Using Fold-Over Elastic to Finish Knits

March 9, 2020By Emily ThompsonSerger, Sewing, Tutorial 9 Comments Opinion by Paid Consultant

I love to sew with knit fabric – knits of all kind are my go-to. AND what my shelves are filled with. Over the years I’ve realized that many projects can be finished with fold over elastic [or FOE] instead of bindings or bands and today I’m going to show you how to do the same. Tank tops, swimsuits and other fun knit items can have raw edges bound with FOE for a cute, easy look.

I’m going to demonstrate this technique with a swimsuit for my daughter, but make sure to check out the bottom of this post for several other fun projects using the same method.

Finishing knits with FOE Supplies:

  • A pattern that uses knit fabric (shown here the girl’s basic swimsuit from lifesewsavory.com)
  • Fold Over Elastic by the yard (I like the 1” wide, but ⅝” can also work for a thinner look)
  • I used the Simplicity Serger SB3734T for sewing the knit fabric and the Brother CV3550 Double-Sided Coverstitch for attaching elastic.

Cut out your knit pattern as directed.

Note: Because we aren’t turning the elastic under as written in the pattern, I trim ¼” off all the raw edges I will adding elastic to. Just make sure you have enough yardage of FOE for all the raw edges you want to finish. Basic swimsuit shown here.
Side note… I have to sew my daughter’s one-piece suits because she is tall and thin. Nothing from the store fits her, but I love the custom fit I can achieve with sewing!

Begin sewing up the neckline or arm holes as directed in the pattern to prepare for the elastic. There are two ways the elastic can be applied. The first way I will show is in a circle. Here I have sewn up both shoulder seams.

I like to cut my elastic at 90% the length of my fabric so first I measure the opening I want to finish.

Now you have to do a bit of math. My neckline measured 24”, 90% of that is 21.6”, I added a bit back for the joining seam and cut my elastic at 22”.

Overlap the elastic just slightly and use a zig-zag stitch to join the elastic into a circle.

Match this seam with the center back of the swimsuit {or another middle point on your sewing project}. I place the raw edge of the fabric on the center line of the wrong side of the elastic. Some FOE has a wrong and right side, some do not. Then fold the top of the elastic over the fabric and secure in place. I like to use clips with this method.

Divide the elastic and the fabric in half and clip to the opposite side of your project. Fold the elastic over the fabric with the fabric fully tucked into the fold.

Stretch and divide the elastic equally around the rest of the neckline. I like to quarter and then match once between each quarter.

Start sewing in a less obvious spot, under arm, or back. I used a three thread coverstitch to secure the elastic to the swimsuit. Stretch the elastic as you sew to match the knit garment. Try not to stretch the fabric, only the elastic. When you return to where you started, overlap at least an inch before finishing. {if you do not have a coverstitch machine you can use a regular sewing machine and a zig-zag stitch to attach the layers}

Not sure about sewing this in a circle? You can add the elastic to an open neckline or arm hole.
Cut the elastic at the 90% measurement as before and stretch and clip along open edge. Sew and then join the side seam or other shoulder seam when elastic is already on.

For this suit I did the neck as a circle, then the arm openings on the straight. I sewed up the side seams after the elastic was already on. You will have to finish your exposed serger seam by threading through the stitches or sewing the seam allowance over the loose threads. I’m very pleased with the finished swimsuit and love how quickly it all comes together using this sewing method. With practice this becomes a very easy way to finish knits.

Here are some other fold over elastic (foe) projects I’ve made in the past for inspiration:

  • A women’s workout tank.

  • Decorative FOE on swimwear.

  • Wide FOE on women’s swimsuit.

  • Narrow FOE on a tank dress.

Downloadable PDF file: Using Fold-Over Elastic to Finish Knits _ Stitching Sewcial.pdf

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9 Comments

  • I’m a size 16 and hate store bought underwear. It’s either uncomfortable for me or just wears out too fast, which drives me crazy because of the price. So I make my own (on my magnificent Dreamweaver Innovis VQ3000!) and I use fold-over elastic and a double needle to stitch it on. The result is much more comfortable and they fit perfectly. Don’t know what I’d do without fold over elastic – it’s wonderful stuff! It’s great for making soft bras too.

  • Hi Emily, Thank you so much for this post. Your clear, concise instructions accompanied by a plethora of illustrative photographs are wonderful. I didn’t know about FOE but I will look for it the next time I’m in a fabric shop. You mentioned that if we only have a basic sewing machine, we can zig-zag. Do you think that a second ring of zip-zag would materially reinforce it or would that be too much work for little gain? I can imagine that if I don’t align the peaks and valleys it would look poor and annoy me.

    • I don’t think you do need a second line of zig zag, my kids have used suits all summer without issue. It’s up to you though, if you feel better about double stitching, go for it!!

  • What a great technique for finishing knits! I’m a knitophobic, mostly because of the fear of finishing. FOE opens a whole world of sewing projects. Thanks, Emily!

  • Could you give the names of a couple of FOE products you used here? I would like to try this,
    but not sure what product to ask for at the store. Do I just ask for FOE elastic? (I love the wide FOE on the swimsuit.) I am looking forward to trying this. Thank you for your help!

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