Monday, July 9, 2007

Lingerie Elastic

Taly, this is for you. :-)

(I've put this info into my Tips pages — link at top right — if anyone needs to quickly find it again.)

I use 1/4" and 3/8" plush-back picot elastic. The sample 3/8" elastic is not plush-back but it will work for this series of photos.

1. Pre-stretch the elastic a few times and then align the straight, non-picot edge of the elastic with the raw edge of the fabric.

2. Attach the elastic to the fabric, sewing next to the picot edge of the elastic with a narrow zig-zag stitch. (The elastic may stretch out during this step but steam or a trip through the laundry will pop it back into shape.)

3. Turn to the back and trim close to the zigzag stitching. I use my duckbill scissors for this. It doesn't have to be especially neat as this edge will not show on the finished item.

4. Fold the elastic to the wrong side so the picot edge peeks out from the right side. Stitch on the right side using a 3-step zigzag stitch. (The brown layer of fabric is here only so you can see the picot edge.)

5. This is what the 3-step zigzag stitch looks like on my machine.

6. This is the wrong side of the last stitching. If your thread matches your elastic, it's nearly invisible. The 3-step zigzag stitching can be anywhere between the 2 edges of the elastic. Ideally, mine would be overlapping the straight edge of the elastic to hold it down in a more finished-looking manner (which means I needed to sew more to the left in Step 4), but I was making a fast sample and wasn't paying close enough attention. ;-) I'll try to remember to update this photo when I have a better sample.

I've used other methods to attach the elastic, including trying out my serger's elasticator foot and also my coverstitch machine. (See photos here). In my opinion, the method above using only the sewing machine is the best for durability and comfort in the normal course of lingerie wear. The other methods work fine initially, but the extra thread and stitches cause elastic fatigue and result in more popped stitches. The panties I sewed that way just didn't hold up as long as those sewn from the same fabric but using only the sewing machine.

By the way, I sew leg and waist elastic on in the round. I overlap the cut edges of the elastic as shown below. I think it creates less bulk than a RS-together seam with the allowances pressed back. The overlap goes at the outside of the leg and the back waist.


  1. Great tutorial. I really like lingerie elastic too. I've used it to finish a bias silk slip and it worked out nicely. I've also seen it as a waistline finish for delicate chiffon skirts.

  2. Debbie, your tutorials are MUCH appreciated. I've ordered elastic samples from that one place you mentioned. This tutorial will def. come in handy! Thanks.

  3. Thanks for the tutorial Debbie.
    Sorry to ask this, but on the last picture of the overlapped ends, I can't tell where it's overlapped. Do you zig zag horizontally across, or do a zig zag the length of the overlap? Have you ever tried the butt ends together and wrap with "whatever" (i.e., ribbon, a scrap of fabric, etc.,??)

  4. Great, great tutorial, thank you so much!!

  5. Debbie, on the panties that I just made, I used my CS machine. Some of the stitches popped. I think that is because I wasn't using wooly nylon. Maybe I should use the 3-step ZZ instead. Is this why you don't use the CS for elastic in panties?


  6. Debbie, thanks for the tutorial, that was soooo very nice of you.

  7. Thanks for the tutorial. Even though I'm not sewing lingerie right now, I'll refer to it when I am. I have a question, however. What if your machine doesn't have a three stitch zig zag?(Mine doesn't.) What's the next best thing?

  8. I think it is so wonderful of you to share all you learn and with all the photos thank you. It is a fine example that you still need your sewing machine for so much. I perfer to do pressed open seems on close fitting garments as well the bulk of a serger seem adds bulk to my bulk and I don't need that:)Thank you again for your all your sharing and for keeping up such a great blog I wish I could keep mine up.

  9. Debbie , thank you so much. That makes it totally clear!I will try it on the maternity underwear I just cut out. And I also am altering a whole slip to a half slip for my daughter and this will come in handy. Sorry, I didn't check back sooner. Thank you for being so thoughtful.

  10. Where do you buy your elastics? used to have it but they only carry FOE now :(

  11. Thanks for this tutorial! I like to dye and alter vintage slips, and have been confused about which way the elastic goes.

    Here's my finished project:

  12. Great information! Thanks for sharing.


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