Different Types of Elastic and When to Use Them

We all need a little stretch in our lives and in our wardrobes. But have you ever went to the fabric store or shopped online for elastic? It can be overwhelming and might make you want to pull your hair out and never wear elastic again. But you are in luck. I will show you some of the different types of elastic and when to use them. Then we can all be happy in our stretchy clothes!

Yeah! Cue happy dance!

Elastic has only been around for less than 200 years. Elastic can be used for so many things. It helps our pants and underwear stay up, good-bye suspenders! Elastic is a god-send in children’s clothing. Imagine baby pants if they didn’t have elastic, scary thought I know.

There are three main types of Elastic: Braided, Knit, and Woven.


Braided elastic is the most recognized elastic and what most people think of when picturing elastic. It is recognized by its horizontal ribs that run parallel to its length. These ribs make it narrow when it is stretched. It loses it’s stretch when pierced by a needle, making it not good when sewn through.

When to use it:

Braided elastic is best used in a casing. It can be used in pants or sleeves that have a casing.


Knit elastic is a very popular choice. Since it is knitted, it can be recognized by little v’s running parallel to the length of the elastic. It is a soft yet stable knit that can be worn against the skin. It doesn’t narrow when it is stretched and can also be sewn through without affecting the stretch.

When to use it:

Knit elastic can be used in both a casing or sewn through. It makes a great option for items such as pajama pants or headbands, were the elastic will be touching the skin.


Woven elastic is very strong, making it a great choice for medium to heavyweight fabric. Sometimes call “no-roll elastic” because it does not roll when placed in a casing. Easily recognized by it’s thick vertical AND horizontal strips. It is very thick to the touch. When stretched, it doesn’t narrow and can be sewn through without affecting the stretch.

When to use it:

Woven elastic can be used in both a casing or sewn through. It is better suited with medium to heavyweight fabric. Making it a popular choice when making bags or sewn into coats. It can also be used in home decor.

If you want to give it a shot and stretch (did you like that pun) your sewing skills you can try some of our amazing patterns.

Special Elastics

Because we all know there is a ton of different types of elastic and we can’t stop at just three!

Swim Elastic

Swim Elastic is a type a braided elastic that is a little special. It is made just like other braided elastic, but it is made with cotton. It resists chlorine, saltwater, and sunscreen. But how do I know if it’s swim elastic? Don’t fret, it is easily distinguished by its off white almost cream color.

Stretch Lace Elastic

Also more popularly called lingerie elastic. This is a knit elastic that is soft and flexible. Lingerie Elastic can be worn against the skin and conforms to the body, which is why it is mostly used for underwear and lingerie, hence the name. It is also a really popular choice for headbands. It generally has a decorative edge to help embellish whatever you are sewing.

Clear Elastic

Clear elastic is thin and clear, making it easy to blend into any color of fabric. It can stretch 3 to 4 times its original length. Clear elastic can be sewn through without destroying its elasticity, making it great for stabilizing seams. It is commonly used in neckbands, shoulder seams, and waistbands. Clear elastic usually only comes in very thin widths and can be tricky to sew.

Fold Over Elastic

Sometimes called FOE. Fold Over Elastic is a flat elastic with a seam running down the middle to help it fold over. There is a finished side, which is often shiny, and a wrong side, which is often matte. Fold Over Elastic can be used like bias binding, but has the added stretch and recovery. I see it used a lot in headbands, underwear and even cloth diapers. It can be sewn through but does narrow a little when stretched.

Elastic is everywhere and I’m glad for that! It can be tricky to figure out which one to use but now you are a pro and can conquer your next elastic purchase.


Originally Authored by Nicole Cook. Archived by Kathryn Graham.

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