Starry Sky Skirt / Waistband Tutorial
One of my favorite things about the Starry Sky Skirt by Rae Hoekstra from No. 3 / DOTS is the elastic waistband. Not only are elastic waistbands easy to sew, but they're also very comfortable to wear, which is why I prefer them on my skirts and pants.
Something extra I like to do when it comes to finishing skirts and pants that have an elastic waistband, especially when they're made of linen, is to sew several lines of topstitching along it. Not only does this help to keep the elastic from folding over and the fabric in place, but it also gives it a crisp and professional look. It's simpler than it may seem, and in this post, I'll be sharing how to do topstitching on an elastic waistband.
Spacing the Gathering
After the waistband has been sewn and the elastic inserted, the first thing you'll want to do is make sure the gathering is evenly spaced throughout the whole skirt to avoid any sparse or bulky areas along the waistband. What I like to do is put the skirt on, align each side seam where it should be at my side, and then move the gathered fabric around at the waistband until it looks nice and even, and no sections look too full or scrunched. Then I pin the waistband every few inches to keep everything in place; you may want to use safety pins to avoid getting pricked.
Marking your Topstitching Lines
Next, I stretch the waistband around my ironing board (right side facing up) so that I can decide where my two lines of stitching will be placed. For the waistband on this skirt, my lines of stitching were about 1/2" apart from each other. I don't mark where I will stitch around the entire waistband, just in a small section in the back because I've found it's easiest to start at the section I marked, use the edge of my foot as a guide, and move my needed to the correct position.
In the past, I've always used a regular foot for topstitching the waistband. But on this skirt, I tried using a walking foot and was very pleased with the results. The walking foot helped to avoid excess stretching (which we will talk about shortly), and kept the fabric nice and flat instead of it having a slight lean in the direction I sewed.
I suggest using a longer stitching length, something around 4.0, to topstitch the elastic waistband. As you sew, you will hold the waistband in the back and the front, and stretch it. You don't need to stretch so far that the fabric becomes fully flat, just mostly; it's ok to have a few gathers that you sew over. The purpose of stretching the waistband as you sew is so that it can still be stretch when you are putting on the skirt. If you were to topstitch along the waistband without stretching, it would remove the function of the elastic, and you wouldn't be able to get into your skirt!
Note about Elastic & Stretching
One challenge I frequently encounter when it comes to sewing elastic waistbands is determining what length to cut my elastic. As a general rule, the length of elastic you will use for a waistband is about 2" shorter than your waist measurement, and often this works well, but sometimes If I'm using a heavier fabric, or there is more fabric in general, the weight of the material can pull down on the waist and make it feel looser. The width of elastic being used can also affect how tight I make waistbands, usually opting for something a little looser if it's 2" or wider, and tighter if it's a thinner elastic such as the one used on this skirt (1 1/4").
Additionally, when I add topstitching to an elastic waistband, there is extra stretching that occurs, and sometimes it can be stretched out so far that the elastic must be shortened and redone. Don't feel bad if this happens to you! I frequently do waistbands, two lines of topstitching and all, more than once. But I put up with the fuss because getting a good fit and having that lovely topstitching is worth it!
If you are adding topstitching, I suggest cutting your elastic a little shorter than what you'd typically cut for elastic length. You can start by cutting the elastic to the length directed by the pattern, sew one line of top stitching, try it on, and see how it fits. If it's stretched too much for your preference at this point, it will only stretch more with the second line of topstitching. I'd suggest taking out that line of topstitching (this is where that longer stitching length comes in handy) and shortening the elastic before topstitching again. It might take a few tries to get it right, but once you have, record how much length you removed from the original elastic length so that in the future this step may be easier.
After the topstitching is sewn, I like to steam and iron the waistband. Sometimes with linen waistbands like this, it can feel a bit full and fluffy, so ironing makes it a little more soft and comfortable.
Marking the Back
Lastly, on this type of project, it can be challenging to know which side is the front and which side is the back. Sometimes it doesn't matter, but often there will be a side that I prefer more because the gathering will look a little more even, so I like to keep that side as the front and mark the back with either a tag or scrap of ribbon, which is what I did with this skirt. Isn't that bow cute?
That concludes the blog posts for the Starry Sky Skirt; I hope they were helpful and inspirational! The Starry Sky Skirt can be found in Making Issue No. 3, the pockets used for this skirt are from the Emerald Dress in Making Issue No. 7, and the fabric used is the Light Grey Angry Flowers Linen by Karen Geraldi. With this skirt, I wanted to give some examples that show how adding a few extra touches to a simple project can give it some additional charm. If you have any other tips for this project that you'd like to share, we'd love to hear them in the comments below! - Emily