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It’s been a long eventful and vacation-ful summer for me, so I didn’t post as frequently as usual and also didn’t publish much in the way of sewing tutorials. But I’m really excited because I have a whole bunch of new sewing lessons and tutorials for the Learn to Machine Sew series! And we’re going to start transitioning into sewing not only objects, but also clothing! Hooray!
One of the most important skills to know is sewing a casing for an elastic waistband, which is fantastic for making clothing for children and easy-fitting clothing for adults! It’s actually pretty similar to hemming, so I know that even you beginners can handle it! So let’s get started!
First off, cut two 8 x 13″ (20 x 34 cm) rectangles of woven fabric. You could really use any size you want, but this is a good size to practice on without wasting fabric and elastic.
You need to make a tube of fabric, so sew down the two short sides with a 3/8″ (1 cm) seam allowance (top picture). If you plan on washing this item, it’s best to finish off the raw edges with a zig zag stitch, but I didn’t bother.
In order to keep your seams and casing tidy, iron open the side seams, with one seam allowance to each side (bottom picture. In order to show the seams, I rearranged the tube of fabric.).
The next part is like hemming. I like to do this with the fabric inside-out, but it’s up to you.
First fold and iron down the top edge by 3/8″ (1 cm), towards the inside, then again by a larger amount. This second amount depends on how wide your elastic is.
I am using 3/4″ (2 cm) wide non-roll elastic for this project, though I usually use 1″ (2.5 cm) wide elastic for most garment waistbands. Add 1/4″ (0.5 cm) to the elastic width, which brings me to 1″ (2.5 cm). That is how much you need to fold and iron down the second time.
Notice how careful I was to align the side seams along the side and in the top folded section. This helps fold evenly and keep your work neat.
Pin around the folded top, leaving a space about 2″ (5 cm) open. I like marking this space with two sets of double pins, as seen above.
Now let’s sew! If your sewing machine has a free arm (more about that here), use it so that you can loop your fabric tube around it, as seen above.
You need to calculate the seam allowance according to the elastic width. Add 1/8″ (0.25 cm) to the elastic width, which means for me a 7/8″ (2.25 cm) seam allowance.
Start sewing from the second set of double pins, going all the way around to the first set of double pins. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end. Congratulations– you now have sewn a casing with an opening!
The elastic length depends on what you’re sewing. When sewing elastic waistbands, you generally measure around your waist and cut that length of elastic. It will become snug later on when we sew it.
Normally you would measure a human, but I decided to measure a toy, considering the small amount of fabric.
The elastic will be shorter than the fabric casing, otherwise it couldn’t gather. (top)
Stick a large safety pin (or bodkin, if you’re fancy, which I’m not) into one end of the elastic and slip it through the opening in the casing. (bottom)
Pull the safety pin through the casing bit by bit. You need to scrunch up the fabric to move it forward inside the casing, then gently pull on the fabric behind it to un-scrunch it. (top)
Pull the safety pin all the way around and back out the opening. Be very careful not to let the other end slip into the casing and also to not let the elastic twist around inside the casing. (bottom)
Overlap the two elastic ends by 1″ (2.5 cm) and pin them in place. This is how much you generally overlap elastic when making elastic waistbands, but it could vary from design to design. (top)
Sew the elastic ends together. I like to sew a rectangle with an X through the center, but it’s totally up to you how to do it. (bottom)
Pull gently on the waistband fabric so that the joined elastic ends slip inside the casing. Then sew the opening closed with the same seam allowance used before. Make sure not to sew into the elastic itself! (top)
Then pull the fabric gently to rearrange the gathers homogenously around the whole circumference. If you’ve been working inside out, turn the fabric right side out again.
And look at that amazing gathered elastic waistband! Great work!
Do you see that area where the fabric is gathered less? That’s where the overlapped elastic ends are. This is why I like to keep that part in the back of the garment but, in any case, you won’t even notice it when the garment is worn and the waistband gets stretched.
I hate wasting fabric, and I hate wasting elastic even more, so I hemmed the remaining raw fabric edges…
…to make a cute little skirt for my little boy’s dog “Giallo” (Yellow)!
See how the elastic has gathered the fabric snugly, but not too tightly, around Giallo’s waist? This is the result that we want when sewing an elastic waistband!
So, now that you know how to sew an elastic casing and insert the elastic, you probably want to make something for yourself to wear, huh? Well, then don’t miss out on the next post, in which I’ll show you how to refashion a badly-fitting dress into a comfy fun skirt with an elastic waistband! (update: click here for the dress-to-skirt refashion tutorial!)
This lesson on how to sew an elastic waistband casing is part of the syllabus of Cucicucicoo’s beginner’s sewing course! Don’t forget to share pictures of your work on the Cucicucicoo Creations Flickr Group or the Cucicucicoo Facebook page!