How To Sew An Elastic Waistband, a guide by top US sewing blog, The Sewing Korner

Learning how to sew an elastic waistband is important because these waistbands are used in a lot of pants, skirts, and dresses. If you’ve never done one before, not to worry because they are easier than you think. In fact, learning just a few easy tips will even teach you how to sew an elastic waistband without a casing, which is equally important.

The casing is the enclosure that the piece of elastic sits inside of, so learning to sew a waistband is a matter of learning how to make the elastic sit there properly. For this, it just takes a little practice before you master this all-important technique.

How To Sew An Elastic Waistband, a guide by top US sewing blog, The Sewing Korner
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    Why Choose Elastic Waistbands?

    When you choose a garment with an elastic waistband, you’re choosing one that offers the ultimate option in comfort. It is super-easy to pull garments on and take them off when they have elastic waistbands, and even if you don’t get the elastic to the exact size, the garment will still be comfortable for the wearer. Indeed, elastic waistbands are accommodating for most people.

    This type of waistband is also inexpensive when compared to many other types of waistbands. This is because elastic is very inexpensive to purchase. It also comes in long pieces with many different widths, and you can easily cut the elastic to the exact size you need.

    When learning how to sew an elastic waistband, the first thing you have to learn is that there are two basic types. These include applied and fold-down casings, but don’t let the names scare you. Think of a casing as a tunnel for the piece of elastic to go through, and keep in mind that when working with fabrics made out of knit, you can also sew the elastic on the fabric itself in many cases.

    You can also think of sewing an elastic waistband as being sort of like hemming a garment. The trick is to make the waistband look professional and neat. It also has to last for a very long time, just like other waistbands should, and once you learn the right technique, this task is a piece of cake.

    Making Sure You Get a Neat and Clean Look

    If you’ve never worked with elastic before, don’t panic because it isn’t as tricky as it might sound. Elastic pieces come in widths that range from 1/4 inch to 3 inches wide elastic and sometimes wider. They even come in various colors and can be knitted, braided, or woven.

    Some elastic pieces have drawstrings or even buttonholes built right into them, so as you can see, you have a lot of options when you go out to shop for elastic for your next project. In order to get a nice neat look that is also comfortable for the wearer, keep in mind the following tips:

    • Before you get started, take your elastic and pull on it a few times to stretch it out and lessen the chance that it’ll become too loose as the garment ages.
    • Always make sure your casing is a minimum of 1/4 inch wider than the elastic you’re using.
    • When pulling the piece of elastic through your casing, use a safety pin, preferably a large one because bigger ones are more sturdy.
    • If you want your elastic to be more secure, stitch through all of the layers in your side seams. This lessens the chance that the elastic will twist later on.
    • When you wish to join the two ends of the elastic, a “box” stitch is a good suggestion.

    Now let’s take a look at three simple ways to sew an elastic waistband into a garment.

    Fold-Down Elastic Waistband

    Before learning how to sew an elastic waistband without a casing, it’s important to learn how to create a waistband using casings, and the fold-down method is a very common method and simple to learn. Here are the steps to take to utilize this particular method:

    • After you select the type and width of elastic for your project, determine how big the casing needs to be. To do this, add 1/4 inch in addition to the seam allowance that is already required. For example, if your seam allowance is 3/8 inch, you’ll want to add 5/8 inch to the size of the casing (3/8 inch plus 1/4 inch equals 5/8 inch).
    • With the pattern you just traced, measure the total amount that you need (5/8 inch plus the width of your elastic). Measure this amount from where the waistline is and draw your new line above that. Next, do the same thing for the piece that will be the back of the garment, then cut the pattern out and sew the side seams with your right sides together.
    • Iron either the edge of the fabric or the normal seam allowance. Iron it to the wrong side, then iron it again for the elastic width plus the 1/4 inch. Use pins to keep it in place.
    • Sew all around the casing’s lower edge about 1/8 inch from your edge. Leave an opening about 2 inches wide so the elastic can be inserted, and don’t forget to use the backstitch on both of the ends.
    • Put a safety pin on one end of your elastic, then pull it through the opening in the casing.
    • Place a bit of the elastic end over the other end, then sew a box stitch through every layer to secure the elastic well. Tug slightly at the fabric to make sure the elastic is straight and the gathers are even.
    • Close the opening with a few stitches, making sure you don’t sew any part of the actual elastic.

