How to Sew Elastic in Leotards & Swimwear

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If you are a beginner then probably the most daunting part of learning how to make your own leotard is sewing elastic in the legs, arms and neck. Never fear! It is actually quite easy to learn how to sew elastic in leotards and once you have done it a couple of times you will wonder why you ever spent money on store-bought leotards and swimwear.

how to sew elastic in leotardsPinHow to Sew Elastic in Leotards

Contents

How to Sew Elastic in Leotards and SwimwearBest Elastic for Leotards and Swimwear?Needles to Sew Elastic in Leotards and SwimwearHow To Sew Elastic in Leotards and Swimwear- VideoHow to Sew Elastic in Leotards and Swimwear – InstructionsStep 1 – Prepare ElasticStep 2 – Marking QuartersStep 3 – Matching QuartersStep 4 – StitchStep 5 – Fold and Stitch AgainHow to Sew elastic in Leotards – Extra TipsSewing Elastic in the WaistSewing Elastic in the NeckHow Much Elastic Do You Need for a LeotardMore Leotard ArticlesShop Premium Leotard PatternsMore Elastic Articles

How to Sew Elastic in Leotards and Swimwear

These are the instructions for sewing elastic in all my swimsuit patterns and leotard patterns. There may be slight differences in other brands of patterns so always double-check the instructions before sewing and compare methods.

My photos show you how to sew elastic in leotards legs but the method for the neck or waist is exactly the same.

If you want to learn how to make a leotard or swimwear then the key items you will need to get a professional result are the right elastic and the right sewing machine needles. Don`t skimp on either of these as you will regret it.

make your own leotard, sew elastic in leotardsmake your own leotard, sew elastic in leotardsPinHow to Sew Elastic in Leotards

Best Elastic for Leotards and Swimwear?

The best elastic for leotards is swimwear elastic. This elastic is specially treated to be chlorine and sweat resistant and tends to be quite firm. It is typically woven elastic so it doesn`t stretch out when you sew over it.

Most brands come in ¼ inch (6mm) or ⅜ inch (1cm) widths. The majority of my leotard patterns and swimwear patterns use the ⅜ inch (1.0cm) width as it is easier for beginners to sew over and gives more consistent results. Quality swimwear elastic brands include Birch (Australia), Hemline(UK)  and Dritz (USA).

Further Reading: Elastic Types Guide

Needles to Sew Elastic in Leotards and Swimwear

Always use a stretch needle to sew your elastic in leotards and swimwear. Regular needles will give you skipped stitches. Quality brands that manufacture stretch needles include Singer, Klass and Schmetz.

Further Reading:Sewing Needle Guide

How To Sew Elastic in Leotards and Swimwear- Video

Before you start, check out this quick video I made to show you how to sew elastic in leotards. It really is so easy!

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How to Sew Elastic in Leotards – VIDEO

How to Sew Elastic in Leotards and Swimwear – Instructions

Step 1 – Prepare Elastic

Cut the elastic the length indicated in the pattern. Give the elastic a good stretch and then double-check the length. A good quality elastic should always return to its original length once stretched.

Overlap the ends of the elastics by ½ inch (12mm) and sew it in a circle. Keep the overlap nice and flat by stitching 2 rows as shown.

Mark the elastic in quarters. This is easiest to do by folding it in half then half again.

How to Sew Elastic in Leotards - Step 1How to Sew Elastic in Leotards - Step 1PinHow to Sew Elastic in Leotards – Step 1

Step 2 – Marking Quarters

Now you will need to mark the leg hole in quarters. Use the same folding method. I always make the first mark at the crotch then fold and fold again to find the other marks. Mark on the WRONG side of the fabric.

Note that the length of the curve at the front and back of the leg is different so the top mark will not be at the side seam. It will be slightly forward.

How to Sew Elastic in Leotards - Step 2How to Sew Elastic in Leotards - Step 2PinHow to Sew Elastic in Leotards – Step 2

Step 3 – Matching Quarters

On the WRONG side of the pants, now match and pin the quarter marks on the elastic to the quarter marks on the leghole. I always try and put the overlap of the elastic at the crotch so no bulk shows through around the curve of the legs.

Match the edge of the elastic to the edge of the leg hole. The elastic is slightly smaller than the fabric edge.

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Step 4 – Stitch

Zig-Zag around the leg hole with a wide zig-zag stitch (width 6.0 and length 3.0) right in the middle of the elastic. You will need to stretch the elastic out as you sew between the marked points.

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Step 5 – Fold and Stitch Again

Now with the pants still the WRONG way out fold the elastic in by the width of the elastic and zig-zag over the edge with a narrower stitch. (width 4.0 and length 2.0).

You will be stitching so the zig-zag goes off the edge of the elastic.

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See how on the inside you will see 2 rows of stitching but the outside has just the one row visible.

how to sew elastic in leotards and swimearhow to sew elastic in leotards and swimearPinHow to Sew Elastic in Leotards – Step 5

Repeat this elastic method for the other leg and neck or waist if required.

How to Sew Elastic in LeotardsHow to Sew Elastic in LeotardsPinHow to Sew Elastic in Leotards

How to Sew elastic in Leotards – Extra Tips

Sewing Elastic in the Waist

The waist is a little easier since it is just straight across. When you divide in the waist in quarters, it will have marks at center front, center back and the side seams.

Sewing Elastic in the Neck

When dividing the neck in quarters, start with marking the center front and center back. Then match these marks and fold in half to get the mid-points. In the majority of leotards or swimwear, the mid-points will not be at the shoulder seams as the front and back neck will usually be different heights.

I hope this tutorial gives you the confidence to make your own leotard or swimwear. Please comment below if you have any questions.

How Much Elastic Do You Need for a Leotard

When purchasing elastic for a leotard, get at least the size of the armholes, neck and leg, and add another 10 inches for backup. The actual amount you use will be smaller than the openings. The best width elastic for leotards and swimsuits is ⅜ inch (1cm) wide.

More Leotard Articles

How to Make a LeotardHow to sew elastic in leotardsLycra and Spandex Buying GuideHow to Sew Lycra and Spandex on your Regular Sewing MachineHow to Sew Binding in Leotards

Shop Premium Leotard Patterns

Here are just some of the leotard patterns you can purchase from my Treasurie pattern shop.

SHOP LEOTARD PATTERNS

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More Elastic Articles

Looking for More on Sewing Elastic?

Learn all about sewing elastic for waistbands and fabric edges with this easy tutorial that will show you the best methods for various items.

Types of ElasticHow to Sew Leotard ElasticSewing Fold Over ElasticHow to Gather Knit Fabric with ElasticSewing Elastic Thread – ShirringRuchingSewing Lingerie ElasticHow to Sew an Elastic WaistbandBinding Leotards and SwimsuitsSewing Elastic

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