5 Elastic Fabric Types: What is Elastic Made of?

Some fabrics are not stretchable. Once they get stretched the remain out of shape and are ruined. But with the elastic additive, your clothing items can have a little bounce to them and return to their original shape.

What is elastic made of? Elastic is made from rubber and latex that have other flexible materials wrapped around it. Those materials are weaved together where the elastic characteristic does the most good and is not impeded in its purpose.

To learn more about elastic and elastic fabric types just continue to read our article. It gives you the names of those fabrics and what makes them tick. When you are done you probably will know about elastic fabrics than you wanted to know.

Elastic fabric 1: Neoprene - this is a synthetic rubber compound that is used in scuba diving wet suits and a host of fashion items.

What is Elastic Fabric?


Elastic fabric is a combination of materials that have elastic characteristics as well as flexible natures. The strands of each fabric are woven together to create a great elastic fabric that holds its shape even when it is stretched out.

You will find elastic material in a variety of women’s intimate apparel like girdles. It is also found in belts, suspenders, waistbands, and a lot more clothing articles. Also, a lot of fashion accessories have elastic elements to them.

Elastic fabrics are also used on bed skirting, fitted sheets, bed ruffles, and just about anywhere that requires you to have flexible fabric. On top of that elastic fabrics or yarns can help create some wonderful jewelry pieces for those people who like innovation and creativity. (more about stretchy fabric)

Elastic Fabric 2: latex is made from rubber but that compound is difficult to sew and it is hard to wear. It is not breathable fabric which means you may overheat if you wear it. Buy latex fabric here >>

What is Elastic Made Out Of?

Two of the main sources for elastic are rubber and latex. Rubber comes from the rubber tree and it is quite flexible. In fact, the stretchy quality of latex and rubber is very desired for some articles of clothing.

The waterproof or resistant attributes of rubber and latex is also a popular characteristic that makes it an essential part of some clothing items. But the problem with rubber and latex is that it is not a very comfortable fabric to wear.

You really do not want to dry clean rubber clothes either. The chemicals in the dry cleaning process can damage or ruin the fabric. When elastic is combined with polyester or other thread types, it is usually at the center of the construction and its duties are restricted to bringing the clothing item back to its original shape.

Elastic fabric 3: Spandex- this elastic material can expand to 300 to 400 percent of its original size. Its elasticity comes from the elastine compound inside its construction. Buy spandex fabric here >>

How Elastic Fabric is Made


Bands of rubber, latex, and other stretchy materials are woven together to make a very stretchable fabric. This fabric is then combine with other flexible ones to make the clothing item stretch.

The stretch reach of the elastic fabric can go in two ways. First, there is the 2-way stretch that has the fabric stretching in only one direction. This can be either lengthwise or crosswise.

The second way elastic stretches is 4 way. This means that the fabric can stretch both lengthwise and crosswise. Also, you can stretch the fabric sideways or along the selvedges.

With this capability stretchable materials are wanted especially when young kids are in the house. The elastic nature helps protect the clothes from being stretched out of shape and ruined after only a few uses.

Stretch fabric 4: Knits- most knits stretch 2 ways with some exceptions that allow it to go 4 ways. This stretching ability makes it a popular fabric to use in making clothes. You can find this fabric in several varieties. Buy streatch fabric here >>

Elastic Material For Clothing

There are a lot of choices in this category. The use of elastic is innumerable as so many clothing items can benefit from the added elastic in their construction. The different styles of elastic have different purposes.

There is pajama, underwear and lingerie style which is soft because it comes in direct contact with the skin. Then there is baby elastic that is used primarily in baby clothes. This style is heat resistant and has a lot of stretch to it. Normally it returns the clothes to their normal shape.

Also, there is swimwear elastic. Not only does it resist heat, it can stretch to 3 or 4 times its size. It also resists damage from chlorine, saltwater and sunscreen. Then you have, sports elastic which resists sweat and many washings. It is tough as it has to retain its original shape.

Braided elastic has a long lifespan normally. It is also built for heavy use. Knit elastic is soft and comfortable while cord elastic is used for jewelry and clothing that does not stretch a lot.

Finally, there is buttonhole and drawstring elastic. The former works well with maternity clothes and the latter for expanding waistlines.

Elastic fabric 5: Spandex blends - there is a whole long list of this type of elastic material used in fashion. It is popular because the blends work well.

When Was Elastic Invented for Clothing?


Like cotton, elastic has a long history. Although that story is not fully known its use has gone back thousands of years and has enjoyed a long life span. The American Indian used rubber long before Columbus appeared. Their word for the material translates into weeping tree.

