Learn how to sew an elastic waistband in the four easiest ways. Elastic is one of the easiest ways to finish a great skirt, shorts or pants pattern. It is so comfortable to wear and has minimal fit issues since it is so easy to adjust.
How to Sew an Elastic Waistband
Here I will show you the 4 best methods of how to sew an elastic waistband. Which is best for your sewing project will depend on whether you are sewing stretch or woven fabric and the amount of volume in your garment.
- FOLDED WITH ZIG-ZAG OR SERGER – Best for stretch fabric items that are tight to the body like leggings and tight skirts.
- ELASTIC CASING – Best for woven fabrics and can be used to create wide skirts in woven fabric. Creates a gathered looking waistband.
- SEPARATE WAISTBAND – Can be used on stretch or woven fabric. In stretch fabric, it creates a smooth waistband and in woven the waistband will look slightly gathered. Separate casings are good when the waist needs a bit of a curve for example at the top of circle skirts.
- WIDE ATTACHED ELASTIC – Best for stretch fabric or woven fabric that is not too wide. Woven fabric cannot be wider than how far the elastic stretches out. Great for underwear.
If you are not sure which method to use, I suggest trying the elastic casing. It is by far the easiest and the most flexible, suiting most waistband types.
|METHOD||BEST FOR||CLOTHING TYPE|
|Zig-Zag or Serger||Stretch||Tight to body eg leggings, tight skirts|
|Elastic Casing||Stretch or Woven||Loose or tight clothing eg skirts, pants, anything for beginners|
|Separate Waistband||Stretch or Woven||Tight or medium width clothing eg narrow or medium width skirts and pants|
|Wide Attached Elastic||Stretch Woven||Tight or medium width clothing eg underwear, medium width skirts and pants|
How to Sew an Elastic waistband with a Zig-Zag
Sewing and folding the elastic flat gives a nice smooth look on tight skirts and leggings. It is best for stretch items and elastics that are 3/4 inch (2cm) or 1 inch (2.5 cm) in width.
How to Sew an Elastic Waistband with a Zig-Zag
- Prepare the pants or skirt to the point where they require a waistband and turn them the wrong way out.
- Measure a band of elastic long enough to fit your waist. Join the elastic into a circle by putting the ends together, but not overlapping them. This is known as ‘butting’ the ends. Zig-zag across the joined ends to sew them together firmly. Try the elastic band on your waist and adjust if necessary. All elastics stretch by different amounts and some will be more comfortable than others. You may also like to wear a skirt or pants slightly above or below your belly button.
- Mark the elastic band in quarters.
- Mark the waistband in quarters.
- Match the elastic and waistband marks and stitch along the edge with a serger or zig-zag stitch. If you use a serger, make sure you don’t cut any of the elastic.
- Fold the elastic down.
- Stitch the edge with a zig-zag stitch or twin needle.
How to Sew an Elastic Waistband with Casing
Creating a casing is the EASIEST!! Fabulous for kid’s and adult’s clothing alike.
You will need a safety pin to thread the elastic through the casing.
Normally elastic that is used in casings is a little narrower than some of the other methods. 1/2 inch (12mm) or 1/4 inch (6mm) is quite common. You can certainly use wider elastic but it can become a little bulkier.
Cut the elastic to your waist measurement.
How to Sew an Elastic Waistband with a Casing
- Make sure enough seam allowance at the top is added for the casing.
- Press the top raw edge over by 1/4 inch (6mm).
- Press the top edge over again by the width of the elastic plus 1/4 inch (6mm). For 3/4 inch (2cm) elastic you would press the edge by 1 inch (2.5cm). This gives the elastic a little wiggle room and allows for the stitching.
- Stitch around the casing close to the edge leaving a gap on one side. Try to leave the gap somewhere inconspicuous.
- Thread the elastic through the gap in the casing with a safety pin.
- Overlap the ends of the elastic and stitch. Before moving to the next step, try the skirt or pants on and adjust the elastic if necessary.
- Push the elastic inside the gap and stitch the gap closed.
How to Sew an Elastic Waistband Separate
Threading elastic through a separate waistband can reduce some bulk and is great for skirts or pants with a curved top. It is perfect for circular skirts and tulle skirts with lots of bulk and gathering.
If you are adding a separate waistband to woven fabric you will still see a small amount of gathering. You can see this in the photo on the left.
In the photo on the right, you can see that the waistband will sit really flat if you use a stretch fabric.
This method is normally used with 3/4 inch (2cm) to 1 inch (2.5cm) wide elastic.
How to Sew an Elastic Waistband that is Separate
Cut the waistband from fabric using the following formula. For woven fabric add ease of 1/4 inch (6mm) and for stretch fabric add 1/8 inch (3mm). Ease is added just so your elastic has a bit of wiggle room.
FORMULA FOR FABRIC WIDTH = 2 x (elastic width + seam allowance + ease)
For the length of the fabric, cut at least to your widest hip measurement so you can get the skirt or pants on by stepping into them. Stretch fabric will stretch so it can be cut a little shorter.
- Fold the waistband in half with right sides together and stitch leaving a gap just below the middle which is the width of the elastic
- Fold the waistband lengthwise with the wrong sides together. Baste the edges.
- Divide the waistband into quarters and mark.
- Divide the skirt into quarters and mark. For woven fabrics, the skirt may be gathered already to the width of the fabric waistband.
- Match the skirt and waistband quarters and stitch. The hole for the elastic should be facing out.
- Fold up the waistband and thread the elastic using a safety pin.
- Hand stitch the gap closed with an invisible stitch.
How to Sew an Elastic Waistband with Wide Elastic
Wide elastic or fold over elastic can easily be used for a waistband. Fold-over elastic is normally 5/8 inch (1.5cm) and wide elastic can go up to 1 or 2 inches (2.5-5cm).
Regardless of the elastic width, the method is the same.
Keep in mind that narrower fold over elastic won’t hold up the weight of gathered skirts and may be better for underwear, kid’s clothing or items that are light and ungathered. Wide 1 to 2 inch (2.5-5cm) elastic is great for skirts.
Look how lovely these bridesmaids skirts look with wide silver elastic.
How to Make an Elastic Waistband with Wide Elastic
- Cut the elastic to your waist measurement plus 1 inch (2.5cm).
- Overlap the ends by 1/2 inch (12mm) and pin it. Try it on your waist to see if it is comfortable and if the elastic needs to be cut shorter.
- Stitch the elastic overlap. I normally use a zig-zag to hold it flat.
- Really wide fabric skirts may need to be gathered slightly first. The gathering needs to be the widest width that you can stretch out the elastic band. A skirt like in the photo above would have had the tulle gathered first to create this double layer look.
- Divide the elastic band in quarters and mark.
- Divide the top of the skirt into quarters and mark.
- Match the quarter marks and pin. The skirt will probably be larger than the waistband so it will gather in between.
- Stretch out the elastic and sew the skirt edge to the elastic with a zig-zag stitch. The reason you shouldn’t use a straight stitch is that it won’t stretch and the stitches may pop.
How to Sew an Elastic Waistband – In Conclusion
So now you know 4 ways how to sew an elastic waistband you will be all set for a variety of clothing. The beauty of elastic is that it is so comfortable and easy to sew.