Elastic, drawstrings, and bottoms


First off, let me apologize for my late post!  I took Monday off because of the holiday.  On Tuesday I ran some virus software on my computer and then disaster struck!  My computer kept cutting off and on and I was in a tizzy!  I thought I had it back up and running for Wednesday’s post, but no.  A storm came through about the time I was uploading pictures.  Then my computer started acting up again!  I’m still driving on about 2 1/2 wheels, so bear with me!  Now on to what was supposed to be Wednesday’s post!

rackI have this rack in my studio for things that “need to be fixed” or “need to be finished”.  Sometimes I tend to put off these things in favor of new projects.  These pj’s I made for my son are a great example of that!  I cut them out along with 2 other pairs, at one point in time.  These all hung on my rack for a while, up until my son said “Hey I need some new pj’s!”.  Then I sewed them all up and realized I only had enough elastic for 2 pairs.  So, the last pair went back up on the rack, until I finally got more elastic!  Does anyone else do things like this?  Hopefully I’m not alone!

At least now, I can share how to add elastic with a drawstring to pj’s!  Some patterns will call for all elastic or all drawstring, but I prefer to use both.  That way you get the adjust-ability and comfort of the elastic while still being able to snug things up with the drawstring.  This technique can be used on any kind of bottoms with a casing.  I’m applying it to pajama pants I previously made.  If you have some bottoms (tee-hee!) that need a new drawstring or the elastic is flippin’ out, you can fix them with this tutorial!  Yay!

On to the tutorial!  As always, this post contains affiliate links and you can check out my privacy policy for more information.

Items Needed:

  • Elastic – I use 1″ non-roll elastic because I find it is more durable.  Check out this post on Craftsy for different types of elastic and their uses.
  • Drawstring material – This is the fun part!  Since this will be seen on the outside of the garment, you can pick out something interesting. Seamwork magazine has a great article about the different options for the drawstring and the opening for said drawstring.  Check it out here.
  • Big fat safety-pin!  You could use a dinky regular one, but trust me, you’re gonna want the big fat one! 😉
  • Hand quilting thread plus needle – This is only if you are hand sewing!  Why not regular thread?  This gives you added stability when hand sewing.  A machine technically uses two threads to accomplish what you are doing with one.quiltthread

Alright, first measure from seam to seam across the back of the upper casing.  The casing is what houses the elastic and drawstring – some people call it a waistband.

Using the measurement from the above step, subtract 1″, and cut your elastic to the total.  For example, my measurement was 22″, so I’m cutting my elastic 21″ long.

Now measure the front of the casing from seam to seam.  You may think your pants are the same from front to back, but this is not always the case! Take a pair and hold them up by the side seams stretching out the back.  You will notice the front part dips lower than the back.  Usually this happens on more tailored pants, like blue jeans, but check to be sure!  The pants I’m working on happen to be the same from front to back.

Once you have that measurement, cut two pieces of the drawstring material you are using to this measurement.  Half of each drawstring will be inside the casing attached to the elastic and the other half will be on the exterior of the pants.  If this seems too long for ties, wait until you have finished, then decide if you need to cut some off.  Better to have too much at this point than too little!

I’m using this Christmas ribbon because when my son saw the fabric, he said these could be his “Christmas” pajamas!  Maybe I’ll tell him he has to wait until Christmas to wear them! 😛


Though I prefer to sew this with my machine, I’m going to show you how to do it by hand as well.  I know not everyone has a sewing machine – it’s a crying shame – but I know it’s true!  When I first got excited about sewing as a teenager, I didn’t have a sewing machine.  I still managed to make some awesome things with just a needle and thread!  My instructions will be for using the machine and I will show supplemental instructions labeled “hand sewing”.
Time to sew the drawstring to the elastic!  Lay the drawstring on top of the elastic and overlap by at least an 1″.  This gives you enough material to make a good “connection”.  Use a clip to hold it in place.  I use these clips to keep from having the bump that occurs when you use a straight pin.  No clips?  Try using a bobby pin!

overlap   bobbypin

Note: If you are using a printed ribbon, make sure both sides are facing the same way.  For example, since I’m using a ribbon with words on it, I want to make sure the words are facing the correct way on both ends before attaching.

Today I’m using one of my Brother sewing machines.  Yes, I have multiple machines – did I mention I love sewing?  My machine has several options for sewing elastic, but I prefer the standard zig zag stitch.  Place the elastic and drawstring under the presser foot, drawstring side up.  Align the middle of the presser foot with the edge of the ribbon.

Now sew from one side to the other.  Hold down the reverse button and go back to the other side.  Release the reverse button and sew back across one more time.  Cut thread and move down towards the elastic end.  I just align the presser foot side with the end of the elastic.  Repeat the zig zag stitch from before – forward, reverse, forward.

firstzig   20160706_151555

Hand Sewing:
Thread a sturdy needle, with the quilting thread, doubling the thread and tying a knot at the end.  Sew down the edge of the drawstring using a zig zag type stitch.  Go around the top and bottom using a slanted stitch that overlaps the ribbon.  Then straight stitch or zig zag down the side nearest the elastic edge.  These stitch terms are my own and may not match “technical” terms, just FYI!

needlethread   handsew  handsew2   handsewdone

Once you have both ends done, tie a knot in one end of the drawstring.  Push the safety pin through the knot like so and close the end.


Now, push the closed safety pin through the opening on the front on the pants.  Use the safety pin to guide the drawstring and elastic through the casing.

inserting moving

When you make it through to the other side, adjust the elastic so that one end is slightly overlapping the side seam.  Oh and you can remove the safety pin too! 🙂


You can clip this in place or just hold on to it and move to your machine.  Make sure you change your stitch back to a straight stitch!  Align the needle with the seam line.


Stitch a few stitches, then reverse to lock stitches.  Then “stitch in the ditch”, which is the seam line, reversing at the end again.


Hand Sewing:
Thread a sturdy needle with a single thread this time and tie a knot at the end.  Insert the needle about a 1/2″ from the seam, coming up in the seam (Step 1).  Tug firmly to pull the knot under the fabric.  Insert needle from front to back making sure to catch the seam edge on the front (Step 2).  Sew all the way to the top, then come back the opposite way to fill in the gaps (Step 3).  Tie off thread, leaving a stitch length from fabric.  Push needle under fabric an tug firmly to pull knot under fabric.


Step 1


Step 2


Step 3

Do both sides.  This helps keep the elastic from rolling when you pull on the drawstrings.  Now, if your drawstrings are too long, trim them up.  Tie the ends in a knot and admire your work!


I’ve realized two things while doing this tutorial.

  1. I really need a 3rd hand!
  2. I really, really need a manicure!  Yikes!

Hopefully this will help anyone needing elastic and drawstrings in their bottoms!!  😉  Ya’ll have a great day and with any luck I’ll be posting on Friday as usual!

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