Ahoy Pirates! Today, we’re talking waistbands. We’ll cover some of the different types of waistbands that you’ll generally see in P4P patterns, the best fabrics and materials for constructing them, and some helpful tricks and tips to getting the very best results.
Types of Waistbands
There are many different types of waistbands out there in the wide world, but today I’ll cover some of the most common ones you’ll see in apparel sewing and in many P4P patterns.
First off, let’s talk about knit waistbands. These waistbands can be normal or high-rise, and are stretched to fit a garment’s waist. Knit waistbands will need to be made with knits with excellent stretch and good recovery. You’ll want to look for fabrics like brushed polyester, cotton lycra, or cotton ribbing to make these. This type of waistband is easy to sew, with no casings, elastic or fancy stitching required. Hurray!
Generally with this type of waistband, you’ll line up the short ends of the waistband piece, right sides together, and stitch. Next, flip the waistband so the right side is up, then fold in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press. From there, you will quarter the band with pins and attach (more on quartering waistbands and other tips later)!
Here, I’ve used double brushed poly to sew a knit waistband onto a pair of Peg Legs. I’ve simply attached it by stretching it evenly, and sewing it to the garment with my serger, although a sewing machine will work just as well. Make sure to use a stretch stitch, like the lightening bolt, at the longest length setting!
Next up, we have tall/yoga waistbands. Yoga waistbands are made and constructed similarly to regular knit waistbands, but are simply “taller” and meant to be folded over for a even more comfortable fit. I especially like using yoga waistbands on clothing for children, as they are super comfy to wear! Brushed polyester and cotton lycra are excellent choices for these. I’ve used a yoga waistband here on a pair of Baby Bear Joggers, using brushed polyester.
Next, we have enclosed elastic waistbands. Generally, this type of waistband is used for knit garments that have a little less vertical stretch or recovery and need a little “help” holding the garment up around the wearer’s waist.
To construct, you will sew together the short ends of the waistband casing, right sides together. Next fold lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press. Set aside. Take your elastic piece, and sew short ends together, using instructions for the specific pattern being used. Generally, you will be instructed to either overlap the two short ends and sew, or “butt up” the ends- pushing them together and sewing with a wide zig-zag stitch, but not overlapping. Next you will slip the elastic loop into your knit waistband casing, and sew together as one piece onto your garment. You may topstitch this seam afterwards, if desired.
Here, I’ve made a pair of SOS Knit Pants with an enclosed elastic waistband. Although the fabric I used was a jegging material with little vertical stretch, the added elastic I used helps give the little bit of extra “oomph” needed to keep the pants up around my waist and snug-fitting.
Another style of waistband you’ll see often in apparel sewing is exposed elastic waistbands. These are waistbands that you’ll see in many applications, such as athletic shorts or undergarments. These will be generally created using plush back, underwear, or soft waistband elastics. It’s important to use these types of elastic, especially for undergarments, as they are much more comfortable and soft, and elastic will be up directly against the wearer’s skin.
On patterns such as the Fierce Undies pictured here, the elastic used will be “butted” together before being sewn, not overlapped. This is because overlapping will make the exposed elastic waistband too bulky.
Tips and Tricks
Just as there are many different types of waistbands out there in the sewing world, there are just as many tips to make sewing them easier! Here are just a few to help you along the way:
1. With knit, yoga, and enclosed elastic waistbands, serge or baste the raw edges together once you’ve folded lengthwise, wrong sides together, and before attaching to the garment. This will essentially take those two layers of fabric of the folded waistband and turn them into one, making it easier to attach them to the garment in a clean and professional-looking way. Remember, if you serge the raw edges of your waistband before attaching it to your garment, DO NOT CUT ANY OFF!
2. ALWAYS quarter your waistbands before attaching them to a garment! What is quartering? It’s equally dividing the waistband into fourths, so you can better ensure that the waistband will be evenly stretched across the garment’s waist. It’s easy to do:
First, sew the waistband or elastic together at the short ends, as directed by the pattern. Pin or mark the point of the seam.
Next, fold in half to find the half point. Pin or mark the half point.
Now, take the two marked points (the seam and half point) and fold the waistband or elastic so that they meet in the center. Pin or mark the folded edges on either side to find the quarter points.
And there you have an evenly quartered waistband! This might sound like an extra step, but trust me, it’s one that will save you time by ensuring that you don’t have an unevenly stretched waistband (hello, seam ripper!) and will give you the most professional- looking finish.
3. SAVE your scraps! Especially with youth apparel, waistbands usually take very little fabric, and can be excellent scrap-busters. So next time you make something with a stretchy fabric with great recovery, make sure to stash those extras away for a rainy day!
That’s it for now! Just a few examples of some of the waistbands you’ll encounter while sewing some gorgeous, handmade apparel. No matter which waistband is required for your pattern, always make sure to quarter those bands, have fun, and share your beautiful makes with us over at Patterns for Pirates’ Facebook page!