Hey guys, Alexis here! It goes without saying that here at the studio we sew a lot of jeans. Between samples for photoshoots, the many half-finished demonstrations for Heather’s teaching, and the excitement of making a few me-made pairs to test out this year’s batch of Cone Mills denim kits, our hands and the pristine “IKEA white” surfaces of our brand new office space are quite often stained indigo blue. While we never grow tired of sewing up Gingers or Morgans around here, it’s easy to get stuck in a “set” way of doing things. One of the best things about sewing is constantly learning new and fun techniques, so we’re excited to show you an alternative way to sew a jeans waistband. This method helps reduce the bulk of the seam allowances around the corners where the waistband is attached to the fly front and makes a really clean finish both on the inside and the outside. Whether you are a veteran jean-maker and can sew a waistband with your eyes closed using our original method, or if you are just getting your jeans-feet wet, we are excited to share this different way of sewing a jeans waistband with you.
Big props to Lauren Dahl of Baste & Gather for this technique. It’s the method used in her Birkin Flares, and we heard so many good things about it we decided we had to try it for ourselves. Happy sewing!
After sewing your inseam and side seams, stay-stitch around the waist of the jeans at 1/2″ seam allowance. This will help prevent the waist of the jeans from stretching out when you install the waistband.
Sew a line of stay-stitching at a scant 5/8″ seam allowance along the top edge of both waistband pieces. (One of our waistband pieces is interfaced. This is optional, depending on if you want a stable, non-stretch waistband).
Press the top edge of each waistband piece in along the stay-stitching line you just sewed.
With right sides together, pin the unfolded edge of the outer waistband along the waist of the jeans, matching the notches along center back and at the side seams. (If you have interfaced one of your waistband pieces, this will be your outer waistband.) Sew the waistband to the jeans at a scant 5/8″ seam allowance.
Now pin the unfolded edge of the inner waistband to the inside of waist of the jeans, matching notches. The right side of the inner waistband will be touching the wrong side of the jeans, and the jeans will be sandwiched in between the two layers of waistband.
Using your original stitch line as a guide, sew through all layers at 5/8″ seam allowance. Go slowly and carefully when you are sewing over the zipper teeth to avoid breaking your needle.
When you have sewn both waistbands to the jeans, flip them up to double check that the waistband is sewn evenly on both sides of center front.
If your zipper tape extends past the waistband seam allowance, trim it down and remove any excess zipper teeth by pulling them out with pliers.
Trim down the excess waistband so that only a 5/8″ seam allowance extends past each side of center front.
Unfold the top edges of the waistbands and pin them together along either side of center front. We will sew the short ends of the waistband closed with a 5/8″ seam allowance. You may draw in your stitch line with chalk if you wish to have a guide.
Start sewing along the edge of the waistband, keep your needle down to turn the corner, and continue sewing along the chalk line you drew in as a guide. Ensure the fly is kept out of the way of your stitch line, and that you are only sewing through the two layers of waistband.
The short ends of the waistband should now be sewn together, with the seam as close to the fly as possible without catching it.
Trim the corners of the waistband down so that you will have a nice crisp corner when you turn the waistband right side out. Now is the time to grade the waistband seam as well. The outer waistband should be left as is, the jean seam allowance should be trimmed down to about 3/8″, and the inner waistband seam allowance should be graded to 1/4″.
Turn the waistband right side out, using a point-turner if necessary to sharpen the corner. Press the waistband up and away from the pants.
You should have a beautifully finished 90 degree corner on either side of the waistband. If one side of the waistband extends further from the fly front than you would like, now is the time to readjust before the top edge of the waistband is closed and finished.
To close the top edge of the waistband, fold the raw edges in along the line you pressed earlier. It can be tricky to fold these edges in at either corner along center front. If you open the waistband and flatten the seam allowances, this will help things lie flat.
Give the entire waistband a final press. The final step will be to topstitch all around the waistband to secure it and to close the top seam.
You can pin the top seam of the waistband closed with pins or with Wonder Clips, or you can fuse some Wonder Tape or Steam-a-Seam tape to make sure it doesn’t shift while top-stitching.
Ready for the final step! If your denim is very thick, you may still need to hammer down your seams a little bit so your machine can handle the multiple layers.
Topstitch around the entire waistband 1/8″ from the edge. We like to start our topstitching at center back, so the beginning and end of our stitch line will be concealed by our back belt loop.
Go very slowly as you approach a corner, and keep your needle down while you lift your presser foot to carefully reposition your work. When you are reaching a corner and are concerned about turning your work at the correct 1/8″ distance, you can “cheat” a little by shortening your stitch length. Just remember to correct the stitch length after you have turned the corner so your topstitching is evenly spaced along all edges.
If you make a mistake or if your needle breaks, remove your work leaving a long thread tail, and thread the ends of your stitching through to the back. When you are ready to start sewing again, carefully drop your needle down exactly where you stopped sewing, and weave the beginning thread to the back. This will avoid ripping out rows of perfectly nice topstitching and wasting your valuable sewing time!
There you have it! A beautiful alternative waistband finish for your me-made jeans. Carry on with making your buttonhole and installing your hardware and you are just a hem away from a new pair of jeans.
Here is a close-up shot of the guts of one of our beloved Morgan samples to compare the inside finish of our original waistband method and this alternative one. Even with careful pressing and sewing, the inner seam allowance peeks out a little. This alternative method reduced some of that bulk and made it easier to topstitch around the waistband easier. Hooray! I have an unfinished pair of Sasha Trousers in my UFO pile at the moment and I look forward to trying this technique again!
Have you tried this method before? Do you have a preference for one over the other?