A Zippered Lining Pocket

Today I thought I’d do a photo tutorial on how to install a zippered pocket into the lining of a bag. This assumes that you are making the bag from scratch, not attaching it after the fact. I won’t be showing the bag construction here.

Start with the lining fabric that you have cut out to fit your bag. I have cut it out so that the bottom edge is folded rather than seamed. I’m using a satiny lining fabric so I serged around the edge to keep it from fraying. Some people don’t bother doing this step to the lining because it will end up enclosed inside the bag where you won’t have access to it. In my experience,

anything you can do to strengthen the edges of the lining fabric will prevent it blowing out on you later on.

It’s up to you. I personally hate the feeling of the frayed edges as I’m working… it reminds me of getting caught in a spider web.

  • Measure down 2″ down from the top edge and identified the centre of the width of the lining.
  • Mark where the ends of the zipper extend to.
  • Using a Frixion pen (heat sensitive; so you can use an iron to make the marks disappear when you don’t need them any more) marka line where the zipper needs to sit.
  • Attach iron on interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric to reinforce the area where the zipper will be attached. (Some people don’t bother, but it does make everything nice and stable.)

Because I’ve used the Frixion pen, I have to remark it after pressing. I don’t mind, but you could just measure, align the interfacing and iron it in place without using the pen to mark it.

Step 4
Step 4

Refer to the photo (step 4) for this next bit.

  • Mark the placement of the zipper
  • Measure 1/4″ all around to show the seam allowance.

The end of the opening should be just barely past the top and bottom stops of the zipper. This way you won’t have to worry about those metal bits being in the way when you stitch it in place later on.

  • Draw a line to indicate end of opening (just barely past the top and bottom stops of the zipper).
  • Draw lines from the corners to the centre cutting line. You want this triangle to be big enough so that you have something to fold under and stitch.
  • Stay stitch along this line, then
  • Cut it open as shown in the photograph (step 6, top right image below).

For the stay stitching, you can use a fairly long stitch.

  • Align the zipper in the opening. Use the end triangles as your guide for the placement of the zipper. (see step 7 and 8, bottom left and adjacent image above) They should tuck under and sit just on either end of the zipper.
  • Pin this in place and then use that placement so you can pin the edges to the zipper tape along the top and bottom as shown in step 9 (bottom right above).
  • Stitch the zipper in place as shown in step 10 (below).
step 10
Step 10
  • Cut your pocket fabric to the width of the zipper tape and double the depth you want plus about 3/4″.
  • Serge the edges if you choose.
  • Pin the zipper to the bottom edge of the opening and stitch just along that edge as in step 12 (right image above).

You may have to move the zipper slider out of the way as you go. At this point, you can top stitch this portion of the zipper. It will be easiest to do this now. Do NOT top stitch around the ends yet.

  • Pin the zipper to the top edge of the opening and stitch in place.
  • Now, carefully stitch those little triangles at the ends of the zipper. Be careful that they are laying flat and not folded over the other seam lines.
  • Top stitch these ends. You will be stitching through all the layers of fabric at this point. Once they are stitched, top stitch the top edge of the zipper through all the layers.
  • Sew the side seams of the pocket closed. Step 16 and 17 (below) show this. I prefer to do two rows of stitching as these pockets tend to take a fair bit of abuse in my world. 🙂

Your lining now has a zippered pocket and is ready to be stitched into your bag.

You can use this technique to put a zippered pocket on the outside of the main bag as well, before attaching the lining and bag together.

step 18-turned

When you are ready to attach the lining to the bag, be sure to leave the better part of one side seam open on your lining fabric.

Once you have the opening of the bag attached to the lining, turn the whole thing right side out and then neatly stitch the side seam of the lining closed.

Happy Sewing!

 

 

 

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With This Ring, I thee Strand!

Sometimes you see something and your immediate reaction is: “Well that’s hokey.” Sometimes you’re right. But sometimes you need to set your first impression aside and give it a chance to prove itself. My “Well that’s hokey” moment was with a ring designed for use in stranded knitting. I gave it a very skeptical try, and now I wonder how I ever lived without this clever little device.

