Sunday, January 30, 2011

Smoooooooth Waistbands

At your request, here's the tutorial on how to make the waistband of the pants in the last post.

This is not a tutorial for the pants: I'm assuming you have a pair of pants that merely needs a waistband. A suggestion for maximizing the smoothness of this waistband: use as small a waistline on your pants as is possible. Remember that the waistline needs only be as big as your hips to be pulled up over them. If you entertain excess ease in your waistline, it'll all show up bunched under this waistband. 

I recently saw a similar tutorial on someone's blog that inspired me to try waistbands like these. I made one adaptation to that tutorial: in Steps 1 and 2, I sewed both the elastic and fabric loops closed before assembling the waistband. I did this because I like to hide all my seam allowances if I can. Sadly, I cannot remember the blog - I only remember that I left a gushing comment that included the words "yoga pants". If you're reading this, thank you! And would you also please raise your hand and shout, "Me! Me" and leave a comment so we can all go visit and give you credit?
*** update: found it, thanks to KJ@letsgoflyakite - here it is on The Mother Huddle!***

Let's get started:
You will need wide elastic and some stretchy fabric for the waistband. I used some knit remnants. You can also use ribbing, interlock, jersey - anything like that. Note that the pants themselves are a little stretchy, being made of sweatshirt fleece. I have not tried this with wovens - it seems incongruent somehow.

Step 1
Get wide elastic - mine was 1.5" wide - and measure and cut the length you need. Overlap the ends and sew into a loop.

Like so:

Step 2
Lay the loop flat on the waistband fabric (folded double along the left edge as shown) and cut to size. This is going to encase the elastic band, so it has to be as long as the waistband, and twice its height plus seam allowance. My waistband loop was 22" long and 1.5" wide, so the waistband fabric piece, including 1/2" seam allowances, was 23" long and 4" high. Remember to lay out the fabric so that the waistband stretches sideways (from hip to hip) rather than from top to bottom.

Sew the short ends of the waistband fabric (right sides together) together to make a tube.

Step 3
Fold the tube in half lengthwise, with the right sides facing out, and slip the elastic tube inside. You now have a casing for the elastic that hides it completely, and has the bottom edge open.

Step 4
Flip the waistband upside down so the unfinished edge is on top. Notice it is a little smaller than the waistline of the pants. You might want to make quarter-circumference marks along the waistband for alignment with the pants later.

Step 5
Slip the upside-down waistband into the top of the pants. Line up the seamline of the waistband with the back center seam of the pants and pin in place.  Line up the quarter marks of the waistband with the other seams of the pants and pin those spots in place too. Ignore how my seam allowances are all of different widths - it's just the way I sew. 

Step 6
Start sewing, stretching the waistband to match the waistline of the pants as you go. Stretch in both directions - behind and in front of the presser foot. Sew as close to the edge of the elastic as you can, but not on it.

Here's a picture to show the bulge of the elastic to the left of the stitching line - the stitching line hugs it pretty closely.

When done, it should look like this:

Step 7
Serge/finish the seam allowance of that seam you just sewed and keep it folded down (not turned up) as in the picture.

Step 8
On the right side, top-stitch on the pants, close to the seam, making sure the seam allowance is still tucked underneath so that you are sewing through it to keep it folded down.  

Finished waistband - in denim blue

and rose

just to show you that it works even in pink!

Two variations:
  1. For sweatpants with adjustable waists, use draw cord elastic (the kind that has a channel in the middle with a drawstring) and make buttonholes (or use eyelets) in the center front of the waistband.
  2. For yoga pants, make a wide/high and snug waistband of some shape-control fabric like lycra or polyester knit and omit the elastic. 


  1. Ya' know, I've been wanting to learn how to do this and didn't even know it!
    Thank you soooo much for the tutorial. I've been struggling with waist lines for quite a while.

    Did you use a serger with the white thread? If not, how do you do that on a sewing machine?

  2. Those waistbands look perfect! Thanks for the tutorial. I never would have thought of doing it that way, but I will certainly try it.

    One question: do you ever find the wide elastic folds in on itself inside the tube on the finished item? I once splurged on a pair of fleece trousers that were the coziest winter wear EVER - but the elastic inside the waistband seemed to get a fold or twist that I couldn't do anything about...drove me batty!

    1. Here is a tip for keeping an elasticated waistband in order, although I've just noticed it's 4 years late!! Hey ho maybe it'll still be of interest to you.

  3. I love these sort of tutorials, looks so finished, I think it may have been this one because I left a comment on the same tute,

    PS I am not sure if your girls like Noddy stories but have you seen this?

  4. I love the idea of not having to thread elastic through a casing!

  5. Thank you! This is exactly the kind of waistband I need to make on my daughter's pants. See, she will only wear OshKosh Yoga pants, which are becoming impossible to find. And this is exactly what the waistband looks like. Yay!

  6. Lier, I can't tell you how much I love and appreciate your blog. While I'm very inexperienced with sewing clothing (I'm just starting with doll clothing for my daughter), It's nice to know that should I ever take a leap in that direction, chances are you will have made a tutorial for that (instead of "there's an app for that", I think of your site as "there's a tutorial for that"). I am also in awe of your talent and creativity.

    Thanks for taking the time to post as often as you do!


  7. KJ: YES! That's the one. Thank you! Off to add that into my post now.

    Lisa: Thank you. Thank you for one of the nicest comments I've had, ever. The artist part of me felt her head swell after reading it, but the teacher part of me is punching her fist in the air now!

