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. Learning how to sew fold over elastic will add fun and sparkle to all your knit sewing projects. Best of all – you can easily sew it on your regular sewing machine.
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 project, it will be purely decorative rather than functional in the same way it is when used with knit fabric.
How to sew fold over elastic:
- 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 5/8 inch (1.5cm) widths as they are easiest to find.
TYPES OF FOLD OVER ELASTIC
Widths of Fold over Elastic
The most common width is 5/8 inch (1.5cm) but you can use thicker or thinner. Just so you can imagine the scale, I used 5/8 inch fold over elastic on all the underwear samples photographed here.
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 FOR 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 3/8 inch (1cm) regular elastic around the neck, cut away the seam allowance by 3/8 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.
Related Elastic Articles
- Types of Elastic
- How to Sew Elastic in Leotards
- Sewing Fold Over Elastic
- How to Gather Knit Fabric with Elastic
- Sewing Elastic Thread – Shirring
- Sewing Elastic in an Elastic Waistband
HOW TO SEW FOLD OVER ELASTIC: VIDEO
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
Look at your 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.
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 FOE. 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.
You will find that 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 underwear patterns