The Great Elastic Waistband
by Linda Lee
from Threads #83
Almost every sewer has a favorite style of elastic waistband or is looking for the perfect one. I've experimented with various techniques over the years and have found a few I like a lot, but I wanted to find out the favorite waistbands of some of my sewing colleagues. I've also discovered some great designer approaches to this that are worth trying in your own garments.
|More on waistbands:
• Add a Quick and Easy Elastic Waist to a Skirt
• How to Sew a Nonstretch Waistband
• Video: Couture Techniques for Building a Waistband
All elastic waistbands fall essentially into two categories -- those in which the elastic is inserted into a stitched-down casing and those in which the elastic is sewn directly to the fabric. Whichever method you select, the overriding issue is comfort. For me, the narrower the elastic, the less aware I am of something around my waist. But others prefer the firmer feel of a wider elastic. And although most of us wear something over an elastic waistband that hides it, some of the designer techniques I want to share are pretty enough to leave uncovered.
The sewing professionals' favorite techniques
San Francisco sewing luminary Sandra Betzina uses Ban-rol XL-90 super-stretch elastic almost exclusively in her elastic waistbands, choosing a width compatible with her fabric type. This mesh-like elastic, which comes 3/4 in. to 1-1/2 in. wide, is available in white only and is sold by the yard off the roll (see Waistband supplies by mail). She cuts the elastic based on her waist measurement minus 4 in. and feeds it through a casing using a safety pin. Next she uses a 75/11HS ballpoint needle to sew several parallel rows of topstitching through the fabric casing and elastic. What looks like separate rows of elastic fed through several casings is actually one complete band that does not roll, crush, or curl.
The pull-on waistband that sewing expert Marcy Tilton, of Takilma, Ore., favors is twist-proof and can be used with knit ribbing, knits cut on the crossgrain, or lightweight wovens cut on the straight or cross grain. Instead of being a folded-over and stitched-down casing, this separate waistband doesn't add bulk at the waist, but slips easily over the hips.
Marcy uses 1-1/4-in.-wide Stretch-rite Polyester Braid elastic or Ban-rol and cuts it 1-1/2 in. to 2-1/2 in. smaller than the waist measurement. Sometimes she topstitches several rows through the waistband, stretching as she sews. Because topstitching tends to stretch the elastic so the overall finished waist measurement is a little larger, plan ahead and fit the elastic more snugly, or about 1-1/2 in. smaller than your waist.
Sewing teacher and designer Lyla Messinger, of LJ Designs in Reno, Nev., uses another favorite sew-through method, which gives the stitched look found in popular ready-to-wear. Lyla uses 1-1/4-in. Sew-Through elastic from the garment industry that "recovers" after it has been stitched through. She recommends cutting the elastic from 2 in. to 7 in. smaller than your waist measurement (4 in. is a good starting point), then attaching it to the garment.
Nowadays, I don't like to feel anything around my waist, so I use a simple casing method with no topstitching and with narrow elastic. I cut 1/2-in.-wide Stretchrite Non-roll elastic 5 in. smaller than my waist measurement and feed it through the casing. Whether you like narrow or wider elastic, the no-roll variety, no matter what width, lives up to its name. And as far as I'm concerned, the bodkin is the only tool to use to feed the elastic through the casing (see Waistband supplies by mail).