Today I have a quick tutorial on how I make waistbands smaller quickly and attractively. I started using this method for ready-to-wear clothing that has the elastic stitched down. It works most of the time when you find yourself with pants (handmade or ready-to-wear) that need a smaller waist but for whatever reason you do not want to adjust the existing elastic. Or make other permanent changes.
It might be due to all the work to remove and replace a waistband neatly on a cheap pair of pants (me!) or you don’t want to permanently alter the pants from their actual size for when the pants get handed down.
Both of my kids get longer faster than they get wider and that means they will outgrow the length on pants long before they come close to the pants staying up on their own. At least in the case of pants without adjustable waists. I’m not going to invest large amounts of time to properly tailor a pair of casual pants that I bought on clearance or down to us.
In a pinch, I’ve stretched a piece of elastic across the back of a pair of pants and used a zigzag stitch to keep it in place. It takes a few minutes, does not look very pretty, but it works when you realized the shorts do not fit your kid and you are running out the door.
The nicer looking method I’m about to show you takes a bit longer but not too much. When I made this tutorial it took me 30 minutes to adjust 3 pairs of pants while taking time to take pictures along the way.
Pants, shorts, or other bottoms
Elastic (see note about width in tutorial)
Plus the usual stuff like scissors, ruler, pins, sewing machine, etc.
Step 1: Measure the width and height of the waistband of the pants while they are laying flat.
Step 2: Add 1/2″ to both the width and height you measured, then cut a piece of scrap fabric to those dimensions.
Step 3: Fold the fabric 1/4″ towards the wrong side on each side of the strip and press. Stitch the two folds in place.
Step 4: Fold the fabric 1/4″ towards the wrong side and press, on both the top and bottom of the strip. There is no need to stitch.
Step 5: Right side up, center and pin the strip in place on the interior back of the waistband. Stitch along the top and bottom of the strip. Be sure to backstitch at the start and end. In order to give the casing as much room as possible for the elastic I stitched as close to the edge as I could get.
Step 6: Thread the appropriately sized elastic through the casing leaving the tail right at the start of the casing. Stitch that side in place, backstitching a couple of times, and making sure you catch the elastic really well.
I’m vague about the elastic width because you will pretty much want as wide as possible so it will pull the waistband in as needed but not so wide that you can not thread it through the casing. Since waistband heights vary, I can’t predict what size you will need.
Since elastic edges can fray over time you can zigzag over the edge or use a bit of something like fray check.
Step 7: I used a pair of Pen’s pants that fit as a guide when pulling the elastic to the right size. Once I thought it was suitable, I pinned the elastic in place and tried the pants on Pen. After everything checks out stitch that end in place like you did at the start of the casing. Make sure you catch the elastic and backstitch a few times.
Step 8: Voila! Pants that will stay up!
Big difference don’t you think?