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How To Make
A Hip Elastic Casing
With Wide Bias Tape

by Shira

 

These instructions describe how to make an elastic casing at the hip using wide bias tape, suitable for finishing the top edge of a circle skirt, a pair of pantaloons, or any other costume item that is worn on elastic at the hips. This is the very best way to finish a curved hip edge such as that at the top of a circle skirt, but it also works well on straight edges.

Before you cut out your garment, determine what you want the finished length to be, then add 1/4 inch (about .64 centimeter) additional to allow for finishing the top edge. That's how much will be turned under for the casing when you finish the garment. You'll also need to add extra length for finishing the bottom edge--a hem for a skirt, or casing for pantaloons.

 

Women of all sizWomen of all sizes can bellydance! Try it even if you think you are overweight!

Supplies Needed

  • Thread
  • 1 Package Of Wide Bias Tape (1 inch/2.54 cm wide)
  • Either Non-Roll Elastic or Grosgrain Ribbon (3/4 inch/2 cm wide) (See below for comments on how much to buy.)
  • Skirt Hook & Eye Set (Don't need if you opt for elastic instead of grosgrain ribbon)

Elastic or Grosgrain Ribbon?

Should you choose elastic or grosgrain ribbon? It depends on what kind of fabric your skirt is made from.

Material
Advantages
Disadvantages
Elastic
  • Slightly less work to use
  • Easier for people new to sewing
  • Doesn't require altering in case of minor weight change
  • Skirts made of heavy fabric such as velvet, brocade, bridal satin, glitter dot, or crepe-backed satin won't stay up!
Grosgrain Ribbon
  • Holds up even heavy fabrics such as velvet, brocade, bridal satin, glitter dot, or crepe-backed satin
  • Sewing on hook & eye set takes a little extra time

How Much to Buy

You don't need both elastic and grosgrain ribbon. Decide whether you prefer elastic or a drawstring, then use the information below to decide how much to buy:

Elastic: Measure your hips at the line where you will be wearing the garment's top edge. Subtract several inches--your elastic should be shorter than your hip measurement so that it stretches when you wear it. For example, I recommend using 36 inches (91 cm) of elastic for a hip measurement of 41 inches (104 cm). Your elastic will need to hold up the full weight of your garment, and that's why you want it to be stretched when wearing it. If the elastic is too loose, the garment won't stay up!

Grosgrain Ribbon: Measure your hips at the line where you will be wearing the garment's top edge. Add 12 inches.

 

Women of all sizWomen of all sizes can bellydance! Try it even if you think you are overweight!

Buying the Supplies

These supplies are sold in the part of a fabric store that sells "Notions". Many fabric stores have a huge sign on the wall in that part of the store that says "Notions", otherwise you should be able to ask any member of the staff where to find the notions department and they'll direct you.

Thread

This is straightforward. Choose a color that matches your garment. Most people opt for a cotton/polyester blend.

Bias Tape

When you go to the fabric store to purchase your bias tape, take along a scrap of fabric from your garment so you can match the color.

What you'll be looking for is a cellophane-wrapped package of "Wide Bias Tape". This is the kind that's 1 inch (2.54 centimeters) wide. There are 3 yards (a little under 3 meters) in a package, which should be plenty for finishing the top edge of either a skirt or pair of pantaloons.

Fabric stores typically place the bias tape very close to the thread and zippers. Most people like to select a package of bias tape that is close to the color of the garment, although it doesn't really matter that much because it won't ever be seen by anybody when the costume is being worn. But choosing a color that comes close to the garment gives the finished garment a more polished, professional look on the hanger, and makes you feel more coordinated and "put together" when wearing it, so that's the argument for choosing a matching color. If you can't find an exact match, don't worry about it--as mentioned above, the audience will never see the bias tape when you're wearing the garment, anyway.

Package of Bias Tape  

Buying Elastic or Grosgrain Ribbon

If Grosgrain Ribbon

As noted above, if your garment is quite heavy, it's better to use a drawstring made of grosgrain ribbon instead of elastic. Otherwise, your garment may slip down over your hips while you dance!

The section of the fabric store that sells ribbons and trims is usually near the Notions section.

Grosgrain ribbon is a sturdy ribbon that has a ribbed effect. It has a matte effect (in other words, it is not shiny.)

It comes in a variety of colors, so you can probably find a color that comes close to the color of your garment. Don't worry if you can't find an exact match: it won't show when you're wearing the garment anyway.

To decide how much you need, see the section above under "Supplies Needed".

If Elastic

Elastic

The very best elastic to buy for the top edge of skirts and pantaloons is called "non-roll waistband elastic and is 3/4-inch (2 cm) wide. As shown in the picture, it has a texture of bars across it. You definitely want to get the kind that has these non-roll bars--if you get braid elastic, which doesn't have them, it'll roll when you wear the garment and feel very annoying.

Elastic normally comes in two colors--white and black. Choose either--it won't show when you're wearing the garment. Some places sell it in cellophane packages containing one-yard pieces. Others have a large roll of it, and you can have the store cut the amount you want.

To decide how much you need, see the section above under "Supplies Needed".

Bodkin

A bodkin is a gadget that makes it much easier to insert elastic into a casing. You can get by without one by using a very large safety pin. Whether or not you buy one is up to you.

I personally choose to use a bodkin because its long, lean size and shape make it much easier than a safety pin to push through the casing, and there is no risk of it coming open and pricking me.

You'll find the bodkin in the Notions department of a fabric store, probably wrapped in a plastic "bubble" pack. They're reasonably inexpensive.

Bodkin

 

Women of all sizWomen of all sizes can bellydance! Try it even if you think you are overweight!

Making the Casing

In this drawing, you are looking at the wrong side of the bias tape. The right side is the one where the folds point away from you, and the wrong side is the one where the folds point toward you. Remember that in the instructions that follow!
Bias Tape

Place the right side of the bias tape and the right side of your garment's top edge together. That means, as you look at it, if you have the bias tape on top and the garment on the bottom, you'll have the right side of your garment facing toward you, and the folds of the bias tape will be curling up toward you.

Unfold the fold of the tape closest to the garment's top edge, so that the edge of the bias tape is even with the edge of the fabric. This means the fold will be a small distance away from the edge of the fabric. Pin it all the way around the edge of the garment. Curve the bias tape as needed along the top edge as you go. Remember to keep the raw edge of the bias tape even with the raw edge of the garment. Now, stitch the bias tape into place, so that your stitches go into the fold.

Applying Bias Tape

When you are finished, fold the bias tape and garment together along the stitching line, bringing the bias tape to the wrong side of the fabric. Pin it so that it lies flat. Then stitch very close to the outer edge of the bias tape to anchor it in place.

Applying Bias Tape Diagram 2

If you're making pantaloons (or any other garment where you have only a single top edge piece to finish), leave a gap of about 1 inch (2.54 cm) or slightly more in this final row of stitching. This opening will be used to insert the elastic.

If you are making several pieces, as you might with a skirt consisting of several panels, repeat this process on each piece.

 

Women of all sizWomen of all sizes can bellydance! Try it even if you think you are overweight!

Finishing the Grosgrain Ribbon or Elastic

If you're using grosgrain ribbon to hold up the garment, hem both ends of it with a hem that is about 1 inch in size. This creates a sturdy foundation for the hook and eye set.

Next, it's time to insert the elastic or grosgrain ribbon. Place one end of it in either a large safety pin or the gripping ends of a bodkin--this is what you will grip with your fingers. Secure the pin/bodkin. Now, insert the pin/bodkin into the opening of the casing, and thread it through. Push it through with your fingers all the way to the other end. If you have multiple panels, thread each through in turn, being careful to keep the right side of each piece aligned consistent with that of those you've already threaded.

For Elastic

For Grosgrain Ribbon

When done threading the elastic through, securely machine-stitch the ends of the elastic together. If you needed to leave an opening for threading the elastic (as with pantaloons), sew it shut.

When done threading the grosgrain ribbon through, sew the hook end of the hook and eye set onto one end of the ribbon. Try on the garment. You'll probably find that the grosgrain ribbon is a little too long. You can either cut off the excess and hem it, or you can just determine where the eye needs to go, and sew it in place.

I usually recommend keeping the extra length on the ribbon. That way, if you gain or lose weight, or later sell the garment to another person, you'll have the flexibility to move the eye.

 

Women of all sizWomen of all sizes can bellydance! Try it even if you think you are overweight!

What Makes This Better
Than Other Methods?

There are other methods for finishing the top edge of your skirt or pantaloons. So why is the bias tape casing described above Shira's favorite method?

  • Why not just fold over the top edge to make the casing out of the garment's own fabric? Shira's bias tape casing method works very well on curved top edges such as those of circle skirts and decorative overskirts--folding over the top edge to make a casing on those projects is a major hassle! If you're making pantaloons, which have a straight top edge, you could just fold over the top edge and you'd be fine. But for anything involving a curved top edge, the bias tape finish is much easier to do!
  • If your costume's fabric is delicate, using bias tape as described here gives added strength to the top edge, and will make the finished garment hold up better under the wear and tear of your hip shimmies and other vigorous dancing.
  • Why not make my own bias tape out of the same fabric I used for my skirt? If you have the time, energy, and knowledge to do that, and your fabric isn't delicate, be my guest. I use purchased bias tape instead of making my own to save time. When the fabric is delicate, I find that it frays too easily unless I use the bias tape.
  • If added strength is such a good thing, why not use two pieces of bias tape, sewn together, with the elastic running between them and just the top edge of the garment caught between them? A single layer of bias tape can add strength to the top edge of your garment, but sewing your casing entirely of bias tape can create unwanted bulk. If you have narrow hips and would like to create the illusion of more width at your hipline, then maybe you would welcome the added bulk of using two pieces of bias tape with the elastic running between them for your casing. Otherwise, by the time you layer a couple of garments (maybe a skirt over pantaloons, with a decorative overskirt on top of that), you'll find that using the dual bias tape finish on each garment creates far too much bulk.
  • Why not gather the top edge and sew it to a band? I find that gathering takes much more time than making an elastic casing. Since the top edge of the skirt will be hidden by your belt, the neatness of a gathered edge is not visible to the audience anyway.

 

Women of all sizWomen of all sizes can bellydance! Try it even if you think you are overweight!

The contents of this page are copyrighted 2008 by Julie Anne Elliot. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is forbidden.