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altering an elastic waistband

sugarbug | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Hi everyone!

I’m new here, and although I’ve done some sewing/quilting, I’m not an experienced sewer!  I’m hoping you all can help me with adjusting the waistbands on my kids jeans.

I have 2 kids, both tall.  Quite frequently, I buy jeans/pants for them that fit in the legs, but end up being too big in the waist.  I almost always buy elastic waistbands for them (usually from the sides, around the back), and most of the time this solves my “long legs, small waist” problem, but I have a few pair here that are brand new, and can’t be worn because they fall down!  A belt is great, but I can’t send my daughter to kindergarten in a belt that she can’t un-do herself.

Anyway, like I said, the one’s I’d like to fix have elastic around the back, from side to side (make sense?).  The fronts look like regular jean fronts.  Is there an easy way to fix this without making big puckers in the waist?

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!


  1. carolfresia | | #1

    Kendra, I have the same problem with my son, and until this year, when he outgrew the last of his size 7 pants, I always relied on the half-elastic waistband. Apparently, they don't include that feature in sizes above 7, so be prepared!

    Although I haven't had to do this yet myself (having relied upon all-elastic sport-type pants for the fall), I've got a friend who installs elastic in the back waistband, or sides, depending on how much needs to be taken in. What you can do is get some sew-through action or sport elastic (look at the latest issue of Threads, No. 115, pp.51ff for details on elastics), and pin one end to the waistband of the pants as the child wears them. Stretch the elastic slightly, and pin the other end wherever you want the elastic to stop (you can do this from side seam to side seam, or just the middle 1/3 of the back waist, or two sections on either side of the waist, whatever seems best). Cut the elastic to this length, plus a little extra as an "end allowance." The pinned on elastic should draw in the waist to a comfortable, wearable size. Now, move the elastic to the inside of the waistband, and anchor the ends in place with a row or two of straight stitching. Last, stretching the elastic to the size of the waistband, sew the elastic to the pants waistband, using 2-3 rows of topstitching (depends on the type of elastic--if it has some non-rubber channels, sew there). The inside will look a bit like the way elastic is applied to purchased boxer shorts, but from the outside, you'll see only the topstitching and some gathers. You might have to experiment a little to find out how much to stretch the elastic for the ideal fit, but hopefully you can keep your little girl's Dora or Barbie or Hello Kitty undies from making an unforeseen appearance.


  2. Elisabeth | | #2

    I wonder if they still sell those stretch belts with novelty buckles that are really easy to unhook. Or you could make one. The hooking mechanism varies but I think a kindergartner can easily master the "trick" and be quite proud of it.

    1. carolfresia | | #3

      True--or you might find an easy-to-undo buckle and be able to make a belt. I made suspenders,which worked OK, but are less fashionable these days, esp. for girls.


    2. sugarbug | | #4

      Hey!  I used to have one of those!!  I'll have to see if I can find one... or make one.  Seems to me it would be pretty darn easy if I could find the buckle!


  3. suesew | | #5

    I've done a similar "add elastic to the waistband" that Carol did. , only with less sewing. I simply make a vertical slit on the inside of the waistband at about the side seams and slide a piece of elastic through. All you have to do is stitch over the ends of the elastic and the waistband is gathered up on it. It's easier than trying to stitch across a waistband that may have belt loops in the way.

    1. sugarbug | | #6

      ooo, that sounds nice and simple for future pants with no elastic, but the one's I'm trying to do already have elastic, with at least 3 rows of stitching accross it.  I just need the elastic to be tighter.Great tip tho!  Thanx!


      1. Jean | | #7

        Right now I have 4 pants with elastic waistbands that need altering. I have to remove and resew them all. My waist dips in front the width of the elastic, I wish I could just turn it over and be done with it, but of course, I have to alter them. One of these days I have to work on making a pattern that fits me. That or wear petite sized jeans everywhere.  Sigh. Short waisted and chunky would be easy to find you would think. I have the same problem buying skirts I'm sad to say.

        1. edgy | | #8

          I'm long-waisted, but have a very short rise, so evey pair of pants has a too-low crotch and the easiest way to fix that is usually pull them up at the waist (permanently, that is).


          1. Jean | | #9

            Suspenders should do it. ;-)

      2. Lword | | #10

        Elastic is one of those things I have a love-hate relationship with and the older I get the more particular I am about how tightly my waist or anything is hugged by clothes so I've been giving this some thought for a while.

        In your case of the three rows of stitching over the elastic waistband I think a belt, or half belt (on just the back), or two mini belts on the sides would be an answer. If there aren't belt loops you can add some using crochet thread and make a lightweight fabric belt with a velcro fastener your daughter could easily handle.

        You could make buttonholes on each side of the side seams, and thread a scarf, leather thong or sturdy bracelet through them to cinch up the waist. Jean's suspenders idea is also one to consider, although I hated them myself as I used to fiddle with the latches and wear them out. 

        All these ideas will go in my personal storage bank, thanks and good luck! 

  4. Imzadi | | #11

    You need to get a Havel's seam ripper. 

    It cuts through the 3 rows of stitching like butter. Instead of poking under the threads & pushing to cut, as with a Y shaped seam ripper, this one has a razor edge. All you have to do is lightly touch the threads and it snips them soooo easily.

    It works better than circular rotary cutter because the knife edge is on the inside curve. Less of a problem of accidently cutting yourself (or the material in the wrong place) as with a rotary cutter which has the knife edge exposed on the outside.

    Just make sure you keep the cover on & hidden when not in use so the kids can't get a hold of it. :)

  5. marijke | | #12

    One of my daughters has this problem, too.  I've had some success with buying 'adjustable waistband' jeans for her (pricey at Gap Kids, more affordable at Children's Place).  They have elastic with buttonholes and all you need to do is pull the elastic and button it to where the waist fits. 

    I've bought some of that same kind of elastic (I think the Sewing Place online).  Haven't used it yet, but  I am planning to use it in pants I'll make for my daughter.  I have a pattern for pants that are like jeans in front (with pockets) and elastic back.  What I envision is an opening in the waistband at the side seam on the inside, a small flat button to the front of the slit, and elastic that is buttoned on that button, to make the waistband adjustable. 

    I'm not sure there's any way around the gathers.  With a loose top/T-shirt over the jeans, the adjustable waistband pants my daughter has look fine (don't look too gathered in).

    Hope this helps.


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