Monday, March 16, 2009

Applying drawstring elastic, method 1 of 3

Once you have assembled the bottom of your pajama pants, boxers, lounge pants, or skirt, the next thing you do is to prepare your drawstring. Measure your waist and subtract 8-10 inches depending on how snug you want the waist to be. Of course, as your size goes down the amount you subtract decreases - otherwise for babies there wouldn't be enough elastic to put in the clothes. Pull out the drawstring 3-4 inches from each end and tie a knot. Set the elastic aside for a minute or two.

Using a serger, a zigzag stitch, or folding over a small amount and then stitching a straight seam, finish the raw edge of the waistband. Take your elastic and fold it in half end to end. Lay it across the back of the fabric at the seam line below the finished edge. Fold the fabric down past the upper edge of the elastic by 1/4 inch to match the far side of the finished part of the fabric. Repeat in the center front of the garment.

Repeat the folding process. Pin through the outermost layer in the back at the bottom of the folded area so you know how far down you are going to be sewing. Now, before it is too late, slip the garment on and make sure the room you allotted for the waistband leaves you enough room to pull the garment on and be comfortable sitting down. If not, you are going to have to use a more narrow elastic or choose another drawstring option that will be discussed later.

In the front, first mark the bottom of the elastic like you did with the back. Now unroll the elastic and fabric and lay the elastic bumpy side up on your cutting surface. Cover it with the fabric, aligning it with the pins marking the bottom location of the elastic.

Now, move those pins or use other ones to mark where the drawstring is located on the elastic piece in relation to the fabric, getting within 1/2 inch of the center seam. Keep the pins as even as possible. This will be the location of your buttonholes for the drawstring. After this is done, you can remove the pins marking where the bottom of the elastic goes in the front since the buttonholes will help you keep it in place later on.

Choose a button about 1/2 inch across for the buttonholes in the garment to give the drawstring somewhere to come out and be adjusted. If you have an automatic buttonholer or even a regular buttonholer in your machine, this part will be nice. However, it can also be a labor of love by hand; I once made a dress for my daughter with 15 buttons going down the front and I hand-stitched every single buttonhole because my machine at the time didn't have a buttonholer.

Cut two pieces of medium weight fusible interfacing to stabilize your fabric. Each piece should be about 2 by 2 inches. This helps the buttonholes not get torn from the use of the drawstring to adjust the garment.

Apply the interfacing per package directions to the areas marked by the straight pins close to the center front of the fabric. Most packages direct you to dry iron the interfacing first, and then steam or damp iron it to the fabric to help it become permanently attached to the fabric and keeps it stable while you sew on it. Once the interfacing is applied, make a buttonhole on both sides of the fabric where previously marked. Try to keep as close to the seam as possible.

Once the buttonholes are sewn, remove the pins that were marking the buttonhole location. Now, very close to the edge of the unsewn center space on the top and bottom, put a straight pin to act as a stopper for the seam ripper. Do this on both sides of the center seam, marking both buttonholes that have been done.

Gently and carefully insert the tip of the seam ripper into the unsewn center space of the buttonhole as sewn, with the blade pointing up and down. Slowly cut the fabric along the length of the buttonhole, stopping when the guide comes into contact with the straight pin you put in as a guide. Once you get one end cut, turn the garment around and repeating this for the other end of the first buttonhole and the entire second buttonhole. When finished, remove the straight pins and put the seam ripper away.

Now that the buttonholes are cut, it is time to work on the drawstring elastic. The first thing you do is to fold the elastic again from cut end to cut end and mark the center with a straight pin or marking pin. After that is done, fold the end of the elastic into the center on both ends and mark the center of that with a pin or marker. This is called "quartering" the elastic and is useful for making sure the elastic is at least close to being applied in the proper proportions while being sewn. When you are done you should have 3 straight pins and two open ends on the elastic, ready to be applied to the fabric.

