Learn how to sew fold over elastic. Fold over elastic (also called FOE) comes in almost every color and pattern imaginable. It is a fun way to add contrast to your leotards, swimwear, and knit fabric projects and doesn’t take long to apply. Sewing elastic of the fold over type, will add fun and sparkle to all your knit sewing projects. Best of all – you can easily sew it on your regular sewing machine.
How to Sew Fold Over Elastic Tutorial
It is important to note that adding fold over elastic to edges is designed for stretch fabrics and not wovens. If you use it on a woven fabric garment, it will be purely decorative rather than functional in the same way it is when used with knit fabric. Fold over elastic can be used on necklines and armholes but it is most commonly used on the legs of underwear.
- Ballpoint or stretch machine needles. This will help eliminate any skipped stitches. (Read types of sewing machine needles)
- Good quality thread. Try 100% polyester from a good brand (Read types of thread).
- Your fold over elastic. Start with ⅝ inch (1.5cm) widths as they are easiest to find.
Types of Fold Over Eastic
Fold Over Elastic Widths
The most common width is ⅝ inch (1.5cm), but you can use thicker or thinner. Just so you can imagine the scale, I used ⅝ inch fold-over elastic on all the underwear samples photographed here. When folded over, it ends up being half this width.
Buying Tips for Fold Over Elastic
Check the fold over elastic you choose is not scratchy before you attach it to kids' clothing. I spent hours making my daughter a glittery princess leotard which she refused to wear because of the scratchy elastic. I don’t want you to make the same mistake!
Also, note that printed elastics like the white and gold dots in the photo below don't generally stretch as much as the plain types. This may affect the comfort and fit of the elastic, and I don't use this type unless it is purely decorative.
Fold over elastic can be purchased from your local fabric store but don't forget to look at eBay and Amazon as well. I found assorted colors of 1-yard (0.9m) bundles of fold over elastic really cheap on Aliexpress.com. You do have to be patient with shipping when ordering from overseas, but if you can wait, you will save a lot of money if you are sewing fold over elastic regularly.
Measuring Fold Over Elastic
Before you start sewing, check your pattern. If you are substituting fold over elastic for regular elastic in leotards and swimwear, you may need to cut down the raw edge of the openings slightly.
Check the pattern to see if it includes the seam allowances. If the pattern includes a seam allowance, you will need to cut that away before applying your fold over elastic.
If you are applying fold over elastic to one of my swimwear or leotard patterns in place of regular elastic, you will cut away the openings by the width of the regular elastic. For example, in leotard sewing pattern #4 below, which has ⅜ inch (1cm) regular elastic around the neck, cut away the seam allowance by ⅜ inch (1cm).
If you are not sure how long to cut the fold over elastic, then put it around your body where it will be placed and cut at a length that feels comfortable. It should be stretched but should not dig in. Don’t forget to add a seam allowance if it will be overlapped.
Some fold over elastics are firmer than others so this is a good way to get a comfortable length.
How to Sew Fold Over Elastic Video Tutorial
Here is a short video I made showing you how to sew fold over elastic. Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly sewing and craft videos.
How to Sew Fold Over Elastic Instructions
Fold Over Elastic Abbreviations
Fold over elastic is often abbreviated as FOE in patterns and in instructions.
What is the Right Side of Fold Over Elastic
The first thing you will notice is that the underside of the elastic has a groove down the center. Normally the underside is matte and has no pattern while the top is shiny. This helps you fold it in half to bind the edges of the fabric.
Although fold over elastic is designed to have the shiny side as the right side, you can choose to have the matt side showing instead. Personally, I like the mat side showing most of the time as it doesn't show the stitching as much and is more forgiving if I go a little crooked. This is just personal preference so experiment and see what you like the look of.
How to Sew Fold Over Elastic Step by Step
If you are making a pair of underwear, you should have already sewn the side seams. With the fabric right side up and the FOE wrong side up, place the edge of your fabric on top of the FOE so it just covers one-half of it.
With a long straight stitch (length 4.0) baste the fabric to the fold over elastic. Generally, the FOE will be shorter than the fabric so you will need to stretch the elastic to fit.
Many tutorials have you do a small zig-zag instead of straight stitching at this step. Either way works fine. I just think it looks neater on the inside to do a straight stitch here.
Because you have used a 4.0 length, you can even pull this stitching out after you have finished the final step, creating a look that is as neat on the inside as it is on the outside.
Fold the elastic along the center groove and wrap it over the fabric so the raw edge is enclosed. Pin or clip it in place.
Stitch with a zig-zag stitch catching in the edges of the elastic and stretching the fabric as you go. You can use a regular zig-zag stitch or a 3 step zig-zag stitch.
How to Sew Fold Over Elastic - In Conclusion
You will find that the edge sits flatter if you give it a press or blast with steam. Just make sure your iron is on a cool setting and you use a pressing cloth and test a scrap of FOE and fabric first to make sure it doesn't melt.
TRY THIS TECHNIQUE: Shop Treasurie underwear patterns
More Stretch Fabric Articles
- Sewing Stretch Fabric without a Serger
- Types of Knit Fabric
- Stretch Factor of Fabrics
- How to Gather Knit Fabric
- Sewing Stretch Fabric Hems
- How to Sew Fold Over Elastic
- How to use a Serger
- Lettuce Hems
- How to Sew a Twin Needle
- How to Sew an Elastic Waistband
More Elastic Articles
Learn all about sewing elastic for waistbands and fabric edges with this easy tutorial that will show you the best methods for various items.