Part Two ~ Alternative Elastic Finishes for the Children's Knickers Pattern #NJ201

Helen Cloke beginner advice children's knickers fold over elastic knickers pattern NJ201 photo tutorial

In Part One I covered the method I use to apply picot elastic to the knickers waist and leg openings.  In this part, I'll be applying fold over elastic, or FOE and I'll be discussing the pro's and con's of three different methods.

Alternative Method Two ~ Fold Over Elastic (FOE)

Description:  Fold over elastic is an elastic that comes with a pre-folded crease that runs the length of the middle of the elastic.  One side is shiny and the other is matte and you can use either side as the right side depending on preference.  It comes in a few different widths but for this application I prefer a 20mm width that results in a 10mm finished width.

close up of fold over elastic

Pattern Changes: You don't need to make any changes to the children's knickers pattern.  That is because this elastic just wraps over the edge of the fabric, neither taking width away from nor adding width to the edge.

Method One:

This is applying straight lengths of elastic to the knickers before sewing up the side seams. I demonstrate this on the left leg opening.

Follow the pattern instructions for the enclosed gusset but stop before you sew up the side seams.

Knickers sewn together at gusset

Working on the leg seams first, cut the FOE to the suggested length. Find the halfway point of both the leg seam of the knickers and the cut piece of elastic.  Match up the ends (where the side seam is) and the middle points.  Your elastic will be smaller than the fabric.  The elastic should be underneath with the wrong side of the elastic touching the wrong side of the knickers fabric (the right side of the fabric will be facing up.)

Elastic pinned to leg edge

The cut edge of the fabric should meet the crease fold in the centre of the elastic.

Close up of elastic position

To stitch the elastic on I prefer to use a 'lightning' stitch with a setting of 3.5 long x 2 wide (or slightly smaller, 3 x 1.5, for a narrower elastic.)  We want to sew along the very outer edge of the elastic.

Stitch setting

Since you won't be able to see where this edge is due to the fabric being on top, flip the knickers over to the wrong side with the elastic on top.  You can then find a mark to line up to.  You can see on my machine it will work if I line the outer edge of the elastic up along the 2.5cm mark on my sewing machine plate or I could use the right side of the presser foot to line up to the centre crease.  

Finding a mark to line the stitching up to

Flip your knickers back over so the right side of the fabric is facing up before sewing.  I stitch a couple of anchor stitches at the start so my fabric and elastic are attached before I put any stretch on the elastic.

Anchor stitch at the start

I take a spot about 15cm away from the foot (in this case the middle point) and put just enough tension on the elastic so that it lies flat with the fabric.  You want to make sure the fabric isn't being stretched.  I then use my other hand to 'pin' a point further in towards the foot so I'm stitching smaller sections (around 7cm) at a time.  Then repeat till the end.

Stretching the elastic to fit the fabric

Here is the elastic attached and shown from the right side.

Elastic attached to leg edge

Trimming away the edge of the fabric helps to create a neater fold.

Trimming excess fabric

Place the knickers back under the machine and using the same setting fold the elastic in half along the crease so that it folds over to the right side of the fabric.  Stitch again down the outer side.  This time it will be easy to see as it is facing up.  I stop every so often and raise and lower my presser foot just to let the elastic relax back to normal.  You shouldn't need to put any stretch on it this time, just fold the elastic over as you sew.

elastic sewn on

Close up of sewn elastic

Repeat for the other leg and then sew up a single side seam.  You have to be careful about lining up the two sides of the elastic to they form a continuous line across the seam.

Side seam sewn

Close up of side seam

You now have the waist edge as a continuous line so you can repeat the method above before sewing up the final side seam.  And you are finished!  Thread the overlocker tail ends back through some of the overlocker stitches.  To further secure them you can try and stitch the seam allowance of the elastic to the side but that can be tricky to get your machine to move through all those layers.

overlocker tail

Pro's of this Method:

  • Sewing the elastic on as a line is easier than sewing in the round
  • It is quicker as you are only matching up couple of points before you sew
  • You know that you have the stretch tension right as the start, middle and finished points are anchored

Con's of this Method

  • You end up with the flappy-ish seams of where the overlocker sews over the elastic 
  • You end up with the overlocker tails that you then have to end off (not applicable if just using a standard machine.)
  • It's likely that the two ends of the elastic won't line up as these can move during stitching - so they can end up offset where they meet at the side seam

Method Two:

This is where the side seams are finished first and the elastic is sewn on in a loop.  I demonstrate this on the right leg opening.

