Perfecting the waistband

Monday, May 01, 2017

Sooo since making my first pair, I've been completely hooked on the fly-waisted trouser. This is the 4th pair I've made so far from this vintage magazine pattern, but only the third for myself, so we'll call it third time lucky, because I think I've finally managed to perfect a non-creasing, insanely crisp waistband!

Vintage pattern trousers with Papercut Patterns Fall Turtleneck
In desperation to make it work, I put out a number of cries for help on social media and received a bunch of amazing suggestions - many of which I put into practice with this pair. It was also sort of comforting to find that many other sewers have had similar struggles with their waistbands. For this reason, I thought it would be nice to collate all the recommendations I received in the hope that they might help someone else on the quest for a crumple-free waistband!

Tips for a sturdy waistband

- You can buy fusible interfacing with fold lines, made specifically for waistbands. Thanks nelnanandnora for drawing my attention to this!

- Try making waistbands in two parts rather than folding them, and apply interfacing to just the outer band (suggested by both karenjkayes and janediana1010)

- Cut the waistband along the fabric grain (where the fabric is stronger) rather than across it (suggested by jennyprice1245).

- Using petersham ribbon - traditionally used on mens tailored trousers - to stiffen waistbands was one of the most popular recommendations, suggested by paper_theory,, Lynsey Jane and Elaine and Di from the Dressmaking Bloggers Network.

- More flexible lighter-weight interfacings (e.g. tricot/knit interfacing, even for wovens) can allow the fabric to bounce back from creasing better (a favourite solution of Katie of What Katie Sews).

 - Katie also always makes a curved waistband instead of straight so it better conforms to the body - something which makes a hell of a lot of sense when you think about it!

- To help with structure, under-stitching your facing and top-stitching all the way round are pretty vital (and something I'm usually guilty of skipping). Thanks Purfylle for that one!

Also wearing new glasses!
Side view - love the pockets!
So what did I do with my waistband?
After reading through the recommendations, I bought some petersham from my local haberdashery, Samuel Taylors. You can buy it in lots of different widths, so I could pick one that would perfectly slot inside my folded waistband (remember to take seam allowances into account too when picking your width). They also stocked fusible interfacing for folding waistbands so I bought some of that too.

Fusible folding waistband interfacing and petersham
I'd originally only intended to use the petersham, but as my fabric (a mid-weight crepe) had a bit more movement than what I'd used in the past, went for it and used the waistband interfacing too. Might have overdone it slightly there, but when the main aim of the game was to get a crisp waistband, I wasn't taking any chances.

Waistband with interfacing applied
Inserting the petersham before slipstitching the waistband closed
I usually avoid topstitching waistbands, because I hate going over the bulk, but it made for a really great finish, as well as keeping all the guts secure in place. I also used 2 hook and bar fastenings, which pull ever so slightly, but I really didn't want a button closure so it's something I can live with.

Topstitched and finished!
The verdict?
This waistband is solid. At the point of writing this, the trousers have seen a fair bit of wear, and the waistband has withstood plenty of sitting down and at least a couple of big meals. I'm amazed to see how crisp and tailored they still look.

In future, I'll probably just stick with the petersham and a topstitched finish for trousers and heavy-duty garments, but I was really impressed with the folding interfacing. I'd be likely to try that out again with lighter weight garments and skirt waistbands that don't require quite as much support.

Petersham where have you been all my (sewing) life?! I'm currently considering unpicking all other waistbands and giving them the petersham-treatment, but I might save that for another day. You can purchase the stuff online from Minerva and Sew Essential.

From the back
Thanks Chris for taking pictures :)
In all, I'm really pleased with the finished trousers. I really tapered both the outside and inside legs this time and they've turned out spot on. I still had trousers on the brain when I went to the most recent Hebden Bridge WI Rag Market and my fabric haul was full of trouser-appropriate fabrics (weirdly for me) in mostly spring like shades of pink, so I'm sure this pattern's not seen it's last use yet.

Hebden Bridge Rag market haul
If you have any other waistband tips, please let me know in the comments and I'll update this post to include them :) Hope they're of help to someone else!

Stay in touch!

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  1. Great finish! Just recently Morgan over at Thread Theory posted a tutorial on waistbands too, similar to the petersham method she used (I think) ban roll just slipped inside the waistband. Worth a read.

    1. Yes that's the stuff! Thanks for pointing it out :) x

  2. Very interesting, I have a skirt where these is a real issue that irritates me. When you add the petersham, is it literally just sandwiched in between without being sewn to either the front of the waistband or the facing?

    1. Thanks! Yes you just sandwich the petersham between the layers of your waistband without sewing it. Once Your waistband is closed, you can then topstitch around it to hold the petersham on the inside in place - really can't believe how well it works! :)

  3. This is a really useful article. I made some culottes last year and haven't worn them much due to the waistband. I am definitely going to look at this when I make some trousers this year. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Jo! I have a few pairs of culottes that might be getting the petersham treatment soon too :)

  4. Great round up of tips for waistbands and I love this pair. So well-fitting and stylish!
    I have only made one pair of tailored trousers (
    but I have been put off slightly as my waistband has stretched significantly over time & wear. It maybe worth me unpicking and adding some petersham ribbon to them.
    Awesome haul from the WI in Hebden Bridge - I can't wait to see what you make from them!

    1. Thanks Caroline, I'm so pleased with how they turned out! Your trousers look great - would definitely recommend the petersham treatment if you're looking to get more wear out of them. I'm thinking of doing the same to a bunch of my trousers/culottes.

      Did really well at Hebden Bridge and got some great summer sewing plans lined up :) x


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