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A better elastic waistband finish - tutorial

12 April 2012, 14:35

While I await a photoshoot on my new Papercut Ooh La Leggings, I thought it’d be nice to share with you what’s become my go-to finish for elastic waistbands. Oftentimes pattern instructions will tell you to create a casing, leave an opening, and thread the elastic through it. I totally hate this! You end up with uneven bunching of fabric, plus the waistband tends to fold up and twist and generally get really uncomfortable to wear.

Over the years, I’ve developed this method which a) attaches the elastic directly to the fabric, and b) protects your skin from direct contact with the elastic. I find it’s much more comfortable than the casing method, looks much neater, and also gives you the added option to have greater stretch in the back if you need it (swayback/bootay ladies, listen up!).

Finished leggings:

Step 1

Step 1 – Place the elastic around yourself where the waistband will lie, making sure it’s snug, but not tight (you may want to pre-stretch the elastic a bit first). Mark the overlap edges with a pen, and trim so the edges overlap by an inch or so. With your sewing machine, zigzag the crap out of it so it’s not going anywhere!

Step 2

Step 2 – Make the overlap the Centre Back, and mark the opposite side with a pin as the Centre Front. Mark midway between these two with pins as your side seam marks (or offset towards the CB if you want more stretch in the back). Place your elastic against the inside edge of your waistband, and serge/overlock the elastic in place, taking care to not cut the elastic with your serger blades! If you don’t have a serger, that’s cool, just sew near the top edge of the elastic with a narrow zigzag and very short stitch length. Stretch the elastic as you sew/serge so all your pin markings line up.

Here’s what it’ll look like on both sides:

Step 3

Step 3 – Fold the elastic to the inside again (so the serged elastic edge is at the bottom), and pin along the bottom edge of the elastic on the right side.

Step 4

Step 4 – Coverstitch (or use a twin needle) along the bottom edge of the elastic from the right side. And you’re finished!

I don’t want to say you have to do this if you’re joining Karen’s Pyjama Party Sewalong, but there may very well be an inspection!

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  1. Ooh, very interesting! Very interesting, indeed! Thank you kindly, ma’am.

    Did You Make That?    Apr 12, 03:33 PM    #
  2. ‘Zigzag the crap out of it’. Is that a couture technique?

    — Miriana Weston    Apr 12, 03:38 PM    #
  3. That’s a great idea! I hate it when you can feel the elastic has twisted but cant do anything.

    Alison    Apr 12, 04:13 PM    #
  4. Excellent! This is similar to how I insert elastic into the legs of my skating dresses, but this give a neater finished result. I am definitely trying this on my next pair of PJs!

    T. Sedai    Apr 12, 04:35 PM    #
  5. I like to butt the edges of the elastic and use a piece of lining fabric to wrapped around and then zig zagged to hold it all in place. This is nice if you want less bulk.

    Nancy Karpen    Apr 12, 06:09 PM    #
  6. This is very similar to the way I apply lingerie elastic. And if you don’t have a coverlock and either your machine can’t use a twin needle or you can’t get it to work properly (it has happened to me), OR, and this is the important one, you don’t trust yourself on sewing the elastic down from where you can’t see it, you can also use the stitched zigzag or some other stretch stitch on you machine which is the same at front and back. It gives a different look of course, but things like stitched zigzag also appear in RTW from time to time, so I don’t think it would look too home-made.

    lauriana    Apr 13, 06:37 AM    #
  7. Thanks for the tutorial!

    Catherine Daze    Apr 13, 09:10 AM    #
  8. This is a great tutorial! I am a technical designer and many times our elastic tunnel and twist inside. So FRUSTRATING!

    maddie    Apr 13, 05:27 PM    #
  9. This is how I do my elastic waistbands too, and you are right, it is faster, easier, looks better and is more comfortable.

    karen    Apr 14, 12:55 AM    #
  10. Thanks so much for this tutorial. I’m sewing a pair of shorts and wanted to sew an elastic band waist like this. Now I know how to do it!

    erin    Apr 14, 04:28 AM    #
  11. oh fabulous—I’ll totally try this next time, I despise the standard casing method—it always comes out so sloppy.

    Mikhaela    Apr 16, 04:35 PM    #
  12. Great tutorial! Thanks!

    Elizabeth    Apr 21, 01:24 PM    #
  13. I have 2 (stupid) questions :
    1-When you topstitch with the twin needle, is it just below the elastic, or do you take also the elastic band ?
    2- what point/length/width do you use ?
    Thanks a lot for this tuto ! I love your blog !

    — Phavic    May 17, 04:52 PM    #
  14. Yes! I’ve been searching for a better tutorial (than the one I’ve had on hand) for awhile now. I also can’t stand the casing method and your pictures and very simple explanation was what I was looking for. Thank you. I can finish sewing now. Much love.

    amanda    Jun 14, 02:06 PM    #
  15. This technique gives clean and professional look to the garment. I read about it, finally, you showed me how it is done! Thank you!
    ~ Iryna

    Iryna B    Jul 30, 04:57 PM    #
  16. Thanks for the tip. My elderly father has lost a lot of weight and I thought i’d be clever and try this technique on his pyjamas. All fine, but for some reason the waist band doesn’t lay flat. I’m wondering if I’ve stretched the elastic too much/not enough. Any ideas?

    — Jan    Oct 28, 06:06 AM    #
  17. Thank you for this idea. I am super new to sewing and this solves my messy raw edge problem. (I’m not so coordinated with the pinking shears) :)

    — Jody    Apr 23, 05:09 PM    #
  18. This totorial was very helpful, thanks.Question is at the step 4 when sewing along the bottom edge of the elastic from the right side, do you also stretch as you sew.

    Zoeope    May 30, 11:35 PM    #
  19. Any ideas about how I could add an elastic waistband to the top of an existing skirt. There is no spare material so it would need to somehow attach above the existing waist. Thanks

    — Jen    Aug 17, 11:17 AM    #
  20. This method is referred to as the Stitched-on Method on pg. 65 of the Singer Sewing Reference Library book, “Sewing Activewear” copyright 1986.

    — Judy    Nov 21, 09:56 PM    #
  21. Tried this method on a sun dress and it worked perfectly thanks!

    — Donna    Dec 19, 06:17 AM    #
  22. so is the previously sewn in elastic also getting caught up with the stitching of the cover pro seam?

    — Cheryl    Mar 30, 07:44 PM    #
  23. Cheryl – Yes, the elastic must be caught in the coverstitching/twin needle stitching, or else it would just unfold… ;)

    melissa    Apr 4, 04:40 PM    #

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