Who here can NOT stand twisted elastic bands?? I see all the hands up and I’m with you. We want clothing that we can be comfy in and doesn’t need to be adjusted all the time. While there could be some cases out there where this might be unavoidable (and I haven’t found that yet…), in the case of knit fabric shorts/tights/PJ pants, we prefer a better way. We use this method for our Rocky Shore Tights and, as I’m about to show you, the PJ bottoms for the Starry Night PJs. I’m going to jump straight in, but right after the tutorial, I also have a quick upcyle to share with you.
Just a quick disclaimer…. If the tutorial police were to come calling, I’d be given a large ticket for using black fabric for these steps. BUT! It is what it is, folks! If I didn’t live 12 hrs from the fabric store, I would’ve gone to find something more suitable. The fabric stash here at home is low on knits with an obvious front and back at the moment. 🤷🏼♀️ I did do my best to try and lighten the “wrong” side of the fabric and hopefully that helps somewhat.
First things first – you need to prepare the elastic. Overlap the ends as stated in your pattern and secure using a zigzag stitch. I prefer to go back and forth over the overlapped section a few times after that one time my elastic popped open inside my clothes.
Next, section the elastic AND the waistline of the garment into four equal sections. You can read more on sectioning garments in THIS blog post. Here you see (I mean, I hope you can. 😬) that the garment is wider than the elastic. This will vary from pattern to pattern depending on the final fit. This is a loose PJ pant so the difference is quite a bit. If the waistline is fairly close to the same circumference as your elastic (as in the Rocky Shore tights) you can get away with just matching up your raw edge of fabric with the edge of the elastic and then pin a few times within the quartered sections. Otherwise, continue below.
In order to evenly distribute the fabric around the elastic you will work in each of the 4 sections separately. Give each section a good stretch till the elastic matches the length of the corresponding fabric section. Now, this part is a little like playing Twister with your fingers. It takes a bit of creativity to hold the elastic taut while pinning, but once you get that figured out (and you will), pin a few times within each section distributing the excess fabric evenly all the way around.
NOTE: If you are using a serger, I recommend pinning your elastic about 1/8″ away from the raw edge of the fabric. I don’t want my serger knife slicing into my elastic. I want it to trim away just the bit of fabric and give a nice serged edge.
Now, when sewing the elastic to the garment, you’ll need to stretch the elastic out the same way you did when pinning it so that it’s the same length as the corresponding fabric section. At this point you’ll have the smaller sections to work with between the pins which will help to feed the garment through the sewing machine properly. If using a regular sewing machine, use a zig zag stitch and sew along the top edge.
With the elastic now attached it’s time to fold it over to the inside nice and snug. Make sure the fabric is tight around the elastic on that top folded edge. You don’t want extra fabric in there making it look sloppy. Secure it in place with pins or clips.
Finally, topstitch around the waist catching the bottom of the elastic in your stitching. Again, I’m stretching that elastic out so the fabric is smooth as I’m sewing. I do prefer to carefully sew within small sections so I can properly stretch my elastic and get a nice finish. If you’re not stretching the elastic out properly you will get little folds in your fabric instead of the gathering that you want to see when you let go. I used a coverstitch machine but a twin needle or a zig zag stitch can be used here as well.
Voila! There we have it! That elastic is NOT going to twist. This method can be used on other patterns that use a casing for the waistband, but remember to add some height to your pattern piece so you have enough to fold over.
Now for the upcycle mini-tutorial. To be honest, I’m not an avid upcycler. I don’t do it often, but I do save clothes that look like they have a good amount of usable fabric that could come in handy in the future. This was one time where it came in super handy. I completely love what I ended up with.
I had just made some new Starry Night PJs for my girls for Christmas, so when I realized that I needed another set for this blog post I decided to switch it up a bit. It was the perfect opportunity to do some jammies using the Aurora Raglan as I’ve been wanting to for the last while now. I spent a ridiculous amount of time looking through my stash for the right fabric combo and then decided to rather clean up my sewing room. Yup. “Squirrel!” Thank goodness I did that because in the bottom of my pile of fabric scraps I found this dress that no longer fits my girls. It paired so well with the black and white stripe scraps that I also found in that pile and the piece of solid black that was big enough for some capri length bottoms. Using up scraps makes me happy.
The best part about upcycling older garments is that some of the work is already done for you. In this case it was hemmed and the side seams were finished. That’s practically half done! This particular upcycle would not have worked with just any old garment, but in this case the skirt of the dress was pretty close to the same width as my pattern piece at the chest level so it would take only a few adjustments to make it work.
I cut the top of the dress off and lay the skirt out with the side seams lined up directly on top of each other and the centre front and centre back folded evenly at the sides. This took a little bit of fussing and maneuvering since I soon found that RTW clothes aren’t as nicely sewn together. It was all quite “shifty” and in the end I just made sure the seams were exact at the underarm point. That was where it would matter. Below that, well, we’ll just call out Old Navy for rushing when they made this.
Once that was lined up well enough, I took out my Aurora pattern pieces and folded out the seam allowance on the side seams since my side seam was already sewn up. I lay the pattern out so that my underarm points were touching and the “fold” edges of the pattern pieces were parallel to the folded edges on the dress. As you can see, I couldn’t move the pieces up any higher or I’d loose the top of the back piece so instead I had to settle for a slightly wider overall garment. The Aurora is designed for a slightly fitted look so I knew a bit more wasn’t going to be a problem. It would just be more “PJ”-like! I cut out the neckline extending it straight out to the edge of the fold and cut the armscye as well.
Nothing was different about the armscye so at this point I just added the sleeves as per the pattern instructions.
Once the sleeves were on I had one adjustment to deal with. The neckline was now longer than the pattern is written for because of that extra width on the bodice pieces. This means the cut chart for the neck binding was not going to be accurate for this garment. No biggie. I measured the the new neckline about 3/8″ inside of the raw edge (front and back) and did a bit of calculating.
- New neckline – 21 1/4″
- Calculate 85% of that. – 18″
- Add 3/8″ on either end for seam allowance. – 18 + 3/8 + 3/8 = 18 3/4″
So, using my new length I cut a neckband using the width from the pattern cut chart and continued to attach as per instructions. Really not a lot of adjustments to the basic pattern, but it gave new life to an old dress, made me feel good about the amount of scraps I used up and I finally had a chance to make this combo that I’d been wanting to make for so long already. Of course, this PJ set is already well-worn.
Why stop there? One simple blog post for a no-twist elastic waist may as well become my excuse to keep sewing up new things!!
My daughter has been asking me for a new “cozy-cozy” for quite awhile so I took the chance to add an Arctic Fox Housecoat to her new ensemble. Double-sided, super-soft minky … from my stash. Oh, it doesn’t stop there!! The bias binding on the inside of the robe was made out of the last scrap of some Rifle Paper quilting cotton I had. This sewing project was all about using up what I have on hand and, dang, that feels good sometimes!
Fabric: All from the deepest part of my stash pile.
- Black and white striped sleeves – Art Gallery Knit
- Main bodice – upcycled dress
- Bottoms – Black cotton/spandex/jersey from The Fabric Snob
- Housecoat – Double sided minky from the clearance section at Fabricland and some scraps of Rifle Paper quilting cotton for the binding along the inside.