How To Pick the Best Elastic for Your Sewing Projects

Jan Howell
by Jan Howell

There are a lot of types of sewing elastic out there and knowing how to pick the best elastic for your sewing projects will affect the quality and final results of whatever you are making.

In this post I’m going to go over:

  • different types
  • what each one looks like
  • how to use each one

There are three basic types:

Here are four specialty elastics

All are used in different applications and serve a specific purpose.

They come in all kinds of widths, from 1/4 inch to 3 inches and up. Your pattern will typically specify which width to use, but in general, thinner ones are used for things like swimwear and necklines, while wider ones are used for waistbands for skirts and pants.


Here is a table showing the different types and when you can use them.

Print this out and display it in your sewing room for a quick reference.


BRAIDED Elastic Description

  • Parallel ribs
  • Narrows when stretched
  • Looses stretch if sewn into
  • Rolls more easily


Sleeve and Neckline Casings


  • Cross woven
  • Soft to the touch
  • Does not narrow when stretched


Waistbands (pajama bottoms, men’s briefs, skirts)

Lightweight-medium fabrics

WOVEN (Non-Roll)Description

  • Horizontal & vertical ribs
  • Firm
  • Does not narrow when stretched
  • More durable

***Tip: use a stronger needle when sewing into it


Waistbands of pants and skirts with heavy fabrics, houseware items, outerwear


  • Decorate loops on the side
  • Soft to the touch


Underwear, bras

FOLD OVER Description

  • folds in half
  • soft against the skin


Leotard, underwear, headbands, hair ties, DIY watch bands


  • Thin and clear


Gathering knit fabric, shoulder seam stabilizer

Extra Tips Picking the Right Type

  • First, consider if you will be sewing through the elastic or placing it in a casing. Remember, the braided and woven elastic doesn’t do as well being sewn through.
  • Knit or braided types are better for lighter fabrics, while woven is better for heavyweight fabrics.
  • Use specialty elastics like lingerie, fold-over elastic, and clear elastic for your projects that have special requirements.

Picking the Best Size Elastic

  • Pick the size based on the size of the casing or insertion area and the location on the garment the elastic will be.
  • Neckline elastic needs to be much thinner than waistband elastic, for instance! Your pattern will most likely recommend the width needed.
  • Don’t cut it lengthwise. You’re much better off just getting one that is the right width.

Cutting the Length

  • Test stretch your elastic to check how much it stretches and if it recovers well.
  • You may need a shorter length of braided elastic to accomplish the same stretch as a knitted elastic.
  • Thinner elastics stretch more than wider ones, so take this into account when cutting your length.
  • Use a safety pin to join elastic and test before cutting.

I hope you foun this helpful.

Please send me a note if you have any questions while choosing the elastic for your projects.

Have fun sewing!

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Jan Howell
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