How to Apply Fold Over Elastic (FOE)

When making some garment items, we might want a more delicate look than bands can supply, and maybe with a little more stretch than traditional knit binding can get you. FOE to the rescue! Fold over elastic (or FOE) is a great way to accomplish what you're trying to do. It can feel intimidating (I know from experience), but if you do it the right way, it's a breeze! So let me show you an easy way to apply FOE!

How to Apply Fold Over Elastic (FOE)

What You Need:

The garment in need of binding
A Sewing machine
Thread matching the FOE
A walking foot (not required, but highly recommended)

Step One:

Quarter your foe and the openings needing to be bound. This is relatively simple. Stick a pin in the seam of your FOE and then fold the FOE at that point to find it's exact opposite point. Place a pin at that point. Open the FOE out again and place the two pins right against each other to create the quarter marks and place pins in both of those folds. You now have a quartered elastic piece!

With the garment openings, this will go a little differently. If you are binding a leg or armhole, your first pin should go in a  side seam, which you will match with the FOE seam in a later step. Once you have your first pin placed, proceed as you did with the elastic, making sure to match edges to ensure you are marking evenly.

If you are binding the neck or waist opening or a garment, your best bet is to find the center front by matching shoulder (for a neck opening) or side (for a waist opening) seams and marking the exact center. Repeat for the back. With a waist opening, you can generally just mark side seams for the quarters. If binding a neck opening, please do not just mark the shoulder seams! This will rarely give you a true quartering. Instead, take your time to match from and back centers and carefully match your edges as you find your true quarter. For the purposes of this tutorial, I am using underwear for my photos. But you can find pictures of a properly quartered neck opening in our blog on adding a neckband here.

Step Two:

The next step is to pin your elastic to the opening. Just stick with me here. You're going to pin the wrong sides of the elastic and the garment together with the elastic *just* over half off of the fabric. Start with your quarter markers and then fill in extra pins between to keep it even. Your elastic should be slightly smaller than the opening. When you're done it should look like this from the outside:

So just over half of the elastic should be showing above that raw edge. Ok, flip it back inside out.

Step Three:

With your garment inside out, stitch along the very edge of the elastic with a stretch or zigzag stitch. Be VERY careful as you go that you are NOT stretching the fabric, and only stretching the elastic as much as you need to to get a perfect fit. A really great way to accomplish this is to use a walking foot. Now, I'll have to admit, that this project was my first ever use of a walking foot and I'm basically in love. It makes sewing stretch anything SO much easier! They aren't really all that expensive and worth every penny!

Step Four:

Now that the elastic is attached, we get to the tricky part. You want to fold your elastic over the raw edge, trapping it inside the elastic, and pin it down. Take care to pin it down over the stitches you just made, so that they won't show when you're all done. For this, I had to run my pins the long way, parallel to my stitches and pull them out as I went. Again, you'll want to stitch as close to that elastic edge as you can manage without going off. This is where the FOE-matching thread is important because if it matches, nobody will see your stitches. I used a contrasting thread so you all can see what I'm doing.

That's it! Once you've been around the outside, you should have a great looking FOE bound opening! Just think of all the adorable undies and amazing tanks you can make with your new skills!

If you have an idea for a tutorial you'd like to see us do, please leave your suggestions in the comments below! We're always open to new ideas! And if you want to share your outstanding new FOE skills with BSD patterns, please join our great Facebook community! We'd love to have you!
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