Sewing Blog

How to Sew an Elastic Waistband That Will Never Twist

So many garments, made of both knit and woven fabrics, call for an elastic waistband inside a casing. But if you are anything like me, the twisting and turning of the elastic inside the casing can be really annoying. Not only that, the gathers formed by the elastic never seem to be equally distributed around the waist either. This is because the elastic is simply floating inside the casing, which is essentially a tube of fabric.

Thankfully there is a much better way to sew this type of waistband to stop this annoyance from happening. Keep reading to learn more! 

how to sew an elastic waistband that will never twist

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The trick is to sew the elastic directly to the fabric, so they are forever joined.

This is actually extremely easy to do, and can be done with either a conventional machine or a serger or overlock machine.

And this technique does not only need to be reserved for a waistband either, as any elastic that needs to be sewn inside a casing can be done this way. One note of caution however, as the fabric is only being folded into the garment equal to the width of the elastic, be sure to trim off any extra fabric that night be folded an extra time according to the pattern's instructions.

For example, most elastic waist garments have you fold the fabric a small amount, like 1/4", then fold it again a scant wider than the elastic to be inserted. This is to prevent an exposed raw edge on the inside of the item. But since we will be only folding the fabric the width of the elastic, while simultaneously finishing the raw edge of the fabric, any extra that would have been folded needs to be cut off, or else the pattern will not fit correctly.

Though this sounds complicated, do not worry, this tutorial is extremely easy, and you will wonder why you have been doing your waistbands the traditional way all this time! Ready to change your technique? Let's go!

How to sew an elastic waistband 

cut elastic

Step 1:

Following the instructions for the pattern you are using, cut your elastic to fit the part of the body it is going around. For this example, I am using 1" elastic for the waistband of a pair of pajama pants. The elastic is cut to fit my natural waist. Be sure to use the elastic type and size for your project as instructed by the pattern's designer.

pin elastic

Step 2:

Because we are not forming a casing in the waistband, then closing the circle of the elastic afterwards, we need to sew the ends of the elastic together first. Overlap the ends following the pattern's instructions and pin in place. For my sample, I overlapped the elastic 1" which is what I usually choose to use when sewing a waistband.

sew elastic ends

Step 3:

Sew the ends of the elastic together using a regular straight stitch. I prefer to sew at the top and bottom of the elastic when it is over 1/4" wide to secure it properly.

sewn elastic

Step 4: 

Repeat by sewing the ends of the elastic together as well, forming a square of stitches, as pictured above. Be sure to back stitch each stitch. After sewing, pull on the area to ensure it is secure.

divide elastic into four sections

Step 5:

Starting at the overlap spot, fold the elastic in half to find the spot opposite the overlap spot. place those two spots together to find the half way point between them on either side, dividing the elastic into four equal sections. Mark each spot with a pin vertically inserted into the elastic at the quarter mark spot.

divide waist into four sections

Step 6:

Repeat Step 5 by dividing up the waistband area into four equal parts. Do not assume that the seams on the project will be at any of these four anchor points. Start at the center back and divide the rest from that starting point in the same way you did with the elastic in step five.

pin elastic to waist

Step 7:

Place the elastic on the wrong side fabric, with the top of the elastic flush with the raw edge of the fabric. Place the elastic overlap in a discreet place, like at the center back or near a side seam.

pin elastic to waist

Step 8:

Continue around the waistband, connecting the four anchor points of the waistband with the four anchor points of the elastic. The elastic will be smaller than the waistband, so do not be alarmed and continue pinning around the item.

sew elastic to waist

Step 9:

Insert the fabric and elastic into the machine with the top edge in first, and the wrong side of the fabric up. I am sewing my sample with a serger (or overlock) machine, but it can also be sewn with a conventional machine with an overlock stitch, a zigzag stitch, or a multi-step or 3-step zigzag stitch. The stitch needs to secure the elastic to the fabric, and finish the raw edge of the fabric simultaneously, so a straight stitch will not suffice for this step.

sew elastic to waist

Step 10:

As you sew around the entire waist, pull and stretch the elastic to fit the fabric between the anchor points. This stitch will connect the elastic to the fabric to keep it in place while wearing. If using a serger or overlock machine, do not cut the elastic or fabric with the machine's knife while sewing.

fold waist into garment

Step 11:

Once you go al the way around the opening, the fabric will be gathered up due to the elastic.

pin waist in place

Step 12:

Fold the elastic and fabric down into the wrong side of the garment and pin in place. Only fold the width of the elastic itself, making sure the top edge of the elastic is at the very top of the fabric fold. The elastic and waistband area will require stretching during the pinning stage since the fabric is gathered to fit the elastic.

sew fold in place

Step 13:

Sew along the bottom of the fold, with the wrong side of the fabric up, through the fabric, stitching, and elastic. Be sure to stretch the elastic and fabric as you sew to prevent sewing tucks and pinches along the way.

finished waistband

Step 14:

Once you go al the way around, the elastic waistband will appear just as it would if it were sewn into a casing, but the gathers will be perfectly evenly distributed, and the elastic will never flip or twist since it is sewn directly to the fabric!

