It is a narrow fabric that stretches due to its composition. Rubber or spandex cores are wrapped in a fiber such as polyester, nylon or cotton and then woven, knitted or braided to create the elastic. There are different types so it's important to use the right elastic on your project, for comfort, garment life and ease of sewing. 


Braided elastic is probably what most of us think of when picturing elastic. It has parallel ribs going along the length of the elastic and it narrows when stretched. It also loses its stretch when pierced with a needle, so it's not the best choice for sewing through. Braided elastic is commonly used inside casings, such as the necklines shown in the dresses at the top of this post, or in sleeve hems. 


Knit elastic is a good choice for a lot of garments. It's soft against the skin, doesn't narrow when stretched and you can sew through it with without weakening or distorting the elastic. Knit elastics are suitable for light to mid-weight fabrics.

Knit elastic can be applied directly to the fabric as shown above, or can be used in a casing as well. Knit elastic is a great choice for pajama pants or other applications where the elastic touches the body.



Woven elastic is stronger than the other elastics previously mentioned and can be used on mid- to heavy-weight fabrics. Woven elastic has the distinctive vertical and horizontal ribs and is often labeled as "no-roll" elastic. It makes a great choice for casings in garments, home dec items, bags and outerwear. It doesn't narrow when stretched and can be sewn through without weakening the elastic. 


Fold-over elastic (commonly called FOE) is a great way to finish edges on stretch fabrics or garments where you want a smooth close fit that still retains the stretch. It is a great choice for underwear or athletic apparel, or even any clothing using knit fabrics. It is plushy on one side and smooth or possibly a print on the other so you can choose which side goes on the outside. It comes in a lot of colors and patterns, although some of the patterned FOE's can be a bit scratchy against the skin — such as the metallic one shown above — so be careful where and what type of garment to use those on.

It does take several steps but FOE is robust, doesn't narrow when stretched and can be used on anything from swimwear to baby diapers.


Elastic for lingerie is a subcategory in the elastic world. Most commonly knit elastic, it comes in a lot of different colors and textures and is designed for bras, undies and lingerie. This elastic can have a decorative edge, possibly scalloped or with a picot trim and elevates your creation from plain to pretty. Many of these elastics have a plush side for comfort against the skin. If you're feeling creative you could use them as a design element on the outside of a garment.

There are lots of other types of elastic as well, such as clear elastic, swimwear elastic, baby elastic, buttonhole elastic and even elastic thread!