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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tutorial: How to Stitch Elastic in the Round Without Quarter Pinning

I made a new suit to celebrate warmer weather! Actually, I decided to work on the stash of cut-out garments I didn't manage to finish last summer.... But it feels like a celebration anyway!

The pattern for this suit (Ottobre 3-2011-30) gives a measurement for the entire length of elastic needed for neckhole, armholes, and leg openings, but doesn't separate those lengths. So I had to guesstimate. The armholes were too tight on daughter #1, so daughter #2 (who you might say was feeling a little green) gets it instead.

Now about that quarter pinning. As soon as I learned the technique and the term for it, I knew I wanted to find an easy road instead. Do I like continuously stabbing myself with pins while I sew elastic around a circle? No, I don't. If I ever try acupuncture, I'll go to a professional.

Maybe all you real sewists out there have already figured this out. But here's my method, if you're curious.

How to Sew Elastic in the Round Without Quarter Pinning (or Even Marking):

(Before you start, put away your pincushion.)

Step 1: Determine the length of elastic you need and stitch it into a circle.


Step 2: Align the seam in the elastic with a convenient point on the garment, such as a seam.

Step 3: Zigzag the two points together for a little ways. Backstitch, too.
Here I'm zigzagging my elastic to the inside of the swimsuit leg opening. Where you put the elastic may differ depending on your elastic-application preferences.

Step 4: With the needle down, to hold the fabric, grab both the elastic and the garment and stretch them so the elastic is taut.

Step 5: With your other hand, pinch a point midway between your hand and the needle. This is the first portion you will stitch.

Step 6: Keep pinching the midway point. With your other hand, grab the fabric behind the needle and stretch.

Step 7: Zigzag up to your fingers.

Step 8: With the needle down, stretch the remaining fabric and elastic again until taut, grab a midpoint and stitch up to it. Repeat until you've finished the circle.

Here's the leg opening I stitched. After stitching the elastic to the leg opening, I turned the elastic under and stitched again, enclosing the elastic.

No doubt, if you try this method it will be neater the 100th time you do it than the 1st time you do it. It takes a little practice, but your fingers will thank you for it.

26 comments:

  1. Cute swimsuit! Good info on putting in the elastic!

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  2. Tex, Thanks! I'm gearing up to make plenty more!

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  3. Hi Joy. I agree with you about not wanting to be a pin cushion. I like this technique and I can see that you're a wiz at it.
    When I sew on leg elastic, I tend to overstretch around the back leg and have less on the front leg. It's just my preference.

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  4. Velo-I like to stretch more around the back leg, too - if I remember to do it!

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  5. What a cute suit! I've done it this way, but I thought that's just my slapdash (read: bad) sewing habits... I'm relieved others do it too, and I don't have to go back to pricking my fingers!

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  6. Good idea! I have sore fingers as I type due to pins, so this is timely:-)
    The suit is really cute. How nice to have pre-cut projects for Spring/Summer just waiting for you!

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  7. This is a very clever way to find the marks, I'm surprised you have enough hands for it. I'll have to try it next time I do a small elastic loop. I think typically with elastic, I pin quarter points but I do something similar to pinch and hold eighth points and I take out the pin before I'm sewing to that mark. But I'm mostly thinking of larger things like waistbands where I feel quarter points aren't enough control.

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  8. Jen, Luckily it works with two hands, since that's all I have! It seems to work fine for any elastic width; and for waistbands or sleeves, etc. For waistbands, I sometimes pin at the half point, though, because it gets a little unwieldy otherwise.

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  9. Anything that lessens pin-stab injuries is a winner in my book! Nice :)

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  10. I often do this. One variation, that is good for longer lengths of elastic (eg waistbands)...instead of starting to sew where the elastic ends meet, find the halfway point in the elastic loop and start there...then you have another mark (the elastic seam) to match up (often to another seam on the garment), without having to hold and stretch so much to begin with.

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  11. katherine - Nice idea. One less spot to pin!

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  12. Wonderful tip for smaller loops! I am guilty of eighth-marking, especially with clear elastic that gets serged into the yoke lines of bodices-joined to gathered skirts. I can't remember if I pin or not, but I mark, especially for larger loops (like gathered circumferences). Your tutorial made me actually stop to think about what I do to get that even distribution of elastic/gathers/stretchy thingies! When I do bag openings (no elastic) and have to find quarter positions (like when attaching a circular base to the bottom of a cylinder), I never pin - but only because it's unwieldy and stiff fabric anyway. Instead, I fold both the cylinder and circle into fours and press a crease along their edges with my fingernail. How's that for lazy (but precise)?

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  13. This is more or less what I do too.I love the pretty fabric.Here it is so hard to find swim wear fabric at all and then there is little choice.
    A wonderful little suit!

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  14. Looks great. Is your Kenmore a super high shank machine with an adapter? I keep reading they don't work well, but yours apparently does.

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  15. Just what I needed for my sewing tomorrow. thank you. I've just found your blog from The Slapdash Sewist who I love. Will be off now to read some more of your posts. Best Wishes from OZ.

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  16. I guess where I'm wanting a third hand, is I kind of like to hold the elastic close to the back of the foot, a little bit taught seems to help with even feeding. But I really should experiment because sometimes I get into a habit that has no real purpose.

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  17. Urban Rustic - It's somewhat hard to find pretty swim wear fabric here, too, especially at a decent price. The fabrics I used are from (American stores, of course): Spandex World and Chez Ami, both online.

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  18. Cathi - My Kenmore is actually a low shank machine with an adapter. I bought an adapter and foot assortment from www.homesew.com a while back. I can't imagine the adapter attachment is too different for the different shank lengths? A small problem I have with mine is that the vibration of the machine (it's metal!) causes the screw that connects the adapter to the shank to gradually loosen over time and I have to rescrew it. It's a minor problem considering the convenience of having the adapter.

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  19. Jen - I always hold the fabric, elastic, or whatever I'm sewing, near the back of the foot, too. In Step 6, I have let go of the fabric with my left hand, and reached around to pull everything taut behind the foot. My right hand is holding the rest together. Is that what you mean?

    When stretching elastic, though, it does feel I have less control because I usually use my right hand to manage the fabric just in front of the foot, not stretching it away from it.

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  20. Brilliant! I am going to remember this, it makes so much sense.

    P.S. darling suit!

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  21. Love this idea--pinning elastic is one of those super boring sewing chores. Cute swimsuit!

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  22. I do that too though never admit it. It seemed like everyone else was doing it the "right" way and I was being lazy! LOL

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  23. Thank you for this enlightening tutorial! I am curious, when you say you turn the elastic under and stitch again to enclose, do you use zig zag stitch again and do stitch on the elastic or beside it?

    Thanks again, says the pincushion from Finland :)

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    1. When I turn the elastic under to stitch again, yes, I zigzag while stretching the fabric/elastic a bit.

      And I stitch just to the inside of the elastic (partly on top of and partly next to) so that I'm stitching over the raw inside edge which has been turned under.

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  24. Another hint for swimsuit leg opening elastic...Sew the elastic along the front of the suit without either elastic or suit fabric. Then stretch the fabric and the elastic for the back side to make them match. This gives extra ease for the curve of the childs bottom and helps keep the suit from creeping up every time they bend over.

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  25. Very cute bathing suit (I've never thought of sewing those!) and I love the tip.

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