How gorgeous is the paperbag waistband version of Opal?! It’s still my favourite comfy elastic waistband, but with a bit of added flare! I think it’s a detail that looks great in both a casual pair of linen shorts, or dressed up in something like a cotton sateen tapered pant that I could wear out to dinner! (i.e. when elastic waistbands come in handy). And you know what the best part is, it’s still super easy! Only a few extra steps compared to the standard waistband. So that’s what we’re covering in today’s post. Ready to get going?
First things first, when you cut out your waistband pieces, you need to mark the stitch lines that are on the pattern, onto the right side of your fabric by your preferred method such as tailor’s chalk, disappearing pen, or tailors tacks. The lines are 2″ (5cm) in from each long edge of the band. If these markings come off later, it’s not the end of the world, we can always measure in from the folded edge as we are sewing, but having a nice line to follow can be helpful.
For a crisp structured finish to your paperbag waistband, especially if you are using a soft fabric that drapes well, you might consider attaching a strip of lightweight fusible interfacing down the center of your waistband, between the stitch line markings on the wrong side of your fabric. This will help your paperbag edge to stand to attention more, instead of being a bit floppy. But it’s up to you! As you’ll see in the following pictures, I decided not to add the interfacing, as I liked the feel of my fabric as it was. If you do choose to add the interfacing, just be sure only to add the interfacing in between the markings and not outside, as you don’t want to add unnecessary bulk to your elastic casing.
So, next thing is to place the waistband pieces with right sides together, aligning the short edges and pinning in place if needed.
Sew 5/8” (1.5cm) from the edge along the side seams of the waistband. To distribute the bulk of the seam allowances in later seams, it’s best to press the seams open.
Now you have your waistband tube ready, fold in 5/8” (1.5cm) along one edge to the wrong side of the fabric & press.
Now time to join your waistband to your pants! Start with your garment turned out the right way.
Place the paperbag waistband over your pants/shorts with right sides together, and so that the raw edge of the waistband lines up with the raw edge of the waist. Align the waistband seams with the side seams of your garment and match the waistband notches with the centre front and centre back seams of your pants/shorts. Pin around the whole waist to hold everything in place.
You can now sew 5/8” (1.5cm) from the raw edge around the whole waist. If your fabric is thick, and you are worried about the seam allowances adding bulk to your elastic casing, you can trim it back at this point, before it is all encased.
Press the waistband and seam allowance upwards.
Now take the remaining top edge of the waistband and fold it down into the inside of the garment. The folded edge should line up with the waist seam stitch lines and all the raw edges should now be enclosed.
Press in place and pin to keep the folded edge in position.
Now it’s time to sew 1/8” (3mm) from the waistline seam on the right side of the waistband, or stitch in the ditch, to secure the folded edge we just pinned in place. When sewing on the right side of the fabric, it is hard to tell if you’re catching the edge in your stitching on the inside of the garment, so it’s sometimes good to start sewing for a section, put your needle down, lift your foot, and check the underside – just to make sure you’re on the right track.
Stop stitching approximately 2″ (5cm) before your initial starting point. This gap will be were we thread the elastic through.
Up until now, these instructions have basically been the same as the standard waistband, but here is where our paperbag’s paperbag-ness happens! Sew directly through the stitch line which we marked at the start, around the entire circumference of the waistband. This line of stitching creates the top edge of the elastic casing and the bottom of the paperbag ruffle.
If you chose to omit markings or they are no longer visible you can simply remark or sew 1 5/8” (4cm) down from the top folded edge of the paperbag waistband to create the casing, which should be 1 3/8″ (3.5cm) wide.
Now time to cut your elastic! You can simply check the suggested length on the pattern’s fabric requirements chart to get the amount you need, but it’s always a good idea to check the length on your body before you cut it, just to be sure. If you have a piece of elastic longer than you need, mark the suggested length before holding the elastic around you where the waistband is going to sit.
Overlap the end of the elastic with your marking by 1/2″ (1.3cm), and see how it feels. Is it tight enough to keep your pants up? Is it loose enough so as not to dig in and be uncomfortable? If your hips tend to be a larger size than your waist, and you’ve cut out the larger size that aligns with your hip measurement, you can simply use the elastic measurement of your waist size, so the waistband will just be drawn in to be the correct size for you. It’s always important to check in this situation though, that the elastic is going to stretch enough to fit over your bottom – you don’t want to try your pants on for the first time, only to find out you can’t get them up!
Attach an elastic threading tool or even just a safety pin to one end of the elastic, and start to thread it through the gap in your waistband. As you thread, and work the elastic through the band, make sure not to lose the other end! One trick is to safety pin the loose end to the garment, so it can’t escape! If your fabric is grippy, it can be a little tricky, and sometimes you can get stuck in the folds of the seam allowances, but take your time and you’ll get there.
When you get all the way around, double-check there aren’t any twists in the elastic before overlapping the ends by 1/2″ (1.3cm), and pinning them together. If you want to check the elastic for comfort again, you can try your pants on for the first time now!
When you’re happy that the elastic is right, you can stitch the ends together. I use a zig-zag stitch, and I go back and forth a couple of times to make sure the join is nice and strong.
It’s time now to close the gap in your waistband casing by sewing 1/8” (3mm) from the waistline seam or stitching in the ditch on the right side of the fabric, again, ensuring that you sew through the folded inside edge of the waistband and that everything gets secured.
Stretch the waistband to its maximum a few times and wiggle things around to evenly distribute the elastic and waistband fabric.
Before you sew the tops of your belt loops down, if you chose to add them, there are a couple of optional methods you can use to do to prevent your elastic from twisting or curling during use. The first option is to do a small line of straight stitches, right into the ditch of the waistband side seams. This won’t affect the stretch, but will just stop the elastic from being able to turn. The other method, which I used, is to secure the elastic even further by stitching through the center of the waistband, all the way around. To do this, set your stitch length a little longer, and stretch the waistband to its maximum as you sew so that the fabric is laying flat. This is a great way to ensure your pant’s gathers stay evenly distributed at all times and that your elastic can’t even think of twisting!
With all the stretching you just did, give the waistband a little bit of a spray with water and press with an iron or steam iron. This will just neaten the waistband and help the elastic to recover, getting it back into its original shape.
If you chose to add belt loops to your garment, now is the time to flip them up, fold in the top edge by roughly 1/4” (6mm) and align this folded edge with the waistband edge. Pin them in place before topstitching to secure. With all the fabric layers, it can get a little thick, but take your time and use your machine’s handwheel to manually get through if needed. Also, it’s ok if your elastic is caught in this stitching.
And that’s the paperbag waistband all wrapped up! We’re so close to finishing now, just the hemming to go – are you excited to start wearing your new pants?!
// Looking for more Opal posts? //
- Inspiration and Ideas
- Tester Round-Up
- How to Lengthen Or Shorten the Pants
- Inseam Pockets
- Patch Pockets (back pockets and front patch pockets)
- Seams (crotch seam, inseam, side seams)
- Belt Loops and Belt
- Waistband (B & D standard elastic waist)
- Paperbag Waistband (A & C) (this post!)
- Bonus Hack – Cargo Side Pockets
- Bonus Hack – Drawstring Waistband
- Bonus Hack – Elastic Hem Joggers
- Opal Hack Ideas