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63 Comments

Valerie

What a smart idea, and it seems really easy too. Thanks

Reply
CC

Thank you for the tip. I have a question about elastic band. I need to replace a tiny elastic band (for winter ski earrings) and the elastic tends to loose its elasticity when I sew it onto the fabric.
It is the stitch length or because the elastic band is too thin. I have no idea why it is not working. This is what was on when I bought the product.

Reply
Kally

either the fabric is too thick for the elastic or the elastic is too narrow or too soft. You could make a small casing and put string through the casing. This will then stay on properly until you take it off to wash?

Reply
Laurie

This was so clear and easy. Loved it.

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Michaeleen

This tutorial just changed my life. Genius!

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Judy Davis

wish I would have seen this 1 week ago when I made five grand daughters new skirts. will try this the next time.

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Barbara

Judy, if already in the casing, just sew the elastic down in 4 places. I sew along each seam, then midway between the seams. (Top edge of skirt, to bottom edge of casing, in straight line) Has always worked for me, never a twisted elastic band.

Reply
Joann Fernstrom

I have used this way for about 7 years now. I have showed many friends this method and they also love it. It is the best way to put elastic on pants or skirts

Reply
Sue

I tried something similar to this with disastrous results as my dress making tutor over complicated the task. Your method is much clearer and has given me the confidence to try again. Thank you so much.

Reply
Bobbi

This tutarial came at a perfect time and I decided to use thus method instead of a casing for the elastic. I’m not sure what I did wrong but the elastic over stretched and I was left with a skirt that was hopelessly big at the waist. Does anyone have any ideas what went wrong.

Reply
Carolyn

This could be one of two things, first your elastic was too large to begin with- I find that the elastic needs to be a couple inches smaller than your waist unless your elastic is really stiff. Some elastic is soft and only slightly stretchy. The second thing could be your elastic is too old. I have discovered that just like many things, elastic does have a shelf life. Stretch it before putting in garments. If it does not go back to the original shape toss and get new. This can also happen with socks and knee highs. Hope this helps.

Reply
Amanda

The same thing happened to me and my elastic has no give. I don’t get it. My elastic is brand new and I sewed it together 2 inches smaller than my waist. Maybe I stretched it too far when sewing? Now I’m trying to figure out how to fix it.

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Katie M

You can try giving the elastic and waistband a really good steam with your iron. It often causes elastic to spring back again. It certainly works for me when I am doing shirring.

Reply
Tina

Could be that your stitch length was too small and is stopping the
elastic from reducing back to its original size. Try a longer stitch length that may help.

Reply
Rita Moore

I expect the the elastic was old and dried out, and as you stretched it, the fibres couldn’t return to pre-stretched length. This happened to me when I was re-using a waistband from underwear that had been laundered and put in the dryer many times.. I had to start with new elastic.

Reply
Magrra

1. You should always pre-stretch your elastic before cutting it. Many new elastic will not go back to the same size after the first stretching.
2. I use a different method in skirts etc. I do the usual casing, put the elastic in and sew it together.
Then I stretch this in several directions to “distribute the elastic evenly around inside the casing.
Then I sew a short seam between the top of the casing and the bottom of the casing. This traps the elastic and won’t allow it to turn.
I do this at and seams in the casing, usually at 3 or 4 places in waist bands. It doesn’t show, because the folds of the casing hide it.
Tada, no more shifting and turning elastic. Also it makes it easy to make changes to the size of the waist if needed

Reply
Phyllis

I am taking a class in Craftsy called “Fashion Sewing & Serging Techniques” with Pamela Leggett and she says the elastic stretching out has to do with the type of elastic you are using and it has to be a knit elastic to be able to sew over it.

Reply
Sewing Elastic Waistbands That Won’t Twist

[…] Using a conventional sewing machine, a serger, or an overlock machine, just sew the elastic into the garment. No casing, no fuss. Just remember that the fabric of the clothing is only being folded into the garment equal to the width of the elastic, so be sure to trim off any excess fabric. For a full tutorial with pictures, click here:: How to Sew an Elastic Waistband That Will Never Twist […]

Reply
Liz

Are you using a straight stitch when you fold the fabric and elastic over? It looks that way in the picture.

Reply
Audrey

This is the method I learned back in the ’70’s from a company called “Stretch-N-Sew”, which taught sewing with knit fabric (anyone remember pastel men’s leisure suits and do-sew for making the patterns?). Great method, works every time for woven fabrics as well as knits.