Then the Mayans used to mix the juice from different vines to create an early form of elastic band that bound different items together. But for modern elastic invention we only have to go back about 200 years.

Thomas Hancock is credited with inventing elastic in about 1820. His invention started with elastic closures for gloves as well as elastic for shoes, suspenders and socks. During his experiments he found that he was wasting too much rubber so he invented a machine called the masticator to conserve the rubber material.

It is not known who originally invented the rubber band, but it was done in the mid-19th century. In 1923, William Spencer was the first to mass-produce rubber bands. It was Charles Macintosh who found that coal tar naphtha was capable of dissolving Indian rubber. This led to his being the first to make waterproof clothing.

How to Weaken Elastic

The way to weaken elastic is to stretch it far beyond its stretching ability. Once the material goes beyond that point of no return it is too weak to be of any elastic good. The elastic really can’t perform like it could when it was its original size.

The way to stretch elastic past that point of no return is to stretch it out over an ironing board. Then use a hot iron to apply the heat. As it heats stretch it out, then let the elastic cool. At this point, it may be too stretched to function like it is supposed to.

This same process works for waistband elastic as well. Another way is to stretch the elastic out and keep it stretched out for a day or two.

Elastic Fabric Types


We have already listed the 5 main elastic fabrics that you should encounter throughout your sewing career. The one fabric we did not go into any specifics was the spandex blends. That is because there are a lot of them.

Cotton and polyester are just two of those blends. The former only needs about 3 to 5% spandex to be stretchy and comfortable. Then there is the satin and velvet blend and both of these styles help you make very nice looking clothing articles.

Nylon goes well with spandex and this blend is usually found in swimwear, sports bras, cycling shorts, and other activewear clothing. Rayon and spandex provide a silk-like look when combined together. It's a stretch to keep you from being uncomfortable.

Stretch denim makes jeans, etc. very comfortable as cotton, poplin and spandex blend does for a variety of shirts. Fake leather and vinyl combine with spandex for belts and home furnishings, etc.

Honorable mentions go to stretch lace, Powernet, acetate/spandex, modal/spandex, Tencel/spandex, and linen/ spandex. There are a lot of spandex blends available that are not mentioned in this list.

Elastic Cotton

This can be a very expensive fabric to use. It costs more than polyester elastic and similar synthetic blends. The cost is why you have to be careful about how you use it. There is a risk to using this blended fabric which if used wrongly may cost you dearly.

Cotton elastic is very absorbent, and it is very soft. It should feel good against your body when you have it on. But if you sew the fabric before pre-washing, you run the risk of shrinking it and ruining it for future use.

You can use this fabric for neckwear, pants, swimwear, and sweaters. Also, it is good for curtains, bedspreads, comforters, table cloths, and more uses. Plus, you can machine wash, hand wash or send it to the dry cleaners. You have a lot of ways to get the material clean.

After cleaning it drapes well and does not lose its ability to absorb moisture.

Nylon Stretch Elastic


This fabric has a lot of uses but its specialty is in marine and outdoor areas of life. The braided nylon elastic is very good at resisting fires and is used in a variety of automotive areas.

Also, nylon stretch elastic is quite strong. It may be the strongest of all elastic type blends. It is so strong, it is used for tough activities like boating and other outdoor activities.

It is machine washable, yet it does not float. Once it is created the cost is quite high, but it is a very high-quality fabric to use. Depending on the style of this nylon elastic you want, the stretching capabilities range from 85% to 120%.

When you want real durability, you turn to this fabric to get your sewing project done. Buy nylon elastic here >>

Polyester Elastic

This is a very popular fabric for 2 reasons. It is the most versatile and the least expensive. Those two elements are always very attractive. It is so popular and useful that you will find it throughout the medical or health care practices. Also, it is used in most wash and wear clothing lines.

The durability of this fabric means that it is very hard to shrink. Plus, it resists mildew and bleach. That makes it a very healthy material to use as often as possible. There is a melting factor that is involved with this fabric.

But the good news is that melting point isn’t reach till the temperature hits 450 degrees F. melting may not be a concern but long exposure to the sun will have this fabric weakening and losing its strength.

You have to be careful with this fabric when it is not cold outside. Depending on the style of polyester elastic, you can get between 110% to 125% stretch out of it.

Some Final Words

Elastic is a great option to combine with your favorite fabrics. Not only does it help their longevity, but your clothes can also retain their shape for a long time to come. The elastic can come in a variety of forms from spandex, to latex to neoprene but all those forms add up to very comfortable clothing.

The only elastic compound that is not comfortable in clothing is rubber. That is why it is saved for specific applications like scuba diving and similar activities. But no matter how you use elastic, you get a good clothing ingredient that does nothing but positive for your clothes.

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