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Can you imagine what it must’ve been like to wear clothes long ago, before there was any elastic? Sure, there were buttons and laces to tie up, but my favorite garment fasteners, elastic and zippers, are relatively new inventions. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must’ve been to get children dressed… and undressed, and dressed and undressed… without elastic waistbands!
I LOVE elastic waistbands! They’re comfortable, give more flexibility in sizing, and are easy for kids to get on and off by themselves. They come in all different widths and even in awesome colors and prints, so you can make them part of your garment’s overall look.
As part of my Learn to Machine Sew series, I’ve already published two lessons on elastic waistbands: sewing an elastic casing and sewing an exposed elastic waistband. The technique I’m showing you today, which I’m calling an attached elastic, for lack of a better name, is yet another way to create an elastic waistband and, like the others, it has its pros and cons.
Pros: elastic can be easily removed to adjust sizing, ugly elastic is hidden inside, no need to split elastic/fabric into fourths
Cons: must measure and iron fabric to create the perfect width of casing, elastic can twist up inside the casing
Pros: doesn’t require extra fabric to cover the elastic so is good if you’ve cut the garment too short, shows off cool elastic, no measuring or ironing of fabric necessary
Cons: possible lost stretch, need to split elastic/fabric into fourths, more difficult to remove the elastic if adjustments are necessary
Attached elastic waistband:
Pros: very fast and easy, ugly elastic is hidden inside, no measuring or ironing of fabric necessary
Cons: possible lost stretch, need to split elastic/fabric into fourths, difficult to remove the elastic if adjustments are necessary
I will be totally honest: this attached elastic technique is not my favorite way of sewing a waistband. In general, I prefer not to sew into elastic because some qualities can lose stretch when you stretch and sew over them. But the main reason is because I quite frequently have to adjust the fit of elastic waistbands. This can be either because the elastic has stretched out over time, my kids have grown or I made a measuring mistake when sewing the garment (hey, it happens even to the best of us, right?!). This is why I almost always sew a casing for waistbands.
However, do consider that this is my own personal preference and that there are LOADS of sewists who prefer this method over the others, so it’s really a matter of personal preference. I suggest trying them all out so that you can choose the most suitable technique for each of your projects!
Follow the links above for learning more about the first two elastic waistband methods, or keep on reading to find out how to attach elastic to a waistband in the third way!
A few years ago, my daughter was given this sweet dress with a pretty embroidered elastic top and gorgeously soft cotton skirt. The top was too wide for her for years and then, when it finally wasn’t quite as huge on her, the elasticity was gone and it didn’t stay up quite right. And then the skirt was also too short for her at that point.
The embroidery had also gotten caught and was pulling out in numerous places, which didn’t look so nice.
But then we realized that the top part fit around her waist, so I treated that like regular fabric and turned it into an elastic waistband.
- elastic— any width from about 2 cm (3/4″) will work, but remember that wider elastic is stronger. Here I am using 6 cm (2 3/8″) wide elastic.
- a garment— you can use any skirt or pants without a waistband that has extra fabric at the top. There needs to be at least the width of your elastic extra to fold over it. Avoid heavy fabric, such as denim, for this type of waistband.
- ball point pins* (optional, but suggested to avoid damaging the elastic)
- polyester thread (it’s always best to use poly thread, which is stronger than most cotton threads, when sewing stretchy fabric or elastic)
If you don’t have a garment like this, you can make a very simple skirt to practice the technique. Just sew a tube of fabric that can fit over your hips (measure around the widest part of your lower body, add at least 2 cm (3/4″) (but add more, at least 10 cm [4″] to allow for leg movement) and sew the ends together with a 1 cm (3/8″) seam allowance. Measure yourself to figure out how long you want the skirt to be. Add an extra 2 cm (3/4″) for a hem (folding over 1 cm [3/8″] twice and sewing in place) and an extra elastic width to the top.
Prepare the elastic:
1. Measure around the waist of the person who will wear the garment. If it will be worn on the high/natural waist, measure there. If it will be worn low on the hips, measure there. Subtract 2 cm (3/4 inch) and cut the elastic that long. So in my case, Sofia’s low waist measured 56 cm, so I cut a 54-cm length of elastic.
2. Overlap the ends of the elastic by 2 cm (3/4 inch) and pin them in place. I suggest slipping the pinned elastic loop on whoever will wear the garment just to make sure that it fits comfortably, but snugly.
3. Sew the overlapping portion of the elastic to keep it in place. You now have an elastic loop.
Split the elastic and fabric into fourths:
4. Turn the garment inside out. Divide both the elastic and the fabric waist into fourths with pins, then match up the pins, matching up the edges of the elastic and the fabric. The elastic needs to be against the wrong side of the fabric.
If you need more detailed instructions on how to do this, read steps 3-4 in my exposed elastic waistband lesson. The only difference is that in this method the elastic should be facing the wrong side of the fabric.
Sew the elastic:
5. Sew around the fabric and elastic edge with either a wide zig zag stitch or your overlock machine with the knife disabled. Stretch the elastic as you sew from pin to pin so that it is as wide as the fabric. (Again, you can see pictures of how to stretch and sew in my exposed elastic waistband lesson.)
I didn’t sew right on the fabric edge, but if you are using a fabric that frays, make sure that you do sew on the edge to avoid any future fraying.
6. Flip the sewn edge down (towards the wrong side) so that the fabric covers the elastic. Make sure that the edge of the elastic is right inside the fold of the fabric. Pin in place.
7. Sew along the top fabric edge (which is now folded down) with a wide zig zag stitch. Use a thread color that blends in well with the fabric. You can barely see my stitching in the photo above (indicated with the arrows) because the thread matches the fabric perfectly!
8. Flip your garment right side out again, and check out your cool new waistband!
The elastic might be a bit distorted after sewing it. If so, steam it with a hot iron and it should go back more or less to normal.
With this super easy technique, we were able to turn an ill-fitting dress into an adorable skirt (worn here with a T-shirt whose logo I removed with my slashed reverse appliqué technique)! I actually prepared the photos for this tutorial almost a year and a half ago, and since then Sofia has worn this skirt a TON!
As with all my Learn to Machine Sew lessons, I will next publish a tutorial using this technique. It’s a classic refashion trick that is absolutely perfect for creating quick and easy clothing for kids! If you’re a sewing mama, don’t miss out on it! (update: here it is!)
This lesson on how to attach elastic to a waistband without a casing is part of the syllabus of Cucicucicoo’s Learn to Machine Sew beginner’s sewing course! Don’t forget to share pictures of your work on Facebook or the Cucicucicoo Creations Flickr Group!
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