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10 Simple Serger Elastic Waistband (7pages)

10 Simple Serger Elastic Waistband (7pages)

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Published by Yvette Peterson

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Published by: Yvette Peterson on May 11, 2013
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Simple Serger Elastic Waistband

This file gives directions for making an elastic waistband in a skirt or shorts the way that Ì would do
it if Ì were sewing for myself. Once you become used to the process it's a fast and easy way to
finish a casual waistband. One usually wears an untucked top over this style of waistband.
This technique is best tried by someone who is moderately familiar and skilled with a serger, simply
because there are many factors that you're thinking about as you are serging along. That's not so
bad, unless in the mental fray you forget to keep your fingers away from the blade and needle.
That is why it would be best to be somewhat comfortable with your serger before trying this.
Also, this waistband is not done completely at the serger; it relies on the regular sewing machine
for the finishing step of topstitching the waistband into place.
For the sake of clarity in the photos Ì
have omitted my usual first step, which
is to sew the skirt side seams, making
the skirt into a fabric tube. Ìt was easier
to photograph this process with my
sample being flat, but usually Ì'm
working with a circle.
Ì also use coordinating thread, not
contrasting as shown in the photos.
Ì don't use any pins, but Ì do rely on a
few strategic markings to help me keep
things lined up properly. The elastic is
already cut to size, and as you can see,
it will have to stretch to take in the entire
length of fabric.
Ì like to use whatever marking tool will show well on my
elastic and my fabric, which may well be two different
tools, of course. Ì make "quarter¨ marks, dividing the
elastic into fourths and also dividing the fabric into
fourths. These will be my match-points when Ì'm
Ì fold, reposition, fold again to find the four
places to put my quarter marks. Ì don't
bother with a ruler for this.
My sample fabric here doesn't have a right
or wrong side, but Ì am making my marks
on the wrong side of the fabric so that Ì will
be able to see them while Ì'm serging.
Here you see the marks in place. The
center ones are lined up, but the others
don't match up because the elastic is
smaller than the fabric.
The elastic must be stretched in order to
get these marks to line up, which is
exactly what Ì do at the serger.
What happens if Ì try to wing it, serging
the elastic on without having marks to
guide me? Ì probably won't stretch my
elastic evenly all along, so in the finished
garment Ì would have places where the
fabric was unevenly distributed.
Now Ì take it to the serger. Remember that
the wrong side of the fabric is facing up, and
my skirt and elastic would usually be sewn
into tubes already.
My serger is set up for a 3-thread overlock,
with a cutting width of 1/4¨ from the needle. Ìf
the stitching is too skinny the fabric will pull
out of it too easily.
Ì will position the elastic on the fabric so that
there is a 1/4¨ margin of fabric for the blade to
trim off. This keeps my fabric from sneaking
away underneath and escaping the stitches.
At first all Ì can do is take a few stitches to get
the elastic secured by the needle and under
control. Ì'm not stretching the elastic yet.
Now Ì will use the first set of marks to line up
the elastic and fabric. (They're not showing
well in this picture.)
Ì pinch them together hard with my right hand
so that Ì have a good grip on the pinch point
with my right hand. Then Ì get a hold of the
elastic in back of the presser foot with my left
hand. (Working with a flat sample doesn't
show this very well.)
Now it's time to s-t-r-e-t-c-h that elastic so
that the fabric lies flat and my first set of
marks are lined up under the pinch of my
Ì don't worry about any of the other marks
at this time. Ì just take it a quarter at a
time and keep the rest from getting in the
As Ì serge Ì am stretching the elastic, keeping the fabric flat, and
guiding the work into the machine so that the elastic is riding right
alongside the blade without getting knicked by it. (Knicking the
elastic weakens it.) Ì am trimming away that margin of fabric, and
Ì'm making sure that Ì keep my fingers well enough out of the way
of the knife and needle.
Stretching the elastic can only be done with BOTH hands, one
behind the presser foot and one in front. Don't expect the presser
foot to clamp down tightly enough to help you stretch the elastic.
You'll probably bend or break a needle if you do, or worse, mess up
your timing and/or damage a looper.
This is akin to using an embroidery hoop when doing embroidery.
The hoop holds the work taut . Here you are holding the work taut
and the machine is free to sew like it normally would.
There's one more little thing Ì'm doing that's not
obvious in the photos. Ì'm using my left forearm
to smooth and control the bulk of the fabric so
that it stays flat and neat. This keeps the fabric
from bunching up.
When working in a circle, as Ì usually do, Ì will
overlap the first part of my serging when Ì come
back around. Ì let it run over the beginning
stitches by about 3/4¨, just slightly to the right of
the original stitches so that the knife blade
doesn't damage them. Then Ì then draw the
project out to the left so Ì can chain off. Ì trim
the chain long enough that Ì can thread a double
eyed needle and hide the chain under the
Now my elastic is serged on. The marks
that you still see on the elastic will never
show because they'll be sealed up inside
the waistband.
Here the sample is shown stretched out.
Here the sample is allowed to relax and you
can see that the elastic draws in the fabric
This is what it looks like if you flip the
project over and look at it from the right
Now it's time to go to the regular sewing
machine. My stitch length is set on 3 mm
(about 10 stitches per inch U.S. machines).
Ì have a #80 or #90 universal needle in the
machine. Ì'm ready to go!
Ì fold the elastic in towards the wrong side of
the garment.
Ì flip the project over so that Ì'm seeing the right side.
The elastic is turned under and ready to secure in
place. Whatever the height of my elastic is, Ì'll aim to
topstitch 1/4¨ less that that from the top edge. Ìf Ì'm
using 1¨ elastic Ì'll be sewing 3/4¨ from the edge, for
The thing that Ì'm aiming for, just as Ì did at the
serger, is to work with the elastic stretched out, held
taut by my hands instead of the presser foot.
Ì have to stop periodically to rearrange the
project. Each time Ì do Ì'm careful to find a
new "pinch point¨ where Ì'll smooth the
fabric around the elastic, keeping the grain
of the fabric straight.
When my new pinch point is smooth Ì give it
a hard pinch and stretch my elastic out again.
Every time Ì'm actually sewing Ì have the
work stretched out flat, and my left forearm
is pressing and smoothing the excess
fabric again.
This is what it looks like when it's finished!
The gathers are nicely distributed because
Ì was careful to keep my marks lined up
when Ì was serging.
Why did Ì go to all the fuss about stretching
the elastic when Ì was at the sergar and at
the sewing machine?
When the waistband is stretched Ì don't
want the stitches to pop. The 3-thread
overlock doesn't have quite enough stretch
to cope with the elastic, and the machine
straight stitch has almost no stretch at all. Ìt
would be sure to break the first time the
waistband was really stretched.

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