»   Encyclopedic Dictionary »   Many-Colored-Land »   Costume Index »

[ Keep up with new discoveries with a free subscription to the Baba Yaga Newsletter. ]

Several ways to put Elastic in Zills

Goal: Zill elastic that holds the zills on your fingers AND that has a neat appearance. Lots of dancers attach their zills with knots on the bottom or the top. This looks terrible! Sew it on properly and let the zills accentuate your appearance instead of detracting.

Elastic: I recommend braided elastic. The knitted elastic is too soft; the woven elastic, although stronger, is too thick. Braided elastic comes in black or white. Dyeing it will cause it to deteriorate faster. Soaking the elastic in a bowl of very strong tea will color the elastic to a shade closer to skin color. The elastic used for ballet toe shoes is also an option, as long as it is braided elastic. Elastic fact sheet at the Sewing and Craft Alliance.

The width of the elastic is important. It should, at least, be as wide as the slots on the zills. Some use wider elastic to stabilize the zills. I keep a supply of 3/8" and 1/2" braided elastic around for zills.

How: Zills are worn on your thumbs and middle fingers. If you choose to use a width of elastic which is wider than can be comfortably threaded through the slots in the zill, getting the elastic through the slots can be tricky. Poking the elastic through with a sharp-pointed object is typical but it weakens the elastic and can be dangerous to you. I recommend pulling, not poking, whenever possible. If using braided elastic, cut one end to a point and then thread it down through the zill slot. For the hairbands, a loop of strong thread (pearl cotton is ideal) will guide the hairband up through the zill slot with minimum fuss.

Fastest but Sloppiest

So, one goal out of two!

The studio has several sets of cheap stamped zills kept for loaners. Cheap stamped zills tend to have long and wide slots.. I cut 5” of ½” elastic, thread through the slots (from underneath, over the top and down again), and sew the loop closed.. Students wrap them around their fingers twice and adjust as needed.

Fast but Not Sloppy with Hairbands

Hair bands are not just for hair anymore!

Working from the bottom of the zills, loop a 12-inch length of strong thread or pearl cotton through the hair band and pull one end up through one slot. Remove the thread, loop it through the part of the hair band that is on the underside of the zills, and pull the band up through the other slot.

You now have two loops on the top side of the zills for your fingers. To the right is the view from the bottom after the two looped ends of a black hairband have been pulled through completely.

View of zills from the bottom
View from the bottom
Even out the two loops on top. Voila! Here is the view from the side after the two looped ends of a black hairband have been pulled through and evened up. View of zills from the side
View from the side

Yes, the success of this depends on the hairband you use and the size of the slots in your zills. You may need to test a couple of different sizes and widths. If you find a style that works that also comes in colors, you can color coordinate with your costume!

Elegant and Professional Two-slot Zills

Two-slot zills are the most common zills. The elastic is threaded as one loop coming up from the bottom though one slot and down through the other. You are going to sew the elastic into a loop with the stitches on the underside of the zills. Then you will turn the elastic over so the raw edges are hidden from view of your audience.

All zills have a little dome in the middle where the elastic slots are. If you place the zills on the table so that the dome is up, then the top of the zills are facing up and the bottom of the zills are facing the table.

You will find that the loops on the thumbs are bigger than the loops for the middle fingers. You may wish to mark the zill elastic on the thumb zills with a dot of nail polish for fast identification. Loose zills can fly off and hurt someone.

  1. Use the WIDEST elastic that you can get through the slots without shredding it. The wider the elastic, the more durable it will be and the more it will stabilize the zills while you are playing. 1/2 or 3/8 inch is what I usually use.
  2. I recommend that you PULL the elastic through the slots instead of pushing with pointy objects. This is accomplished by making the elastic itself into a pointy object by trimming both ends to a point.
  3. In general, I use 3"- 4" length of elastic for each zill; this allows extra elastic for pointy ends on the elastic to use as needles to guide down through the zill slots.
  4. Thread the two ends of the elastic through the zill slots from the top down, so that there is a loop on the top side of the zills and the raw edges are underneath.
  5. Holding on to the elastic from underneath, adjust the elastic loop around your finger to fit tightly. Some folks say the elastic should be tight enough to make your finger tips slowly turn blue. Try to keep the raw ends underneath even.
  6. Holding the elastic on the underside together in a pinch, mark the point on the outside of both elastic ends where the elastic enters the zill slots. (I use a very sharp pencil.)
  7. Pull the elastic back down and line both pencil marks up.
  8. Using double thread, do a backstitch stitch along the pencil line.
  9. Trim the ends to within 3/16 - 1/4" of the stitches.
  10. Now you flip the elastic so that the raw seam is hidden. The elastic running through the slots in the zill will need to twist also in order to do this. The elastic will fight you. Be patient but firm.
  11. Pull the loop to the top and try it on your finger. Look at the underside of the zill. All nice and neat!
Two-slot zill elastic

Elegant and Professional One-Hole Zills

One hole zills are more commonly used by professionals who know how to control them. They are often fastened on the fingers using a wide elastic cord which is knotted into a loop on the underneath. However, you CAN use flat elastic in these zills if you prefer. You are going to create an elastic U rather than a loop, with the raw edges on the underside folded back onto themselves and stitched down so they don't get pulled through the hole.

  • Determine the widest flat elastic that you will be able to use by folding a double layer in half and pushing/pulling the edges through the hole. 3/8” works for me.
  • Insert both raw ends of a 43/8” piece of elastic through the hole from the top.
  • Make a 4-layer fold at each end (making the tiniest folds possible), stitching the folds firmly with doubled thread. My goal is 2.5" of elastic between the folds (which are functioning as knots). (The folds seem to take up about 3/4" of elastic each.) I fold one end to the bottom side and one end to the top side so that when the loop on top is pulled tight, they will nest together and overlap.
  • When your end folds are stitched down, pull the elastic to the top. Make sure the folds on the bottom overlap.
One-hole zill elastic

Maura Enright, Proprietor
©2013 - 2014 by Maura Enright
© means the content is copyrighted. Your links to this content are much appreciated.