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How To Sew Elastic Directly To Fabric

Today I’m going to show you how to sew elastic directly to fabric. If you’ve read my article about my DIY jeans, you’ll know that I originally left the hems of the legs raw. As the hem is quite wide, I’ve found that I’m prone to having mosquito bitten legs and ankles when sat outside on the warm evenings – the joys of living right beside a Dutch canal!

In an effort to minimise access to my legs – annoyingly, the local mosquitos love my blood – I pinned the hems tight one evening and LOVED how they looked. Quite like denim jogging pants, only super cool!

Being that the jeans have a raw finish all over, it makes sense to gather the hems in using elastic sewn directly onto the wrong side of the fabric, rather than creating a channel for it.

If you’ve note used elastic before, or only one kind, do check out my guide to the 15 different types of elastic – you’re sure to learn a lot about sewing with elastics!

The elasticated hem of denim pants on a worktable with text 'how to sew elastic directly onto fabric'

What You’ll Need

Not a lot is required, and as we’re not creating a channel, the sewing process is very easy!

  • Fabric / existing project or item of clothing
  • Elastic
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Fabric scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Pins

Step 1: Take Your Measurements

Elastic and scissors ready for sewing elastic directly to fabric

For me, the most important measurement that I needed was around my lower leg, just above my ankle. This will be the minimum amount of elastic needed to ensure that I can get my feet through the holes of each leg while ensuring it has a nice fit.

Be sure to accurately measure where you’ll be applying elastic for the same reason. My measurement is 26.5cm.

Step 2: Prepare The Elastic

Now that you know how much elastic you need, cut the required amount as well as extra to overlap the ends. I cut a total of 29cm per leg hem.

Overlap the ends of the elastic with the extra amount that you allowed for, and sew a box shape with a zig zag stitch to secure. I find that a box rather than a line of stitching provides more strength on this often-stretched area.

Start by preparing the elastic

Step 3: Divide The Elastic

Divide up the elastic that you'll be sewing directly onto fabric so that you can place it more evenly!

To divide you elastic, start by laying it flat and placing pins at each natural fold as shown above.

Then, place these pins on top of each other so that they’re no longer folded. You’ll have two new folds which you can add new pins to.

Divide up the elastic that you'll be sewing directly onto fabric so that you can place it more evenly!

Once you’ve placed all four pins into position, your piece of elastic is divided evenly into four sections.

The elastic is divided evenly into four with pins marking each quarter point.

Step 4: Pin The Elastic Directly Onto The Fabric

You can see in the photo below that without any elastic in the hem, the legs are quiet loose and flappy. I had made the decision when making these DIY jeans to leave the hems raw so that they were consistent with the frayed elements of the jeans.

The leg of the denim jeans before the elastic is stitched onto the fabric

I added the elastic by dividing the hem into four equal parts, aligning the pins on the elastic with these four points and then securing the elastic into position.

Pin the elastic directly to the wrong side of the fabric

I kept to just the four pins to make sure that I was able to stretch out the elastic for more control over the gathering when sewing.

Sewing the elastic directly to fabric from the wrong side

Step 5: Sewing The Elastic Directly Onto Fabric

To sew the elastic directly onto the fabric, I used a zigzag stitch and sewed from the right side down, so that I could control how the stitching looked on the right side of the denim.

The sewing begins - sewing the elastic directly onto the denim fabric using a zigzag stitch

I has already used a zigzag stitch previously to limit how much the denim hem could fray, and used this previous stitch line as a guide.

As the elastic is secured, it will begin to gently gather the denim of the leg hem

Once the circle was complete, we can see from there inside that the denim has gathered gently in line with the elastic.

Inside the leg of my denim jeans when the elastic has been sewn directly to the fabric

This is how the hem looks once the elastic is stitched from the right side of the fabric.

The gathered effect of sewing the elastic directly onto the fabric
Comparing the two hems on my DIY jeans - the left leg hem was gathered in because of the elastic being sewn directly to the fabric while the right keg hem is still hanging loosely.

Comparing the two hems I didn’t actually like either, and decided that the best way to finish the hems on the legs of my DIY jeans was to turn the hem under – as a single fold hem – to create an elasticated look similar to jogging pants.

Step 6: Turning Up The Elasticated Hem

The process of creating a single fold elasticated hem was super easy! I started by deciding how deep I wanted it to be. As my elastic was 1″ / 2.5cm wide, I went with a 3cm deep hem.

The first step in turning up an elasticated hem is to start sewing!

Just like when I attached the elastic, I ‘pulled’ the elastic out while sewing so that there were no wrinkles created in the fabric. This helped to create a neat stitch line, which I again sewed as a zigzag stitch, to maintain the consistency with other seams.

I love how the hem turned out below. A beautiful finish that I really enjoy looking at!

Loving how nicely the elasticated hem looks once the hem is turned under and stitched into position.

I didn’t ‘finish’ the raw edge of the hem before turning under, as they had already been zigzagged previously. I make it a habit to check whether there are any loose threads and trim them away as they appear.

Close up of the inside of the hem of my DIY jeans now that the hem is elasticated

I absolutely love how the elasticated hems turned out on my DIY jeans. They looks like very cool denim joggers, and I now wear these all the time. I even sewed across the zipper and added elastic to the waist to really give them that ‘joggers’ vibe.

The hams on both legs of my DIY jeans are now elasticated and look and feel amazing to wear!

If you’d like to see more about how I made them, here’s the tutorial for my DIY jeans!

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