Elastic: A Primer

If your notions collection is anything like mine, you may have an extensive collection of unidentified elastic!  Here are some simple tips for identifying the three main types of elastic: braided, knit, and woven.   

We'll also discuss the qualities of each type, so that you can choose the most appropriate elastic for your next sewing project.   

Braided Elastic

Braided elastic can be identified by the pronounced ridges that run lengthwise along the elastic.  When given a "stretch test", braided elastic will narrow as it stretches.  

Qualities of braided elastic:

  • loses stretch when sewn through, so generally used in casings
  • tends to roll in wide waistbands, so may be a better choice for narrower casings like sleeves or multi-channeled waistbands
  • has a medium level of softness

Knit Elastic

Knit elastic has a fairly flat surface with fine ridges.  When given the "stretch test", it will retain it's width.  

Qualities of knit elastic:

  • retains stretch when sewn through, making it appropriate for sew-in applications
  • softest type of elastic, tends to be very stretchy
  • for waistbands, best used for lighter-weight fabrics as it may not have the rigidity necessary for heavier fabrics
  • may want to cut elastic length slightly shorter than recommended because of softness
  • may work for waistbands for those with sensory sensitivities, due to softness

Woven (non-roll) Elastic

Woven non-roll elastic has a pattern of rectangles woven into the elastic.  When given the "stretch test" it retains its width.  

Qualities of woven elastic:

  • firmest type of elastic, often has a bit less stretch
  • retains stretch when sewed through
  • easy to thread into waistband casings because it does not roll
  • can be used with heavier fabrics because of firmness 

Other Types of Elastic

There are several other types of specialty elastic, that have very specific applications.  Some examples that you might find useful are:

Buttonhole elastic: normally used to make adjustable waistbands, the elastic has evenly-spaced buttonholes along its length.

Cord elastic: round in cross-section and available in multiple gauges and colours, cord elastic is particularly useful for drawstrings. 

Fold-over elastic: thin, flexible elastic that folds easily in half along a central lengthwise ridge, it is useful for finishing raw edges.  


We hope that you have learned something new about elastic that can help with your next sewing project!  

Did you know that we have a wonderful selection of sewing tutorials on the Twig + Tale blog?  Here's a selection of tutorials: