Few people grasp how essential elastics are to modern clothing in a world full of comfortable and breathable materials. Much of what we wear today either utilizes elastic bands or incorporates elastic into the material itself. The result is a natural-feeling coverage that flexes effortlessly with our basic movements. Anyone who’s ever tried period clothing of any sort knows what a simple and elegant luxury today’s fashion is. In centuries past, clothing was stiff, heavy, and hot, making moving around a serious hurdle. While elastics are worth appreciating across the board, not all elastics are the same. In terms of crafting materials, there are dozens of varieties to choose from.
Elastic options range from ready-to-cut-and-use ribbons to various cloth materials woven with elastics. When it comes to altering or making clothes with flexible sections or features, ribbons typically work best. It’s worth noting that, among elastic ribbons, there is also a wide variety to choose from. The most common type is easy to knit and braid. Although they may look alike at a glance, choosing knitted vs. braided elastics for your next DIY project requires some thought. Each is useful in different situations.
In cloth-making, a knit is essentially a woven pattern of the material’s fibers. Every piece of cloth, no matter what the material is, is a network of single strands of materials like wool, cotton, or more synthetic materials like the resin blends that create elasticity. Both braided and knitted elastics have a unique knit pattern visible to the naked eye, especially when you stretch them. Knitted is named for its similarity to a knitting pattern, like what crafters accomplished using needles and yarn. Where braided ribbon has parallel bands, knitted ribbons display a grid-like design.
When you stretch it, the grid is abundantly clear, and the fibers separate evenly, revealing small, see-through squares. It’s this looser pattern that allows knitted elastic to stretch evenly and remain smooth. As a result, it’s more breathable and lighter than many other elastic options. What’s more, it’s much gentler on the skin and is useful just about anywhere in a project. Different types of elastic work better if you embed them within the material to avoid skin contact and potential irritation. The knitted elastic band is one of our specialties. Sheships offers a wide selection of elastic bands at wholesale prices, with an array of sizes ranging from 1/8" to 2" in both black or white.
The braided elastic ribbon is what most people are familiar with when it comes to different knit patterns. It’s readily available at just about any shop that carries crafting material, though usually in a limited selection of colors and sizes and at retail prices. As mentioned, braided elastic patterns feature a series of parallel lines. In addition, it primarily only stretches end to end and not in all directions as other varieties do. The result is a bungee-cord style of stretch, though with a much lower tolerance for load-bearing than the average bungee. The primary issue with braided elastics is a tendency to curl back onto itself and shrink as you stretch it.
When you pull the fabric taut, the spaces between the braided lines also tighten, forcing the braids inwards. To account for this quirk, crafters will want to add more stitches to hold the ribbon flat. Stitching with an elastic cord will retain the stretchiness despite the extra effort to keep the ribbon smooth. A single stitch up either side or through the center will always result in curling. Building such elastics into a piece of clothing that touches the skin can cause irritation over time, especially since braided elastics are not as soft as other types. Braided elastic is most effective as an internal element where additional lines of stitching or surrounding material will help to flatten it out regardless of how much you stretch it.
The lightweight nature and soft texture of knitted elastic makes it an all-around excellent choice for just about any crafting or DIY project. As noted, it’s soft to the touch, so it will be inoffensive if any sections of the ribbon sit directly against the skin. Other types of braids benefit from first applying a casing. As the name implies, a casing is a tube of cloth stitched around a core element like elastics that houses a drawstring or built-in belt. Knitted elastic will still excel as a stretching feature, even hidden within folds of material or a casing. What’s more, its ability to stretch evenly in all directions means it will regularly flex in various situations and project designs. Unlike other types of elastic ribbon, it never curls, so there’s no chance of a cloth edge cutting into shoulders or waists as it flexes.
As it’s is a relatively lightweight type of elastic ribbon, knitted elastic works best with light- to medium-weight cloth. Heavier cloth may drag down the ribbon, causing it to flex constantly, which is not optimal for any elastic band. Continuous overstretching can wear down elastic fibers and cause them to loosen over time. Most materials available in retail locations and from general craft stores will work just fine. If you’re unsure about the weight of the fabric, it’s always worth testing a piece of cloth first before incorporating knitted elastic. Avoid using materials that drag the ribbon to a noticeable stretch. Some stretching won’t harm elastics, as the elastic will naturally rebound to its original shape and flex with the typical wear and tear of everyday movements.
When choosing knitted vs. braided elastics for your next DIY project, it’s worth noting that knitted elastic wins for flexibility across a range of projects, but braided elastic is still incredibly popular due to familiarity and accessibility. As noted, braided elastic is widely available and usually inexpensive, even at retail prices. As such, it will work for most projects, albeit primarily as a convenience option. It’s reasonably durable and stretches a good amount, making it a reliable choice across various materials. However, you should be aware that piercing it with needles or pinning the material tends to reduce its stretchiness. Thus, braided elastic works best either entirely exposed as a simple strap or encased in fabric.
Its tendency to curl can result in twisting, so any cases you make for this material should fit very snugly to reduce any chance of twisting. It’s a great choice inside clothing, such as stitched into hems for a scrunchy sleeve end or ruffled collar. Stitching with an elastic cord will help retain some of the stretchiness it loses from piercing, extending its use across various other valuable projects such as shirring.