I was blogging about stretchy pants before they were cool! Oh yeah, that’s right—what a claim to fame! I first blogged about stretchy pull-on jeans in 2012, and now here we are living our best elastic-waist life.
So for my contribution to #AllButtsWelcome, I’m going to round up some ways to make stretchy bottoms whether the pattern meant them to stretch or not!
But first, why stretch?
- Comfort: duh! 😉
- Changing size: Our bodies naturally change size through the day, month, and years. Stretch means that your clothes fit through these changes, which makes them more sustainable and practical.
- Digestion: I don’t know about you, but a restrictive waistband gives me gas and that’s no fun.
- Health reasons: If you have any kind of digestive issues, you know that pants you can whip off as fast as humanly possible can be important.
Let’s start with the simplest projects and work to more adventurous hacks.
Leggings: Have you made leggings before? The simplest patterns are just two pieces and three seams (leg, leg, crotch). Zigzag or serge some elastic at the waist, and zigzag or coverstitch the elastic in place, and boom, you are done. What I love about leggings is how simple they are to customize—I’m 5’2″ with lots of curves packing into my short legs, but homemade leggings never slide down, ride up, or any of the other issues I have with RTW.
Wide flowy elastic waist pants: In high school I used to make bright printed pyjama pants and wear them to school —but 25 years later, I’d just call them pants! Wide leg styles are available from almost every pattern company at this point, so you can choose a designer and fit that you trust. I avoided flowy woven pants for years, thinking that I’d bust through them when I sit, but in fact, the combination of wide legs and a stretchy waistband makes them perfectly comfortable, and the seams aren’t under pressure because there is so much fabric.
Sew a woven pattern in a stretch woven: This is where we start to get into the fun stuff: breaking the rules! In my experience, many patterns designed for rigid fabrics will work in something with a little bit of stretch—say, up to 3% spandex and 10% stretch. I don’t bother to change the size I wear when I make this swap most of the time. I’ve got some stretch linen that I can’t wait to sew up into pants this summer!
Put an elastic waistband on it: I’ve shared my tutorial for this many time through the years, and it’s still my go-to technique for something sewn with stretch wovens. I mean, why bother making stretchy jeans if they are going to have a rigid waist? On my pear body shape, these stay in place better than any other kind of waistband through the day and are so comfortable. There are many ways to do a stretch waistband, so find the one that works best for you!
Sew it in a knit: Now we are talking! With a little experimentation, lots of woven patterns can be sewn in a knit. I think the key is to decide what type of knit will mimic the necessary properties of the woven fabric. Double knits like ponte or Liverpool are perfect if you want structure, and an ITY or bamboo are great if you want drape. Consider reinforcing weight-bearing seams like the shoulders or waist of a dress with some elastic or a scrap of knit fabric to keep things from stretching out. I personally like to swap out facings and woven finishing techniques for folded band finished for knits, but you could follow the pattern instructions if that is your comfort level.
Now, I’m not saying that every garment you make has to have stretch in it…but most of mine sure do! It’s my joyous gift to myself that my clothes are all so comfortable and reflect what my body likes to wear. It is so important to make what YOU love. We purposefully made our #AllButtsWelcome theme month extremely vague so that you can participate by sewing anything that covers your tush. A knit dress or leggings are equally as valid as tailored trousers. I hope I’ve inspired you to think creatively about your patterns and fabric, so that you too can MAKE IT STRETCH!
Gillian is cofounder of the Sewcialists. Her current measurements are chest 46″, waist 41″, hips 52″, which puts her in a size 20-22 most of the time. Gillian identifies as midfat, but many of these pictures are from her small fat years, including patterns she no longer fits. Right now Gillian is living her best life in stretch clothes on the couch surrounded by cats. You can find her online at Craftingarainbow.com and @craftingarainbow on Instagram.