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Elastic Waistbands

Elastic waistbands

This elastic waistbands tutorial is an extract from A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts by Wendy Ward, published by Cico Books. This book has full size patterns and instructions for making 24 different skirts.  

Using Elastic

In my book, A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts,  I have used elastic for two different waistband finishes (one uses a casing and the other applies the elastic directly to the garment) and to add gathers to a garment. Whatever you plan to use your elastic for, make sure you choose good-quality elastic which should easily stretch to approximately twice its length and recover (snap back to its original size) quickly.

Elasticated Waistbands

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.

Adding an elastic waistband to a skirt

Method 1: Using a separate waistband

This method involves feeding elastic through a separate waistband applied to your garment and is used in the Roewood Jersey Pencil Skirt.

1 Following the project instructions, make and attach the waistband.

2 Cut your elastic long enough to fit your waist comfortably and allow an extra 1¼ inch (3 cm) to join the ends.

How to feed elastic in a casing

3 Once you have cut the elastic to length, attach one end to a safety pin and start to feed it through the gap left in the waistband.

Joining elastic ends together

4 When you reach the beginning again, pull both ends of the elastic fully out of the waistband, overlap the ends by 1¼ inch (3 cm), and pin them together.

Beginners skirtmaking by Wendy Ward

5 Using a regular straight stitch on your sewing machine, carefully sew the ends together. I tend to sew a square with a cross in the middle.

6 Let the elastic pull back into the waistband and close the gap in the waistband using a hand slipstitch.

Elastic waistbands

Method 2: Exposed elastic waistband

This method involves stitching your elastic directly onto the waist of your garment and is used in the elasticated waist version of the Hollings Circle Skirt.

1 Neaten the waist edge of the skirt with a zig-zag stitch.

2 Cut your elastic long enough to fit your waist comfortably and allow an extra 1¼ inch (3 cm) to join the ends.

Exposed elastic waistband

3 Once you have cut the elastic to length, join the short ends with a regular seam, to form a circle. Neaten the two cut edges of the elastic with a zig-zag stitch.

Beginners sewing techniques

4 With the seam open, topstitch the seam allowances down onto the elastic.

Exposed elastic waistband

5 Mark the centre front and centre back of the skirt with pins. Divide the circle of elastic into four and mark three of the four points with pins (the fourth is marked by the seam joining the two ends of the elastic together).


Sewing skirts

6 Turn the skirt right side out and place the circle of elastic over it so that the edges of the elastic and the skirt are level and the right sides of the fabric and elastic are touching. Pin the skirt and elastic together at the four marked points.

7 In between the pinned points, stretch the elastic to fit the skirt and pin again.

How to sew elastic

8 Machine 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, then with one hand in front of the presser foot and one hand behind, stretch the elastic to fit the skirt in between the pinned sections and machine. 

Even though you’re holding the fabric and elastic tight and stretched, you must still allow the machine to feed the fabric through, don’t hold it so tight that it doesn’t go anywhere! When you get to a pin, remove it and continue to the next one holding the elastic stretched. Do another reverse stitch when you get back to the start of your seam to secure the stitching.

For more sewing techniques and full size patterns for 24 different style skirts click on Wendy’s book below to buy it on Amazon. 

A Beginners Guide to Making Skirts by Wendy Ward
Photography by Julian Ward © CICO Books

We have a free t-shirt and dress pattern designed by Wendy on our site here.