A year ago, I entered the 2017 Tour de Sock competition.

The warm up pattern was my first experience with stranded colour knitting. In the chatter thread on the forum, people were talking about devices they used to manage their yarn. Some people used rings or springs to separate the strands, yet hold them in one hand. They swore by them. I looked for these products but my catalogues never had them. Then one day, I got an email from my supplier about new products they had brought in and the “Boye Finger Guides” were among them. I ordered them thinking that at least I would be able to offer something of this nature to my customers. When they arrived, it was busy. So I didn’t think about them much; I just got them into the inventory and onto the shelf. I then promptly forgot about them.

Tour de Sock 2018 is in now underway (registration ends July 7, 2018). I’m working on this season’s warm up sock; a stranded project. I got to the point that I was ready to turn the heel, and I remembered about the finger guides I had brought in. I took one out of the package, took a good look at it and I will be completely honest. I was fully prepared to expose this stranding ring for being silly.  It comes with no instructions. There is a photograph on the package that shows someone combining 3 strands of light yarn together to make one strand of thicker yarn as they knit a project. Of course, the image is set up to make the yarn look pretty. So you can’t use that image as any guide to how you should hold your yarn or use the product (in the real world).

First off, my preference is to knit in continental style. I tension the yarn with my left hand and I pick the thread with my right hand. Up until now, when doing stranded colour work, I carried my main or dominant colour in my left and my contrast colour in my right. I picked the main colour from my left hand and I threw the contrast colour with my right hand.

When I first learned how to strand, it took me a little while to get past the awkwardness of carrying two yarns at once.

Throwing the yarn with my right hand was very cumbersome at first.

Once I got accustomed to it, I found that I was almost as fast knitting with two colours as I was with one. Remembering this, I gave my attitude a shake. Trying anything new is going to be awkward and I really did want to be fair in my assessment of this product. I decided I would keep on trying long enough to get past the awkwardness of it being new to me.

So the ring itself is rubbery. It stretches and I would guess that it should fit most adult hands. The top of the ring is flat with a couple little holes.

There are three platforms that each have 3 hooks.
These are designed to accommodate

  • light,
  • medium or
  • heavy yarns.

Now, the heavy one looks to me like it would accommodate a worsted yarn. It might be okay for a chunky, but definitely nothing heavier. On the bottom of the platforms are a couple pegs that fit nicely into the holes on the flat top of the ring.

20180614_091747[1]

I selected the platform that was right for my yarn. I had to fuss around with it to figure out how to hold my yarn and which direction to have the hooks facing to get a sense of what would actually work and not end up slower than what I was already doing. I spent about half an hour with very poor results before I had a brain-wave. I won’t bore you with the details of all the things that failed.

In the end what I found to work well for me was to have the hooks face toward my left wrist. I brought the two yarns together, wrapped them around my pinky (as I always do to manage the tension),  and then I hooked the yarns in from opposite directions. So the main (dominant) colour I brought from the front of my hand over the top of the ring and into the far left hook. The contrasting yarn, I brought from behind my index finger, across the top of the ring and into the far right hook. I hold my index finger relatively high. Some folks hold it lower. I don’t expect that this would make much difference. This puts your index finger between the working yarns. You can easily choose the one you want from the correct orientation.

It’s important that you always keep the two yarns in the same position relative to each other in this type of knitting. One will always be taken from the left, the other always from the right.

Inconsistency results in sloppy colour dominance in the finished work.

On this particular pattern, the heel turn requires stranded purling. I am delighted to report that it was just as easy to purl using this ring using this set up, as it was to knit. Although it was very awkward to figure out what would work, once I found it, it was great, and fast. I love it!

Happy Knitting!

Toe-Up Socks Overview

There are two main approaches to knitting socks:

  1. Top-Down (also called Cuff-down) and
  2. Toe-Up

Today I want to focus on Toe-Up methods.

Whether you have knit a few pairs of socks or would simply like to learn how, toe-up is a great way to make socks. If you’ve never done it, I’ll give you an overview here with links to some good You-Tube videos to help you move forward.

There are a couple advantages to making toe-up socks.

