Skating Dress Tutorial Part V: Sewing Elastic

Ok, so last time we left off with a fitted leotard.  Now we have to add elastic to all of the arm and leg holes, as well as all of the other openings.  The elastic will (1) give a finish to the exposed edges and (2) keep the skating costume in place during actual skating activities.  I will be using 1/2″ braid elastic for the legs and 3/8″ braid elastic for everywhere else.  I prefer the braid elastic because it is softer than the knit, but still has good stretch and recovery.  I have also been able to throw it into countless washes after hours of practice and it holds up well.  So that’s my argument for braid.

(1) Cut the 1/2″ elastic for the legs and sew it into loops

The pattern instructions should tell you how much elastic to cut out.  If you are using Kwik Sew, however much it is, it is too much.  Consider going down a size (or two!) to figure out how much elastic to cut.  The pattern wants the elastic to look pretty when sewn into the pattern.  I (as a skater) want it to STAY IN PLACE while I am skating.  Do yourself a favor – reduce the elastic requirements on the leg holes.  Once you have it cut, sew it into a loop (one for each leg) and divide it into fourths with pins.

(2) Pin elastic into leg openings as evenly as possible and sew with zig zag or serger

There will be more fabric than elastic.  This is good!  It means the elastic will keep the fabric stretched and in place.  I use the serger to attach the elastic to the fabric, but you can also use the sewing machine.  I think the sewing machine offers more control, so I recommend that for the first few attempts, but the serger will provide a neater edge.  On the regular machine I use a regular zig-zag (NOT a three-step – if you use the three-step the elastic won’t be able to recovery and will be stuck in the stretched out shape) with length 3.5 and width 5.5.  When attaching the elastic, make sure to STRETCH THE ELASTIC BUT DO NOT STRETCH THE FABRIC.  This is key to success.  Attach the elastic to both leg holes.

My stitch selections for 1/2″ elastic.
Pin the elastic circles into the leg openings.
Stretch the elastic as you sew it to the fabric.
The serger will give a neatly finished edge on the inside.
Make sure the blade doesn’t cut through the elastic!

(3) Fold over the elastic and sew with zig-zag

Folding it over gives a nice edge to the opening, but also reinforces the elastic.  Make sure to do this step with the sewing machine, using a regular zig-zag stitch.  Again, stretch the elastic, but not the fabric you are sewing it to.

Fold over the elastic so the raw edge is on the inside and covered edge is on the outside.
Make sure you stretch the elastic, but not the fabric.

(4) Insert elastic into the upper body

For the rest, I use 3/8″ elastic.  If there are arm holes, use the same procedure as the legs (forming loops, etc).  For everything else I just stretch the elastic as I go and use however much I need.  I typically use a 5.0 stich width for the smaller elastic, but still 3.5 stitch length.  It is essentially the same technique as the leg elastic.

(5) Attach elastic straps

If I am using elastic straps to keep the bodice in place, I attach them at this point.  I sew them to the back opening, then try on the leotard and pin them in place in the front.  I then sew the front ones in place.  For this I use the regular zig-zag stitch.  Niether of my tutorial dresses have elastic straps, but here is a look at one of my older costumes that used them:

The straps are just fabric-covered elastic.
I sew them to the back, then pull them to the front to pin and sew in place.

(6) Sew in the bra

At this point you should have a leotard fully finished with elastic.  Often times (especially with an exposed back) you need to figure out what to wear under it.  The easiest solution is usually to just sew a bra right into the outfit itself.  Since I make a lot of costumes, I usually can’t bring myself to sacrifice anything more than $10 for the bra.  I hunt Target, WalMart, Kohl’s, etc. for sale-rack items.  These are usually not exactly my size.  Often, the band size will be too big.  But, that is ok because we mostly just want to use the cups.  It is important that the cups are big enough and that they are smooth so as not to look bunchy under the dress.  Sewing it in is very easy – wear the bra, and put on the leotard.  Pin the bra to the leotard wherever it crosses the elastic (ie, when it goes from being not exposed to exposed, pin it there).  Unhook the bra, but leave it pinned into the dress.  Sew the bra to the dress using a zig-zag.  Make sure you are stitching over the elastic that is at the openings of the dress.  Cut excess bra pieces off and marvel at your leotard – complete with elastic and support!

Bra is pinned and ready to be stitched to the elastic of the back.

Next time we will tackle the fussy part – attaching the skirt!


5 thoughts on “Skating Dress Tutorial Part V: Sewing Elastic

  1. Thank you for the details about how to attach elastic. I never quite understood the bra-cup sewing in either, but now I'm wondering whether I can indeed wear backless dresses… 😉

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  2. Yes, I've worried about white material showing through, so I used two layers of illusion mesh underneath as a type of lining. I had three layers, which I then tacked by hand at several points around the hem of the skirt so that it would still hang nicely but also no allow the under-layers to move around too much. It worked quite well.

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