• Lindsey

Sewing Basics - How to Sew in an Elastic Waistband

Welcome to the next edition of Stylecamp's #sewingbasics series, here to help you learn how to make small repairs and alterations to your wardrobe in the spirit of #slowfashion, as well as providing some sewing therapy during the lockdown!

Over the last few weeks, my easy sewing tutorials How to Sew on a Button and basic Hand Stitches You Need to Know have showcased the skills you need to get started making basic repairs. It's best to get to grips with these techniques first, as this edition focusses on sewing elastic waistbands which are a more advanced technique.

I've chosen this as a subject as it's a repair or adjustment you're quite likely to encounter somewhere down the line, especially in vintage clothing. Elastic, a rubberised material, is usually one of the first things to perish with washing and general use, so it's a great idea to learn how to replace elastic in your favourite clothes to make them last longer. It's also a great method for altering a dress or top that's a little baggy to give more of a silhouette.



Depending on how your elastic was sewn in in the first place, there are several methods you can use to fix waistband elastic. The most common applications are either sewn directly to the fabric in a loop; gathered up with an elastic chainstitch (also known as shirring); or threaded through a channel, exactly like a drawstring.

We're going to look at two of these methods, sewing elastic in as a loop and also within a channel, as these fixes require very little skill, just a little patience! You'll also need a sewing machine.




How to sew an elastic waistband

  • Stitch unpicker

  • Sewing Machine

  • General purpose thread in a matching colour

  • Marker

  • Pins

  • Elastic - use your original garment for reference on what size to use. This tutorial uses a narrow elastic, around 12mm width

  • Scissors

  • Hand-sewing needle (optional)

Start by carefully removing any old elastic using a stitch unpicker. The garment I'm showing in this example originally had its elastic applied as a chainstich, but I've chosen to replace it with this loop method as I find it a simple and effective way of achieving the same effect. In this case, I'm also going using the original stitch lines as a guide so I will remove the original elastic later.

How to sew an elastic waistband
Measure your elastic by wrapping it around the waist

Take your elastic and wrap it comfortably around your natural waist without stretching it. It shouldn't be too tight or too loose. Pinch the area with your thumb to get the length of elastic before cutting.

How to sew an elastic waistband
Sew a box and cross stitch to secure the elastic in a loop

Overlap the ends of the elastic by around 1cm, ensuring it is not twisted, and sew a box and cross securing stitch to create a complete loop. It helps to lower the needle through the elastic into the starting corner of your stitch first to hold everything in place while you line the edges up neatly.

How to sew an elastic waistband
Use a marker to split the elastic loop into four equal parts

We need to make sure that the elastic will be evenly distributed between the side seams and front and back of the garment, so divide the elastic loop into quarters using a marker. As the elastic loop will be smaller than the waistband of the garment you'll be sewing it into, you'll also need to find these 4 equal positions at the side seams and centre front and back of your garment.

Working inside the garment at the waistband, pin opposite ends of the elastic to the side seams and pin the remaining opposite ends to the centre front and back. If it's not obvious where these points are (i.e if there isn't a seam at the centre point of your garment), you can match up the side seams and fold the garment flat, the outermost folds will show you where the centres are.