How to Sew Better Elastic Waistbands
Allie is the co-founder of Indiesew and creator of all things pretty on the site. Follow Allie and receive other Indiesew updates by subscribing to the blog.
If you’ve sewn a single stitch in your lifetime, you’ve probably encountered an elastic waistband. Elastic waistbands are often seen in kid's and beginner women’s sewing patterns. Because there’s no fitting required, elastic waistbands work for most body types. And they’re comfortable. Plus, they’re relatively easy to insert into a garment!
I say relatively easy, because there are a few key tricks to making your elastic waistbands stand the test of time. If you’ve ever experienced an elastic waistband that flipped around inside your casing or didn’t hold up in the wash, pay attention. Today, we’re talking about the basics of sewing a perfect encased elastic waistband.
I’m demonstrating these tips on a sewing pattern coming soon to the Indiesew shop! I’m sewing with rayon challis
and knit 1” elastic.
1. Choose the right width and type of elastic.
Most designers will tell you what size of elastic will work best for your sewing pattern. Elastic is most often found in widths ranging from 1/4” up to 3” wide, though you can find elastic even smaller or wider than that. Elastic is often available in white or black.
The best width of elastic for women’s waistbands is between 1” and 3”. For example, the Hudson Pants
sewing pattern requires 2” elastic, while the Coachella Shorts
need 1.5” elastic. I’ve sewn a self-drafted maxi skirt with 3” elastic and I loved the heft it gave the waistband of the skirt. Experiment with different elastic widths to find what you prefer.
Elastic is available in a few varieties. Woven elastic is heavyweight and is best to use with heavyweight fabrics like denim or twill. Knit elastic is lighter in weight and works great for lightweight materials. If you’re using elastic with knit garments, be sure to use knit elastic.
2. Feed the elastic through the casing with a large safety pin.
Once you’ve chosen your elastic and made the corresponding casing, you need to feed the elastic through the casing. There are handy tools on the market that make this process easier, but I find a safety pin works great. Attach a large safety pin to one short end of the elastic and feed it through the channel. Push the safety pin through and pulling the fabric back at the same time.
Once you’ve reached the seam opening, pin the two short ends of the elastic together, and also through one layer of the fabric. Then you can adjust the gathering fabric around the elastic evenly.
3. Use the box method to join the elastic ends.
My mom taught me from a young age to always make sure my elastic ends are well secured before I close up the waistband. Because elastic waistbands are under lots of pressure, being pulled over hips and hugging your tummy, the seam that joins the elastic needs to hold tight.
Hence, my mom taught me what we refer to as the box method. Overlap your elastic ends by about 1.5” so that they lay flat, and pin. Then sew the pattern you see above making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. This should ensure that your elastic won’t rip at the seam.
4. Secure your elastic.
Close your elastic casing according to your pattern's instructions. You may want to wear the garment a few times before you decide to secure the elastic. If your waistband rolls inside the casing, here’s how to fix it.
The first option is to secure the elastic at the side seams. Below, I’m sewing down the side seam through the elastic and both layers of fabric. Use a simple straight stitch, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. Because the fabric will gather along the entire length of your waistband, this seam should be barely visible.
Another option is to sew two lines of topstitching along the entire length of your waistband, equidistant from the edge of the elastic. The Hudson Pants, pictured below, feature a waistband with two lines of topstitching. That topstitching serves two purposes. First, it creates a nice channel for the drawstring to travel through. And second, it ensures that the encased elastic doesn’t roll after repeated use. To sew these lines, make sure you’re using a stretch stitch and stretching the elastic as you sew.
With just a few simple changes to your sewing routine you’ll have neat waistbands that stay put and look great. If you’d like to get some practice sewing elastic waistbands, we recommend you try out the Alder Skirt
or the Emerson Wrap
. Soon a brand new elastic waisted pattern will be available in the shop! Stay tuned!
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