Pyjama Party – Making The Elasticated Waistband

Hello, friends. Today we are going to make our elasticated waistbands. Before we start perhaps I should run through the items you’ll need:

  • 1/2 inch elastic
  • A safety pin

Um, that’s it! Yeah, these pyjamas really aren’t too taxing.

First off, take your pyjamas and turn them inside out. Pull the waistband over your ironing board as your iron’s heating up.

Whenever I go to turn over a seamed raw edge, the first thing I do is check how the seams are lining up. Usually, they aren’t!

So I just take my scissors and trim that edge so that it makes a nice smooth line for pressing over:

Once that’s done, turn and press a scant 5mm fold:

Then fold over again and press a 22mm fold, pinning as you go:

You are going to sew along this fold, close to the edge. But first remind yourself that you want to leave a 3 inch gap between the start and the end of your sewn line. Think about where you’d like this gap to be. I put mine on the rear of my pyjamas. Just keep reminding yourself – you want to leave a gap! Start sewing.

Whilst sewing the waistband, you might want to insert a little hanging loop on the rear of your pyjamas. This will be useful for hanging jim jams on door hooks and also for reminding you which is the back of your pyjamas, now that your notches have gone! (Believe me, it can be difficult to work this out when tired and climbing into your pyjamas.)

If you’re already struggling to work out the back and the front, hold your pyjamas up and look at the centre seams. The front centre seam will lie fairly flat, whilst your back centre seam will have some visible volume to accommodate your pretty little derriere.

Now, measure out the length of elastic you’ll need. I held the elastic around my waist, to see what felt comfortable. This is such a personal issue, but as a general guide, I cut the elastic to my waist measurement, knowing that this circumference would be reduced by 1 inch when I overlapped and sewed the ends together. In short, if your waist is 31 inches your finished elastic loop will be 30 inches.

Attach a safety pin to the end of your elastic.

Then insert your safety pin into the gap left in your waistband:

Chase your safety pin all the way through your waistband by nudging it along, scrunching up the waistband across your safety pin and pulling the gathers down the length of the elastic. Finally, your safety pin’s little head will pop out of the other side of the gap in the waistband. Keep hold of both ends and spread the waistband as evenly as possible across the length of elastic.

Make sure your elastic hasn’t twisted inside your waistband before proceeding any further. How? It’s tricky. I try to firmly grasp the ends of my elastic and pull the waistband out to its full capacity, eyeballing the fabric to make sure I can’t see any tell-tale bulges from a twist in the elastic. It’s a bit of a guessing game, to be honest. But you’ll get there.

Next up, the best sewing instruction an eye can read.

Overlap the ends of the elastic and, as Fehr Trade recently put it, ZIG ZAG THE CRAP OUT OF IT, going back and forth several times. (If you want an alternative tutorial on elasticated waistbands, check out her post here.)

This is one of the few times in a Sewist’s career when they really don’t need to care about the finish. Just, you know, the strength. Enjoy this moment!

If you have any doubts about the fit, now might be a good time to slip the PJs on before sewing the rest of the waistband down. That way you can adjust your elastic without having to get out the seam ripper. Happy? Seal the gap in your waistband by sewing it down, encasing the elastic. Make sure that the elastic is well away from your needle as you sew. You’re done!

There’s only one step left. Can you guess what it is?

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22 Responses to Pyjama Party – Making The Elasticated Waistband

  1. Kirsty S says:

    Ribbon loops! Brilliant. I’d finished my PJ bottoms today but just went back and added ribbon loops to the back. So true that it’s too tricky to figure out when tired.

  2. Clare says:

    Looking good! I made a pair of jammies a few months back by copying a favourite (though sadly aging and ripped) shop bought pair. In the shop ones the waistband was also stitched a few mm from the top, through the fabric and elastic, so I did this on mine as well. Think it stops the elastic from moving around or twisting during wear.

  3. francoise says:

    Love the idea of the loop at the back. Thank you again for this brilliant step by step tutorial!

  4. Molly says:

    I love your fabric, and the hanging loop idea. Since I rarely make a costume without having to thread elastic through somewhere, here’s a couple of things I have learned.