Reply
Inas

I learned this method in the 70’s as well. I have used it many times. Of course I remember leisure suits, I made my hubby one. Forest Green.

Reply
Trudy

I so remember taking the Stretch and Sew classes back in the 70’s and to this day, I still use what I learned. I never missed a class that was taught. I’m even still using the patterns that I bought. 🙂

Reply
maxie

Yes, and I learned to do it on a straight stitch machine.

Reply
Valerie Ginger

Thanks for a great tip

Reply
Velma Anderson

I measure the elastic the exact length that I want it to be> I zig zag the ends of the elastic. each end seperate with wide stitch then but the ends together then zig zag them together. This way you do not have the inch of overlap where there is no stretch to the elastic. This way the gathers are more uniform all the way around the garment. this works for all things that I put elastic in such as bathing suits etc, also if I am putting elastic in a garment where the end of elastic ends with fabric, I leave extra elastic that extends past end of fabric that i have sewn to end of fabric. This way I have something to hold on to stretch elastic to fit the fabric. I make a lot of my swimsuits and find this very helpful

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Angel

Excellent tip!

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kim

just googled how to sew in elastic…and i found this tutorial. saved my bacon! thank you so much!!

Reply
Celia

I have done this off and on for 30 years. I don’t have uniform results. That is, often when I do this, the elastic itself stretches. Sometimes I can shrink it back up by steaming it, but not always. Is it the wrong elastic or am I pulling?

Reply
Jane

I have tried this many times and each time the elastic stretches out of shape and the waist is too large. Why does this happen?

Reply
jennie d

Jane, I wonder if your stitch length is too short, where the stitches are just holding the elastic stretched out… Maybe try with a longer stitch length.

Reply
Michelle Thompson

Hi, That was a great video! I learned a lot. I just gave it a try, and it looks like I have the same results as Jan who posted a comment on June 7. My elastic seems to stretch out of shape, and it looks fluted, or like the edges on a leaf of lettuce. Someone suggested that I could try decreasing the tension of my pressure foot. but that really do anything.

Any suggestions?

-michelle thompson

Reply
Michelle Thompson

Hi, That was a great video! I learned a lot. I just gave it a try, and it looks like I have the same results as Jan who posted a comment on June 7. My elastic seems to stretch out of shape, and it looks fluted, or like the edges on a leaf of lettuce. Someone suggested that I could try decreasing the tension of my pressure foot. but that really didn’t do anything.

Any suggestions?

-michelle thompson

Reply
NKECHI

Michelle & Jan, Don’t use straight stitch on elastic, result is not always fine. when pulling, don’t pull too hard and too long.

Reply
Nancy Bell

This looks like a great way to sew elastic. I have just one question. When you turn over the waistband what stitch do you use to sew around the bottom. I saw that you said not to use a straight stitch. What do you recommend?

Reply
Amy

I don’t care for this technique. Mainly because I’ve found that it can stretch out your elastic and minimize elasticity. I just find it faster and easier just to thread an elastic through a casing. But that’s just me.
I once made my daughter a skirt that lasted years because I was able to change out the elastic a couple times.
If you’re worried about elastic turning, make sure it fits the width of the casing. A “stitch in the ditch” on either side will keep it from flipping.

Reply
Rachelle

Thanks Christine – great tutorial! Can you tell me which stitch/settings you used on your serger? Is this a regular 4-thread overlock stitch?

Reply
Bonnie

I am also looking for a solution to the problem of my elastic stetching out of shape and not going back. Is the trick in the type of elastic? The width of elastic possibly?

Reply
Lisa

This is in response to those whose finished products end up too big…..When the elastic is being stitched to the fabric, the elastic rubber is being punctured with the needle, breaking down its ability to recover back to original size. So you end up with a bigger waist band. Knitted elastic and pure rubber type elastic tend to work a bit better using this technique. I still prefer to thread the elastic into a casing and then stitch vertically at the seams to stop the twisting in the casing. I find it much more accurate.

Reply
Coldpoutine

Do I need to use elasticised thread? or Can i use regular thread? You make no mention. Thanks! Very clear instructions otherwise. I wish I had an overlock machine but I simply don’t sew enough to justify the expense. I’m happy with my cheap and cheerful machine from
“annoying-customer-service-going-out-of-business-in-Canada-department-store”.

Reply
Mallika

Very nice idea. Thanks for sharing!

Reply
deb

I too always have trouble machining over elastic I always end up with no elasticity but apparently after me googling the problem I have been using the wrong type of elastic apparently you have to use the knitted type of elastic and I was always using the ribbed narrow type haven’t yet tried this theory I just thought any elastic would be ok for sewing over with machine

Reply
‘Jamas in January | not sew simple

[…] I love the ribbon finish but the elastic immediately started to get twisted so I have found a tutorial for attaching the elastic directly to the fabric for next time I make this […]

Reply
Shamima

Thank you. I love the way.