  • It’s easy to check the sizing of the sock as you go.
  • There is no need to graft the toe closed when you finish knitting as it will already be closed right from the start.
  • Also, if you divide your ball of yarn into two equal balls at the start, by working toe-up, you will easily be able to see how long you can make the leg of the sock without worrying about running out of yarn. Typically, we can get 3 average socks out of a 100g ball of sock yarn.
  • If you like a tall sock, starting at the toe (ideally you would knit both socks in tandem, though it isn’t critical) you won’t have to guess how tall you can go. You’ll be able to see very clearly by what is left on the ball. And finally, using the short row heel method means you don’t have to pick up stitches along a heel flap.

Let me break it down a bit.

The very first step in any knitting project is going to be your cast-on. The toes of our socks are closed. When you start with the toe, your cast-on will have to take this fact into account. There are a number of different ways to cast on to create this closed end of the toe. Once you cast on your desired number of stitches, you will knit them in the round and increase to create the toe. I like to start with either 10 or 12 stitches on each needle. Some people like to start with as few as 6 per needle. It’s all about what you like. No matter which method you use, the process of making the sock is the same.

The most common closed cast-on methods include:

Turkish Cast-on

 

Judy’s Magic Cast-on (a different Judy, not me; this is her video)

 

Figure-8 Cast-on

 

Once you have cast on your toe, you will knit in the round.

You will need to increase your stitches to gradually get up to the size around your foot.

I usually increase 4 stitches every other row until I have 60 stitches. (I usually knit 1, m1, knit until there is 1 stitch left on needle #1, m1 and knit the last stitch. I then repeat this on needle #2.) What’s great about the toe up method is that you can easily try on the sock and adjust to the size you need as you go. Once it fits, stop increasing. The only thing to consider here is that if you want to do a ribbing when you get to the cuff or if you want to include a knitted pattern you will want your final number of stitches to divide evenly in a way that will work for your ribbing or pattern. For instance if you are doing a 2×2 rib, be sure that your total number of stitches divides by 4. If your pattern repeat is 8, be sure your number of stitches will divide by 8; so you may go with 56 or 64 or 72. If you have thick ankles, go a little larger.

Side note:

If you are making your socks one at a time, be sure to keep notes about what you do as you go so that you can be sure to match the second sock to the first. If you are inclined to knit two at a time, there are a couple ways to go about that. First and foremost, divide your yarn into two equal balls. Use a scale for this. Cast on the socks completely separately. Then, once they are cast on, you have the option of knitting the two socks on one needle side by side using a magic loop; on two circulars (needle 1 and needle 2); or in tandem on two separate sets of DPN’s, two magic loops or two sets of two circulars. These days, I’m using magic loop and knitting them side by side unless I’m doing complicated colour-work; then I do 2 separate magic loops.

Instep (the section of the sock that the main part of your foot goes in)

Once you have your toe completed, simply knit in the round until the sock is about 1.5 inches shorter than the length of your foot. If  you want to incorporate a pattern, decide which needle is #1 and which is #2. I like to keep #1 for the heel. So #1 gets knitted in stockinette (it will be on the sole of the foot) and #2 gets the pattern. You can think of it the other way around if you want, this is just what I do. Knit away in this manner until there is about 1.5″ left to the end of your heel. At this point, you’ll begin constructing your heel.

Heel

In this method, we use what is known as a “short row heel”. We knit needle #1 stitches back and forth at this time. You progressively knit fewer and fewer of the stitches on your needle while leaving the un-knit stitches resting on the same needle at either end as you go. You are building up a kind-of wedge like shape and then filling it in afterward. There are a few different ways of doing this. It will make more sense once you watch these videos.

 

German Short Row Heel

 

Japanese Short Row Heel

 

Short Row Heel with Shadow Wraps

 

Short Row Heel with Wrap and Turn

 

Once you complete the short row heel of your choosing, you simply continue knitting in the round to make the calf or leg of the sock. If you knitted a pattern on the instep of the sock, you will now knit that pattern all the way around the sock (instead of just on needle #2) until you get to where you want to start your ribbing. Knit your ribbing and then bind off with a stretchy bind-off.

