Sewing Tips,  Tutorials

Elastic Casings the Easy Way


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What was your first apparel sewing project?  Chances are that it was an elastic-waist skirt, an elastic-waist pajama pant, or an elastic-neckline peasant dress: simple, un-fitted silhouettes with minimal pattern pieces.

What was your least favorite step? My guess: threading the elastic through the casing:

  • it gets twisted
  • it gets stuck on the side-seams
  • if you are using a safety-pin, the elastic end unravels and comes off of the pin

Have you ever wondered if there was a better way? Maybe you’ve thought “They must not do it this way in factories….”   They don’t.  They stitch “in the round”. Here’s the easy way to put elastic through casings:

  1. Clean-finish the edge of your garment (overlock or press under 1/4″)……in this example I’m stitching a waist casing:


2. Stitch label on center-back of waist (or use a loop of ribbon….to make identifying back-from-front easy when dressing):


3. Fold the top down to create the casing, 1/4″ wider than your elastic:


4. (OPTIONAL) Edgestich the very top edge (this keeps the elastic from folding while worn):


5. Cut your elastic 1/2″ longer than the finished length you want*, make a loop, overlap the elastic ends by  1/2″, secure with zigzag stitch:

*In general, waist elastic should be 10% smaller than the body measurement, for a snug but comfortable fit.  if you aren’t sure how much elastic you need, add a few extra inches to the loop, then you’ll be able to adjust the length before the last step


6. Now put the garment and the elastic loop together:

  • tuck the elastic under the casing at center-back and butt it up to the edge-stitching
  • stitch the casing closed a couple of inches, being careful to not stitch through the elastic:


7. Keep stitching around the casing, tucking in the elastic as you go and enclosing it. Remember to not stitch through the elastic! You’ll want it to be free so it can be adjusted later if necessary:


  • about halfway around, you’ll need to pull at the elastic, scrunching up the casing that’s already stitched, to allow the rest of the elastic to lay flat for stitching:


*if you are not sure of the elastic length that you need , stop stitching before you finish sewing all the way around the casing….try on the garment….if you need to shorten the elastic piece you can do it now

  • when you finish stitching all the way around, you will have automatically made the casing AND enclosed the elastic!:


8. Stretch the casing to distribute the elastic evenly:




I get this question a lot: “Why don’t they explain this method in sewing patterns?

Answer: I have no idea. They all seem to love the safety-pin method.


PS: I actually do have the answer as to why paper patterns don’t use this method: it’s harder to EXPLAIN.  It’s not harder to DO, it’s just not easy to draw little illustrations of it. Once you’ve tried this, you won’t go back to safety-pins!

What other sewing steps are frustrating to you?  Chances are I know the “factory method”….

EasyElasticCasing copy


  • Shirley Clark

    This is neat and different!
    I tried to Pin it, and you also have a pin button, but the page won’t let me pin or show a picture to pin.

  • Angela

    How about attaching bias binding? Do they use a binding foot in a factory? How do you manage corners or binding in the round with a binding foot?

  • [email protected]

    Factories that I’ve worked with do not use a binding foot, they use a binding attachment ( ) that feeds the bias tape BEFORE it goes under the regular sewing foot, making it easier to handle corners; at the end of the first side you back up a couple of stitches, then turn your piece 90 degrees, fold the bias tape around the corner and start stitching again. Binding in the round, you stitch all the way around and at the end of the circle you overlap the bias tape a few inches, then run the stitching off, now pick up the piece, swing away the binding attachment, fold the bias tape under piece, re-stitch to secure, then trim off the tail.

  • Angela

    That binding attachment is slick! Not sure I’m completely following your description of the binding in the round procedure.

  • Debrah Hensley-The

    My first garment was a jumpsuit with elastic at the neck, waist, wrist and ankle for Home Ec class. I chose a wonderfully soft knit fabric. I had a very hard time with inserting the elastic so much that it put me off sewing for years.
    I’m going to try this method on my next skirt.
    Thanks for this post!

  • Cathy

    Hi Janet! As you’ve probably guessed, I’m really interested in all you’re teaching! I will be trying this method on the next bloomers I make. Thank you!! Do you prefer braided or knit elastic for baby waistbands, legs, necks, wrists, ankles, etc.?

  • Ruth

    I’m 60 and can’t believe I’ve never heard of this method. Brilliant!
    That is a darling outfit. Care to share the pattern name?

  • [email protected]

    It’s a shame that pattern companies don’t explain this method…so much easier! The pattern was self-drafted, but it’s just a simple peasant-top and bloomers.

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