Reply
Shay

I see you used a professional 5 thread Singer. What were the settings used for this particular project? Please and thank you

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Carol Leach

I learned how to put in elastic this way almost fifty years ago in home economics class! This method and a one piece pants pattern makes it possible to make a pair of pants in less than an hour! I have done that many times in my life as well!!

Reply
Llamalpacalama

I’ve had that problem where elastic winds up overstretched after stitching it. For the step where the elastic is stitched to the fabric the first time with a zig-zag stitch, do you stretch the elastic, such that the fabric and the elastic between the pins is flush against each other with no gathers?

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Angel

I’ve just read lots of comments about overstretching. I would be curious as to what type needle was used in these unsatisfactory results. I agree that the needle punctures the elastic fibers. Would a ballpoint needle be appropriate?

This tutorial was excellent. Concise, clear and close-up photos. The best I’ve seen during my surf. Hope my first attempt later today will be successful!

Reply
Shelley

###### question (new to sewing): I tried this once and it looks almost stretched out when not stretched. The elastic works fine and it looks normal on because it’s a little stretched but hanging on the hanger it looks a bit off. I’m thinking when I sewed it on I maybe stretched the elastic a little too much or used the wrong stitch, thoughts?

Reply
Vivian

I have tried sewing eskaric in waistbands using this method and the elastic always stretches out. I was wondering if using a ballpoint needle would make a difference.

Reply
maxie

I’d add this to the instructions. Instead of marking the elastic in equal parts, mark them to correspond to your body. e.g., I have a flat abdomen but big rear so I leave more elastic in the back than front. You’ll probably want to mark the elastic equally for your first garment and then figure out if/where you need to adjust.

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Marsha Andrews

Just getting ready to put elastic on a small cotton bag. So I need a special needle for my machine?

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Cara

What kind of elastic do you use/recommend?

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Chrystie

I am nervous about trying this on my serger because both of my sewing machines leave me with wads of thread on the underside and a locked up shuttle race when I try to sew through my thick elastic. Not sure what I am doing wrong. Maybe it is the elastic itself?

Reply
Sonia

Chrystie, I would start by adjusting the pressure on the pressure foot. It is also possible that you need to adjust the tension on either, or both, of your upper and lower threads for your much thicker elastic/material “sandwich”. Try adjusting it with some scrap denim or other material about the same thickness before trying it on your elastic/material. It may take a few tries to get it right. (I mark my machine so that I don’t have to figure it out every time I repeat this type of project.) You may also try a ballpoint needle on the elastic/material and make sure that your beginning thread ends are not too short and that you hold on to the thread ends so they don’t get pulled into the first few stitches.

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Gwen Pielstick

Thanks so much for this tutorial! I’m fairly new to sewing, and my skirts etc. I’ve just used the casing method. But I love this so much more. It’ll be so nice not to have the skirts waist bands shifting and turning. Thanks again!

Reply
Helen

Nice clear instructions. In some of my pyjama bottoms they appear to have attached the elastic to a soft knit fabric and then attached that to the main fabric to achieve a similar outcome, its very comfortable and I have seen similar finishes on mens shorts . I’m just not sure about the order to proceed? In some cases I have also seen an elastic used with a soft finish that’s not been encased at all would love to know how to do that too..

Reply
Jean

0Thank you so very, very much. I was trying to make an ironing board cover for my sewing room and tore it out several times because the casing was so difficult. You saved the day and now it is finished!!! With much appreciation. : )

Reply
Nel

This is great. It’s like the way I learned in the class on making panties (can’t remember the teacher… Beverly something). I don’t know why I didn’t connect the dots, but this is just what I need right now.

I’ve just taken apart a ready-to-wear skirt that I love apart for ONE thing: the darned elastic waistband. All they did was just sew together the top of the fabric to a piece of elastic about 1-1/2 or 1-3/4 inches wide. You’re supposed to just fold that over neatly to make a wide ‘waistband’ at the top of the skirt. Of COURSE, since I’m not a plastic mannequin standing in a store window, whenever I bend the elastic folds over and no amount of steam-ironing word force it to stay flat. And since the elastic is not sewn down, it tends to come ‘unfolded’ i the front. I was constantly trying to deal with that, but when I tried to tack it down, it just put holes in the skirt.

At last – a solution. So now that I’m recreated the skirt, this is going to work perfectly, I think. Perfect. God bless Craftsy!

Reply
Charmaine Kruger

I am making a dress with a full circle skirt. I want to gather the skirt with elastic and attach it to the bodice. What is the best way to do this without losing the elasticity? Normally my elastic stretches to fit and never bounces back

Reply
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