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How to Sew a Classic Waistband

Make it smooth, supportive, and comfortable
Threads #216, Winter 2021
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For a neat, stable band that hugs your body, try this traditional method.

Whether you’re a novice or experienced sewer, you’re likely to make garments with a straight waistband. This traditional style is not contoured to your waist; the pattern is a plain rectangle. When properly fitted and constructed, this band type holds a garment securely in place, preventing skirts from twisting and pants from pulling down in back when you sit. 

There are many methods for sewing a straight waistband, but I’ll explain one of the most common versions for ladies’ garments. 

Where your waistband sits is a matter of personal preference. Most straight waistbands sit at the natural waistline, the part of your torso with the smallest circumference. It could be a little below or above, though. This depends on your style preference and comfort, especially when you’re sitting. The waistband width is established by the given pattern piece, if you’re using a commercial pattern. However, you are free to change that as desired: Petite or short-waisted women may prefer a narrower band; taller or long-waisted women may like a wider band. 

The directions that follow are for a standard waistband with a cut-on facing: The finished upper edge is a fold rather than a seam. This type is the most common in commericial patterns, and it has benefits. It is quicker to sew and provides a smoother edge than a band with a separate facing. (If your fabric is bulky or would be scratchy to wear against your skin, you can cut a facing from a lighter fabric such as lining or cotton shirting.) You can build this style into many patterns even if they come with a different waist finish, including faced waistlines. My goal is to build a waist treatment that is stable and free of bulk. This ensures comfort, longevity, and a pleasing appearance.

Prepare the band

The most important part of prepping a waistband is stabilizing it. I typically use fusible interfacing for this. For a stiffer, more tailored effect, you can choose non-roll woven waistbanding. 

1. Cut the waistband. Follow the pattern to cut one band from fashion fabric. For the greatest stability, cut the band with the grainline parallel to the selvage.

2. Cut the interfacing. Choose a fusible interfacing appropriate to the fabric’s weight and test it by fusing it to a scrap of fashion fabric. It should prevent the fabric from stretching and help it maintain its shape. If the interfacing has stretch (some knit varieties do), cut it with the most stable grain lengthwise on the band. Cut one band from interfacing.

3. Fuse the interfacing. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for iron temperature and fusing times. Tip: If the pattern includes several small pieces to interface, try block fusing. Cut a section of fabric large enough to accommodate all the pieces, and cut interfacing to the same size. Fuse the interfacing to the fabric, then cut all the pieces.

4. Mark and reinforce the closure location. Transfer any marks or match points to the band. Fuse a small piece of interfacing where you plan to attach fasteners.

Straight-stitch 1⁄2 inch from the edge that will be folded to the garment’s interior.

5. Straight-stitch 1⁄2 inch from the edge that will be folded to the garment’s interior. Then press that edge under along the stitching line. Alternatively, finish this edge with bias binding or serging. Finally, press the band along its foldline to establish the finished upper edge.

How to Sew a Classic Waistband Spread ImageErica Bunker is a fashion-sewing blogger and teacher with a devoted following online and via social media.

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