How To Use Fold Over Elastic

Have you heard about fold over elastic? Ever wondered what this product is, where it can be used and how to apply fold over elastic?

You’re in the right place! In this product guide we’re going to shine a light on all things fold over elastic so grab a cuppa and read on!

In this Fold Over Elastic product guide we will be covering:

  • What Is Fold Over Elastic
  • What Is Fold Over Elastic Used for?
  • How to Sew Fold Over Elastic

What is Fold Over Elastic?

Fold Over Elastic (or ‘FOE’ for short) is a thin, lightweight, flat elastic which has a crease down the centre of its length. The crease makes it easy to fold in half along the length, encasing the seam edge of your pattern piece.

Sometimes fold over elastic has a matte side & a shiny side – the shiny side is the ‘right’ side and the matte side is the ‘wrong’ side.

Fold Over Elastic comes in a wide variety of colours & patterns – we have a great selection of printed options and almost every colour you can imagine!

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What is Fold Over Elastic Used for?

Anywhere you need a stretchy binding in a funky colour or print really!

Some popular project ideas for fold over elastic are:

  • Legs, waistbands and armholes on lingerie, underwear & swimwear
  • Edge finishes on shorts, vests and other undergarments
  • Edge finishes on sportswear/activewear
  • Cloth nappies
  • Edge finishes on expandable pouches and pockets on bags.
  • Simple knotted hair ties
  • Headbands
  • Face Masks

It can be a nice way to add contrast accents or fun prints to your underwear, sportswear or knit/jersey fabric projects, whilst finishing the raw edges of your seams easily.

It is usually used to finish armholes, leg holes, waistbands and necklines on garments that need a lot of recovery, and that stretch to stay close to the body with movement, like underwear and other undergarments like vests, tights and leggings.

Fold over elastic can also be useful in bag making a lot in bag making too for pockets that would benefit from being taut to the bag like these

11 tips for sewing mesh fabric

Fold Over Elastic can be sewn on a regular sewing machine, so no need to be wrestling with an overlocker or any fancy feet or accessories!

Fold Over Elastic has a similar function to bias binding as it completely finishes a raw edge, but fold over elastic can stretch & recover so it keeps the edge close to the body, or it provides a taut edge for pockets on bags etc.

Usually, the narrower the Fold Over Elastic, the more stretch it has, and the wider it is, the less it stretches. You can usually interchange different widths of Fold Over Elastic in your projects, but make sure you double-check you have the right length as differences in stretch means you will require different lengths, and account for the width in your seam allowances.

Preparing and Cutting Fold Over Elastic

Many patterns will call for you to cut your elastic to a specific length, but if no instructions are given, there is an easy way to figure out what length to cut your fold over elastic (or any elastic!) to.

  • Begin by measuring the lengths of the leg openings, waistband, or other pattern piece you are applying the elastic to. 
  • Check the stretch of your elastic, if it’s really stretchy, you can get away with the elastic being a little shorter. If it’s quite hard to stretch, you will need the elastic to be a little longer.
  • The general rule is that elastic must be shorter than the length of the edge to which it is being applied to. Deduct 10% from the length of the edge, and this will give you your elastic length. You can also adjust this percentage up or down depending on the stretchiness of your elastic.

e.g : 50cm is the length of the leg opening. 50-5cm =45cm. 

45cm is the length of your elastic.

Adjusting your pattern to use Fold Over Elastic

Using Fold Over Elastic on the edge of your garment means that the edge is finished and enclosed at the width it is cut, so no fabric is removed due to a seam allowance, or folding under and hemming. If you want to use Fold Over Elastic on a project that requires a different finish (like regular elastic or picot trim elastic types), you will need to trim away the excess fabric before using the Elastic. Simply take your pattern piece and trim off the seam allowance width on the edges you want to apply the elastic to.

If your pattern needs you to use Fold Over Elastic but you don’t have any to hand, and want to use a different finish on the edge, add the seam allowance or hem desired to the edges where the elastic or your other trim will be applied. 


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Sewing and Handling Tips for Fold Over Elastic

  • Needle – A jersey, stretch or ballpoint needle are the best choices, as these needles slide between the fibres rather than piercing them. You might be ok with a universal needle if that’s all you have – just make sure you test first.
  • Thread – Try to match the thread you use with the fibre that makes up the elastic. For most types of Fold Over Elastic a strong, polyester thread would work best, and would also help create strong stitches for any stretch or stress on the item you make. All-purpose Polyester thread is a good choice. 
  • Stitch Type – Use either a medium zig zag or a 3 step zig-zag stitch. Set your machine to 2 wide with a stitch length of 2.5 to start then test. This is a good setting to start but stitch lengths/ widths will vary from project to project, so test first to see what works for you.
  • Sewing – Stretch the elastic a little when sewing to evenly distribute across the unfinished edge.
  • Sewing – Try to keep a slow steady pace whilst sewing, and avoid pulling the elastic or the fabric through the machine more than you need to. This will help you avoid gathers or puckers as you won’t stretch the fabric whilst sewing.
  • Sewing – Sew a sample swatch using a square of your final fabric and a length of Fold Over Elastic to help achieve the best tension. Playing around on your machine with a sample means you won’t spend time unpicking your final project if the tension is off. The best tension will vary significantly between different fabrics and elastics, even of the same composition or type.

Have you read our Ultimate Guide To Sewing Needles post yet?

How to Sew Fold Over Elastic

Method 1 : The 2-step method

This method is perfect for beginners as it secures the elastic and fabric in place before fully attaching the Fold Over Elastic. This means there is less chance of the elastic or fabric slipping out of place.

