How to Sew an Elastic Waistband

How to Sew Elastic Waistband? Let’s Discover Ways to Become Successful in This Field

Knowing how to sew elastic waistband is one of the skills that seems impossible at first.

Then, suddenly, there you are yourself, holding a piece of fabric in hand and wondering how to sew an elastic band. (Browse types of fabric to get to know them better.) 

We know the joy of these discoveries; new skill, new adventure!

We’re here to ensure you get it all right. 

Sewing elastic waistband tutorial
Image source: Blog.Fabrics-Store

Waistband elastic sewing—all you need to know

The keyword describing the use of elastic for sewing is “comfort.” 

Adding elastic to our garments changes the entire experience of wearing clothes. 

Pants become comfy, skirts become classy, and so on!

According to The Sewing Directory, before you sew elastic in, you should make sure you choose a good-quality one.

Good quality means that it should:

    1. easily stretch to approximately twice its length, and 
    2. quickly snap back to its original size;

Lingerie elastic
Image source: Craftsy

Waistband elastic sewing—width

Elastics come in all kinds of widths: from 1/4 inch to 3 inches and up.

The choice of which one to go for depends on the particular project and your preferences. 

Here are some opinions:

“For me, the narrower the elastic, the less aware I am of something around my waist. But others prefer the firmer feel of a wider elastic.” 

—claims Linda Lee from Threads Magazine

“When choosing elastic for waistbands, the wider, the better. Narrow elastic tends to dig into your body and can easily twist when inserted into a separate waistband. I recommend using elastic at least 1 inch (3 cm) wide for maximum comfort.”

—believes Wendy Ward in the book ” A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts.”

How to sew an elastic waistband
Image source: Craftsy

As a rule of thumb, according to The Spruce Crafts, waistbands should be:

    • 3/4 to 1 inch for most garments, 
    • 1/2 inch on lightweight children’s clothing;

According to the same author, you should match the elastic to the fabric weight: 

“Loosely woven elastic is not going to hold up to a denim fabric, and stiff, tightly woven elastic will cause a blouse-weight cotton fabric to be stiff and unyielding.”

The golden mean would be to accord the width of the elastic with 

    • the garment’s type, 
    • fabric, and 
    • your personal style;

How to sew elastic waistbands
Image source: Tips to Sew

Talking about golden, what do you think about personalized labels by the Super Label Store?

You can now order them in any—even the smallest—number from the website.

These custom woven labels, care labels, and hang tags ensure that your self-made outfit looks nothing but professional. 

Make sure not to miss this offer on your way to the top!

Waistband elastic sewing—types of elastic

Before we learn how to sew elastic waistbands, let’s tackle some handy basics. 

We won’t take you through all the details about elastic for sewing as we already did it thoroughly on Super Label Store once. (Have you read types of zippers and how to sew an invisible zipper?)

Let us only remind you of the main types of elastics for sewing. 

The choice may seem endless when you gaze at all these little boxes with elastics at the sewing store. Yet, the good news is: it’s not. All these babies are well-categorized and even better described. 

We reached out for help with classification to Melly Sews, Create for Less, and “The Ultimate Guide to Elastic” by Haley Glenn on Seamwork.

Types of elastic
Image source: Treasurie

Various types of elastic serve specific purposes and different applications.  

    1. Garment elastics—this category includes typically not decorative elastics that come in a wide variety of widths, usually black or white.
      • braided,
      • knit, 
      • woven;

(Learn to sew and choose the most reasonable elastic for sewing from this blog.) 

    1. Specialty elastic—this type includes elastics, sometimes fancy ones, used for specific applications; they are derivative of braided, knit, or woven elastic.
      • clear,
      • fold-over,
      • plush backed,
      • cord,
      • buttonhole,
      • drawstring;
      • swim,
      • lingerie;

Types of elastic bands
Image source: Made for Mermaids

Have a look at the following fashion blogs for inspiration and motivation:

    1. The Guardian about the “Designer Molly Goddard: the frill seeker” who introduced shirring (done with elastics) to her projects;
    2. “49 Stylish Sewing Patterns for Women’s Pants,” by Threads MonthlyWe don’t have to add that most of these pants’ projects use sewing elastics. Sewing elastic waistband on pants will become effortless with practice. Read here about types of pants.  
    3. How to sew an elastic sleeves bottom,” by Simple Craft Idea,
    4. “Smocking Techniques at Miu Miu,” by The Cutting Class
    5. “Cinch a Dress with an Elastic Waist,” by Threads Magazine,
    6. “How to Make Elastic Thread Design By Sewing Machine,” by Stitching Mallnot to mention 
    7. “Beginner’s Guide To Sewing (Episode 7): Elastic,” by Sewing Parts Online, 

Sewing clothes cover
Image source: Ctn Bee

How to sew an elastic waistband?

Now that we know what elastic is, how to sew an elastic waistband on a skirt?

Read about types of skirts and types of dresses here.  

