Elastic waistband finishes by Closet Core Patterns

Howdy-ho everybody! Today I want to talk about options for finishing elastic waistbands. I played around with a  few options when I was making samples for the Carolyn Pajamas, but obviously you can apply this information to any garment with an elastic waist.

For me, elastic waistbands always conjure up those scary polyester pants my nana wears. But maybe Nana was onto something; obviously they are comfortable as all hell, and as I’ve put on a few pounds this winter, I’ve found myself with a renewed appreciation for a waistband that stretches with me as opposed to forcing my tummy into knots. For pajama pants, nothing beats an elastic waist. I’m sure some of you out there prefer a drawstring, but when I’m in lazy pajama mode, I can’t bother tying or untying anything.


Elastic waistband finishes by Closet Core Patterns

In the instructions for the Carolyn Pajamas, the waistband is finished clean on the inside before you insert your elastic on a safety pin and close it up. By stretching out your elastic after it’s sewn in, it should evenly distribute itself within the waistband. To ensure it doesn’t roll and twist while you’re wearing it (the.worst.), sewing it in place along the side, front and back seams anchors it pretty securely. This is a simple, clean finish, and looks good with quilting cottons and flannels.


elastic waistband

My pattern calls for 1 1/2″ wide elastic, but this finish works best with 1 – 1 1/4″ elastic. It’s a great solution if you’re working with random stash elastic, or you want a more refined detail. The slightly gathered top edge looks pretty and delicate, and it works well with lighter weight fabrics like silk, voile or rayon challis. I used this aqua challis to make a pair of summer lounge pants I’ll be wearing with tanks and tees on hot days, and I think this waistband looks a little more polished and appropriate for outside the house.

elastic waistband

Sew your waistband to the pants as directed in the instructions. Before you insert your elastic, sew a line or two along the top edge to create a narrower channel. In the above example, my elastic was 1″ wide, so I sewed my first line 1/2″ from the top of my waistband, followed by another line 1/8″ away. Insert your elastic as directed, and secure it in place with a few lines of stitching along your center front, center back and side seams to prevent it from rolling.


Elastic waistband finishes by Closet Core Patterns-4

This is another option for a more sophisticated elastic waistband that reminds me a bit of boxer trunks; rather than using one wide piece of elastic, you sew three channels in the waistband to insert two lengths of  much narrower elastic. Since the elastic is so thin, it’s even more forgiving around your tummy. I’m not sure if this would hold up a heavy pair of flannel pajama bottoms very well, but for a pair of lightweight shorts it’s perfect.

elastic channeling

In this example, I used 1/4″ wide elastic. I sewed three lines of stitching just a little wider than my elastic , leaving a  little gathered edge at the top. Make sure you leave a few inches unsewn at the back so you have a space to insert your safety pin through all the channels. Cut two pieces of elastic the same length, and feed each one through the top and bottom channel. The elastic is more prone to twisting so ensure it is lying flat before you sew your elastic ends together. Close your channels and sew along the side, front and back seams to keep it locked in place.


knit elastic waistband

Finally, if you’re going to make the Carolyn pajamas using a knit, this might be an option to consider. These are my favourite RTW rayon knit pajama pants and I love the waistband on them. Rather than attaching a separate waistband to your pants, the elastic is sewn directly to the top pant edge.

elastic waistband for stretchy pajama pants

To do this, you’ll need to lengthen the rise of your pants by 1 1/2″-2″ so they don’t sit too low on your body. You’ll want to use 1/2″-3/4″ elastic. Once you know how snug you want your elastic, sew it together in a tube. Divide the tube into even fourths and align with the front, back and side seams so the elastic is evenly distributed. Sew the elastic to the top edge of the pants using a zig zag or serged stitch. Fold the elastic edge under and secure to the pants with a coverstitch or double needle stitch. This creates a slim, comfortable elastic edge for knit fabrics.

Hope you found this helpful. Even the humble elastic waistband can be elevated with the right finish!

Core Fabrics


Closet Core Patterns

Hi! I'm Heather Lou, a pattern designer and sewing educator for the modern maker. At Closet Core Patterns, we transform your imagination into step-by-step implementation that helps you create a wardrobe you love - not one you're limited to buying off the rack.

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