Today’s post is all about how to insert elastic into casings, with tips for making it quicker and easier!
One of the first projects you might make as you learn to sew is elastic waist shorts or an elastic waist skirt, like our Rae Skirt. Several of our patterns, including the new Nicola and Harwood dresses, the Saltspring Dress, Tofino Pants, and the Yaletown Dress and Blouse also feature elastic in casings.
Elastic waistlines are an easy way to cinch in the waist of a garment, while still allowing room for movement and slight fluctuations in waist size. Using a casing is a good way to get the fit you want, rather than sewing the elastic directly to the garment. You can try on the garment while sewing and adjust the elastic to fit you exactly!
We’ve had a few questions on how to sew elastic into casings without getting it stuck. So today, here are some tips on making this step easier!
Tips for sewing elastic casings
Sew the casing stitching accurately. This is the best thing you can do to make it easier for yourself later on. Often you’ll be topstitching on the right side of the garment, where it’s hard to see the stitch guide on your sewing machine. If that’s the case, stop periodically and use a seam gauge or tape measure to ensure you’re on track.
If the casing is on the edge of your fabric, then the accuracy begins with pressing, not sewing. Make sure you’re folding the edge under evenly, then when you edgestitch, your casing will be even.
If you’re edgestitching a fold, use an edgestitching foot! This foot has a dull blade that rests against the fold of your fabric. Press your fold up against the edge of the foot, and it won’t be able to slide any farther. You do have to make sure the fold is right against the foot though.
If the casing is narrow, you can also shift your needle position so you’re able to use the edge of the presser foot as a guide. This will depend on your machine’s settings and the width of your foot. Or, eyeball the space between the edge of the foot and the seamline, and keep that consistent as you sew.
Or, use one of these! This guide lets you set a guideline that’s much farther away from your presser foot. Useful for very wide elastic casings, where it’s harder to eyeball the right distance.
You could also draw in the casing stitch line, but if you’re doing this on the right side of your garment, make sure your marking method is completely removeable! This would be good for something like the Minoru Jacket, where the casing stitching lines are completely separate from any seamlines or folded edges.
I thread-traced the stitching lines on the Minoru Jacket, and when I reached each stitch, I’d remove the thread tracing stitch instead of sewing over it. This is easier than if you sew through the stitching, although it is slower.
Tips for threading elastic through
My go-to method is to use a safety pin. I pin through the elastic piece, then push the safety pin into the casing. You can feel the end of the safety pin and slide it forward, gathering up the fabric, then pulling the excess fabric back behind the pin. Work the safety pin through in this manner, inching it through the casing until it appears on the other end of the tunnel.
- If the pin undoes itself while you’re working the elastic through the casing, you may be able to close it up again and keep going. Just be careful not to catch any of the garment fabric when you do. (If it’s close the beginning, I’ll often just pull the whole thing out and start again.)
- If the pin comes out of the elastic, you’ve pinned too close to the end and the elastic ends have unraveled. Pin further in from the end. You can also pin in and out through the elastic, rather than pinning just once. This is less likely to pull through the end of the elastic.
Make sure the elastic doesn’t twist inside the casing. Feel the elastic along the casing, starting at one end and sliding your hands across to the other end. Twist the safety pin to straighten it out, before securing the ends.
I’ve got a few elastic-turning specialty tools, but I still default to the safety pin. Anyone have a favourite tool that’s not the safety pin?
Tips for getting the seam allowances out of the way
One thing that can get in the way when inserting elastic is the seam allowances. If you’re able to cross a seam inside the casing, and you pressed the seam allowances of that seam open, it’s easy for the end of the safety pin to get stuck in the ‘pocket’ created by the seam allowance.
Before sewing the casing, get those seam allowances out of the way! Here are three ways to do that.
- You can glue down the seam allowances, using glue-basting. Check out this post on glue-basting for more information.
- Use fusible web, like Stitch Witchery, to glue the seam allowances down. Cut a small piece of fusible web, stick it under the seam allowances, and press. It works much like double-sided tape, except that you need to press it in order for the glue to work.
- If you don’t have either of these things on hand, baste the seam allowances in place. Remember to remove the basting later on! Baste close to the edge of the seam allowance, so that most of it is caught in place and there are no ‘pockets’ for the safety pin to get stuck.
Our beginner pattern, the Rae Skirt, includes tips on doing this to make it extra beginner-friendly!
Tips for getting it through if you didn’t do any of these things!
Carefully unpick the part that’s getting stuck, work the elastic through, and then re-sew that section of the casing. It’s most likely going to be the seam allowance that’s facing you, as you reach a seam that’s pressed open. When you sew it closed again, instead of backstitching, overlap your stitching by a few stitches on either side so it’s less obvious. Or ‘zero stitch’ in place when you start and stop, by reducing your stitch length down to zero so the machine stitches in one place (that’s where the ‘zero stitching’ name comes from) so there’s no visible overlap of stitching or backstitches.
Did I miss anything? Any elastic casing tips you’d suggest to beginners?
Edited to add more tips!
- If you have problems with your elastic twisting in its casing, stitch in the ditch through the elastic and garment at the side seams. You can even do this on a RTW garment if the elastic isn’t staying flat. Sew one side first, then stretch the waistband to distribute the fabric evenly, and pin the other side, then stitch in the ditch. If you have multiple seams, consider stitching in the ditch through more than just the side seams!
- Use a small safety pin for small casings, a bigger safety pin for wider elastic and larger casings.