Stretchy Bind Off

 

And there you go! I hope that this was helpful. As always, hat’s off to those fabulous people who created the videos that I have linked to. If you find you really like them, I encourage you to subscribe to their channels.

Happy Knitting!

 

 

Elastic Thread, Oh My!

Sometimes, a customer job request puts me in a position of having to do something that I have, until then, never had the occasion to do.

In over 30 years of sewing somehow I managed to never take the opportunity to try out elastic thread. One of my customers brought me a sun dress with an elastic-smocked bodice, to replicate. Who am I to turn down a chance to learn something new?

I wish I had been thinking about the potential of the project being inspiration for a blog post. I really should have taken photographs. Silly me! The dresses turned out fantastic.

When I first opened up the store, my thread supplier urged me to carry elastic thread. So I did. I never thought much about it until a customer came in and asked me how to use it. We googled it together and discovered that you use it on the bobbin. You hand wind it without stretching it. Use a regular thread on the top and away you sew. That was as far as I took it at the time. I have to be honest. When this recent job came up, I was a little concerned about whether using elastic thread would be frustrating or difficult.

It really wasn’t troublesome at all.

I did discover a few things that I would have been happy to know before I started. On the first dress (she wanted two dresses) I just dove in and after serging the raw edges I started sewing parallel lines of smocking. I realized after, it would have been much easier to create the channel for the 10mm elastic at the top edge before I started smocking. It was a nuisance to have to stretch the jersey against all those rows of elastic stitches and try to estimate where “neutral” was in regard to the fabric’s natural stretchiness, so everything would line up without getting a bunch of angled ripples in the channel. I managed fine, but it certainly wasn’t the easiest method. I did the channel first on the second dress and that went smoothly.

If you’re going to use jersey for the smocking (or any other knit… well actually, any kind of fabric at all), you’re going to want to take the oh-so-tedious-and-boring-as-anything time it takes to mark your parallel lines before you start sewing.

I get impatient. On the first dress I figured, “parallel lines? Pfff! I can do those in my sleep!” Yeah, in normal conditions: no problemo. However add in the jersey with its lovely stretch and the fact that with each additional row of gathering it takes more effort to ensure that the jersey is neutral (not being stretched as you work) so that your estimated distance from the previous row of smocking remains parallel.

Remember that parallel is a mathematical term. It refers to lines that are equidistant from each other… not wibbly-wobbly, kind-of, sort-of, going mostly in the same-ish direction. Not that my lines were all that bad. They were satisfactory. Not mathematically precise… but you definitely couldn’t tell in the finished product. The issue is that you work the gathering on the flat fabric and sew the centre back seam up when you are all done the smocking. So if your rows of gathering don’t line up at the centre back, it looks really sloppy. Also, we tend to notice when a series of stacked lines are grossly non-parallel.  It definitely draws the eye.. You don’t want to have particularly uneven lines across your boobs. Also, you don’t want to have to start picking this stuff apart. So yeah… take the time to mark it, all the way across the width of the fabric. In the case of the jersey, that’s all 60″ (or 152.4 cm).

Trust me, when you sew it, these marked lines will make you happy.

It took me around an hour and a half per dress to do all the smocking and finishing. I made spaghetti straps and used a Prym bra fasteners kit for the rings and the slide buckles. This way the straps were adjustable.

Oh, and I also used a Prym turning kit. This was pretty cool. It comes with three sizes of turning tools. Each consists of a tube and a wooden stick. You sew your strap and close one end. Then, you slide the tube inside the strap all the way to the closed end. Take the stick and use it to push the fabric into the tube, all the while sliding the fabric along the outside of the tube as the stick pushes it through the centre of the tube. One end of the stick is pointed, the other is flat. I used the flat end so that the point wouldn’t stress the fabric as it was forced through the tube. If the edges on that end would have needed to be turned neatly I would have reinserted the stick with the pointed end first so that I could use that to get the corners all perfect. I liked it! The kit now sits in my “must be close on hand… but not so close it has to be in my tool belt” drawer.

