Making a casing is one of those sewing techniques that I use all the time. A casing is the hollow tunnel you create in an item (generally near the top) where you put a drawstring, elastic, strap, or what have you. It is very easy to make one, so if you haven’t before, never fear!
Many times a casing is sewn in fabric that has already been sewn together so that it forms a kind of circle at the top (such as when you’re making a skirt or pants).
Unfortunately, one thing I learned quickly about sewing is that it involves a lot of a household chore that I really hate: ironing. You’ll see what I mean.
Start by folding the top of the fabric over a small amount, about a quarter inch or so. This first fold is done to make sure the raw edge isn’t exposed in the finished project.
Press the fold down. I used to hate this step. Really, really hate it. But then I found this Dritz EZY-Hem tool and, well, I still dislike it. But less than I used to. It makes ironing those tiny folds a lot easier. Fold and press all around the top of your piece.
Now, for this project I added in an extra step. Sometimes you can skip this step but I included it for this project.
Here I decided to go ahead and sew this first fold down. Normally I don’t do this because typically when I make a casing it is for pants or some other type of clothing, and the casing gets sewn completely closed in the end. Even if this top fold comes unfolded, you never know because it is inside the casing, which is sewn shut. This time, though, I’m leaving the casing open and I want to make sure the fold (and therefore that raw edge) stays down. Basically, you can sew this first fold down if you’re being extra meticulous or you’re worried about it coming unfolded and showing if you leave the casing open or whatever. But you don’t necessarily have to.
Once you’ve sewn that fold down, (or if you skip that step, once you’ve ironed the fold down) you’re going to fold it over again and press again. Can you see the iron line in the middle of the piece that’s folded over? That’s where I made a mistake.
When you fold it over the second time, it is going to be bigger than the first fold. The first fold is just made to hide the raw edge of the fabric. The second fold is actually create a space that is going to accommodate something such as elastic or string. In this case, I was going to thread this ribbon through. So I made the fold a little bigger than the ribbon. The earlier picture, where you can see that iron line, shows how I folded it too small. I started folding it over and ironing it without thinking about the ribbon I was putting inside there. So I un-did it, re-folded, and re-ironed.
Pin the fold to hold it in place.
When you sew a casing, you want to sew near the bottom of that folded piece—you need to leave room for the ribbon (or whatever it is) to fit through. If you sew in the middle of that folded piece, there might not be enough space. Also, you need leave an opening in the casing so you can thread the ribbon through. It’s best to decide beforehand where you want the opening. I wanted mine on the side of the bag (which is what I was making), so I started sewing just after the side seam.
Don’t forget to backstitch!
Sew all the way around your piece and then stop a little before you reach where you started. I’m pointing to the place where I started, and my needle is at the place where I stopped sewing. This gave me plenty of space to thread my ribbon through.
Backstitch, clip your threads, and you’ll have something like you see above–a hollow “tunnel” with a hole.
You might be wondering how you’re supposed to thread something through that small space, right? It’s pretty simple, actually. Attach the ribbon (string, elastic, etc) to a safety pin like so.
Stick the (closed) safety pin in one side of your opening.
Push the safety pin through by scrunching all the fabric on it and then pulling the scrunched fabric straight so the pin is further through the casing than it was before.
Pretty soon the pin will be out on the other side and then you can just pull your ribbon through as much as you want!
Note: Sometimes when your safety pin reaches a side seam, you might have a hard time getting it through. Don’t panic! You (hopefully) didn’t sew that part shut. Most likely the seams have opened on the inside. Just wiggle that safety pin around until you find the opening between the seams and push it through.
And you’re pretty much done!
Now for this project I made a drawstring bag, so I wanted the ends of the ribbon to hang out of the casing so you can pull on them to cinch the bag up. In a lot of cases (often in clothes), you’ll want the casing to be closed. For instance, when I make elastic pants, I thread the elastic through the casing just like I did the ribbon. I then sew the ends of the elastic together, tuck them up inside the casing, and stitch that hole in the casing closed. It’s still pretty easy, so no worries!
So there you have it! Everything you need to know to make a casing. It’s pretty easy and you’ll use it a lot, I promise!