Finish your knickers up to the side seams being sewn.

knickers sewn up to side seam point

Cut your waist and leg elastic according to the suggested lengths and decide if you want the shiny or matte side as the right side.  Fold the elastic in half, short ends touching with the 'right' side facing in.

Elastic pinned in half

Sew the cut ends with a 1cm seam allowance and using a straight stitch.

sewn elastic seam

Finger press the seam allowance open.

Seam finger pressed open

Quarter mark both the leg opening and the elastic (this is explained in the main pattern instructions for the lingerie elastic.)

Quarter marked elastic and fabric

Place the elastic into the leg hole with the wrong side of the elastic underlapping the wrong side of the fabric.  Photo shows the knickers from the right side.

Elastic pinned into leg hole

Again, the cut edge of the fabric should meet the crease line in the elastic.  Match up the quarter points.  I place the join in the elastic at the side seam of the leg.

Close up of elastic position

You'll be sewing from the right side so will probably need to turn your knickers inside out so the leg hole is above where you are sewing (it may not fit over your sewing arm otherwise.)

Stitching position of knickers

Stitch the outer edge as explained in method one.

It will look like this from the inside.

Inside view of knicker elastic

And like this from the outside.

Outside view of knicker elastic

I tend to cut back a little angle on the seam allowance of the elastic to lessen the chances of it peaking out from the right side.

Cut part of the seam allowance

Fold your elastic over the the right side and sew this edge down as described in method one.

Repeat for other leg hole and waistband.

Finished elastic

Pro's of this method:

  • The seam of the elastic is neat and tidy without bulk
  • You can sew up the side seams first
  • You know that you have your stretch tension correct and equal the whole way around as you have lined up the quarter marks

Con's of this Method:

  • Sewing in the round can be a bit fiddly, especially with the small leg openings
  • The seam allowance of the elastic can peak out on the right side
  • It takes more time with quartering the elastic and fabric and getting the elastic into position before sewing

Method Three:

This time the elastic is sewn in a line but after the side seams are finished.  I demonstrate this on the waist opening.

Cut the elastic to size as per the suggested lengths - except I allow an extra 2cm for 'wiggle' room.

This time we aren't quartering the elastic to use as a stretch guide (although you can) so you'll need to get an idea of how much stretch to apply.  To do this fold the elastic in half, short ends together and pop a pin or other marker 2cm in from the ends (removing the seam allowance from the equation.)  Hold this pin mark at one side seam and stretch the other end to meet the other side seam.  Note how much tension you need to give it.

Testing the elastic stretch

Stretching the elastic

Mark the centre back as your starting point and start your elastic 1cm before this point.

Starting point of elastic

We are lining the elastic and fabric up exactly as before and wrong sides together.

Close up of elastic starting point

Starting 1cm in from the cut end of the elastic, I back stitch at the start to anchor the fabric and elastic together.  Now in small sections put tension on the elastic (in the amount worked out at the start) and sew down the outer edge as before.

Stating to stitch

By the time you get back around to where you started and if you have tensioned correctly, you should have the additional 3cm of seam allowance remaining.  Stop sewing about 5cm before you reach your starting stitches.

Showing elastic remaining

We are now going to create our seam allowance by folding the elastic under, therefore creating a neat edge on the outside.

Cut off the 1cm seam allowance we left at the beginning.

Cutting of the seam allowance

Cut off 1cm from the loose end (we've now removed the 2cm we added at the beginning.)

Cutting the extra 1cm off

Fold the loose end under by 1cm.

Folding the end under

Overlap 1cm of the stitched elastic with the 1cm of folded elastic.  You'll probably still be needing to apply a bit of tension to do this.

Overlap the ends

Stitch over the join and backstitch.

Stitch the end shut

This is what it will look like from the inside.

Inside of the knickers

Trim away any extra seam allowance and fold the elastic to the outside, stitching as before.  Try and keep the join fold neat when stitching this for the second time.

Fold in elastic second pass stitching

Repeat for the leg holes trying to place the elastic join where it won't be too obvious.

Pro's of this method:

  • It's quicker than quartering the fabric and elastic
  • You can apply it after sewing up the side seams 
  • Sewing in a line can be easier than if the elastic is already sewn in the round

Con's of this method

  • It can create a bulky elastic join as the seam allowances are all to one side meaning the elastic is four thicknesses deep at this point
  • Sometimes the join can move out of place while sewing and look a bit messy
  • It takes a bit of practice to get the right amount of tension 


Method two is the method I most commonly use - I think it gives a nice finish and I like that the ends of the side seams are hidden away under the fold over elastic.  The join in the elastic is fairly smooth.  On the odd occasion though I will use one of the other methods.

Finished knickers with fold over elastic

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