side and shoulder/neckline seam. This give a little “bump” of seam allowance which might be unsightly, but I just topstitch it in place with the zigzag stitch. But you can also close the loop first and then use the basting technique.

How to sew fold over elastic


The finished result

This is how the neckline looks after I attached the fold over elastic. Since there were several layers of fabric, plus gathers, I used a wider and slightly  thicker fold over elastic to cover it all.

How to sew fold over elastic


Johanna Lundström

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  • KEZBAN BOYLA February 15, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    thank you for the post, after your first post on sewing elastic I started to be more "tecnhical" when attaching the neckband or armhole band. Now I will try this on my summertops that I am planning to sew. I already know these technics but really helps when someone remainds me that this is how I should be doing it! Sometimes you just want to go fast and the results are always with faults.

    • Johanna February 15, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      Yes this is so true about what say about sewing fast vs good results. I am often tempted to take shortcuts but lately I've been trying to be more mindful and methodical about the process and that has been really helpful, I rather do it slowly once than two times fast.

  • Donna January 3, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    Very timely–I’m having trouble getting the FOE to lie flat without waving. Thanks for the tutorial and tips.

    • Johanna January 4, 2017 at 8:17 am

      You’re welcome! I’ve also noticed that some FOE are somewhat hard to work with, as they are not very supple. I accidentally bought one of those a while back and never again. So finding good FOE and buying it in bulk would be another tip 🙂

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