Monday, September 24, 2012

Adjustable Waistband Tutorial

**Update: Here's an even easier tutorial for an adjustable waistband.**

Last week I made my biannual trip to Target. I found loads of pants and t-shirts on sale, which saved me from ordering online like I usually do. There were lined athletic pants (with pockets), jeans (also with pockets), and plain long-sleeved tees. Cheap.

When you're shopping for boys who are hard on clothes, cheap is good. So are pockets and soft lining.

The problem is the boys have slender waists. The pants literally fell off. My solution?

Add an adjustable waistband.

Because the waists of these pants are already elastic, and there's stitching over the band, there's no way to just slice a hole and thread elastic through. I had to get creative, but the result is great.

fabric for casing
ruler, cutter, thread, seam ripper, etc. (you know, the basic stuff)
button hole elastic (Found mine at Hancock's. You could use regular elastic, but you should put actual sewn buttonholes in it to keep it from unraveling.)
two buttons
clear tape

1. Measure. I measured the size I wanted the strip to be based on the back of the pants, then added 1" to that width and 1.5" to the height. My band was 3" x 12". With a half-inch seam allowance, that means the final band is 2" x 11". My elastic was 3/4" wide, so that gave me space to sew it on and still have room for the elastic.
2. Fold short ends under 1/2" and sew.
3. Sew long ends, right sides together. Sew one short end, right sides together. This will allow you to turn the casing inside out.
4. Finish raw edges. I pinked them, which is easy peasy.

5. Turn tube inside out. Please tell me your magic tricks with this step because I loathe turning tubes. I've bought this nifty turning tool, but it doesn't work. I use it to get me started, and then I shove the eraser side of a pencil into the closed end. Ugh. Loathe it.
6. Rip basted end. Take those stitches out of the short end.
7. Open basted end. So now both ends of the tube should be open. Yes, your pinked seam is a little exposed.
8. Iron flat with seam centered. That way your seam will be flush with the back of the pants and look nicer. Oh, and Admire Michelle's nasty ironing board cover. It used to be white.

9. Pin casing to back of pants. 
10. Sew casing to back of pants. Remember to allow for the width of your elastic!
11. Inside view. I had to use different thread in my bobbin to match inside and out. Well, I guess I didn't have to. But, you know. I had to.
12. Outside view. 

13. Insert safety pin. 
14. Thread elastic through casing. Try not to twist it. If you do, stretch it out really good and it should be relatively easy to get it flattened back out.
15. Trim extra elastic. Don't trim too much!
16. Place buttons. In this photo, I placed them too far from the casing. This created a big pucker. Place them close to the casing for more even fabric distribution in the gathering. (Oh, and have you tried putting clear tape over your buttons and sewing right through? Genius. Can't take credit, but it's (sewing) life changing.)

And you're done! Here's the finished result:

I like that the casing goes all the way across the back, so the gathers are evenly distributed.

He says they're comfortable, and as an added bonus, they don't fall down to his knees. It's a twenty-minute project even for a slow-poke like me.

Well worth it!


  1. My friend and I were literally just talking about how something like this is needed for our toddlers! Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. No problem, Jessica! I've come up with an easier method that I'll share next week.

  2. Again, you amaze me with your ingenuity! So glad I saw this. Caroline is a string bean and I have put back many a pair of pants or a skirt because there was no adjustable waist. Sometimes it's like her height is one size and her waist is a size smaller. Frustrating. Ok. Get Ryan to find a pair of surgical hemostats (maybe in an expired suture kit?). They are snub-nosed scissors that grab by clamping down. They are infinitely useful. You can reach down in your tube, grab some fabric, clamp the scissors, and pull it out. Not the best description, but maybe you get the picture. Changed my outlook on sewing tiny tubes or ties. Also useful for pulling out piping at a seam before you are it to make it flatter.

    1. Never would have thought . . Hemostats. As we were driving today, I figured out that there's an easier way to do it that doesn't require turning. I'll try it out and see if it works.

  3. this is such a clever idea ~ thanks for sharing !


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