Only trouble with all of this is that now I am looking at all my fabric thinking,

“could I use elastic thread on this?”

Oi veh! I need to get out more!

Happy Sewing!

Understanding Fabric: Chiffon

Chiffon is a diaphanous, ethereal fabric with a gorgeous drape. Yet, ask anyone who has hemmed a lot of formal gowns and most will agree to it’s nickname: “the devil’s fabric”. This gloriously feminine textile is very tricky to work with. There are some things that you really want to be aware of before you take on your first chiffon project.

It’s very difficult to get chiffon to lay straight on your cutting surface.

I recommend using a large rotary cutting mat with a grid to lay it out. That way you can look at the grain of the fabric and have something to align it to. You can see through chiffon. I would suggest cutting one layer at a time.

It is very important that you take the time to align it before you lay out your pattern pieces or prepare to cut it out. If you skip this step, the pieces will most likely end up distorted to the point of uselessness. If you have pieces that require being cut on the fold, grab some paper and duplicate the half pattern piece, tape the two together and use that.

Once the fabric is laid out, my preference is to use weights (I use hockey pucks and serger cones of thread) to hold the pattern pieces in place.

Some people like to draw around the pattern pieces with tailor’s chalk or a marking pen.

I have a set of 3 large cutting mats that I lay out side by side to give me a large cutting area. When I’m satisfied with their positioning, I use a rotary cutter with a fresh blade and cut out the pieces.

No, I don’t pin them, and no, I don’t like to use scissors except where absolutely necessary.

Once I have the chiffon in place, I don’t like to disturb it.

Some people are comfortable pinning it and using scissors, and that’s great. If it works for you, by all means: all the power to you! 🙂 My friend (an accomplished tailor who specializes in formal gowns) has a dedicated pair of scissors that she uses for chiffon. They are labeled so that they are never, ever used for anything but chiffon.

When constructing items with chiffon, use a relatively fine needle. My preference is about a 10 gauge ballpoint needle. I encourage you to play with chiffon scraps before you make your first chiffon garment. Try different needle gauges and see what you like. Chiffon is easy to distort. If your tension is too tight it may pucker. I pin it when I’m assembling the garment, but I don’t “drive over the pins”. Straight pins like to slip out; safety pins stay where you put them.

French seams are recommended on chiffon.

If you don’t use this method, you will definitely want to serge the edges. It frays something terrible. French seams look very nice. If you are new to them, practice on scrap fabric. I would suggest practicing with an easy fabric first, like cotton. Get a feel for what it takes to do it, then find some chiffon scraps and apply what you learned from the cotton. Once you feel comfortable and are getting a good result, then charge ahead with your garment. Handle the pieces delicately to avoid accidentally fraying the edges.

And on to finishing… If you are doing a dress with a curved hem, let it hang for 24 hours, you’ll likely have to trim the bias sections as the weight of it will give you droops in the hemline. Be conservative in what you trim away; measure it. When you are ready to finish any remaining raw edges, keep a few things in mind. First of all, if the edge is straight along either the warp or weft, it shouldn’t give you too much trouble. It’s when you are finishing along the bias or around curves that you may run into challenges.

For a beginner, I would recommend that you use a serger to finish any curved edges. You can serge with a regular 3 or 4-thread serger stitch and then turn it and top stitch it on the sewing machine. This is probably the best bet to get a really nice result.

If the serger does a nice rolled edge (like you see on lingerie), that is another option. I would definitely practice on scraps with this one before doing it on your garment though. Retract the blade; make sure you have the rolled edge foot on the serger and take your time. Especially on outside curves.

If you don’t have access to a serger, you can stay-stitch 1/8″ to 1/4″ in from the raw edge of the fabric edge on your sewing machine. Be careful not to pucker the fabric. Then you can use that row of stitching to give you a guide to fold the fabric over itself twice and topstitch as you go.

