This technique for how to sew a waistband involves pinning and sewing in the ditch. You can use it for almost any type of waistband.

Sewing a waistband speeds along — until you get to the final step of blind stitching by hand the inner waistband to the pants or skirt. Hand stitching isn’t hard, but it’s certainly not fast, either.

Keep reading to learn a hand-stitching-free technique for sewing a waistband. It’s quicker than hand sewing and produces a tidy result, inside and out!

Which Waistbands Work Best?

This waistband-sewing technique works for:

  • Curved waistbands
  • Straight waistbands
  • Cased-elastic waistbands

This won’t work for waistbands that are a piece of elastic sewn TO the skirt or pants. In these cases, the elastic becomes the waistband OR the elastic is sewn to the right side, folded to the wrong side, and (usually) stitched down from the right side. (My Made 2 Measure leggings are like this.)

This also won’t work for yoga-style waistband, which is a band of fabric sewn to the top edge of the skirt/pants.

This *should* work for any waistband or casing that’s a separate pattern piece. If you can think of another type of waistband that won’t work for this technique, please let me know in the comments.

What You’ll Need

Gather up this stuff for waistband-sewing success:

  • Waistband pattern piece (one or two pieces)
  • Iron (ICYMI, here’s the Sie Macht iron buying guide)
  • Clapper: Not necessary, but a hardwood clapper gives sharp edges when pressing. My clapper is a building block I borrowed from my sons. (You can see how I use the clapper in the video.)
  • Press cloth: Recommended, but not necessary. I like a transparent press cloth; mine is silk organza.
  • Ruler or hem gauge
  • Not-too-delicate straight pins

How to Sew a Waistband

Here’s the video version of this tutorial; it’s about 11 minutes:

1.) Interface the waistband (if necessary).

The directions will give you guidance on interfacing; check whether the interfacing should go all the way to the edge of the pattern piece. If the fashion fabric is particularly heavy, you may want avoid interfacing in the seam allowances.

2.) Sew together the long, right sides of the inner and outer waistband pieces.

Gently press wrong sides together. You may want to ever-so-slightly (less than 1/16 inch) roll the inner waistband to the to inside so it won’t show from the outside.

Press together the long, wrong sides of the waistband.

If the waistband is one piece, press it the long way, wrong sides together (see above).

3.) Press up the seam allowance on the inner waistband piece.

A hem gauge helps to press up the inner waistband seam allowance.

This would be wrong side to wrong side on the long side of the inner waistband.

4.) Sew the outer waistband to the pants/skirt, right sides together.

Right sides together, sew the outer waistband to the skirt/pants.

Match all notches and whatnot, and mind the seam allowance. The finished height of the waistband should be consistent for a professional finish.

Press the seam allowance toward the waistband.

Press the waistband and seam allowance up, away from the pants/skirt.

5.) Flip the inner waistband to the inside, and align the pressed-up-seam-allowance fold with the line of stitching.

Align the fold of the inner waistband seam allowance with the line of stitching on the front.

The fold should be slightly (1/16-1/8 inch) overlapping the stitching line that connects the outer waistband to the pants/skirt.

6.) From the front, pin the seam allowance fold in place in the ditch.

Place pins in the ditch, catching the seam allowance fold on the inside of the pants/skirt.

In this step, you pin through several layers of fabric and interfacing; that’s why you need strong(er) pins.

Rely on your fingers to tell you whether you’re catching the fold through the ditch. Check your pinning often to ensure the inner waistband isn’t twisted and that you’re pinning an equal amount of fold.

7.) Stitch in the ditch or topstitch above the seam.

Stitch in the ditch on the front, catching the seam allowance fold on the inside of the pants/skirt.

This step is the secret to avoiding hand sewing!

If you’re stitching in the ditch, use a thread that matches the fashion fabric; that way, your stitches will look invisible. (I’m using contrasting thread so it’s easier to see the work.) I recommend a stitch-in-the-ditch foot (NOT pictured; that’s a zigzag foot). Take your time, and pull the seam apart a tiny bit to ensure you stitches land smack dab in the center.

If you’re sewing a casing, leave an opening for the elastic. After you snake in the elastic, finish sewing down the inner waistband.

8.) Give the waistband a final press and admire your work.

The ditch stitching on the front catches the seam allowance fold on the inside of the skirt or pants.

Because the inner seam allowance is neatly secured with pins in the ditch, you’re guaranteed to grab the fold with the line of stitching. No more missing the inner waistband! No more hand sewing!

What’s more, the inside of the waistband will be pretty to look at, too (see above — isn’t that neat as can be?).

And that’s how I sew a waistband. It works swell for me, and I hope it works for you as well.

Over to you: What’s your favorite way to sew a waistband? Which parts of this technique do you find confusing? What else would you add? Please let us know in comments!

P.S. Here’s the previous post, in case you missed it: Try This 1 Simple Trick Today to Fire Up Your Sewjo.

P.P.S. If you like this tutorial, you might get down with these, too:

Tracing Sewing Patterns: How I Attack My Least Favorite Sewing Task
Sewing Pants That Fit: A 3-Part Series
How to press scuba knit and more: Tips for working with scuba fabric

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Skirt photo by Nastya Petrova on Unsplash