Fabrics, Notions, & Other Materials · Sewing Techniques · Skirts

Sewing Techniques: Applied Elastic Waistband

In my last post, we went over how to choose an appropriate elastic for a skirt waistband, as well as tips on calculating the quantity of elastic you’ll need, based on your measurements and the amount of stretch in the elastic.  Now we’ll get on with the actual sewing of one way to apply an elastic waistband directly to a garment.

Finished waistband with elastic
Here’s my Asymmetrical Skirt finished with the elastic casing specified by the pattern. (Click the photo to go to the post with these instructions.) Now we’ll try a different elastic-waist technique!

Note: In the following photos, I’m using a swatch of fabric with a small piece of elastic, rather than showing you a full garment, and I’m using black thread on white elastic so you can see what’s going on. I will also give you tips along the way that do apply to a garment rather than just a swatch.

First, finish the top (waist) edge of your skirt.
Oh, and make sure your elastic is the right length; add 1″ to the measurement you calculated (in my example, I would cut my elastic to 30″), as a seam allowance.

Tip: If your skirt has 2 layers, like my Asymmetrical Skirt, baste the layers together, just inside the seamline; 1/2″ from the raw edge is perfect. Then finish the raw edge.


Finishing raw edge at top of skirt
1. Finish the raw edge at the top of your skirt, either by serging (or zig-zag stitching), or press edge under 1/4″, then press under again 3/8″.

Tip: If you’re pressing your edge under (at right in above photo), you’ll probably want to press it towards the right side of your fabric; the elastic will get sewn over it, so there will be a nice flat finish on the inside.

However, if you’re using stretch lace for your waistband, this may show through the lace; you may wish to press the edges under towards the wrong side in this case.

2. Prepare your elastic: With right sides facing each other, sew the ends together, aligning the edges as well as you can; the seam allowance should be 1/2″.

Stitching center back seam in elastic
2. Stitch elastic ends together (if making a continuous band); on WS, press this seam open, and zig-zag the seam allowances down to secure. (You can see how much my elastic is fraying! And yes, I did use brown thread for the zig-zagging, so you could see it.)

Here’s what that looks like on the RS:

Finished elastic seam
From the right side, you can see how nice and flat this finish is. (If you’re using a particularly thick elastic, like the kinds with a plush backing, you may want to lap the ends, rather than sew a seam.)

Mark the center front, center back, and sides with pins; you’ll line these up with the appropriate points on your skirt.

Pin-marking the elastic
Pin-mark equal sections of your band, by lining up the center back (where your seam is) and center front; then mark the sides. These marks correspond to the CF, CB, and side seams of your skirt.

Tip: See how I’ve used pins with red heads for the side markings? This color-coding is extremely helpful when it comes to aligning the waistband with the skirt seams.

Another tip: I almost always place the seam in the elastic at the center back (CB), so I can tell where the back of the skirt is. Also, I think it lays more smoothly at the back than if it was at the sides.

Now you can start sewing the band to your skirt! Note that in the following photos, I’ll be demonstrating the techniques with a swatch of fabric; you’ll do the exact same things with your garment and complete waistband, however.

Align elastic with skirt
3. On the RS of your skirt, align the pins on the elastic with the corresponding parts of your skirt: center front, center back, side seams. Note that my elastic is shorter than the width of the fabric.
Lay elastic on top of skirt.
4. With the RS of your skirt facing up, lay your elastic on top, 5/8″ down from the top edge of the skirt. (Notice how the pin marks no longer line up? As you sew, you’ll be stretching the elastic until they’re back in alignment.)

Pin elastic to skirt, aligning pin-markings at CF, CB, and both side seams, then you can start stitching it down.

Stitch elastic in place
5. Using a zig-zag stitch, and working slowly, start stitching the elastic down very close to the edge of the elastic, and stretching the elastic between pin-marking as shown.

Tip: The challenging part of this is keeping your elastic a consistent distance from the edge of the fabric (since you can’t see through the elastic). In my example, the plaid pattern really helps me keep everything straight. You may want to do a line of stitching just barely inside the seamline (or about 1/2″ from the top edge of your skirt), and use this as a guideline when stitching your elastic in place. (If your skirt has 2 layers, and you’ve already basted them together at the top, use this stitching line as your guide.)

Sewing the elastic in place
Here, I’ve flipped the elastic back so you can see how it’s lining up relative to the top edge of the fabric. (I usually line up the edge of the elastic 5/8″ below the top edge of the fabric.)
After stitching 1st sewing pass
After finishing my 1st stitching pass. I decided to stretch the elastic more after the mid-point of my piece (pink arrow); you can see how much more the fabric is gathered on the right.

Aside: I deliberately used black thread on my white elastic so you could see what’s happening, but dang! It really shows up every little stitching flaw. Some of that is due to the stretch of the elastic while sewing (and when it springs back into place), but still! Embarrassing. Moral of story: Use matching thread! End of aside.

Okay, the hardest part is done! Now you’ll make a 2nd stitching pass, to secure the top edge of your fabric (or close to it); make this stitching line a little less than 1/2″ from your 1st stitching line, and that should catch the fabric very near the top edge:

Making 2nd stitching pass
6. To finish, make a 2nd stitching pass, a little less than 1/2″ above the 1st stitching line, again stretching the elastic as you sew. The idea is to get as close as possible to the top edge of the fabric (right arrow).

Done! You now have a beautiful applied-elastic waistband! (Assuming you used matching thread, that is to say.)

Questions? Problems? Comments?


Want more sewing stuff from Colormusing? Check out myBratelier (lingerie sewing, including bras!), and Changing Your Clothes, which covers everything from repairs & alterations to dyeing and remaking thrift-shop finds.

And don’t miss all my color-palette-related excitement at the  A Musing blog! (Click on the dots above to visit my mother ship, Colormusing.com.)

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