Most sewing machines come with a rolled hem foot. I have one that does a 3/8″ rolled edge. These are great on a straight edge. On bias or curves there is a knack to it. It takes a lot of practice to get good at using these on chiffon. I encourage you to practice on scrap fabric being sure to challenge yourself with inside and outside curves and bias cuts so you can get a sense of what it takes to get a good result. I know professionals who won’t use this type of foot on chiffon unless it is a straight cut along the warp or weft of the fabric. There is no shame in choosing not to use this foot. I have over 30 years of experience and I still get stressed when I use a rolled hem foot on curved edges on chiffon.

Chiffon is such a pretty fabric. If you practice working with it there is no reason to let it daunt you. Take your time and take breaks when frustration threatens to creep in and you’re bound to be successful.

Happy Sewing!

 

Understanding Fabric: Knits

Sewing is both a practical and creative activity. Whether you do it for fun, or for work, there are many varieties of fabrics available to suit any project. It doesn’t matter if you want to make a draped blouse a wool jacket or a pair of yoga pants, there are fabrics that will allow you to do any and all of those, and then some. But fabrics have their idiosyncrasies. I can’t cover every fabric in one post. Today, I’ll start with knits.

Knit fabrics have a degree of natural stretch by nature; they automatically allow for movement.

They can be styled to fit the body closely without the need for extra fabric to allow for ease. There are two main types of knits: 2 way and 4 way.

2 Way Knit Fabrics

2 way knit fabrics are quite stretchy width-wise, but have little to no give lengthwise. These fabrics can be made of  any number of fibres or blends of fibres. Whether the fibre is naturally stretchy will determine how much vertical stretch you’ll get. Most commonly, we see T-shirt fabrics and jersey in 2 way stretch. When using this fabric it’s important that your pattern takes the lack of vertical stretch into consideration and allows enough ease so that the garment won’t bind on the body.

These fabrics will sag in places where the garment gets stressed.

For instance, with wear, the bum and knees will start to sag in a pair of pants. In shirts with long sleeves, the elbows will eventually sag.

They usually recover once they’ve been laundered.

4 Way Knit Fabrics

4 way knit fabrics are stretchy both widthwise and lengthwise. These fabrics rely on Lycra to give them that stretchiness. These fabrics are typically used in athletic clothing. Think of

  • bathing suits,
  • yoga pants,
  • dance and
  • skating costumes,
  • body suits.

These fabrics are great because they move easily with the body in every direction. Garments made of 4 way stretch typically fit snugly. Pattern sizing will seem very small compared to pattern pieces you would use for a woven fabric. The garment is made smaller than the body measurement so that it will fit the body smoothly. It doesn’t need to be a lot smaller than the body. If it’s too snug it will exaggerate any “imperfections”.

Knits

Because knits are stretchy by nature, it’s easy to inadvertently distort the fabric while sewing it. It’s recommended to construct knit garments on a serger. Straight stitching on a sewing machine does not allow any give in the seam. This is a problem because it means that the seam wants to be rigid while the garment wants to stretch. It doesn’t take long for the stitches to break and give you holes in your seams.

Serging creates a stretchy seam.

Many sewing machines offer stretch stitches. That’s fantastic and it means you don’t necessarily have to have a serger. It’s best to zig-zag the seam allowance to avoid potential unraveling. Make sure that you carefully pin your seams before stitching them so that you know what needs to align with what. Stretchy fabric adds a level of trickiness in this regard.

Be careful not to stretch the fabric as you sew it.

Sometimes the feed dogs will pull the bottom layer through at a different rate than the presser foot allows the top layer to move. Using a Teflon foot can help with this; also, you may be able to adjust how much pressure the presser foot applies to the fabric. You can use a zig-zag stitch to construct knit garments as well. I would do a few tests with different stitch lengths and widths to find one that works well and looks good when you open up the fabric and lay it flat after seaming it.

It’s best to use a ball-point needle.

These are sold as “stretch” needles. They have a very fine ball point at the tip of the needle. Think about hand knit sweaters or pantyhose. If a bit of the yarn or thread is damaged in one stitch, that stitch will drop and let loose and you will end up with a run in the fabric. Most knit fabrics are made with fine thread. All it takes is the point of the needle hitting in just the wrong spot, cutting the thread and you have now created a run in the fabric.