Choose a zigzag stitch for applying the elastic or, if you have it available, a zigzag lightning stitch. This stitch is interrupted several times, increasing the elasticity of the waistband while not losing integrity. If not, a medium-length and medium-width zigzag stitch is fine. On my machine, that setting is 2.5 for width and 3.5 for length.

Line the elastic edges up to the near part of the finished edge of the waistband, with the bumpy part of the elastic against the fabric. Starting in the middle back, pin the elastic to the fabric at the seams with the straight pins that were used to mark the fabric earlier, matching the pins that quarter the elastic to the pins in the fabric. You will notice the elastic is more tight than the fabric and that is okay because you're going to be stretching the elastic to fit the fabric. Use the same method to align and pin the elastic to the fabric at the remaining seams. In the middle, where the buttonholes are, you will meet the elastic edges to themselves but do not pin one over the other or in any other way hinder the movement of the drawstring.

Ok. Now we get to a bit of a tricky spot. Taking the elastic and fabric in hand, beginning at the part where the elastic is cut, sew several stitches through the elastic and fabric on the side opposite the finished edge of the waist without stretching to secure the elastic and thread to the fabric. Make sure for this entire section that every time you stop sewing the needle is DOWN in the fabric so it can't move around, or you are going to have a big mess. Next, take a deep breath and stretch the elastic between the part you just sewed and the first straight pin beyond it. If you need to, grab it in the middle to steady it a bit, and sew along the line furthest from the finished edge slowly and carefully until you get all the way to the pinned spot. Put the needle down. Stop and take a break. After a minute or so, use the same technique to do the next spot, and so on until you have that entire side of the piece of elastic sewn to the fabric. Make sure when you are done to oversew and then either 1)backstitch or 2)do a lock-stitch at the end so the thread doesn't come unsewn.

This picture shows the elastic being sewn edge to edge along the stitching line. You may want to sew over this a couple times, at all times being careful not to catch the drawstring up into the sewing. Don't be too worried about how it looks because this will be on the inside of the garment and not too many people will see it. Your technique will improve with time and practice.

Before sewing the last bit, you need to pull the two ends of the drawstring through the buttonholes, tie them, and pin them out of the way so they stay free while you sew. Make sure that you line up the elastic so that it is pinned end to end without overlapping or in any other way impeding the drawstring from functioning freely. If you are sewing with a knit, you will want to pin the fabric in several places after you fold it so that it doesn't get all stretched out of proportion while you're doing this last seaming. With woven fabrics it isn't quite as necessary but can still be done.

Here is a picture of the first row of stitching done with the lightning zigzag stitch. The fabric hugs right up to the elastic and one the nicest effects is that it will not roll or slide around inside the casing like free-floating elastic will.

Before you sew the last seam around the bottom of the elastic waistband, make sure the drawstring is still tied and pinned out of the way so it doesn't get caught up in the sewing. There's nothing worse than having to use the seam ripper to pick sewing thread out of a piece of drawstring.

Going slowly to keep the seam and stitching line as even as possible, stitch through the fabric and elastic right above the finished edge of the waist of the garment. Try to keep the lower edge of the seam even with the upper edge as much as you can, but don't demand perfection the first time you do this. Reinforce the area where the elastic is joined end to end to keep it from sliding around.

Now that the seams are done, and everything is in place, make sure all the pins are removed and all your supplies are put away. Now, take the garment and untie the loose knot you put in the drawstring and replace it with a bow. If the garment is for you, try it on and make sure it fits correctly. Don't wait till it comes out of the washer and dryer before you check to see if you need to remake it.

These last two pics are what I call success pics. They show the pajama or lounge pants I made, all done, ready to go in the washer for one last trip through before they go into the lineup in my dresser. I know they won't be the only pair there, but they were the first I made in this manner; I am pretty sure they won't be the last.
Please feel free to email me if you need any help with yours or to give me feedback about this tutorial or any other one in my blog, especially since many of them were written in the middle of the night.


Anonymous said...

That surely makes a very nice drawstring.

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much. I had never worked with drawstring elastic and this made a beautiful waist band.