Exposed elastic waists are easy according to all the tutorials I read. But I don’t find them easy. I am getting better at them but we still share a love/hate relationship.
This tutorial is not really any different from the others out there. Just google ” how to sew an exposed elastic waist” and you can find them. And they will probably be better written than this one. Though, hardly any of them say what a right royal pain in the backside these this can be. Also, I reveal my cheat’s method of making this easier, after the first example. So let us start!
First step is to cut your elastic to size. Then fold it on itself, right sides together, and stitch at the cut ends so you now have a loop. I usually use two rows of straight stitch right next to each other, stitching up, then reverse each time, for extra strength.
In the above pictures, notice I place a pin in the fold opposite the join in the elastic (top picture). Then I fold the elastic so the pin I have place and the elastic join now sit together. Then I placed pins in each of the two side folds. By doing this, you are marking 4 even quarters. By then doing the same to the fabric you at sewing to, you are virtually guaranteeing an even gather.
Here is the top portion of my extraordinarily cute shorts. I ran out of fabric and didn’t have enough to do the waistband, so we are getting exposed elastic instead! Similarly to the elastic, I have used pins to designate four quarters. I actually only needed two pins as the front and back seams are also markers. Next we pin the elastic to the fabric, lining up the quarter markings.
All pinned. To now it’s been easy. At this point the other tutorials say, “and just stitch together”. But for me it is not like that. It is a battle between the elastic, me and the sewing machine. I don’t know what magical techniques people are using for this, but I will post pictures of how I do it below.
My left hand holds the fabric and elastic behind the presser foot. This is to provide counter-traction for my right hand, which is pulling the elastic straight. The thing that has made this whole process easier for me is my new sewing machine. It is a Husqvarna Viking, and you can lower the presser foot with the foot pedal.
Then you sew each quarter at a time, checking that you are sewing through the fabric laying beneath your elastic, and keeping the elastic stretched. If I stop paying attention I tend to lose the fabric, and I have to stop and unpick. I have an example of what I mean later. Finally I overlock over what I have just stitched. Some people can do the entire process on their overlocker. I am not one of them. Here is the finished object.
Now, things get harder as the piece of fabric grows in length, compared to the elastic. And when this happens, I have a little cheat I use to help me get it done. Sometimes the elastic won’t have enough stretch. In which case, you need to make a change to the fabric. You start as before.
You will mark quarters as you did last time. The pins are there, in the above picture. Next, in the middle of each quarter of the fabric, make a little pleat or gather. You usually just need little ones, as they add up to take a reasonable length off. In my case, probably a total of 12cm.
I just pin my pleats, but you can baste them if you feel like it, or aren’t happy sewing over pins. Then you play the stretchy-stretchy game again and sew the elastic to the fabric. It will be easier with the pleats than without. And while you may be able to notice them afterwards, they are usually camouflaged in the gathers.
Now earlier I mentioned how I miss the fabric while stitching the elastic on. Here is what I mean.
This pisses me off no end. Fortunately I tend to notice right away. So I stop sewing and unpick the stitches, before resuming. This happens because it is difficult to control the feed of the fabric while both hands are trying to stretch out the elastic.
So there’s the end result! I know you are checking out that jumbo rick rack. Well, it is going to appear in a post on trims. Eventually.
Other things to note:
- If you know a better method, please share. I might be getting better at this but I still hate it.
- Reminder, for those who are nifty with their overlocker/serger, you can use that instead of sewing.
- It gets better with practise, it really does. And if it seems impossible to stretch the elastic far enough, make little pleats, and save yourself tears.