Learning how to sew a waistband is very important in dressmaking. A waistband can feature belt carriers, artistic designer features, be tailored or just simply a way to hold up a skirt! Sewing a waistband is a versatile and important skill to embrace. Never a ‘waist’ of time!
How to Sew a Waistband
Here are the main methods used when learning how to sew a waistband. The elastic waistband is the easiest, followed by the facing and then gathered waistband.
- Elastic waistband
- Gathered waistbands
- Drawstring waistband
- Facing waistband
How to Sew a Waistband with Elastic
There are 2 ways how to sew a waistband using elastic
- Attached to the edge with a serger or zig-zag stitch
- With a casing
Method #1 - Zig-zag or Serger
This method is best for items made from stretch fabric with little or no gathering at the waist. It is perfect for leggings or tight stretch skirts.
Step 1 - Measure a band of elastic about which is ¾ inch (20mm) wide and long enough to fit your waist. Join the elastic into a circle by putting the ends together and zigzag across the joined ends.
Step 2 - Prepare the pants or skirt to the point where they require a waistband. Lay the garment the wrong way out.
Step 3 - Fold the elastic in quarters and mark.
Step 4 - Mark the top of the pants or skirt in quarters.
Step 5 - Using your serger or regular machine on wide zig-zag, sew the elastic around the waistband. I prefer using a zig-zag over a serger as the elastic is less likely to stretch out of shape. If you are using a serger, make sure you do no cut the edge of the elastic.
Step 6 - Fold the elastic down and zig-zag over the bottom edge.
Method #2 - Elastic Casing
This method is best for skirts and pants with considerable gathering at the waist. It can be used for both woven and stretch fabrics.
Step 1 - Ensure there is enough seam allowance at the waist to create a casing.
Step 2 - On the wrong side, press the top raw edge over by ¼ inch (6mm). Press it over again by the width of the elastic plus ¼ inch (6mm).
- ¼ inch (6mm) elastic - Press over ¼ inch (6mm) plus ½ inch (12mm)
- ½ inch (12mm) elastic - Press over ¼ inch (6mm) plus ¾ inch (2cm)
- ¾ inch (20mm) elastic - Press over ¼ inch (6mm) plus 1 inch (2.5cm)
- 1 inch (2.5cm) elastic - Press over ¼ inch (6mm) plus 1 ¼ inch (3cm)
Step 3 - Stitch around the bottom edge of the casing, leaving a gap on one side. This gap should be the same length as the width of the elastic.
Step 4 - Using a safety pin, thread the elastic through the gap.
Step 5 - Overlap the elastic ends and stitch.
Step 6 - Feed the elastic into the casing and stitch the gap closed.
How to Sew a Waistband with a Drawstring
A drawstring works in the same fashion as an elastic casing. Instead of using elastic, the drawstring can be made of a tube of fabric or a store-bought cord. It is a cool comfortable way to hold up shorts, drawstring pants or pajamas.
- Before folding over the casing, sew buttonholes or eyelets in the center front.
- Press over the casing and sew around it.
- Unlike elastic, there is no need to leave a gap since the drawstring will be threaded through the buttonhole.
How to Sew a Waistband which is Gathered
Step 1 - Skirt and Band
Prepare your pattern and the waistband.
Cut the fabric and interfacing for the waistband according to the pattern. The interfacing will help stiffen the fabric and allow the band to sit well on the waist when it is completed. Iron on the interfacing to the cut waistband.
Step 2 - Gather the Skirt
Complete the garment to the point where the band is ready to be sewn on.
- If the skirt part of the garment is to be gathered, mark the skirt into quarters around the waist before gathering. Mark the waistband in quarters at the same time.
- Gather the skirt with two or three rows of machine gathering stitches. Use the biggest stitch size on your machine.
- After the stitching is in place pull the threads gently until the pins marking the quarters of the skirt are pulled up to match the pinned quarters of the waistband.
Step 3 - Press the Waistband
Press the waistband in half and fold up the seam allowance on the bottom edge of the band. Leave the top edge raw.
Step 4 - Attach Waistband
Pin the gathered skirt to the waistband raw edge, right sides together and with pins placed vertically if the band is to be attached by machine.
When sewing, have the gathered edge facing up so the gathers can be controlled as you machine the skirt onto the waistband.
Step 5 - Close the Waistband
Fold the waistband to the wrong side.
The folded edge should sit just over the seam stitching.
This can be a hand stitched finish to enclose the gathers in the band using a slip stitch.
It may also be a machine-stitched finish from the right side ensuring the wrong side of the band is slightly overlapping on the inside of the skirt.
In this way the first row of machine stitches catches the back of the band in the final sewing stage.
The band may also be ‘ditch stitched’ by stitching just under the edge of the band so the stitches are not visible on the actual waist band. The ‘ditch stitch’ catches the back of the band as well due to the slight overlap on the inside of the band.
Step 6 - Add a Zipper
Complete the skirt with an invisible zipper.
How to Sew a Waistband with Facing
Some patterns have a facing for a skirt waistband and the facing, after being interfaced, is stitched onto the waist of the skirt.
The facing is attached to the right side of the skirt.
- After trimming and clipping curves, the facing is turned to the wrong side, and the waist is neatened by the facing. It gives a very smooth finish and can look good on the high wasted figure as the skirt can rest comfortably below the waist giving the appearance of a slightly lower waistline.
How to Sew a Waistband - In Conclusion
Waistbands are really wonderful assets to your sewing skills. Dress them up or scale them down, functional and fancy with so many options to give a comfortable and stylish finish to a skirt, casual or smart pants and a beach cover over.
Never a "waist of time" - in fact, a really wonderful fashionable finish to many types of garments.