Friday, June 15, 2012

Favorite Serger Shortcut #1: Waistbands

I used to sew a little bit from time to time. But frustration with certain aspects or techniques made sewing less than enjoyable, and I didn't pursue it much. That changed when I bought a serger (overlock machine). With a serger, I can use shortcuts to avoid some of the most annoying parts; for me, those include waistbands and hems.

Many sewing patterns instruct you to use the "stitch in the ditch" method of attaching a waistband. This involves interfacing, measuring, folding, ironing, clipping, pinning... well, that's about six steps too many for me. Then there's the annoying process of sewing blindly while hoping that you're catching all the fabric layers correctly (while almost certainly NOT catching all the layers). I hate stitch in the ditch.

The serger shortcut saves me time and an enormous amount of frustration. The steps below show an elastic waistband in a casing. With minor modifications, you can also use this shortcut for a zipper waistband.

First, cut out the waistband according to the pattern. If desired, serge each end to prevent fraying. Place the ends with right sides together, and stitch just past the fold line (center). Leave an opening of about 1" for the elastic. Stitch the rest of the way. Be sure to backstitch at the start and end of each line of stitches so that your seam is sturdy.

Fold the waistband (now a loop) lengthwise along the fold line, wrong sides together. Press if desired.

Pin the waistband to the skirt, right sides together. (The side of the waistband with the elastic opening is the "wrong" side.) Because I'm a menace with pins and inevitably stab myself, I use as few as possible - usually just four. Here I have one at each side seam, one at front center and one at back center.

With your regular sewing machine, baste the waistband to the skirt. If you used more pins in the previous step and/or you're confident in your serger skills, you can skip this step.

Serge the waistband to the skirt. I line the fabric up so that the serger knife is just a hair to the left of the basting. This will ensure all the basting stitches are cut off, leaving a nice neat seam.

On the outside, the waistband looks very tidy, with no visible stitches.

Run the elastic through the opening and stitch the ends together. Done!


  1. Sounds like a very fast method but doesn't the serger seam scrape at the belly?

    1. Hmmm... I've not had that happen. I suppose it could be a problem if the waistband were really tight, but the too-tight elastic would likely be the bigger issue in that case. A zipper waistband might fit tight, but when I modify this method for a zipper waistband, the serger seam is covered. (I'll show this in a later post.)