From this video tutorial, you’ll learn how to sew the elastic waistband in the Lela Skirt pattern:

You’ll fancy this skirt!

It’s beginner-friendly to sew, comfortable to wear, and perfect to shine brightly at summer parties.

Lela skirt pattern
Image source: Sew DIY

There are two basic techniques for sewing elastic into the garment:

    1. elastic is inserted into a stitched-down casing, 
    2. elastic is sewn directly to the fabric;

Now, get your sewing tools:

    • serger (or sewing machine),
    • knit elastic, 
    • cutting tool,
    • thread matching your garment, 

and let’s make it happen!

How to sew elastic waistbands
Image source: Tips to Sew

Here’s a video tutorial by Fabricdotcom. It presents three ways to sew an elastic waistband in a garment:

    • self waistbands, 
    • separate waistbands sewn-in, and 
    • casing waistbands;

We’ve checked with Tips to Sew and Fabric for a quick introduction to the topic.

Have a look at the table below:

self waistband

separate waistband sewn-in

casing waistband

Make sure the fabric waist part of your new project allows for the width of the elastic.

In this project, the elastic is sewn onto the seam allowance of the main fabric and separate waistband fabric. 

Read about types of seams.

Making a casing is among the easiest ways to create an elastic waistband. 

Once you applied the elastic, fold it under and topstitch.

Choose:

    • a zig-zag stitch on a standard machine, or 
    • a coverstitch or chainstitch on a serger. 

Now, we have to enclose the elastic with the remaining waist fabric. 

    • fold it over, 
    • secure it with a stitch in the ditch;

To create a casing from the fabric of a garment, follow these steps:

    1. fold the fabric under the width of the elastic and seam allowance, 
    2. top stitch to secure, leaving 1-2 inches opening to thread the elastic through, 
    3. join the elastic and top stitch to close;

Stretch the waistband as you topstitch. It allows for the topstitch to complement the stretch performance.

What is “stitch in the ditch”?

It’s sewing a top stitch in the crevice between two fabrics. We use this technique for creating a seamless transition between fabrics while securing fabric on the underside.

Overlap the ends and sew them together. Reverse a couple of times to make sure the stitching is secure. 

Tuck the seamed elastic back inside the casing and sew across the gap.

Keep in mind that you can also create a casing attached as a separate piece of fabric. 

Sewing elastic waistband
Image source: Sew Guide

If the three techniques described above weren’t enough, Sew Guide proposes nine more:

    1. turn under,
    2. bias tape,
    3. front-flat,
    4. separate,
    5. fold over,
    6. exposed,
    7. shirred,
    8. channel, 
    9. paperbag; 

Which one sounds like your favorite?

Gathered elastic waistband
Image source: Cucicucicoo

How to sew elastic waistband with casing?

We already mentioned that you could 

    • create a casing from the garment’s fabric, or 
    • attach a separate piece. 

To try out the second method, check this tutorial by Cucicucicoo

Why is it better to choose the technique that involves casings? With this method, you don’t have to:

    • stretch the elastic while sewing, or 
    • sew through the elastic (you only have to join ends of the elastic when you finish);

Yet, some points shouldn’t be left unnoticed. For example, it’s crucial to pay attention to the correct measurements of a casing!

    1. If it’s too small, the elastic will not lay properly, 
    2. If it’s too big, it risks too much movement for the elastic.

Another handy tip?

To avoid unwanted movement of elastic inside the casing, use woven elastic. By the way, it’s also referred to as “no-roll elastic”. It’s more stable than the knitted or braided elastic type. 

Here is a step-by-step guide by Sewing Machine Buffs on how to sew elastic waistbands with casing.

Step no. Description Tip
1.

A fold-down waistband is the most common pattern, so let’s try this one.

It’s also described well on Blog.Fabrics-Store.  

In this method, we add the fabric allowance to the waistline at the garment edge. Then, by stitching it in the right place, we create a casing. 

It’s great for garments that we typically pull on.

2.
    1. Choose the proper width of the elastic. 
    2. Cut it a few inches smaller than the waist measurement. 
    3. Add 1” seam allowance.

Exercise your elastic before cutting it. 

How to do it? Simply stretch it out several times. If you know it’s “fit” enough, you can be sure it won’t stretch and refuse to recover later. Of course, your final garment wouldn’t want that to happen!

3.

You’ll make a casing of the size that can house the entire elastic.

If you use 1” wide elastic, you will need 1” + ¼” + seam allowance for the casing.

4.

Take the draw pattern and measure it from the waistline to draw the line. 

Follow the same guidelines to create the back piece as well.

Are you with us?

In the second part, we’ll start sewing, so here’s one helpful tip by Made For Mermaids:

Use a stretch or ballpoint needle to sew elastic, to not pierce or break the elastic fibers. 

For a few other engaging tutorials, check Sew Way or Sewing

Elastic casing
Image source: Sew Way

Now, let’s review the second part of the process (thanks to Sewing Machine Buffs):

Step no. Description Tip
5.

