Fold over elastic: what it is and what you can use it for!
After we posted a picture of our new stock of fold over elastic (FOE) on Instagram, we got a lot of questions about it! This fun, handy elastic is new to lots of our customers, so I invited Zoe Edwards of So, Zo… What Do You Know? – a FOE expert if there ever was one – to come on The Daily Stitch and give us some tips for sewing with it.
Take it away, Zoe!
What is fold over elastic?
Fold over elastic (as its mum would call it, FOE is its street name) is thin, flat elastic that has a line running along the centre of its length that makes it easy to fold in half. Sold by the metre, it can be bought in a variety of width and textures, but commonly it is about 20mm when flat and has one matt and one shiny side. Its purpose is similar to bias binding in that it finishes raw edges, but has the added benefit of stretchiness and recovery.
How does fold over elastic work?
The FOE is positioned so the centre line is aligned with the raw edge of the fabric. The left hand side of the elastic width will be underneath the fabric at this point. The right hand side of the elastic width now gets folded over on top of the fabric, so that the raw edge is entirely enclosed between the two halves of elastic. You will then zigzag stitch through this three-layered sandwich to keep it all together.
Most typically FOE is used for making undies, both in mass manufacture and in home sewing. The likelihood is that there’s some FOE present in your undies-drawer as we speak. If you’re interested in giving it a try, there are two PDF sewing patterns available for free download on my blog here. One is for making pants/undies/knickers and one is for making a vest/camisole/singlet, both are designed for knit fabric.
You could try using FOE as an alternative for finishing necklines and/or cuffs on knit tops on both women’s wear and children’s wear. Little girl’s gathered skirts can be made super quickly with FOE with either knit or light-to-medium weight woven fabric. This is a great video on Youtube by Angry Chicken on how to do that. Nappy/diaper covers can be made with FOE, but usually a specific wide variety that has a fuzzy/terrycloth-type texture.
There is a lot to love about FOE once you’ve got the hang of using it, but perhaps my favourite feature is that you apply the elastic whilst neatening a raw edge AT THE SAME TIME. A bit of fiddling and one row of stitching and both these tasks are complete, which makes for some speedy garment making. Available in a rainbow of colours and with two textures in each length (matte and shiny), there are so many possibilities for creating cool contrast finishes on suitable projects.
Through analyzing some shop-bought pants and a bit of experimentation, I figured out that a 3 step zigzag stitch works best when stitching through the sandwich of elastic and fabric. I like to use a stitch width of 5mm and stitch length of 1mm on my Janome sewing machine, but have a play about to see what you prefer.
Once you’ve mastered the basic ‘elastic/fabric sandwich and stitch’ application, you can amp things up by giving the elastic a slight tug as it passes through your machine. This creates a pleasing gathered effect. Experiment with tugging the elastic at various tensions to see how much or little gathering you are able to produce. A little gathering looks great on knickers, for example, and helps them to be snug when worn. A lot of gathering is great when creating gathered skirts or the cuffs for wide sleeves. See here for my tips on using FOE to create pants/knickers/undies, and there are many more blog posts, tutorials and videos out there to help.
Thank you, Zoe!