Frocktails and Foldover Elastic

Recently, when doing a Facebook Live in the Sweater Knit Sewing group, I discussed the Stretchy Hong Kong finish. (A Hong Kong binding is a very neat and professional finish for seam allowances. My Stretchy Hong Kong finish is a variation of this binding that keeps the seam allowances nice and stretchy on sweater knits.) Someone asked me if it were possible to use foldover elastic (FOE) to finish the seam allowances when doing this stretchy version of a Hong Kong finish. I replied that I didn't really know since I’d never tried!

Well... weeks later I tried it and I didn’t like it. I don’t have the sample to show, because I never quite completed the trial. It turns out that FOE is too heavy for that application!

I like the look of this elastic, however. It's shiny on one side and matte on the other. There's a line along the length where you fold it. The elastic happens to be in my collection of elastics, because I like to have FOE on hand just in case I have the urge to make some underwear. Tip -- It's excellent for finishing the edges of panties!

And the shiny side happened to go perfectly with the fabric I used for my official NYC Frocktails sweater! (Frocktails is the name for a party where local people who sew come together for drinks and tasty snacks in order to discuss sewing and anything else. I think the first one I ever saw mentioned on Instagram was held in Melbourne, but the good idea spread and Frocktail parties are now held all over the globe.) I machine knitted my very silvery, metallic-looking fabric with rayon yarn that I've had for over a dozen years.

Though too heavy for seam allowances, I realized the FOE is actually great for the bottoms of sweaters. The weight, which was bad for seams, helps keep the sweater down. You may know that Chanel jackets have chains at the bottom to weigh down the garment so it hangs properly. That’s kind of what the FOE does in its own way. I considered it for a neckline as well but I have yet to try it.

The sweater knit fabric is two shades of shiny gray, a simple 1x1 rib, so the fabric is the same on each side. The width I knitted is the width of the sweater. I used the neat selvages without any added finishing for the armholes and side edges. The loosely knitted rayon is relatively lightweight, even though technically it's not a fine gauge sweater. 

You can see the fancy hem and side seams in the gif below, as I try too hard to recreate the festive atmosphere of Frocktails at home with only watered down ginger tea and a wine glass.

The sleeveless sweater has side slits that reveal a two-tone underlining, added for stability and coverage, from waist to armhole. I attached the front and back hems with a button. It's essentially a "low waste" design in that the sweater is two folded rectangles attached at the shoulders and at the underlining side seams. The foldover elastic made an excellent finish for the bottom edges. I had no idea the elastic would work so well! FOE is a good alternative to bindings and bands made from self fabric. (Self fabric = trim cut from the same fabric as the main garment) and works with heavier weight fabrics than I imagined.

Some people apply FOE to garments by just folding the elastic over the edge and sewing, but I use a two-pass method.

Step 1. I trimmed the bottom edges to the curved shape I wanted.

Step 2. I measured the elastic along the front bottom edge (in this case front and bottom edges were of equal length) and then cut two of these.

The FOE I used is three quarters of an inch unfolded. Here it is pictured above an elastic that’s an inch wide unfolded. The wider elastic may work for a bulkier knit.

Step 3. I then folded and glue basted the ends of the elastic under about 1/2 inch, as you can see in the picture, top right edge. The elastic pieces were now shorter in length than the bottom edges of the sweater.

Step 4. Working with the public side of the sweater facing up, I placed the edge of the fabric right up to the fold line that runs down the length of the elastic. I attached the elastic to the fabric using a 3 mm wide by 3 mm long zigzag, stretching the elastic slightly to the length of each bottom sweater edge.

Step 5. Next I folded the elastic around the fabric and did a second pass close to the edge of the elastic with a “wobbly straight stitch” (a.k.a. a very narrow 0.5 mm wide zigzag, 3 mm long). At least that’s what I did with my test sample! On closer look at the final garment, I seem to have sewn this second pass with a straight stitch. Unfortunately many days passed between my sample and binding the actual sweater, and I must have forgotten what I'd done. Since I stretched the FOE slightly as I sewed, however, the bottom edge remains stretchy.

Below you can see the inside and outside of the bottom edge. Another day I'll experiment with an even thicker fabric and the wider FOE.

Special thanks to @sewmsboncha, @sophomorestudio@disewbedient, and @cmykat for organizing such a fun #nycfrocktails2019 and for giving me motivation and a deadline to complete my sweater.


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  1. Replies
    1. I try to respond to every comment, but somehow I missed yours! A very late thank you!

  2. Wow, this is beautiful, and you wear it so well! And no waste - so cool!

  3. That is brilliant! Wow,I am going to definitely test this out.


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