    * Tack down seam allowances that cross your waistband or you may spend hours stabbing around at that seam allowance trying to get your elastic between the two loose flaps of fabric. This is the most common plea for help I get from my students, “I’m stuck and it won’t go anywhere!”.
    * Use a second safety pin to secure the non-threaded end of your elastic. This is really important when gathering lots of fabric onto a short length, nothing more frustrating than losing grip of the end and it pinging to meet you two-thirds of the way round!
    * Bodkins and the plastic spatula like elastic guides are useful alternatives to the safety pin – and don’t have the risk of coming open during the process. The plastic guides help stop the elastic twisting too.
    * Don’t put too much pressure on the pin legs and use a sturdy pin, I’ve had several come open in the process, not so much the pain of being pricked but the pain of trying to rescue an open safety pin from an enclosed seam.
    * Stitch-in-the ditch of your side seams through the waistband and elastic to help prevent twisting.
    * Another thing I sometimes do, especially with 1/2″ in the waistband, is to sew a couple of rows of loose zig-zag stitches the whole length of the elastic. This won’t stop it twisting completely, but it stops it rolling. I got the idea from gripper elastic which I noticed doesn’t roll.
    * Don’t recycle old elastic in waistbands, tempting but its days of flexibility are over, it’ll just sag and droop. As happens to us all eventually, ahh morning philosophy, drawing parallels between elastic and life…. must need more coffee!!

    [p.s. I have been very bad and not replied to your email about ironing, i am so sorry, been rather preoccupied with teaching, learning and giant insects but will rely to you soon!].

    • Thank you! That is the definition of comprehensive. Take note, readers!

      • Molly says:

        Haha, I know, it was a big cup of coffee this morning! I do keep these things when I write them, I might publish some of them in my own blog one day, ha. But I file them away for writing future handouts for my students. The iron one was actually an extract from such a handout, written because I got bored of hearing them all blaming the tools for their inability to iron a shirt!

    • great tips there. i normally prefer to use a bodkin if i can fit the width of elastic through it. i’ll definitely be tacking the seam allowances down next time i do this as threading elasic is one of my leasst favourite jobs!

      • Molly says:

        Thank you, vintage sewing paraphernalia is a good place to source bodkins with larger eyes, I have a few in my collection. And I definitely learned the hard way that its not worth skipping tacking down seam allowances!

  5. I also love the idea of the loop at the back, I used a label but I’m not sure it will be very effective when I’ll try to put them on in the dark. Your trick will be very useful for the next pair !

  6. grenouille78 says:

    Ah, great minds! I already sewed a little ribbon loop in mine! But I learned from my older pajamas that matching the ribbon too closely to the fabric is not so helpful when trying to find it in the dark! Hopefully the slight contrast on this new pair will make it easier to get them on the right way!

  7. Kathryn says:

    Thank you so much for hosting this sew-along. I completely lost my confidence after a disastrouse attempt at pyjama shorts but, thanks to your sew-along, feel completely inspired again and ready to tackle some new challenges – once I’ve done the hemming of course!

  8. Liz says:

    I am so excited that I am actually keeping up with this sewalong… And also that despite not having sewed a elasticized waist for over 10 years my preferences for the details have come back to me. As per the others above I like stitching the elastic 2 times through the casing, also top stitch the top of the casing as well. I also prefer to leave the opening in the side seam rather than the base of the casing (but I forgot this tip). Love the ribbon idea! I am enjoying this sewalong SO MUCH and appreciate the simple concept and the leisurely pace. Really inspired me to get back into sewing and re-thread my overlocked so that it is ready for some dresses for this years summer holiday….and to start a dedicated sewing blog! Thanks again!!! Love your blog!

  9. There’s always something new to learn, isn’t there? I’ve never zig-zagged elastic to stop it rolling (might have to try that), though I’ve used many of the other tips. Imagine how our repertoire of tricks is always expanding. The trousers are looking wonderful. Such tidiness, such precision. (I can promise you now, mine won’t be in the same league.)

  10. Fiona says:

    I’m a mile behind, but I cut out my jimjams today, both bottom & top, and will be sewing them over the coming weekend. The loop at the back tip is genius, thanks.
    Can’t wait to wear them!

  11. ooobop! says:

    Really encouraging to see that you have to trim the uneven back pieces too, Karen. I thought it was just me! I’ve jumped the gun and finished mine this evening! Will have to Email you some pics over because I can’t put them on my blog… not til after Mr Ooobop’s birthday (20 May) anyhows! And I don’t want to miss the deadline. So I hope thats ok for you to give them a mention for me! I’ve really enjoyed your sewalong Karen… My first one!! Really refreshing to set about something simple and enjoy the leisurely process! x

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