Hello my fellow CKC Fangirls! This is Shayna, owner of Shadandy Shoppe (which sounds a lot more important and official than it really is). I’ve only been sewing since May, but, mostly thanks to CKC, I have grown by leaps and bounds and have even opened a boutique! But the most fun I get to have is sewing for this little nugget.
Isn’t she cute?! Know what else she is? Skinny. So skinny that we have 6-9 month store-bought pants that still fit around her waist with room. And can you tell what else she is? Tall. Last appointment she finally hit 36 inches tall. Best part? She’s about to turn two in a few weeks. So on top of being skinny and tall, she is fiercely independent. She lets me dress her (small favors) but she is particularly picky about how she wears pants. Knit leggings, for instance, she likes when the waistband sits over her belly button. For her cotton bottoms, it really depends on the day. Some days she likes them on her belly (which gets tricky when her 18 inch waist shoots up to 22 inches after a full meal; not kidding) or under her belly across her hips (a grand 16.5 inches). So, in store bought pants, that’s a pretty impossible range of sizes to fit. Even making her pants, making a standard waistband means that certain days, the pants will either be squeezing her poor tummy, or falling off of her tushy (which is teeny tiny).
Enter the mighty drawstring! This pull tie is sewn to elastic in the waistband, so it can still stretch to fit, but I can also tie it to fit her according to her mood (and hopefully growing size). This method is great for growing kiddos, oddly proportioned littles, and photographers who use the same garment to fit a range of sizes. I’ve done this on three bottoms so far (even a non-CKC one) and it works on EVERYTHING I’ve tried so far. The only complication is with flat-front pants, but if you still want them adjustable, you can either alter them to have a full waistband or create the pull ties with the back elastic.
I promise, this tutorial is easy as cake. In some ways, I find it simpler than a standard waist.
Step 1: Cut what you need. You need to look at what kind of elastic you need for your bottoms. For Brenna’s Bubble Shorts, for instance, I needed 17.5 inches of ¾ inch elastic for the 12/18 month size. You want to cut 4 inches less than the elastic measurement in your pattern (13.5 inches in this case). You also need to pick what you’re using for your ties. You could make some with matching fabric (I’ll include how to do this near the end), or just find a cute ribbon. The best option is finding a ribbon the width of your elastic. However, you can use a ribbon that is slightly wider or narrower. If you pick a narrower ribbon, I do not recommend any smaller than 1/8 of an inch, to prevent uneven pressure and pulling on your elastic.
The ribbon length is really personal preference. For me, cutting the ribbon in two 18 inch pieces (you will need to cut one for each side) worked out nicely with a bow that I was more than happy with at most sizes I could tie it at. A good guideline is to cut them the length of the original elastic measurement in your pattern. You will be trimming them slighly later in this method, so you can always shorten them if it’s too long.
Step 2: Seal one end of your ribbon with a lighter or fray check. It helps support your ribbon and protect it from fraying/ripping where it will be sewn down. You can also similarly seal the ends of your elastic if you like. I certainly suggest this if you’re using a ribbon narrower than your elastic. Don’t worry about sealing the other end at this point, you’ll have to trim it down at the end.
Step 3: Sew! Using any stitch you prefer ( I like a zig-zag stitch for this) attach your ribbon on the sealed side to your elastic with about ½ inch of overlap. I go over it quite a few times to make sure it’s not going anywhere. If your ribbon is wider than yoru elastic, just scrunch it up as you sew to fit. If your ribbon is narrower, just center it on your elastic and make sure to sew to either end of the elastic, not just the ribbon. Repeat on the other side and MAKE SURE you put both pieces of ribbon in the same direction. It can be very obvious on a printed ribbon if one side is upside down. If your machine tends to pull or get stuck on the elastic, a wider stitch length will do wonders, as will putting your ribbon on the bottom when you sew them together. You can now put your waistband/drawstring aside.
Step 3: Here’s where you tackle the waistband. You have to do a smidge of math for this one, but most patterns will give you the same measurement. Match up the halves of your pant/shorts (or single seam on a skirt) according to your pattern, and choose the side you want the ties on. First, you need to figure out what to sew before your opening. To do this, you need to know a) how much you fold over to cover your open seam, probably ¼ of an inch, and b) how far your will be folding the end over to create your waistband. Remember this last measurement; you’ll need it again in a minute. If you’re using ¾ inch elastic, it’s normally a 1 inch fold. For 1 inch elastic, it’s closer to 1 ¼ inch. Add this last measurement and the amount you found for the first one. For me, I ended up with 1 ¼ inches. Mark where the measurement ends when you start from the top of the waist (make sure you don’t end up starting on the bottom of the leg by accident), and sew from the top to your mark.
It will look like this picture above when you’re done.
Step 4: Now you measure the gap you’ll be leaving. Take that measurement (the one of how far you fold for your waistband), take away 1/8 of an inch, and mark where it ends from the end of that first seam you made. DO NOT sew in this gap; you need it to be open for your drawstring to go in. Sew from your mark all the way to the crotch, then sew the legs together and follow your pattern for construction.
Step 5: Reinforce your gap. I don’t have photos (SORRY!) but you can a)press open the seam and sew down the ends, b) serge the separate edges, c) roll hem the edges, or d) just leave them. I don’t totally recommend leaving them plain, but for your own personal use, it’s unlikely to be a huge issue. On this grey fabric, I was able to use a lighter and melt it together.
Step 6: When you get to sewing down the waistband, DO NOT leave a gap for the elastic. You don’t need it, and it will be far easier to thread it through the gap you created earlier. Finish up your bottoms besides steps involving the elastic.
Step 7: Using a safety pin on one edge of the ribbon, thread it through your waistband. It will be a bit tricky to get the elastic in, but that’s a good thing, as it will be difficult to pull it out to be visible, as well. Just fold or scrunch it slightly and pull slowly, it will go in. Thread it all the way and adjust until both ends are out evenly.
Step 8: Remember how I said you’ll need to trim the ends? That safety pin doesn’t like ribbon all that much, so you’ll need to trim, then seal, off that end. Make sure to trim the other side equally to make it even. If you think your ribbon is a little too long, now’s a great time to cut off that extra length.
EXTRA STEP: If you want to create your own ties, cut two pieces of fabric. They will be twice the width of your elastic + ½ inch, and the length of the original elastic measurement in your pattern minus ¾ inch. So, if I were to cut my own ties for the 12/18 month Brenna’s Bubble Shorts, I would cut two pieces 2 inches wide (3/4 x 2 + ½), and 16 ¾ inches long (17 ½ - 3/4). Fold in half and sew down the long side and one short side. Turn inside out, press, and top stitch 1/8 inch away from the edge. You can then attach the same way you attach the ribbon.
And in 8 (or 9) steps, you’re done!
Cute, right? I’m now making all of my daughter’s bottoms like this. She loves that she’s always comfortable in them. And I love knowing these will fit her for a long time!