Thursday 22 October 2015

Fold Over Elastic: What The Hell is it, Exactly?

(image source: The Daily Stitch)

'What on earth is Fold Over Elastic then?'. This is a question that The Village Haberdashery were being frequently asked after they posted images of their awesome new range of FOE on social media recently. As a lover of the stuff, they turned to me to provide some explanation, which was originally posted here on the Daily Stitch blog last month. Here goes…

What is FOE?

Fold over elastic (as its mum would call it, FOE is its street name) is thin, flat elastic that has a line running along the centre of its length that makes it easy to fold in half. Sold by the metre, it can be bought in a variety of widths and textures, but commonly it is about 20mm when flat and has one matt and one shiny side. Its purpose is similar to bias binding in that it finishes raw edges, but has the added benefit of stretchiness and recovery.

(image source: The Village Haberdashery)

How does it work?

The FOE is positioned so the centre line is aligned with the raw edge of the fabric. The left hand side of the elastic width will be underneath the fabric at this point. The right hand side of the elastic width now gets folded over on top of the fabric, so that the raw edge is entirely enclosed between the two halves of elastic. You will then zigzag stitch through this three-layered sandwich to keep it all together.

What is it used for?

Most typically FOE is used for making undies, both in mass manufacture and in home sewing. The likelihood is that there’s some FOE present in your undies-drawer as we speak. If you’re interested in giving it a try, there are two PDF sewing patterns available for free download on my blog here. One is for making pants/undies/knickers and one is for making a vest/camisole/singlet, both are designed for knit fabric. 

You could try using FOE as an alternative for finishing necklines and/or cuffs on knit tops on both women’s wear and children’s wear. Little girl’s gathered skirts can be made super quickly with FOE with either knit or light-to-medium weight woven fabric. This is a great video on Youtube by Angry Chicken on how to do that. Nappy/diaper covers can be made with FOE, but usually a specific wide variety that has a fuzzy/terrycloth-type texture is used for this.

(image source: The Village Haberdashery)

Why should I use it?

There is a lot to love about FOE once you’ve got the hang of using it, but perhaps my favourite feature is that you apply the elastic whilst neatening a raw edge AT THE SAME TIME. A bit of fiddling and one row of stitching and both these tasks are complete, which makes for some speedy garment making. Available in a rainbow of colours and with two textures in each length (matt and shiny), there are so many possibilities for creating cool contrast finishes on suitable projects.

Any tips?

Through analyzing some shop-bought pants and a bit of experimentation, I figured out that a 3 step zigzag stitch works best when stitching through the sandwich of elastic and fabric. I like to use a stitch width of 5mm and stitch length of 1mm on my Janome sewing machine, but have a play about to see what you prefer.

Once you’ve mastered the basic ‘elastic/fabric sandwich and stitch’ application, you can amp things up by giving the elastic a slight tug as it passes through your machine. This creates a pleasing gathered effect. Experiment with tugging the elastic at various tensions to see how much or little gathering you are able to produce. A little gathering looks great on knickers, for example, and helps them to be snug when worn. A lot of gathering is great when creating gathered skirts or the cuffs for wide sleeves. See here ( for my tips on using FOE to create pants/knickers/undies, and there are many more blog posts, tutorials and videos out there to help.


Scruffybadger said...

Ooh I love FOE and the range of colours it comes in. I think there is a small knack to sewing it, like most things, but then you're away. I have used it for a few of my SoZo vests and love that it doubles up for the edge finish and the straps easily. I've just used it as faux stretch piping as well for a top with panelled sleeves. The rainbow of colours made it fun choosing a good contrast.

Anonymous said...

Oh I would like to try FOE - I have never heard of it before but it does look like it would make things easier in some cases!

Mother of Reinvention said...

I have some FOE but it is so old the elastic is probably perished. I am a bit scared of sewing knits still but this would be a lovely edge finish for so many things. Thanks for the heads up about the stock at TVH. I like the colours very much. Can I say that I like you pants without sounding like a perv? ;) Xx

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

We stock a slight variation that I love - it looks like ordinary 1cm picot elastic but it has TWO layers. So it is already folded over and the fold has the little picot edge. Adorable! I am a huge fan, this past winter I used it with some merino knit to make footsies for and extra warm lining for my shoes, it was so freaking cold.

Rebecca Pattydoo said...

Oooh, useful! Gorgeous print on that cami and pants also...

Eluned Sewabaloo said...

I've never used this stuff, I think I knew it existed but it never really came up on my sewing radar properly - I think I need to get some to try it - maybe I'll make myself some snazzy knickers, thanks for the tute and inspiration!

psychickathleen said...

I love FOE for all sorts of things too! In place of bias tape on knit tops around the neck and armhole - there is just nothing like it! I agree it's a bit of a knack but once you get used to it you'll find all sorts of uses for it. The fact it comes in all colours fosters even more creativity. Thank you for your post and showing how you apply it. I do like to give mine a bit of stretch as I'm guiding it through the machine.

Anonymous said...

It took me a little while to get the hang of using FOE - my first attempts were dreadful, and I nearly gave up. I tried everything I could think of, even a walking foot, but all to no avail.
If anyone else is struggling, what finally got me going was using an ordinary zigzag for a while, instead of the 3-step zigzag. I set it as quite a wide zigzag, and held the elastic stretched as I sewed along, just like psychickathleen above.
That produced some perfectly serviceable knickers, and I gained a lot of confidence using the FOE. I have now graduated to the 3-step, and all is well!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...