Elastic makes an easy, quick and comfortable finish for waistbands on pants and skirts for children and adults, legs on baby bloomers, and puffed sleeves on girls’ dresses and tops. Here are some helpful techniques and hints from designer Sue Stewart for making perfect elastic casings. This article first appeared in Sue’s “Sue Says” column in the November/December 2005 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine.
Basic Folded Waistband Casing
This folded casing can also be used with narrow elastic on sleeves and bloomers.
1. Use non-roll elastic. Cut elastic to a comfortable waist measurement.
2. Stitch and finish side, front and back seams in skirt or pants. A tiny strip of fusible web under the seam allowances prevents them from twisting out of place when inserting elastic.
3. Finish raw waist edge by pressing under 1/4-inch, or by serging. Press under casing.
4. Stitch close to folded-under edge, leaving an opening of about 4-inches at center back. Width of stitched casing should be wide enough to allow elastic to slide through easily, but not so wide that elastic “floats” within the casing – that allows elastic to twist, and makes for larger gathers and a lumpier look.
5. Using a bodkin or a large safety pin, thread elastic through casing. Pin elastic to prevent it from pulling all the way through.
6. Pull up enough on free ends of elastic so that you have room to work with it. Stitch raw ends together. To do this without a bump:
• Cut a scrap of fabric 2-inches long and twice as wide as elastic. Press under top and bottom raw edges to meet in center (Photo 1).
• Butt cut ends of elastic together, and center over fabric scrap (Photo 2).
• Use a three-step zigzag to stitch back and forth across elastic and fabric several times (Photo 3).
• Trim off raw ends of fabric scrap near stitching, if necessary.
7. Gently stretch elastic waistband so that elastic pulls up inside casing. Stitch opening in casing closed.
8. Stitch in ditch of garment seams through elastic to prevent twisting (Photo 4).
Waistband Casing with Serger
This is not for narrow elastics, but is great for 1-inch or wider waistbands – it eliminates twisting entirely.
1. Cut elastic a comfortable waist measurement, minus about 2-inches. (This procedure stretches the elastic a little, but the only way to determine how much it will stretch out your elastic with your stitch length is to stitch samples.)
2. Stitch elastic ends together as in step 6 above; mark in quarters.
3. Stitch and finish side, front and back seams on skirt or pants. If there is no center front seam, mark fabric at center front.
4. Pin elastic to inside of garment, with about 1/4–inch of fabric showing beyond elastic, and matching quarter marks with seams.
5. With a lengthened three-thread overcast serger stitch, stitch along edge of elastic, trimming off a little fabric, but being careful not to cut elastic. Stretch elastic as you stitch. Fabric will gather when elastic relaxes (Photo 5).
6. Fold elastic to inside. With a slightly lengthened straight stitch (or narrow zigzag for knits), stitch close to serged edge of elastic, stretching elastic taut as you sew (Photo 6 and 7).
Folded Casing with Ruffle
1. Cut pattern piece twice the width of the ruffle, longer than would be used for a folded casing. Stitch and finish seams.
2. Press under 1/4-inch on raw edge. Press under along foldline for edge of ruffle.
3. Stitch close to folded-under edge, leaving an opening for inserting elastic.
4. Stitch width of elastic plus 1/8-inch (for example, 3/8-inch for 1/4-elastic) below first stitching, all the way around, leaving an opening (Photo 8).
5. Thread elastic through casing, stitch elastic ends and stitch casing closed (Photo 9).
Separate Casing with Ruffle
1. Finish raw edge of ruffle with narrow hem or lace.
2. Casing may be made from the garment fabric, or a lighter weight fabric to reduce bulk. Cut casing on crosswise grain or bias, 5/8-inch to 3/4-inch wider than elastic. Press under 1/4-inch on both long raw edges, or use a bias tape maker in appropriate size to press under edges.
3. Place casing desired distance above ruffle edge, and stitch close to both folded edges. If garment is “in the round,” leave an opening for inserting elastic along one edge of casing. If ends of casing will be caught in seam, stitch casing down completely along both edges (Photo 10).
4. Thread elastic through casing, and stitch seam or opening in casing.
5. A very nice, lightweight casing can be made by using Seams Great®, which is a soft, flexible, sheer tricot tape (Photo 11).
1/8-inch Elastic with Thread Casing
This is wonderful in lightweight fabrics for puffed sleeves and the legs in baby bloomers, as it is very soft and stretchy.
1. The elastic ends must be caught in a seam, so the technique is always done flat, never in the round.
2. Mark length (desired length plus two seam allowances) on a long length of 1/8-inch elastic, but do not cut.
3. Finish garment edge with narrow hem or lace. Mark elastic placement line on inside of garment piece.
4. Place elastic over marked line on wrong side of fabric, with end of elastic even with raw seam edge of fabric.
5. Straight stitch through center of elastic for 3/4-inch. Backstitch three or four stitches, then stitch forward three or four stitches.
6. Change stitch to a wide zigzag, about W = 5.0; L = 2.0 – 2.5. Stitch over elastic, being sure not to catch elastic in stitching. Do not stretch elastic while stitching. When you reach the mark, simply continue zigzagging over elastic.
7. Stop stitching with needle down, 3/4-inch from raw seam edge of fabric. Lift presser foot with needle still in down position. With one hand, gently hold fabric behind presser foot. With other hand, pull up elastic until mark on elastic is even with raw edge of fabric.
8. Lower presser foot and change to a straight stitch. Stitch forward three or four stitches through center of elastic, backstitch three or four stitches, then stitch forward to edge of fabric (Photo 12). Now you can cut off excess elastic!
9. Gently stretch elastic to distribute gathers.
Sue Stewart worked as a primary designer for Martha Pullen Company from 1990 to 2005, during which she had dozens of featured articles in Sew Beautiful magazine. An award-winning designer of heirloom and machine-embroidered quilts, she has designed and sewn for Martha’s Sewing Room and many Martha Pullen publications. Visit her website at susanstewartdesigns.com.
Be sure to also check out Sue’s tutorial for making double piping!
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