    How to Sew an Elastic Waistband: The Tiered Waistband

    With this waistband, you’ll be sewing multiple casings and inserting many pieces of 1/2″ wide elastic that are each very narrow. If you choose to sew 2-3 casings, you get a very sophisticated look in the end. Here’s how to do it:

    • When measuring up from your waistline, copy what you did for the fold-down waistband but add 2-3 more of everything, depending on how many casings you want. Make sure there is one seam allowance in the end, though. Then, follow the steps mentioned above for making the back piece and sewing the side seams together and ironing the seam allowance.
    • At this point, you should sew 2-3 lines of topstitching, then go and insert your 2-3 pieces of elastic. When you measure the extension, you’ll then divide that in 2-3 sections of equal size. Follow the steps mentioned above and finish the casing, then repeat the steps for the remainder of the casings.

    The Paper Bag Waistband

    The reason this type of waistband is named a paper bag waistband is because when it bunches up when you’re done sewing it, it looks similar to a paper bag that has been crumpled up. It’s the type of waistband that can make any garment look a little more sophisticated. The instructions below assume that you’ll be using 1-inch elastic for the waistband. Here is how you do it:

    If your seam allowance is 3/8 inch, the extension total will be 4 1/8 inches because you need to multiply the elastic width by three then add the seam allowance and the 1/4 inch addition. Follow the steps listed on the first type of waistband mentioned above through the step where the fabric needs to be pinned in place.

    Sew around the casing’s lower edge and leave a tiny opening so the elastic can go through it, then use a backstitch on both ends. The opening should be about 2 inches wide.

    Next, measure up the elastic width plus half of your addition; in this case, that would be 1 1/8 inches. Then, stitch right there around all of the casing without leaving an opening. To keep it even across the length of the waist, follow the fabric’s cross grain or take chalk and make a line on the fabric’s “wrong” side.

    Place a large safety pin on the end of the piece of elastic and pull it through the opening in the casing. Follow the rest of the instructions mentioned above through the last step (tugging gently at the fabric at the waistband to make the elastic more even and neat).

    With the elastic ends together, stitch them to one another and stitch the opening shut with the seam allowance that you previously used. Just make sure you don’t sew the actual piece of elastic or it can ruin the waistband.

    Video: Sewing Waistband With a Casing and Elastic Waistband Without a Casing

    Tips for Making Elastic Waistbands a Little Easier to Sew

    The more you sew elastic waistbands, the easier the task becomes. Learning how to sew an elastic waistband isn’t complicated, but it does need to be done a certain way if you want it to come out just right. To make sure your elastic waistbands always look neat, even, and very professional, follow these simple tips:

    Leave Space at the Top of the Casing

    If you leave some extra space at the top section of the casing, then stitch that edge down before pulling the piece of elastic through, it sort of holds the elastic in place. This, in turn, makes it much less likely that the elastic is going to bunch up and fold over itself once it’s inserted in the fabric.

    For Waistbands that Have Elastic Only in the Back

    If you’re working with a waistband that has elastic in the back of the garment only, this is an easy way to make the garment “adjustable.” Use a piece of buttonhole elastic and when you’re done running it through your waistband, leave it out of the opening. Then, sew a small button on the waistband and button the elastic to that button. Perfect for growing children!

    Cheat a Little Bit!

    Using a safety pin to pull the piece of elastic through your casing can be tricky, but keep in mind that there are now drawstring threaders made for this exact purpose. They’re cheap and they work great, so consider using one of them when you want to make the task a little easier on yourself.

    How Many Types of Elastic are There?

    In addition to elastic that is knitted, braided, and woven, there are other types that you may need for various projects, especially if you learn how to sew an elastic waistband without a casing or even if you’re trying a new craft project. While there can be dozens of elastic types, below are some of the most common ones.

    • Beading cord elastic (used to string beads)
    • Round or oval cord elastic (used for buttonhole loops when making wedding dresses)
    • Thread elastic (used to gather and smock on fabrics that are lightweight
    • Clear elastic (Used to stabilize and gather knit seams)
    • Fold-over elastic (used to make headbands, bracelets, etc.)
    • Ruched elastic (used to make hair bows)
    • Ruffle elastic (used to make trim or to add embellishments to socks and other items)
    • Glitter elastic (used frequently for dance or holiday items

    Naturally, not all of these can be used for the making of elastic waistbands, but you might be able to use some of these instead of standard pieces of elastic in some cases. Keep in mind that you can sew through some of these elastics but not through others. To make sure you’re sewing with the right elastic type, always read the instructions thoroughly on both your pattern and the elastic itself so that nothing goes wrong.

    In Summary

    Learning how to sew an elastic waistband doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, once you do it just one time, you’ll likely get the hang of it. If you want to know how to sew an elastic waistband without a casing, most of the rules are the same but the actual using of the elastic is a bit different. The smartest thing to do is to read the directions and follow them to the letter. Watch a few YouTube videos if there is anything you don’t understand, and most importantly, make sure you practice!

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