When you use a knit that has a soft stretch to it (it doesn’t “bounce back” quickly) you may need to stabilize some of the seams. Have you ever noticed clear elastic on the shoulder seam of a T-shirt? That’s why it’s there. It keeps the structure of the garment true. Shoulders and necklines are particularly prone to stretching out and looking sloppy. This is where you would simply attach a narrow elastic to the seam allowance or along the edge. You can do that with a zig-zag stitch after the seam is made, or you can incorporate it into the seam right away during construction. Last week I wrote about stabilizing necklines.

When you first work with knits it can be a little frustrating.

When I began sewing knits, I went to the thrift shop on $2 a bag day and bought a bunch of clothes that were made of different kinds of knit fabric. I cut them all up and just played with the fabric. I cut straight pieces and curved pieces; I attached curves to straight lines and curves to curves. I wasn’t trying to make a garment. I was out to make all the mistakes I could so I could anticipate challenges before I spent big bucks on fabric for a garment. It took the pressure off. When I was ready to make my first stretch garment I felt prepared for what challenges might present themselves. It turned out very well.

Happy Sewing!

3 Elastic-Sewing Tips

*Note: When initially Posted, 2 parts vanished. I have since rewritten them and added them*

Elastic is a pretty amazing product. Its stretchy nature allows us so many more options in our sewing than we would have without it. Today I thought I’d offer a few tips to help when incorporating elastic into a sewing project. I apologize that I don’t have better photos to go along with this today.

1. Edge Stabilization:

When sewing knit fabrics to make tops, you can use narrow elastic to stabilize the:

  • neck,
  • sleeve,
  • armhole edges
  • or the hem.

You can use this technique in other craft projects as well. I have primarily employed this method in dance wear and 4-way stretch costumes.

When doing this, it’s important not to over stretch the elastic.

The goal is to have the edge lay flat after all is said and done. If you stretch the elastic a tiny bit then it will still lay flat when you wear the garment. You don’t want to actually stretch it enough to gather it though. Be careful also, that you don’t stretch the fabric itself. I find that just putting the slightest bit of tension on the elastic as I attach it helps to keep it straight and even and sort of holds down the edge of the fabric at the same time. If you have a serger, it would be my recommendation to use that to apply the narrow elastic (1/4″ to 3/8″ or 8 to 11mm wide) to the raw edge. If you don’t have a serger, you can always zig-zag it, or use the longest stitch available on your sewing machine to attach it. Lay the elastic on top of the fabric while attaching. I found that if I tried to lay the elastic underneath, I would not always notice if it slipped a little to the side. It was easier to make sure it was lining up.

When you stitch the elastic along the raw edge, take your time. Be patient, the edge of the fabric may want to curl as you go. Should you rush, the tendency is to stretch the fabric and elastic and it will not give you a good result. Also, if you go too quickly and the elastic shifts you can end up with a mess on your hands.  If you are using a serger, I would encourage you to disengage the blade to avoid causing any damage to the elastic if it shifts a little to the right.

I would use a length of elastic that is a bit longer than the opening you are attaching it to, but don’t make it into a circle. Stitch it on as a long piece. When you get around,

clip it so that the ends butt up against each other.

Once you have attached it, turn the edge and topstitch it with a stretch stitch. You can keep it taut, but don’t stretch it very much as you topstitch. If you stretch it a lot, it will make the end result try to curl.

Elastic Waistbands

There are two main methods to make an elastic waistband. One requires a fabric channel through which the elastic is pulled; the other requires that you stitch the stretched elastic to the raw edge of the waist then turn it and top-stitch it in place.

An elastic channel is created by attaching a second layer of fabric where you want the elastic to be applied. This is stitched at top and bottom or the fabric is folded and stitched. An opening is allowed so that you can thread the elastic through. The ends of the elastic are then attached to each other, tucked up into the channel and the channel is closed. Using a channel, in many ways can be the easier of the two methods. If the fabric waist measurement is greater than what you can stretch the elastic to, then it will definitely be easier to use a channel. It doesn’t require that you stretch the elastic while you apply it. However, if you are not careful, it’s easy to accidentally pull the elastic too far and have to start over when you are pulling it through the channel. Also, you are more likely to have issues with elastic folding up or twisting inside the channel than using the alternative method. The channel method makes it simpler to change the size of the waistband if you find that you need to.