The disadvantage of this method however, is that you can see the initial line of stitching from the wrong side of the garment once complete. 

  1. Place your fabric WS (wrong sides) together with your Fold Over Elastic and line up the raw edge of your fabric with the centre crease line. Pin in place. To prevent gathering, it is best to have a few cm of elastic overhanging at each end to cleanly feed the fabric layers through the machine. 
fold over elastic method 1 step 1

2. Stitch in place, using a narrow zig-zag stitch length and width of 2mm. If you would rather use a three-step zig-zag, use a width of 3.5 mm to 4 mm and a length of 1 mm to 1.5 mm. – you may want to adjust this based on your individual machine tension, fabric composition and elastic.

This stitch line will only be visible from the wrong side of your finished garment, but secures the elastic in place on the back side of the fabric.

fold over elastic method 1 step 2

  1. Carefully trim away the excess fabric in the seam allowance.
  2. Fold over the top section of the Fold Over Elastic, pin in place. 
fold over elastic method 1 step 4

  1. Stitch in place using a zig zag stitch.
fold over elastic method 1 step 5

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Method 2 : The 1-step method

This method creates the perfect enclosed edge, with a single line of stitching so it’s neater BUT it requires a little more patience and more pins.

  1. Place your fabric WS (wrong sides) together with your Fold Over Elastic.

Line up the raw edge of your fabric with the centre crease line. Pin in place.

To prevent gathering, it is best to have a few cm of elastic overhanging at each end to cleanly feed the fabric layers through the machine. 

2. Fold over the top section of the Fold Over Elastic, pin in place, sandwiching the fabric in between the two layers of Fold Over Elastic.

fold over elastic method 2 step 2

  1. Stitch in place, using a narrow zig-zag stitch length and width of 2mm. If you would rather use a three-step zig-zag, use a width of 3.5 mm to 4 mm and a length of 1 mm to 1.5 mm. – you may want to adjust this based on your individual machine tension, fabric composition and elastic. 
fold over elastic method 2 step 3

Method 3: The 1 step method (with a little help!)

This is the same method as above, but with a little additional help that does not show on the final garment.

  1. Apply an adhesive, such as Quilters Tape,  Wundaweb or a regular glue pen (do not use runny glue or PVA) along the edge of the WS of the fabric. If the adhesive is wider than you FOE you can just trim it (or clean your iron after if you get in to trouble here!)
  2. Place your fabric WS (wrong sides) together with your Fold Over Elastic & line up the raw edge of your fabric with the centre crease line. Press in place so the adhesive sticks to the back of the fabric and the Fold Over Elastic. Pin in place. To prevent gathering, it is best to have a few cm of elastic overhanging at each end to cleanly feed the fabric layers through the machine. 
  3. Fold over the top section of the Fold Over Elastic, pin in place, sandwiching the fabric in between the two layers of Fold Over Elastic.
  4. Stitch in place, using a narrow zig-zag stitch length and width of 2mm. If you would rather use a three-step zig-zag, use a width of 3.5 mm to 4 mm and a length of 1 mm to 1.5 mm. – you may want to adjust this based on your individual machine tension, fabric composition and elastic. 

Don’t worry about the garment edge being stiff, as both of these adhesives will dissolve after the first wash.

Method 4: The 2 step method (with removable basting stitch)

This is the same method as method 1, but with a basting stitch that can be removed easily.

  1. Place your fabric WS (wrong sides) together with your Fold Over Elastic and line up the raw edge of your fabric with the centre crease line. Pin in place if required. Hand stitch/baste in place by hand, using long, fairly loose stitches. Only secure with a knot at one end – this allows for easier removal.
Fold over elastic hand baste method 1
How to attach fold over elastic: Hand Baste Method 2

2. Fold over the top section of the Fold Over Elastic, pin in place, sandwiching the fabric in between the two layers of Fold Over Elastic.

How to attach fold over elastic: Hand Baste Method 3
How to attach fold over elastic: Hand Baste Method 4

3. Stitch in place, using a narrow zig-zag stitch length and width of 2mm. If you would rather use a three-step zig-zag, use a width of 3.5 mm to 4 mm and a length of 1 mm to 1.5 mm. – you may want to adjust this based on your individual machine tension, fabric composition and elastic. 

4. Flip over the elastic, and gently pull the basting stitch out of the fabric and elastic. If it is stuck, gently use a seam ripper or small pair of scissors to remove it.

Sewing Fold Over Elastic in the round

Sometimes you won’t be able to apply the Fold Over Elastic to a flat edge, where the seam is sewn after to join the two pieces. You will need to apply the Fold Over Elastic in the round on some patterns, on armholes, necklines and even some waistlines. 

To do this, you need to sew together the ends of the Fold Over Elastic before you apply it to your garment. 

There are two main methods;

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Method 1 – the straight join

Simply sew across the ends of the Fold Over Elastic, once cut to the desired length, then pin and sew it to the rounded edge. You can use any of the above methods to apply it in one or two steps, but we recommend trimming away the excess fabric if using the two step method. 

Method 2 – the mitred join

A mitred or bias join is where the two ends of the Fold Over Elastic cross at a 90 degree angle instead of aligning as above. This allows you to ease the Fold Over Elastic into the round a little easier as there is ease on the bias as well as the stretch. You cross over the ends of the Fold Over Elastic at a 90 degree angle, then sew from point to point where the top end crosses the bottom end. Trim excess bulk from the seam and then apply as above.

We hope you found this product guide helpful. Drop us a message with any comments or questions you have!


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