  8. do you think it would help to use a zipper foot, to keep it right up against the edge of the elastic?

  9. Sarah Faith: Yes! Using a zipper foot will definitely help hug the edge of the elastic! I'd also recommend using the walking foot together with the zipper foot - helps everything go smoothly and not slip.

  10. Nice tutorial! Do you use a normal straight stitch when you top stitch in the end (below the elastic)?

  11. What a fantastic 'how to' The waistbands look fantastic - so neat!
    I am loving following your blog and thought I'd invite you over to say hi and to enter my follower giveaway.
    Hope you can stop by...
    The Spangler @
    The Quick Unpick

  12. Thans so much for this. I tried it today and it worked great.

  13. I've just tried it and it work perfectly. I didn't dare to do the last step. Won't this ordinary tread snap since it's not a stretchstitch? For that reason I serged very close to the elastic.
    Anyway, even without the topstitching it looks very good.

  14. Well, I did try it eventually and it doesn't snap. Great tutorial!

  15. I love it! I am featuring it on my blog today!

  16. I'm so excited, because I actually understand your tutorial (thanks to reading your blog and practicing from it). Thanks :) My 8 yr old daughter and I are very happy!

  17. Thanks you so much for another great tutorial! I'm making myself a pair of fleece pants (from a pattern I made from my favorite pair of knit pants)and want to use this type of waistband for them. I made my daughter a pair of fleece pants where I just stitched a casing on the top of the pants and thread the elastic through. I thought it made the waist too bulky. I'm hoping that these pants will come out nicer with a separate waistband. I can't wait to try out your tutorial for drafting a sleeve too. Love your website!

  18. I cannot thank you enough for this tutorial. I've started using this method, and I LOVE it. I will never accidentally twist elastic and sew it into the waistband without realizing it again. Thank you!

  19. Thanks for such a clear tutorial - pics really helped.

  20. I am amazed at how clever people are on the internet. Thanks so much for these instructions for a waistband. I cannot wait to try it. Marge

  21. Re: wide elastic folding in on itself, I found a really nice pair of
    knit pants at Boscov's a few years back and wore them soon after purchase. I liked them so much, I bought multiple pairs.
    The elastic doubled on itself on every pair. I took the waistband apart
    and changed the elastic. Not worth all the work for pants on sale.
    I should have taken them back, but unfortunately I seldom do that.

  22. Thank you so much for this tutorial, I have been struggling with the waistband on a pair of sweat/lounge pants for my son, I could not for the life of me figure out how I was going to be able to give him the nice wide band and then I came across your blog! I'm going to give this a try tonight:)

    Here's my solution, for what it's worth.
    Before you even wear the garment, stitch VERTICALLY at the back and side seams (you can also stitch through at the center front) right through the elastic. This has, in my experience, kept the elastic from both twisting and folding over on itself. Hope this helps :)

    1. Thanks for the hint! I find that the elastic folds over whenever I make loose elastic casings, like for gathered-waist skirts and shorts. Or, as is more often the case, the fabric casing rolls around the elastic so it twists. However, it doesn't happen with this knit waistband IF the stitching in Step 6 really hugs the elastic under the fabric. So if we sew really close to the elastic so that fabric is really tight around it, it doesn't ever slip or roll.

  23. What a great idea! Thank you so much - am linking to the blog post where I used your great idea!

  24. I bought 2 pair of scrub pants with the same waistbands, I now can have my old scrubs fit soooo much better, thank you

  25. I haven't sewn in a few years. I used this for tutorial for making pj bottoms. I made them out of fleece which was a bit difficult due to the bulk of the material. Luckily the tute was amazing so I could still do it!! I hadn't made any clothing with fleece before so that took some getting use to. It was cute in a contrasting color :) I'm sooo excited for the more professional looking finish! THANK YOU for all the AMAZING tutorials; you are making my return to sewing productive and extremely enjoyable!!! :) :)

  26. Thank you so much for doing this! I certainly will give it a try in the coming days.

  27. Great tutorial! I am fairly new to sewing and just finished a pair of stretch scrub pants for my mom for work and they turned out great!!
    She liked how comfortable they are so much she is wanting me to use this type of waistband on her next pair of scrubs. My only concern is that although I have enough leftover knit for the waistband the pants fabric is non stretch (cotton or twill I think). I was wondering if this tutorial would work for non stretch fabrics and if so are there any modifications I need to make b/f I attempt it.

    1. Allison: Yes, this waistband should still work on pants made with woven fabric. Make sure the waist of the pants fits your mom's hips (because they'll have to go over the hips when they are pulled up or down). But don't make the waist too much larger than the hip measurement or there will be a lot of extra fabric bunching at the waistline when you insert this knit waistband.

  28. Very good lesson! Thank you very much!

  29. this is great. i have a strapless dress which will never stay up high enough to be decent. i had just such a thing in mind for the top of it! and now i have a great tutorial on how to make it happen. thanks for so generously sharing. cheers!

  30. I prefer to butt the elastic ends together and zigzag, rather than overlapping the ends (don't need the extra bulk).

  31. Would this be possible or efficient to do with denim jeans?

    1. Unknown: I have seen waistbands like these on commercial denim leggings, yes. Whether they are feasible on jeans (i.e. complete with pockets and back yokes and other features that add layers and, thus, bulk at the waist seam) depends on the weight of denim and the construction of the jeans. Denim can be heavy weight or lightweight, and this waistband style seems to work best with lighter-weight fabrics.


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