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How to sew the perfect waistband

Full skirts and their infinite variations can be the quickest and most satisfying sewing project, whip-uppable in under an hour. That is, once you've mastered the basics that make up a skirt's skeleton, namely inserting an invisible zipper which we've already covered here, and attaching a waistband. The following tutorial covers two ways to make a perfect waistband.

Basic waistband

This super basic waistband simply serves to finish and neaten the topline of a skirt by enclosing its raw edge. This waistband is best suited for a centre back closure as it meets perfectly at the ends, to be fastened with a hook & eye.

1. Cut a length of fabric that equals your waistline measurement + 3cm seam allowance (1.5cm at each end). Make sure you cut the fabric on the straight to avoid the fibres stretching. An easy way to be sure you are cutting on the straight is by checking that the individual threads that make up the fabric are at a right angle to your cutting lines.

TIP: Try experimenting with the width of your waistband to create a different look.

2. With right sides together, fold the length of fabric in half lengthways. Stitch each end remembering to backstitch and leaving 1.5cm seam allowance. Trim excess seam allowance with pinking shears.

3. Turn your waistband to the right side and press fold and seams. Hand sew a hook & eye at each end to fasten the waistband. It is now ready to attach to a skirt (see below)!

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Flap waistband

Similar to the basic waistband, but with a little flap fastening. Best suited to a side seam closure to avoid asymmetry at the centre back.

1. Cut a length of fabric that equals your waistline measurement + 3cm flap + 3cm seam allowance (1.5cm at each end). As above, make sure that you cut your fabric on the straight.

2. With right sides together, fold the length of fabric in half lengthways. Stitch one end completely, leaving 1.5cm seam allowance, and the other end in a reverse "L" shape as shown - leaving 1.5cm seam allowance all round and stitching 3cm in towards the centre of your waistband.

3. Turn your waistband to the right side and press fold and seams. Hand sew a hook & eye to the flap to fasten the waistband. It is now ready to attach to a skirt (see below)!

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Attaching the waistband to your skirt

There are quite a few different ways to attach a waistband to a skirt. The easiest of which is to simply pin the raw, open length of the band to the right side of the skirt's waistline and machine stitch into place. While this technique is perfectly acceptable, we are always slightly irked by the messy exposed seam on the inside... If like us, you like to finish things a little more flawlessly, we recommend first machine stitching one of the raw edges to the right side of the skirt's waistline (fig. 1), then folding the waistband over (fig. 2) and blind stitching the inside edge (fig. 3). This gives a flawless finish and perfectly ensconces the topline of the skirt.

Comments on this post (21)

  • May 30, 2018

    Hi Bessita,

    Because the circle skirt you have cut is designed to have an elasticated waist, the waistline will be larger than your natural waistline in order for the elastic to stretch out and in – if that makes sense?!

    In order to make a circle skirt without the elastic waist, you will need to draft a circle skirt to your waist measurement without the extra ease factored in for the elastic. You can try out our circle skirt calculator here – https://byhandlondon.com/pages/circle-skirt-app – and then attach the waistband as outlined here in this post.

    I hope this helps!

    Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • May 30, 2018

    Hi Kayla,

    I’m afraid that poly crepe is always going to be tricky when it comes to getting a crispy pressed edge – it just won’t want to stay! If I were you, I would try interfacing the waistband with a lightweight woven fusible interfacing first. That will help to keep the poly crepe fabric from shifting about and will help the creases stay put when you press the seam.

    I hope this helps!

    Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • May 30, 2018

    Hi Dawn, Victoria and Emily!

    The secret to waistbands that do not twist, warp or flop over is fusible woven interfacing. Specifically woven interfacing here – the paper-like kind will feel crispy and stiff and “bubble” as Dawn said… Dawn – you could also interline (as opposed to interface) to give the structure without the stick, if that makes sense!

    Hope this helps!

    Elisalex

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • May 30, 2018

    When I attach a waistband it starts to twist and warp as I get closer to the end. Any tips??

