Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hudson Pants: Alternative Waistband Tutorial (Part 1)

In the stress of recent times, I've been making a lot of Hudson Pants. There's something very meditative about their construction. The cutting is simple (and even more so as I don't make the pockets). The finished product is utterly comfortable and comforting. I realize that this is not high fashion - at least in the fabrics I've employed so far - but the cost-per-wear factor is through the roof.

I've been threatening to do a tutorial, something I appreciate so much whenever I come across a useful one, but you know... Anyway, excuses be damned. The time has come. I will not apologize for the vaguely amateur photos cuz I am working solo and I'm simultaneously sewing! If this helps anyone, I'm thrilled.

This post covers Part 1 of the waistband assembly - creating the waistband unit. Part 2, to follow, shows how this is attached to the pants unit.

Who's this tutorial for?
  • Those who find the waistband, as instructed, to be on the bulky side
  • Those who don't like visible zig zag stitching on the right side of the fabric. You will only see one line of zig zag stitching in the centre of the wrong side of the waistband unit.
  • Those who don't like waist ties 
  • Those who aren't nuts about shirring of the waistband around the elastic.
What You Need To Consider Before You Cut Your Fabric:
  • This version assembles the waistband independently of the pants. You can start with the waistband construction and add it to the pants at the end.
  • There is no insertion of the elastic into a finished tube.
  • This version depends on a closer proximity (than that directed in the pattern) of dimensions between the waist elastic, the waistband and the assembled pants unit (to which the waistband unit will be attached). 
  • You should aim for no more than 4 inches difference between the elastic and waistband (elastic is smaller, obviously). The difference in circumference between the waistband (prior to elastic insertion) and assembled pants unit should be no more than 1-2" inches. 
  • Vis a vis bullet above, the waistband will sit lower than the natural waist so you don't want to size the elastic in accordance with your natural waist measurement. Add an inch or 2 to account for where the Hudson pant waist will hit (and depending on your own shape, of course). This method favours the slim-hipped.
1. For starters, sew the elastic according to pattern instructions. Then pin, for reference, the circular elastic at 4 equal points. The original point should be at the elastic seam (where you stitched one side to the other to make a tube).

2. Cut the waistband fabric, sew it as instructed and fold the waistband in half (parallel with the direction of stretch).  

Note: I'm using 1.5" thick elastic (not 2", which the pattern recommends). I prefer the width and I find it creates less bulk for the short-waisted among us.  If you choose to work with this width of elastic, you will need to slim the thickness of the waistband by approximately 1" (0.5" on either edge). Modify your pattern piece before you cut so that you don't waste fabric. There should be @0.5" seam allowance at the raw edge of the waistband unit once the elastic is sewn into the band.

3. Press the fold well on both sides. Then re-open the waistband.

4. Use a ruler to chalk the fold crease. This is to ensure that you can see the fold line clearly when you sew the waistband elastic into the waistband fabric.

You'll want to pin the waistband fabric in quarters, as you did in step 1. for the elastic. Remember, the initial pin is at the seam which connects the band.

5. I like to chalk the wrong side (at the centre of the fabric on the side into which I'll sew the elastic) because it allows me to reposition my pins at the raw edge of that side. These pins are going to assist me in easing the elastic into the waistband unit.

6. Now - with the waistband UNfolded, you're going to sew (using a medium zig zag stitch in the centre of the elastic) the elastic into the waistband fabric. No need to pin things together. Just ensure that you start so that the seam of the elastic is atop the seam of the waistband fabric and that the inner edge of the elastic abuts the chalk/fold line of the waistband exactly.  

I ensure that the zig zag line remains straight by aligning the raw edge of the fabric (on the right side of the photo) with one of the ruler lines on the plate of my machine. If you don't have ruler lines, determine where you want the line to be and use a piece of tape to act as the marker.
The beauty of this method is that all you need to do, as you sew, is pull the elastic such that, as you go, the elastic pin meets up with the corresponding quarterly pin in the waistband. No need to pin elastic to the waistband.

7. Here's what the unfolded waistband unit looks like after you've sewn the elastic into what is now the wrong side:

 The folded, finished right-side looks like this:

See, no zig zag and no channel (cuz there won't be a waist tie).

The folded, finished wrong side looks like this:

Note: Until it's sewn into the pants unit, the waistband unit will look somewhat gathered. The puckers are diminished by decreasing the differential between the size of the waistband fabric and the elastic tube. What I mean specifically: If you make the waistband smaller, you'll get fewer gathers.

However, the smaller you make the waistband unit overall, the smaller you'll have to make your pants unit (at the waist edge) so as not to have too much of a differential between the pants and waistband raw edges. For reference - the differential here is @4 inches - the waistband fabric is 35.5" and the elastic is 31.5" (I DO NOT like tight elastic around my waist and keep in mind that this sits at the low waist - so it's not at the thinnest part of your torso, cut accordingly).

I'm experimenting, over time, with making the waistband fabric circumference smaller. Next time I make these, I'm going to aim for waistband fabric at 34.5". That'll mean I'll have a higher differential between the circumference of the waistband raw-edge and the pants-unit raw edge (36") but, if I can ease one into the other successfully, I sense there will be no ruching in the finished waistband.

8.  Now steam the pinned-closed waistband unit on both sides. No need to press. You just want to make sure that the fold hugs the top edge of the elastic closely.

Note that I pin in the seam allowance close to the elastic but not on top of it. This will act as a guide when I eventually sew the waistband into the pants.

The way I attach the pins (and I use many of them) is by stretching the elastic slightly as I go, to ensure that both sides of the folded-over raw edges are being caught without ripples. I want the raw edge of the waistband half, with the elastic sewn in, to be entirely flat against the raw edge of the waistband half that is unencumbered.

One more thing: You don't need to be utterly perfect here. Note how I didn't ease the elastic in particularly well - which is why you can see small puckers (the natural impact of easing) on one side and a totally smooth section on the other side. Yeah, I should have been more even when I pulled the elastic taut as I eased, but sometimes things don't go perfectly. It will be practically unnoticeable when the waistband unit is sewn into the pants unit. It won't be observable at all when the waistband is worn.

Next up, sewing this into the actual pants unit.

Today's Questions: Will you try this version of waistband or do you like the waistband on the Hudson's as instructed? Do you hate inserting elastic into a waistband tube (after attaching the pants unit to the waist unit? How do you feel about the highly-ruched and tied waistband of the Hudson pants? Curious to know if I'm in a small camp of ruched waistband naysayers :-)


  1. I think I might cave and get this pattern...even though I don't think they will be very flattering on me!

    1. Get the pattern. It's ridiculously fun to sew. Make them for your kid or sister or niece if you don't like them on yourself. It's crazy how inexpensively you can sew sweatpants.

  2. Like Gillian, you are totally making me want this pattern, even though I didn't want to like it one bit (I've never been a sweatpants fan)

    I usually make my stretch waistbands pretty close to my elastic length, and stretch to match the bottom; I don't usually find it's a problem, but then I don't have a large hip:waist ratio and I like my (pants) waistbands low. I tend to fold the covering fabric over the elastic and just baste along the bottom edge so I catch all three layers, then serge that edge right on to the pants. Fast and lazy. ;) This is SO the season for comfy pants, isn't it? >_<

    1. You would look great in these! And I'm no sweatpants fan either - I'm just jonesing for comfort (and I want to look like the kids). :-)