How to sew an elastic waistband 4

In this tutorial,

I’m going to show you how to replace and sew elastic waistbands.

You can use this tutorial for any piece of clothing that has an elastic to be replaced. You can also sew the elastic waistband on a new garment exactly the same way, just skip the part where I remove the old elastic. 

There are a lot of ways to sew an elastic waist, depending on the type of elastic band, the way of attachment, or the techniques used. I am going to follow the technique that was originally used.

Here is a video tutorial:

Or, if you prefer, there are written instructions, too.

Replacing old waistband elastic

First, let’s start with removing the old stitching that covers the elastic. 

If the top stitching in your case is made with a straight or zig-zag seam, unpick it as you normally would.

In my case, it is a one-needle coverstitch machine, which means that there are only two threads used to create the seam- one in the needle and one in the looper.

Any seam that is created with a looping, no matter a coverstitch machine or a serger can be easily removed by using essentially the same technique.

What you need to do first is to break the needle thread, which usually goes on top. Then, pull out several stitches in the direction opposite to the direction of sewing.

I am unpicking coverstitch machine the easy way.

Be careful to determine the direction of sewing and go the opposite way, otherwise, the looper won’t start to unravel.

Once you’ve pulled out 5 to 10 stitches, try to pull the looper thread on the inside. It should easily go off. If the thread gets stuck, just pull some more stitches, trying not to break the thread.

Here is a video I made on how to easily remove the coverstitch machine seam.

Once you finish with the cover stitching, continue with the serger one.

What I do is basically the same, pull out several stitches of the needle thread (the one that goes as a straight line), and remove it. The looper one should go off by itself. This is a 3-thread serger, which means there is only one needle. A four-thread serger would have two needles, so before unraveling the looper threads, make sure to remove both of the needle ones.

Here is another close-up video to help with breaking the serger seam.

Sewing elastic to the waistline

Let’s continue with replacing the old elastic with the new one. For waists, we usually use a wider elastic like at least 3/4 inch (2 cm) or wider. That’s because wider elastic provides greater support.

Mine is 3/4 inch (2 cm) wide. Now, let’s figure out how much elastic you are going to need to create a nice gathering.

There are a couple of ways to do that:

  • The first one is to measure directly on the body, pulling the elastic enough so it is neither too tight nor too loose.
  • Another way is to use a size chart, but make sure it is for the elastic itself, not for the actual waist measurement. I’ve created one that I find quite accurate. You can download it here. 


A n elastic waist size chart image in both inches and cm.
  • The last way that I’m going to show you works well not only for children but for adults, too. It’s very handy if you don’t have a measurement chart or the actual person to measure on is not around.

You take the elastic,

fold it in half and adjust it so that it is ¾ of the circumstance of the garment at the waist (picture 2). This results in a nice gathering of the fabric, that is not too loose or tight. I just eyeball it, but if you feel more comfortable, use a measurement tape.

Once you’ve determined the desired length of the elastic, bring the ends together, overlapping approximately ¾ to an inch/2 cm, and sew the edges together. You can use straight or zig-zag stitch, whichever you prefer (picture 3).

How to sew an elastic waistband

Start pinning the elastic to the waist (picture 4). I usually begin at the back center seam. Then pin it to the front center seam and to the sides. This way the elastic will be evenly distributed and will create an even gathering of the fabric (picture 5).

Attach the elastic band to the waistline

The next step is to sew the elastic to the pajamas. When sewing, try not to pull the elastic more than the fabric. Don’t stretch the fabric, just the elastic band.

I attach the elastic with a serger, so I’ve pinned some of the fabric to be cut out. If you use a zig-zag or a stretch stitch on a regular machine, just align the edge of the fabric and the elastic. The most important thing is to make sure to use a stitch that tolerates stretching, so it doesn’t break when the elastic is pulled out.

We have the elastic attached, so the last step is to add finishing by cover stitching it. Pin it the same way as when attaching the elastic – at the center back and front and at both sides (picture 6). If it is easier for you, add some more pins between those four. Make sure you are not leaving space between the edge of the elastic and the fabric (picture 7).


do the cover stitching. I prefer to do it at the bottom of the elastic so it is fully covered. I use a two-needle coverstitch machine that secures it well enough so one seam is fine. If you prefer, you might add a seam in the middle of the elastic to secure it.

how to sew an elastic waistband

Once again, make sure to use a seam that tolerates stretching according to your sewing machine manual. And that’s it – now I have a happy kid with fitting pajamas. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

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More sewing tutorials:

  1. How to replace elastic in swimwear
  2. Sewing with elastic thread – make a shirred dress
  3. How to make a neckline smaller (or bigger)
  4. Making Some Everyday Sewing Alterations
  5. Random DIY sewing alterations – Zippers and Elastic


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4 thoughts on “How to sew an elastic waistband

    • Daniela Post author

      Oh, no. Thank you for the heads up. There was a bug on my blog that messed up many of the old posts. I am going over them one by one to fix the issues. This one is up and running now, so I hope you are going to enjoy the full tutorial.

      Best wishes,

  • Sundar

    This post has been really helpful to me as it has taught me to solve one of my biggest problem that I have been looking for. For quite a some time I have been searching for how to make my waist band an elastic one and finally I came to see this page which helped me a lot. I completely learnt the technique after watching your video which is really simple and easy.