Estuary Skirt Sew-Along Day 5: Applying the Waistband

The elastic-backed waistband of the Estuary makes for a very comfortable skirt, but it is one of the trickier parts of this pattern. One seam at a time – you can do it!

1. Increase your machine’s stitch length to 5.0 (or as long as it will go), then sew two lines of gathering stitches on the Skirt Fronts, ⅝” (1.6 cm) and ⅜”(.9 cm) from the top edge of the skirt, between the side seams and the folded edge of the placket. You are not sewing gathering stitches on the Skirt Back, just the Fronts. Leave long thread tails for easy gathering. Return your stitch length to normal.

Note: If you have inseam pockets (View B), catch them in these lines of gathering stitches, so they also can be gathered into the waistband.

2. Pin the unfolded edge of the Waistband to the Skirt, RST, matching side seams. The short edges of the waistband should extend ⅝” (1.6 cm) beyond the skirt front edges. You’ll be sewing these soon to make a clean finish on the center front, but for now, just make sure that you have a ⅝” (1.6 cm) extension of waistband beyond the finished edge of the placket. Pin Skirt back to Back Waistband securely, then pin the front edges. Pulling gently on both rows of bobbin thread, gather the Skirt Front pieces to fit the front waistband pieces.

Distribute the gathers evenly and pin in place. Go ahead and use lots of pins to secure the gathers in their nice even distribution, and pin with the pinheads facing the top of the skirt. It will hold the volume of fabric in place nicely, and you won’t have to worry about breaking a needle as you sew.

When you’re using gathering stitches, wrap the long thread tails around a pin in a figure 8 to secure them before you start sewing. This will prevent your gathering stitches from loosening as you sew.

3. Sew the entire waistband to the skirt with a ½” ( 1.2 cm) seam allowance. You’ll be sewing in between your two lines of gathering stitches. Grade and trim the seam allowance to ¼” (6 mm). Press the waistband and seam allowances away from the skirt, then rip out any gathering stitches that are still visible on the skirt.

To finish the center fronts of the waistband, lay out the skirt with the right side of the facing you. Flip the long, folded edge of the waistband to meet the waist seam – it should extend a mere ⅛” (3mm) beyond the waist seam. The right sides of the waistband will be together. Sew the ends of the waistband, then clip the corner and trim the seam allowance to ¼” (6mm.) (Shown below.)

 Flip the waistband right side out – the long, folded edge of the waistband will be on the wrong side of the skirt, laying just over the seam attaching the waistband to the skirt. Repeat this step for the other end of the waistband.

4. If you are using optional Wonder Tape, apply it to the seam allowance of the waistband that you folded and pressed towards the wrong side. Peel the paper off the Wonder Tape on the Back Waistband section only, leaving the paper in place on the Wonder Tape that’s on the Front Waistband sections. Fold the Back Waistband into place, going just ⅛” (3 mm) past the  waist seam, thus covering it, and matching the side seams. Carefully press into place, allowing the Wonder Tape to adhere, but avoiding pressing the Front Waistband pieces.

If you are not using Wonder Tape, fold the Back Waistband into place, just covering the waist seam and matching the side seams. Carefully pin into place. Pin from the wrong side, and have the pin heads facing the hem of the skirt, so that you can pin the folded edge of the waistband securely. It’s really important that you do this step well, and make sure that the folded edge does go just past the stitching of the waist seam.

5. From the right side, stitch in the ditch along the Back Waistband only, forming a casing for the elastic. Double check on the inside of the skirt that you’ve caught the fold of the waistband edge the whole way. 

6. Insert elastic into the back waistband casing. 

Tip: use two safety pins on the short edge of the elastic as you feed it through the casing. This will keep the elastic from pulling at the center and folding onto itself as you pull. Double check that the elastic is flat, and not twisted or flipped inside the channel. 

Pin the elastic in place (lining up the edge of the elastic with the edge of the seam allowance inside the waistband) keeping the pins on the right side of the skirt. I used safety pins here, so that I could try on the skirt safely. This is a good time to try on your skirt – if you want to tighten the elastic, now is your chance!

Sew down at side seams to secure the elastic in place. Sew from the right side, so that you can stitch in the ditch neatly.

7. If you are using optional Wonder Tape, peel the remaining paper from the Front Waistband seam allowances and carefully line up the inside edge to just cover the waist seam. Press to adhere. Stitch in the ditch on both Fronts, completely enclosing the waist seam.

If you are not using Wonder Tape, carefully line up the inside edge of the waistband to just cover the waist seam. Pin in place. Just like when you were sewing the back section of the waistband, pin from the wrong side, with the pin heads facing the hem of the skirt, so that you can pin the folded edge of the waistband securely. It’s really important that you do this step well, and make sure that the folded edge does go just past the stitching of the waist seam. The bulk of the gathered skirt can be a little pushy, so take your time.

From the right side, stitch in the ditch on both Fronts, completely enclosing the waist seam.

