Hey stitchers! I’m back for my third and final post this month on the CSC, on pants construction! Today we’re making up our waistband with my absolute favorite method!
Don’t waistbands seem kind of annoying? You’ve worked so hard on your trousers – installing pockets, maybe a perfectly fitted series of darts and a gorgeous topstitched back yoke. Then you’ve gotta mess with this fiddly waistband. Your mind flashes back to ripples, and bulges, and all those other irritating bits and bobs that can seriously cramp your style!
Well – never fear! I am hear to share a great method for either casual or dressy trousers.
Now before I start, a little background. There are essentially three different waistband approaches for a pair of jeans or trousers:
One, a straight waistband – the most common kind (as demonstrated by the linen trousers in my “Gimme Some Slack!” sew-along); Two, a contoured waistband (the Vado block I adore is fitted with a contoured waistband; so do many other stretch jean patterns and most women’s stretch jeans in RTW); Three – the method I generally favor and what I will show here – a crossgrain, steamed-curve waistband.
The theory of a steamed crossgrain waistband is simple. If you cut a waistband piece directly on the crossgrain, you will be able to steam-stretch the band into a curve. When you apply the waistband, right along the seamline you are following over one woven thread! This results in a waistband that has a wonderful curve at the hip, with less bulk than a contoured piece. Being on-grain, it does not ripple and will lie beautifully! This has worked on every trouser I’ve made, since I was taught this technique (I learned it from Kenneth D. King).
For this method I cut the waistband and facing last, after I’ve finished the trouser and without using the pattern pieces. I cut the band long (not according to pattern size). The use of a facing both reduces bulk at the seam but more importantly, adds some interest to the inside of the trouser. (I like the insides of my pants looking and feeling as lovely as the public side of my pants!)
So – ready? Let’s go!
I convert the waistband to a faced version (I show you the method below) and essentially ignore the pattern piece entirely. I cut the waistband and facing at least five inches longer than the total circumference of the jean from overlap, around the waistband seam, and to the underlap. If you have larger hips/waist and your fabric is too narrow for this – never fear! You can simply piece the waistband and facing, using a vertical seam, before you get to steam-stretching. Just make sure all your waistband and facing pieces are cut with the waistband seamline along the crossgrain. In fact, piecing a facing is a great scrap-busting way to get all your mileage out of a beloved piece of fabric, like I did with this wonderful Japanese import linen print (you can see the pieced seam at the lower right of the photo):
Now, if the pattern’s waistband is one-piece to be folded (with the folded side at the top edge of the jean), I convert it to a facing and waistband piece of equal width.
In the black velveteen trouser, the pattern used very thin waistband (a finished width of 5/8″); with 3/8″ seam allowances this accounted for a waistband and facing strip both 1 3/8″ wide:
And finally, I tear the waistband and facing, instead of cutting them – this ensures the strips are precisely on the crossgrain. Some fabrics tear easier than others; don’t sweat it if you can’t tear your waistband and/or facing, but be sure to cut it directly on grain.
Now, here’s the fun part!
Take your waistband and facing piece to the ironing board, and start steaming each strip into a curve. “Pull it like you’re falling off a cliff,” as Mr. King says. Pull and steam, patiently and firmly – being sure not to burn your fingers. You will be amazed how much curvature you get out of these crossgrain pieces!
Now, pin the waistband and facing pieces right-sides together, matching the center of each long strip. You are going to be sewing the concave sides of the curved pieces together.
Grade this seam, leaving the waistband seam allowance wider. Next, either steam or finger-press this seam open with the seam allowances directed under the facing size. Understitch, about 1/8″ from the seam:
Now, the waistband will beautifully fold in half!
Shown below: the awesome curve from steaming (Ignore the pressed-up facing seam allowance). Notice also, this is a pieced waistband; if I recall, these particular jeans were made from selvedge denim which is very narrow.
Go ahead and pin the raw edge of the waistband to the top of the pant, right-sides together. Stitch, starting and finishing the seam with a long basting stitch (at least 3″ from the underlap and overlap edge). And here is a bit of a tricky part.
You want to close up your pant front, and gently tug the waistband up. You want your waistbands to match, right at this closure. If they don’t, remove basting stitches from one side (or both) and adjust. Make sure you have a perfect seam before stitching over your basting.
Here’s another photo (a trouser in an oatmeal linen) – same principle. I am checking the waistband seam edge to make sure the waistband lines up:
Now that you’ve finished this seam, gently steam-press your waistband, seam allowances up to the top of the jean.
Time to get that short edge finished!
Flip the waistband so it is inside out. I use a ruler and chalk to extend a line from the edge of the over- or underlap, up to the top edge of the waistband. Shown below, with the facing waist seam allowance not yet folded up:
Finally, I fold up the facing seam allowance and pin. You want that fold right on top of the waistband seam:
Now stitch this seam! Again, make sure not to knot up your threads at this seam. I like to start about 1/3 of the way in, and carefully backstitch, then continue. You want a nice, firm stitch here.
As you can see above, I’ve clipped and graded this steam, before turning. Be sure to not over-clip here, though. You want a bit of fabric to help fill out the turned edge.
Next, you’re going to pinch the seam allowance to the inside facing, and turn the waistband right-side out. By carefully folding the seam allowance into the corner before flipping, you resist any unsightly bulges. (For sewing nerds – you can see this process in some detail here at the blog “Notes from a Mad Housewife“, and of course David Coffin’s Seamwork article from last summer has some excellent points on fold-then-turn method.)
Use a bone folder or similar tool to gently push out the corner, and smooth your folded seam allowance, to your satisfaction.
Now all that remains to be done, is to finish up the inside seam!
I have to be honest – this is where I love to handstitch. Handstitching leads to the best control in this process. First, pin the facing seam allowance loosely; you’ll be stitching right on the seam line.
You can either whip- or slipstitch here, adjusting the facing seam allowance as you go. I like the whip stitch, even though it is more visible. I just like how it looks! A couple of examples:
But you can also machine-finish this seam, if you like. You can either stitch in the ditch (as I will demonstrate), or make a topstitched band.
In this latter case, since you will be machine-stitching from the right side, you need to first very carefully set your folded facing edge, just about 1/8″ over that seam line (if you are topstitching in the waistband proper, make sure this stitch will catch the facing’s seam allowance). You can then secure the folded edge with a glue stick, with Steam-A-Seam Lite 2 (or a similar whisper-weight double-sided fusible strip), or with pins.
Stitch from the topside of the garment, leaving long tails at the beginning and end of this steam to then knot and hide in the garment. Below, two examples:
And – you did it!
Time to put that last buttonhole in, and call your jeans good!
Any questions? Lay ’em on me! I hope you enjoy sewing up your jeans, as much as I do!