Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tutorial: adjustable waistbands

When Gracie got into toddler clothes, adjustable waistbands were something of a revelation.  I mean, I'd seen buttonhole elastic at Hancock Fabrics when I was a teenager and wondered why in the world would someone want something that already had holes in it!  I'd never really seen it used before, and had no idea what it was for.  And to be perfectly honest, I sewed things here and there and knew the basics and taught myself tricks along the way (I never owned a sewing book or even looked at one until I won one in 2009!), but I didn't really get serious about sewing until I had a problem--see, I was diagnosed with lymphedema and suddenly had three inches of bandaging on each leg to contend with and none of my pants would fit over it.  Suddenly, I had to make pants unless I wanted to go naked!  And then, a couple years later, my sister and my sister in law both got pregnant, so I had little kiddos coming to sew for and decided to try my hand at quilting and started making them clothes.  But I digress.  :)

When Gracie got her first pair of pants with an adjustable waistband I spent a lot of time examining them to figure out how they were put together.  After all, if I could figure out how it was done, then I could replicate it in homemade clothing and even convert regular waistbands that were too big without too much effort.  If you're dealing with RTW clothing, you'll need to rip out the topstitching holding the bottom of the back middle belt loop to the waistband, and rip out one to one and a half inches of waistband on either side of the side seams.

 Okay, so we've got out pants cut out.  The first thing we need to do is sew together the backs.  Measure the entire back side and then cut the elastic three buttonholes bigger.  This enables you to finish the raw edges of the elastic.  I burn it with a lighter to seal it, and then do a rolled hem just so that it looks nicer.  (I keep lighters around just to seal ends of elastic and ribbon.)

Next, it's time to break out the iron.  Iron down the waistband and the seam allowance, and fuse a 2.5" piece of interfacing to either side.  This stabilizes the weave and prevents puckering of the buttonholes.

For RTW, simply fuse the interfacing and open the waistband for marking.

Next, measure the elastic, not the buttons (I almost made this mistake!) and mark the fabric. Make sure that it's right outside the seam allowance. This is for both you-made (I hate the term home sewn.  ;) It brings to mind home ec classes and it's often almost used as an insult!)  Make the buttonhole, and well, my next step is to always fray check the buttonholes before I open it.  I was even more thorough on this particular pair of pants because the bottomweight I bought for it online turned out to have a looser weave than I was expecting.  Cut open the buttonholes before you do anything else.

For you-made, the next step is to sew the pants as normal.  For RTW, sew up the waistband, but don't mess with the belt loop you ripped the stitches out of.  After you have a complete waistband, slip a safety pin through the buttonhole and thread the elastic through one buttonhole, the back waistband, and out the other.

This is what it should look like.  Now, the next step is to sew buttons right over the side seams on the front side of the pants.

Put the knot on the inside of the waistband so that all you have is neat stitching on the outside. 

Button the elastic and stretch out the middle and pin it.  Sew over it three or four times to lock the elastic into the waistband.  Pin the belt loop in place and top stitch it in place.

Now the waistband of your new (or old) pants is adjustable!

If it's an old pair of RTW pants that already has an elastic waistband, I'm afraid this can't be done without ripping out the old elastic, but it will work on just about any pair of jeans that didn't come with one--even adult sizes!  (Perfect solution if you're in-between sizes)

And here's the result--pants with a waistband that can be tightened or loosened according to need.

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