8. Increase your stitch length to 3.5 mm. Beginning at the side seam of the waistband and 1/2” (1.2 cm) from the bottom seam of the waistband, stitch across the back to the other side seam while stretching taut the elastic. (Stretching the elastic while you sew will make your straight stitches into a stretch stitch so your thread won’t break when you pull on your skirt.) This can be a little tricky, because you’ll have to adjust your hands a few times as you make your way across the back waistband. If you leave the sewing machine needle down in the elastic as you adjust your hands to move on to the next section, you’ll avoid jogs and jumps in the lines of stitching.

Make another line of stitches 1/2” (1.2 cm) from the top of the waistband, forming two lines of parallel stitches. Then return your stitch length to normal. 

The tip in the instructions suggests adding a third row of 3.5mm stitching along the bottom edge of the elastic. This is helpful if you’re finding that the waistband seam allowance is bunching within the casing.

Move on to the final day of the sew-along here!

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  1. Hi! I’m having problems gathering the front panels. I am sewing view B (with sewn in pockets). When I run my gathering stitches over where the pockets will be laying, I’m unable to gather the pocket section. It’s as if the fabric layers are too thick and I end up pulling the thread too hard causing it to break. Any tips? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nichole! Yes, there’s definitely a solution 🙂 Sometimes including the pocket in the gathering is just too bulky, like you’re experiencing. I’ve seen a corduroy version that would definitely have the same issue. What you can do to exclude the pocket is run the gathering stitches across the skirt fronts, NOT including the pocket. Then you can gather and line them up to the waistband, and even baste them in place if you’d like, with the pocket free. My favourite way to accomplish this is to begin both rows of gathering stitches at the side seam, and begin with a backstitch. Then i can gather and pin from the CF, not worrying about the side seam thread coming undone, and not having the pin that’s holding the thread in place causing wrinkles when I’m trying to handle the pocket!
      Once the skirt is gathered to the waistband, you can pin and secure the pocket in place behind the gathered section. You’ll want the pocket secured before you begin step 3 on this page.

  2. Hello, this is my first sewing project and I want to make sure I read the pattern right. The back waistband should measure twice as much as the pattern paper waistband because it cut on the fold? And thats what will give the "wrinkled" look when the elastic band is in place ? Thank you

    1. Hi Sophie,
      The back waistband and back skirt waist measurement are the same, since both pieces are cut on the fold (or the back has a seam, if your fabric isn’t wide enough). The gathered look happens when the elastic is inserted into the waistband channel, since the elastic is shorter than the Back Waistband.

  3. Hi! I’m in love with this skirt! After sewing and finishing the waistband across in what I thought was the right length (because I tried it on), I then realized it’s too wide by 1 inch or so. Do you have any advice on how to shorten the waistband or adjust the width somehow? I thought of sewing the front waistband buttons horizontally to get that extra tightness but I’m afraid that’ll ruin it and might not be a long term solution in the end. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Coral! Thanks for those kind words – we love it, too! Hm, there are a few alteration options for this skirt. The first is the most obvious and the most time consuming – remove alllllll of that gorgeous elastic topstitching, shorten the elastic, and re-close the waistband. Another option is top open up the waistband from the center back, removing topstitching but leaving the side seams of the waistband closed up, and removing length from the middle of the waistband, then closing it back up. This will cause a flatter spot in the back of the waistband where the cut elastic joins, but it’s tidier than my last suggestion. That is to make a pleat at the CB (an inverted box pleat so the box is on the inside) that takes in the excess length, securing with hand stitching to make the pleat as subtle as possible. This is the easiest but most obvious fix, since you’ll see the pleat at the CB and it can get bulky depending on your fabric and elastic.

      It’s worth noting for next time that topstitching elastic can lengthen it, so sewing a sample of your fabric-elastic-stitch length combination can give you some insight into what to expect next time!

      Shifting your buttons does in theory work, but it will make one front smaller than the other shifting the center front over tot he side, and the placket might not fall smoothly from the waist.

      I hope that helps! 🙂

      1. Done and it’s now perfect!! Thanks, Judith, for your advice! I ended up opening from the side, ripping 4″ of the elastic stitching, cutting and putting it all back together. It looks great and fits me perfectly now. I appreciate the advice ❤️

  4. Hello! I am following the Learn to sew classes and I just love it! In between the studio tunic and the hinterland dress, I thought I would try my hand at an Estuary skirt! So far so good except this little problem:
    I did a size 20. The lenght of the elastic is 19,25’’ in the pattern. By trying the skirt, I ended up shortening the elastic by 8,25’’ so it’s now only 11’’ . So when I went to topstitch my elastic, stretching it with my hands was not enough, as there is so much fabric now compared to the size of the elastic. I ended up with bunched fabric on one side. What should I do? Should I separate the bunch of the fabric equally on the elastic as if I was sewing gathers? Thank you so much for your advices on that! 😊

    1. Hi Sophie! Thanks for this question 🙂 Before you topstitch, I’d suggest tying on the skirt one more time now that you’ve decided on the length, just to make sure you’re happy one last time before you topstitch. It’s a bit more difficult to pick topstitching over elastic, so one last try-on can ease the mind. Hmmmm, I do agree that distributing the fabric like gathers is the way to go, and I’d also suggest using a zig-zag stitch that’s about 2 mm wide and 3mm long to do the sewing, so that the topstitching has some flex.
      Feel free to reach out by email if you need some more detailed support, and happy sewing!