Types of Elastic

Choosing The Right Elastic For Your Project


Elastic is made in several different ways, which effects what projects it is best suited for.


Braided Elastic

This lightweight elastic is an excellent choice for pieces that get heavy use as it is very durable and resilient. It is most commonly used inside casings or hidden inside waistbands because it loses its elasticity where it is sewn through. It is not recommended for use when your pattern calls for a sew on application. To determine if you have braided elastic, stretch it; braided elastic narrows or curls slightly when pulled to a tight stretch. Also, look for the parallel lengthwise ridges. Because of the ridges, this elastic is prone to roll; however they also help it to have more grip inside of a fabric casing. This elastic is ideal for sleeves and necklines in sewing projects.


Knit Elastic

This elastic is generally softer than both woven and braided elastic, making it highly suited for lightweight to mid-weight fabric. It does not have a lot of “grip” power and is a good elastic type to choose when sewing the elastic directly onto the fabric. Common knit elastics include waistband rated elastics. When stretching this type of elastic, it does not get narrow like braided elastic does.


Woven Elastic

This is a firm, durable elastic that can be used sewn directly onto the fabric or inside fabric casings. When stretched, it keeps the same width. Woven elastic is also known as “non-roll elastic” and can hold even heavier fabrics as it has a good firm grip. This is the best choice elastic for long-lived waistbands.


Fold Over Elastic

This elastic is very popular for use in lingerie, baby diapers, headbands and hair ties as it is smooth, soft, and supple. There is a center lengthwise indentation that makes a handy guideline to use to encase open fabric edges. It can be used both as a fold over product and at full width. Simply zigzag the fabric to the elastic after lining it up along the center indent, then fold the elastic over the seam and stitch again with a zigzag or other stretch stitch. It is a very easy to apply elastic that is very popular with crafters. 


Bead Cord or Cord Elastic

Cord elastic is circular and is generally of narrower width. Fine beading cord was created for projects like jewelry making, doll clothes, button loop, and even baby clothes. Cording that was specifically made for bead stringing resists getting “stretched out” and has a soft touch that is ideal even when using lightweight beads; however, bead cord should be hand washed. Other cord elastics are suited for clothing, and have excellent stretchability.


Buttonhole Elastic

This innovative elastic is very useful for creating adjustable waistbands, allowing for the tightness of the waist to be altered by looping closer or further holes in the elastic around a button sewn into the waistband. This elastic is not generally used as a stand-alone waistband though.


Plush Elastic

This decorative elastic is knitted and is extremely soft. It is generally used for lingerie, for baby clothes, or as a drawstring.


Special Use Elastics:


Baby Elastic


This smaller width elastic is made specifically for use in baby items and is even suitable to use against a baby’s delicate skin. It is softer than some other elastic, and has excellent elasticity, enabling it to return to its original shape after stretching. Some baby elastic can be sewn inside fabric, while others are made to also be used in a decorative fold-over style, leaving the elastic exposed. This elastic type is generally made from fold over elastic or plush elastic.


Swimwear Elastic


Swim elastic is highly flexible, enabling it to stretch three to four times its neutral length. It is generally made to be safe for the unique conditions swimwear faces, including heat, chlorine, sunscreen, and salt water.


Some of the elastics that are used in lingerie, like the lightweight clear elastics, are also excellent choices for swimwear as they are also heat resistant.


Look for elastics that are polyurethane based, like clear elastics, or elastic made from a cotton and rubber blend which will endure chlorine much better than the standard polyester and rubber elastic that is suitable for non-swim projects.


Sports Elastic


Several types of elastic are suited to use in sports wear. The elastic used should be a very stretchy type that can extend to at least twice its neutral length and return to its original shape easily.


Fold over elastic is an excellent choice for this as it can be worn against the skin as it is very soft to the touch. It is easy to sew on your project, making a sewing project quicker because it can stand in for bias tape, can create a hem swiftly and securely, and does turns and corners beautifully without leaving unsightly wrinkles or folds. Knitted or woven elastic is also suitable for this purpose.


Another good elastic to use for this kind of sewing project is drawstring elastic which comes with a highly elastic drawstring inside an elastic waistband material. These elastics are made to be machine washable and are highly durable.