Two techniques for sewing a flawless waistband

I’ve been teasing my secret pattern testing project here on the blog and on social media- I’ve been testing a new, yet to be released sewing pattern for one of my favorite Indie brands. I can’t give a full pattern review yet, or anything more than sneak peeks!

I can still share some useful tips, though - today I’ll walk you through 2 easy techniques to make your waistbands look flawless and wear well. These two techniques for sewing a flawless waistband can be used on pants, jeans or skirts - with or without belt loops.

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A well-crafted waistband should sit comfortably on your body, hugging gently inward. It should not gap or roll.

A waistband is typically constructed of 2 - 4 pieces. Some waistbands have a center back seam, and some do not. Either way, there will be the outer waistband piece and the inner waistband piece.

The outer waistband will be interfaced, so that it has more structure and body. This helps it keep it’s shape and prevents it from bagging or wrinkling. It also helps support the weight of the pants or skirt attached, as well as providing a stable base to hold your belt loops.

The inner waistband is more like a facing or lining. It’s typically constructed of the same fabric as the outer waistband, but it’s not interfaced. This makes it softer and easier to manipulate, as well as more comfortable since it’s touching the body.

The two techniques I’m going to go over today are called seam grading and understitching.

Seam Grading

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Seam grading is done after you have sewn the front waistband to the back waistband at the top edge. This edge will be the top of your waistband - it’s where the waistband folds. The outer waistband will be sewn to the pants, and then inner waistband will usually be hand stitched down to the inside.

The purpose of seam grading is to both reduce bulk at the seam, and to allow the inner waistband to roll under slightly, hiding the seam line. This creates a neater, more professional appearance.

Grading a seam is quite easy to do. After you sew the two pieces together, trim your seam to about ⅜ inch with your shears. Then, trim the seam allowance of the inner waistband to ¼ inch - slightly shorter than the seam allowance of the outer waistband.

Then you will fold the waistband over, so the seam allowances are inside. Use your iron to press the seam, using your fingers to gently roll the seam inwards.

Understitching

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Understitching is the next step. This further anchors the waistband slightly to the inside, making sure that the waistband won’t roll and the inner waistband won’t pull up. It also reinforces and strengthens the waistband.

After you have pressed the seam, open the waistband back up. Stitch ⅛ of an inch from the seamline on the inner waistband, catching both of the seam allowances in the stitching as you go. Start and stop about 1” from either end of the waistband, so that when you sew the ends together after attaching the waistband to the pants, you will not have a fold in the seam.

Here is a photo of how a finished waistband will look with both techniques - notice that the stitching line is gently rolled inside, and the understitching is ⅛ below it.

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Both of these techniques are standard and easy to master. You can practice them on a “mock” waistband - just cut rectangles of fabric, interface one, and sew them together to practice.

Also, these techniques are not just for waistbands. You can clip and grade all seams to help reduce bulk and create a neater seam - anywhere you are using a lining, at the collar, plackets, cuffs, and armholes of garments.

The same goes for understitching - it is very useful for keeping pocket linings in place, as well as arm hole and neck hole linings and facings.

Grading seams and understitching are two techniques you should definitley have in your toolkit! Mastering these skills will give you professional looking results, every time. Fabric is a very alive and malleable tool, and you will soon learn that it has a life of it's own as you sew more types. Each type of fabric has it's own little quirks and tricks. Some roll easily, some are stiff. Some press well, some are floppy and slippery. It's important to practice your sewing techniques on different types of fabrics.

A good way to do this is to make several of the mock waistbands to practice on - use different types of fabrics so you get a feeling for how each one behaves. 

I’ll post some short videos of how these techniques are done this week on my Facebook page, so keep an eye out there as well! I’ll link back here as I create them.

If you’d like more clarification, or have questions of any kind, leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you!