    — Victoria Smith

  • May 30, 2018

    Before I start this project, I need to talk to someone about the past. In the past I made three circle skirts and they all had the same problem. The measurements I used were never able to give me a proper fit. Each time the skirt was tooooo big! So my conclusion is that my numbers were off but it could also be that I was mix matching the waistband ideas. The instructions for my full circle skirt was with an exposed elastic waistband. I didn’t like the thought of an exposed elastic waistband so I went with a fabric waistband and zipper. Everytime I cut out my waistband and attempted to pin it to the waist of the skirt it never reached around to create a circle there was always a gap which led me to needing to cut a seam in my circle skirt to eliminate the gappage at the waist. If anyone knows what I’m doing wrong please tell me because it’s killing me to put a seam in my beautiful fabric, I don’t mind adding a 7 inch zipper seam but I don’t want a full seam because of the gappage. PLEASE SOMEONE HELP!

    — Bessita

  • May 14, 2018

    Amazingly great and simple. thanks

    — kandy

  • May 30, 2018

    Thank you so much for the wonderful tutorial! The first waistband I made on some pants looks acceptable, but raw edges poking out everywhere and I had to trim the flyaways before wearing!

    One question, I found it tricky to fold over the inside edge of the waistband before stitching. It came out wavy, and my polyester crepe fabric doesn’t like to stay folded. Did you press the seam before stitching?

    — Kayla

  • May 30, 2018

    Hi there, I make circle skirts and I am fed up with the poor results you get with normal interfacing, with bubbling on the waistband. I assume that this is to do with the interfacing lifting. Is there another method?

    Thank you

    Dawn

    — Dawn Stansfield

  • May 30, 2018

    Hi! Thanks for your tutorial! I have tried multiple times making a waistband onto my skirts, but I always run into the problem that the top of the waistband flops over? It was measured and sewn to my waist length, but I can’t seem to get it to not be floppy. (Hope this makes sense). Any suggestions for a novice sewer?

    Thanks!

    — Emily

  • Apr 01, 2016

    If you are taller and hoping to make a full circle maxi skirt, I’ve found that large flat sheets can be excellent sources of fabric.

    Love the tutorial though!

    — Wendy

  • Aug 12, 2015

    Thanks for the great tutorial, my first try was not perfect result, but I m about to try again , I d like to make both maxi half and a quarter circle skirt but the app tells me that no enough fabric for both, can I join two fabris togather by selvedges to get enough fabrics? Thanks

    — Islam

  • Apr 08, 2015

    Thank you for this tutorial. it saved a skirt that I thought I’d messed up. thanks again ?

    — Zoe

  • Jun 12, 2014

    Great tutorial, helped immensely with the first garment-quality skirt I’ve ever made. One complaint, though- on the calculator I was told that my waist size was too big to make a full or even half circle skirt, but I’ve managed a full quite well when done in four pieces rather than two. I followed the instructions for the quarter circle skirt (thinking it would end up being a full circle skirt in four pieces) and wasted quite a bit of fabric. Not that you’re to blame for that, but I do wish the instructions had been clearer. The waistband tutorial has been a lifesaver, too. Thanks a million.

    — Madeline

  • Apr 10, 2014

    Am loving it. I love your no messging around method.

    Great post

    — anthony

  • Feb 27, 2014

    Awwww shux Liesl…. Thanks so much! Glad to be of help :)

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Feb 17, 2014

    You are so freakin amazing. Just made my first skirt – pattern required petersham ribbon which is unavailable in the country I live – and I needed to do a waistband. You are a genius. My skirt looks so professional! Thanks a million!!!!

    — liesl

  • Jun 26, 2013

    Great post. Working on mine now!

    — Name *

  • Dec 26, 2012

    I have one question, and it might be a silly one. Can you attach the waistband before the skirt, and then make the zip go through the waistband too, so that you don’t need a hook and eye?

    — Kieran

  • Dec 26, 2012

    Wait, that first sentence should read “can you attach the waistband before the ZIP”

    — Kieran

  • Jan 10, 2013

    Absolutely! You’ll need to omit that little extra flap though and make the waistband your exact waist measurement (plus sea allowance of course) and then stitch it to the skirt before inserting the invisible zipper. Would make for a very sleek, clean look! Hope this helps! x

    — byhandlondon

  • Nov 23, 2012

    fantastic tutorials, thank you.

    — sophie

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