Cut out the marked pieces. Sew the sides of the garment together.

Sew them continuously for a neat finish of the skirt.

6.

Press down the raw edges of the fabric under 3/8” or general seam allowance.

Place the pins in place for stitching marks.

7.

Start stitching at the lower edge of the waistband casing (leave only a 2” opening to insert the elastic). 

Make sure you backstitch both ends thoroughly.

8.

Tie a safety pin (you can also use a bodkin) to one end of the elastic when you’ve finished.

Pull it through the casing and take the end from the other hole.

9.

Place one end of the elastic on the other and stitch it together, creating a box pattern (a “square of stitches”). 

The overlapping elastic will help in reducing the bulk. It will also prevent it from ripping off.

10.

Pull the waistband fabric to allow the elastic to set inside the casing. 

Sew the opening that was left for the elastic.

11.

To prevent twisting and turning of elastic inside the casing, stitch layers in the side of the seams.

Your new waistband casing for your skirt or pants is ready to go!

You may also be curious about “How to Sew an Elastic Waistband That Never Twists.” You’ll find it explained by Craftsy

And here’s how a “square of stitches” looks like:

Square of stitches
Image source: Craftsy

How to sew an elastic waistband without a casing?

Sewing elastic waistband without casing is a different story. We’ve discussed it a bit and given some examples before. 

The thing with this method, which may provoke questions, is the fact of sewing on the elastic. We didn’t have to worry about it when casings were involved.

Made For Mermaid advises to:

    1. Set the sewing machine to:
      • long straight stitches, 
      • a stretch stitch, or 
      • wide zig-zag stitch, 

when applying the elastic to the material.

    1. Thinner elastics stretch more than wider elastics. Take this into account when cutting your length.
    2. Test the stretch of your elastic to see if it recovers well. You may need a shorter length of braided elastic for the same stretch as a knitted elastic.  
    3. You shouldn’t cut down the elastic lengthwise. The fibers may fray, and the elastic can lose its stretch. So instead, purchase it exactly as narrow as you need. Whereas elastic’s length is flexible to cut as much as you want. 
    4. When choosing the type of elastic for your project, consider if you’re going to sew it onto the garment or place it inside the casing. Your choice will vary depending on their function.

Halloween leggings easy costumes with brother serger
Image source: Life Sew Savory 

There is a possibility that your sewing machine doesn’t “like” to sew on elastic. 

Ways to change it, as explained by Craft Tribe Online, may be:

    1. Use the right needle.
    2. Make your seam elastic.
    3. Adjust your bobbin tension for sewing elastic.
    4. Reduce the foot pressure.
    5. Use a walking foot.

How to easily add an elastic waistband to a dress
Image source: The Creative Sewist 

How to sew elastic directly to fabric?

One technique to sew a skirt without casing is called exposed elastic waistband. 

As Cucicucicoo noticed, there are some pros and cons to this method:

pros cons

doesn’t require extra fabric to cover the elastic (it’s good if you’ve cut the garment too short)

possible lost stretch 

shows off fancy elastic

need to split elastic/fabric into fourths, 

no measuring or ironing of fabric are necessary

more difficult to remove the elastic if adjustments are necessary

Let’s let The Sewing Directory guide us through this project 

    1. Neaten the waist edge of the skirt with a zig-zag stitch.
    2. Cut the elastic long enough to fit your waist comfortably and allow an extra 1¼ inch (3 cm) to join the ends.
    3. Join the short ends with a regular seam, to form a circle. 
    4. Neaten the two cut edges of the elastic with a zig-zag stitch.
    5. With the seam open, topstitch the seam allowances down onto the elastic.
    6. Mark the center front and center back of the skirt with pins. 
    7. Divide the circle of elastic into four and mark three of the four points with pins. 

You marked the fourth point by the seam joining the two ends of the elastic together.

How to sew elastic waistband on a skirt
Image source: Cucicucicoo

    1. Turn the skirt right side out and place the circle of elastic over it. 
      • the edges of the elastic and the skirt are even,
      • the right sides of the fabric and elastic are touching; 
    1. Pin the skirt and elastic together at the four marked points.
    2. Stretch the elastic to fit the skirt between the pinned points. Pin again.
    3. Machine-sew the elastic in place using a regular straight stitch: 
      • use a narrow seam allowance (use the edge of your presser foot as a guide and keep the edges of the skirt and elastic level with it), 
      • sew a few stitches to start and reverse to secure the stitching, 
      • with one hand in front of the presser foot and one hand behind, stretch the elastic to fit the skirt between the pinned sections and machine, 
      • allow the machine to feed the fabric through, don’t hold the fabric and elastic so tight and stretched that it can’t move,
      • when you get to a pin, remove it and continue to the next one (holding the elastic stretched), 
      • when you get back to the start of your seam do another reverse stitch to secure the stitching;
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