2. Tips for an easier channel style elastic waistband

Make sure that the channel is actually wide enough:

Don’t make it too wide, you don’t want it to be sloppy. The elastic should only have just enough room to sit comfortably when not stretched at all. A common mistake is to only take the width of the elastic into consideration. Elastic can be a couple millimeters thick. If you are using stiff fabric, this can make it very tight and challenging to pull the elastic through the channel. A tight channel can force the elastic to curl inside or fold in half length-wise. This doesn’t look good and can feel very uncomfortable.

Safety pins are your friend:

Before you begin pulling the elastic through the channel, use a safety pin to attach one end of the elastic to the body of the garment. Attach the largest safety pin you can comfortably use (within reason; there is no need for a kilt pin here) to the other end of the elastic and use that to guide the elastic through the channel. Once you have pulled it all the way through, use that same safety pin to attach the two ends together (the second pin is still attached to the garment). Now check along the waistband to be sure that the elastic is laying nice and flat. Remove any twists and then stitch the two ends together. Be sure that you make at least two rows of stitching across the elastic to hold the two ends together. Having the stitching come undone after you close it all up just sucks. Now it’s just a matter of closing up the opening in the channel and you are all done. Stretch out the waistband to its maximum to even up the fabric all the way around the elastic and that’s that.

Attached Elastic Waistbands certainly remove any risk of the elastic coming undone. Even if some of the stitching comes apart, there would be enough of it still in place that you won’t lose your pants.

3. Tips for attaching elastic directly to a waistband:

Because this method is a whole lot of work to change, you want to be certain that you have the right amount of elastic. I usually put the elastic around the person’s waist and have them adjust it to where it feels comfortable to them. I mark that and allow enough extra to stitch the ends together. Make sure that you don’t have any twists in the elastic and stitch the ends together. I usually serge the end together, but you can lay them flat on top of each other and stitch on a sewing machine just as well.

Divide the elastic into quarters and mark using your preferred method. I use pins. Do the same with the waistband. Now match up the pins and pin the elastic to the inside of the waistband. If the distance between the pins is large, you may want to subdivide and pin again at the middle points between the other pins.

I prefer to serge the edge. You don’t have to, you could use the largest zigzag stitch that your machine can do instead. If you are using a serger, you may want to disengage the blade for this. It is important that the elastic be stretched to match the fabric edge. Also, when you stitch this, it’s important that you are not pushing or pulling against the machine. Follow the pace of your machine as it stitches the edge. Don’t stitch over the pins if you don’t have to. The tricky thing here is to keep the elastic and the fabric edge matched up while stretching the elastic. Take your time. My preference is to have the elastic on the top. I find it easier to control that way.

Once you have attached the elastic to the edge, the next step is to turn the elastic so that the waistband fabric wraps around it and contains it. Look for where your seams line up and pin accordingly. Next you will use the longest stitch on your machine, and while stretching the waistband so that everything lays flat, top-stitch along the edge you just attached to hold everything in place.

Commercially sewn waistbands often have multiple rows of top-stitching along the elastic. You can do this if you want to but it isn’t necessary.

It is possible to use this method if your fabric is larger than the fully stretched measurement of the elastic, however, it’s a pain in the backside to do it. You would have to first gather the edge of the fabric evenly to reduce it to the maximum measurement of the elastic before attaching the elastic. Ideally, you would gather both the edge and a parallel line at the point where the elastic will be top-stitched. Yes it can be done. Yes, it’s annoying to do. If you can reduce the waist measurement in other ways, that works too. Adding a pleat over the width of the fabric that the elastic will take up can work as well. It’s definitely not ideal. This definitely works best when the elastic stretches comfortably to the full width of the waistband.

Either of these methods are very effective. Some people struggle to control the elastic if they have to stretch it as they sew it. It takes a bit of practice to get good at it.

Don’t expect to be an expert the first time you try to do it.

If you take your time and give yourself permission to have a learning curve,

you’ll do fine. 🙂