Today we are going to learn how to serge elastic as well as learn how to serge ruffles! Both are quite simple, once you review it you’ll be like “oh homegirl, I totally got this!

Learn to serge elastic and ruffles with these awesome tips!

How to Serge Elastic

The most common reasons you’ll serge elastic are for waistbands, clothing, or you can use elastic on a serger to create a ruffle.

You’ll put elastic on a waistband with a serger when there is either no casing or when you want the elastic to show {see Tulle Skirt tutorial bellow for an example of this}.

You’ll use elastic for clothing such as underwear, swimsuits, diaper covers, etc.

Tips for Serging Elastic:

  • Remember to review how to start or stop a stitch that is either at a raw edge or in the middle of your fabric.
  • Until you are comfortable with your serger, I would suggest taking advantage of your on/off” blade switch when serging elastic. Feel free to turn the blade off to make sure you don’t cut into the elastic.
  • When adjusting the elastic tension, feel free to stop your pedal every so often to regain the correct elastic tension. I usually pull the fabric all the way to see the maximum tension, then adjust down to the correct stretch for the project.
  • When serging (or sewing for that matter) you don’t have to pull elastic as tight as you would think. I would do a practice test with a scrap piece of fabric (the same fabric as your project) and how tight you want to stretch your elastic.
    • When serging elastic around leg holes, you actually don’t have to pull as tight in the front as you do in the back around the bum.
    • Or if you are serging a shelf bra of any kind, if you pull the elastic too tight it will pucker the bra. That will make the front of the shirt pucker.
  • Sometimes the difficulty can come when you are unsure where to place your hands. Use your left hand to guide the fabric. This means the left hand’s “job” is:
    • pull the fabric from behind {if you are really stretching your elastic, pull from behind to make sure the fabric doesn’t bunch at the needle},
    • make sure the fabric is all the way in by the needles {this is crucial to make sure that the needles are actually sewing the fabric and elastic together}. The fabric strays away from the needles often when you are either serging fast, or serging circles.
    • simply guide the fabric through. Most of the time my left hand will just guide the fabric along; not necessarily pulling or pushing, just softly guiding
  • The right hand’s “job” is:
    • This hand has it a tiny bit harder. It has to make sure that the layers of fabric are all together {you don’t want to miss a layer while serging!!} I align the multiple layers with my middle finger, ring finger and pinky.
    • But the right hand also pulls the elastic. I pull the elastic with my index finger and my thumb.

Tips for Serging Ruffles:

You can serge a ruffle with elastic, or serge what is called a “lettuce hem”. I prefer to serge ruffles with elastic. I feel you have more control of the outcome of your ruffle. You can determine how tight or lose your ruffle will be, by controlling the stretch of the elastic.

The picture below is the type of ruffle I am talking about. This happens to be a picture of one of the custom swimsuits we sew at Billiejo Clothing (that’s where I work). We sew custom dance outfits and custom swimsuits. Ruffles are definitely the name of the game there.Learn how to serge a ruffle with elastic on your serger!!

The most common way we serge these types of ruffles is with clear elastic. This might be a “thank you captain obvious” statement, but you can only serge a ruffle if it is at the edge of the ruffle. If you are putting the elastic in the middle of the ruffle, you need to sew that.

When to serge elastic vs when to sew elastic for a ruffle

Serging elastic at the raw edge is good for looks that have ruffled layers, or when you are adding a ruffle into a seam (like the shoulder ruffles in the picture above).

When serging a ruffle align your fabric and elastic like you would in the instructions above.


The basic idea behind the lettuce hem is changing the stitch length and differential feed. See more here to learn what those terms are. Or click on the picture below to see a detailed description of serging lettuce hems.

Lettuce Hem Tutorial from Serger Pepper

Lettuce Hem Tutorial from Serger Pepper



Your homework for the week?

Yup, you guessed it! PRACTICE!!

Choose one of the following tutorials {or all three if you’d like} to practice serging with elastic/serging ruffles! You must use your serger when serging is an option!!!

Ironing board cover, Tulle Skirt , Baby Legging with Ruffle Bum

Learn to Serge Series is the best way to learn how to serge! 12 awesome lessons to reduce your fear of the serger overlock machine!

Since this Learn to Serge Series has been so popular, I have put all of the lessons in one easy-to-read ebook.

Click here to download your copy!

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