February 17, 2023
Several Folkwear pants patterns have drawstring waists, including 119 Sarouelles and 145 Chinese Pajamas. These pants are comfortable, easy to wear, and very easy to sew. They are also easy to fit, with lots of room (or ease). All these qualities make them popular options when picking a pattern for pants. Customers love them for casual day pants, pajama pants, and yoga or exercise pants.
Drawstring waists are very traditional and were used extensively for centuries to keep pants at the waist. However, the invention of elastic has made pants even more comfortable and easy to wear. I am going to show you how to add elastic to the waist of these drawstring pants of the 145 Chinese Pajamas, but the same instructions and ideas will translate for just about any drawstring pants.
First, check to see how wide the waistband finishes, which will help you decide which elastic width to purchase. Generally, you want to have elastic that is the same width or slightly narrower than the waistband width. The waistband of the 145 Chinese Pajamas finishes at 3/4", and I used 3/4" wide elastic. You definitely don't want to use elastic that is wider than the waistband's finished width.
If you want to still have a drawstring in the waistband for aesthetic reasons, or to help with waist fitting, you should leave the opening in the center front of the pants for the drawstring to be pulled through. Below you can see the two dots where I will not stitch the front together. You can also see the mark that shows where the waist will be folded down to make the waistband. This pattern does not have a separate waistband piece. Sewing tip: I used red tipped pins to indicate where to stop stitching.
If you do not want to add a drawstring to the elastic waist, simply sew right through the dots (or opening for the drawstring) in the center front.
Below you can see the front of the pants sewn together with the opening made for the drawstring. I've also finished the seams and pressed the top for the waistband. You can see the opening for the drawstring from the front when the waistband is pressed down in the second image below
You will sew your waistband down as normal, but leave a 1" to 1-1/2" (13-19mm) opening in the center back of the pants to feed the elastic through. You won't use the drawstring opening for the elastic because it is a bit small and when you sew the elastic together, you don't really want that seam in the front, if possible. So start and stop sewing the waistband at the center back as shown below.
Now you will need to cut the elastic for the waistband. You want to cut the elastic 1" (13mm) smaller than your waist measurement (or where the pants will fall on your waist). So if you waist measurement is 30", you will cut the elastic to be 29". Some people recommend 2" smaller than your waist, but you will also take out another 1" when seaming the elastic. And I find this the most comfortable, but you can test what you think is best as well. It is easier to cut the elastic slightly smaller once you've put it in the waistband than to add to the elastic if you cut too small to begin with.
You will feed the elastic through the back of the waistband. To do this, I use a bodkin, but you can also use a large safety pin. Try to keep the elastic un-twisted while feeding through the waist. And once through, make sure it is not twisted. Make sure you don't pull the tail end of the elastic into the waistband. You can pin it to the pants just outside of the waistband so it doesn't pull through.
Once the elastic is fed through the waistband (and make sure it's not twisted), take the two ends and overlap them by about 1/2" (13mm). Stitch together on your machine with a wide zigzag stitch or stitch a box with a straight stitch over the overlap. Be sure to backstitch and stitch over your stitches several times to secure the elastic ends together. This is a good time to try on the pants to make sure you like how the elastic fits. You can make adjustments now to make the elastic smaller if you like.
Tuck the elastic into the waistband.
Now topstitch the opening of the waistband closed.
The elastic waistband is complete. If you are adding a drawstring to the pants, you can do that now.
I made my drawstring from scraps left from cutting out these pants. I cut right along the selvage edge to make a long piece that was about 1 inch wide. I folded 1/4" (6mm) to the inside on both long edges and then folded the piece in half and sewed along that edge to create 1/2" wide drawstring. You want the drawstring to be your waist width plus at least 12 more inches to have a tie.
Feed the drawstring through the front opening of the pants, on the outside of the elastic that is in the waistband.
Once you have fed the drawstring through the waistband and it comes out again, make the two ends even and tie them how you prefer (or don't tie - it's up to you!).