Add a yoga style waistband to a woven skirt

Greetings giant soft-shelled turtles. I know you think you’re cool, spending most of your life buried in sand and all, but I think you’re sorta lazy. Also, you totally look like a member of one of the lounge bands in the Star Wars movies. Whatever. Grow a shell.

I did some actual sewing today! I have a wall of shame in my sewing-slash-guest room… a row of hooks on which hangs my ‘to sew’ list, current projects and failures that I can’t toss. Included on that wall has been my Mondo Tribute skirt. I love the skirt, but it’s made from a loosely woven, ravelry mess of a fabric that I didn’t stabilize. I serged it, but that wasn’t enough and the seams of the waistband disintegrated the first time I tried it on. Literally. I’d thought about removing the waistband and putting on a new, specially reinforced one, but what with the zipper, lining and raveling I haven’t had the heart. Today inspiration struck! I slashed and serged and now have a wearable skirt! Weird, but wearable!!

A knit, yoga-style waistband! I started considering a knit waistband after reading about how to lengthen skirts in the last issue of Threads (‘Go to Great Lengths,’  page 22,  Threads #155,  June/July 2011). It seemed like a reasonable solution for this particular skirt problem. And I’ve got a lotta pieces of stretchy material lying around. I never quite got around to it until this morning when I clicked over to check out the blog of our giveaway winner, Ginny. She JUST made a similar style skirt using a tutorial from Sew Mama Sew!! That was enough to inspire me!

Before we start, here’s a ‘before’ photo – not too enlightening, what with the giant belt. Suffice to say it’s my bastardization of the Jenny skirt from Burdastyle. Well, it’s the waistband (sort of) from that pattern plunked onto the pencil skirt from Vogue 8648. You get the drift. Under that belt there’s a 4″ high waistband.

And here’s me showing off the problem. Lemme tell you, it was hard to not Photoshop a decent manicure onto those sad phalanges.

Choosing the fabric

First, I had to choose what fabric to use for the new waistband. I narrowed it down to three options.


I went with the grey, although I wish I’d gone with the pink. In all fairness, though, I needed a half yard of the stretchy stuff and I have enough pink for a whole dress, but if I’d cut off a half yard, well. No dress. Once I picked the color, I double checked to make sure it had enough stretch. According to the Sew Mama Sew tutorial, I needed something with 50% stretch – no elastic in this waistband, just the knit holding up the skirt! I made a super-deluxe paper-based gauge to check the stretch.

For those of you lazy six foot long turtles who haven’t  worked with knits, 50% stretch means that a 4″ piece of the knit will stretch another 2″ to get to 6″ wide. You check the crosswise stretch of the fabric (ie, you’re stretching the two selvages apart, not the two cut ends of your piece of fabric.) Mine had enough stretch, although it was close. Also, this was a very difficult photo to take one handed. Must get Lucy into photography classes.

Trimming off the old waistband

Now for removing that old waistband. The Threads article said something about cutting below the dart points, but my skirt doesn’t have darts, it has princess seams. It also has a lining, so there was a potential for extreme aggravation, trying to keep that slippery rayon under control. The goal of trimming is cutting down the skirt until you can slip it over your hips easily. I started out by unzipping all the way, then trimming right above the zipper pull. By leaving the bottom of the zipper attached, I left the lining still attached to the skirt top (since it was slipstitched to the zipper tape.)

I used the pattern in the cloth and my eyeballs to cut straight. What can I say? I’m not a huge fan of precision and this was really a technique-test. Can I get an amen for hacking off the top of skirts without measuring??

Once I got the waistband cut off, I pinned the lining to the skirt at each seam (sides, princess seams and center back) and then I trimmed right below the zipper to get rid of of the zipper stop. I also did a seat-of-my-pants tilted waist adjustment by dipping this final cut down about and inch and a half at the center front, easing back up at each side seam.

I tried it on to make sure I could slide it over my hips and I still liked the length. Since this fix removes the zipper completely, the skirt needs to slide over the hips easily – otherwise you couldn’t pull it on once you attach the new waistband!

Well, it looked so foxy at this point, I very nearly just stopped the project. But I soldiered on in the name of scientific inquiry and the insatiable thirst of the blog-world.

I DID snap a photo of the next step, but it wasn’t very illuminating. Before moving on to making and attaching the waistband, I had to deal with the lining. I’d already pinned it near the waistband, so I undid those pins, then I pinned evenly along the HEMLINE and held it up, hem to the ceiling, waistband to the floor. This allowed the lining to hang freely. I carefully laid down on the table and then REPINNED at the waistband. Theoretically, I had used gravity to ensure the slip stayed the correct length and nice and straight. It seemed to work.

Next I serged the lining to the main fabric. I wanted to add some stability to that nasty loose weave and I wanted to contain the lining-beast before moving on. I didn’t even bother to trim all the extra lining at the top before serging. I just let the serger do that, keeping the cut edge of the main fabric in line with the right side of the presser foot. It worked like a charm!

One purple tweedy skirt, ready for its yoga-style waistband…

Make the waistband

Well, first off, sorry about the blurr-o photo here. Not sure what happened. Likely, my hands were shaking with excitement over the sheer audacity of what I was attempting.

The Sew Mama Sew instructions say to cut a piece of knit material that is 15 inches tall and the length of your waist MINUS three inches. Then cut that in two. So, if you had a 17 inch waist like Scarlett, you’d cut a piece 14 inches long and then cut that in two, ending up with two pieces of fabric, each 15″ tall x 7″ wide. I didn’t do that.

First, I cut my fabric about 4 inches shorter than my waist and next time will go five. Also, I kept my waistband in one piece. Due to a quirk in adjusting the pattern, my skirt front and back pieces aren’t equal and it would bug me if the side seams of the waistband didn’t line up with the sideseams of the skirt. Also, the waistband is folded in half (the long way) before attaching to the skirt – which would make a 15″ tall waistaband 7.5″ tall. Subtract .5″ for the seam allowance and you have a finished waistband that’s 7″ tall – and it’s meant to be folded over, so make that more like 3.5″ tall. I wanted it taller so I started with about 19″ of height which would give me a finished and folded height of 4.5″

Next, serge the short ends together.

All serged!

Last step before pinning the waistband to the skirt is to fold your knit circle in half, the long way, with the serged seam to the inside. Like so – fold on the ‘top’, all the raw edges on the ‘bottom.’

Pinning it all together

First, I marked the center front, center back and side seams with pins. I just divided the waistband into four equal parts by holding onto the serged seam and smoothing flat, marking the fold opposite the serged seam with a pin, then bringing that pin to the serged seam, smoothing flat and marking each fold. I like to use the pins with the giant heads for this sort of thing and color code ‘em. Side seams get yellow, front gets white and center back gets green. After pin marking the waistband, I pin marked the skirt at the same spots and using the same color coding system. That makes matching up the waistband and skirt super easy!

I will admit that pinning ‘em together wasn’t so easy! The waistband of the skirt was a lot bigger than the new stretchy waistband, so I had to hold the stretchy waistband taught, stick a pin in it and move on. It would have been nice to have a partner. Or another hand. I managed to get a few pins in each ‘quadrant’ – enough to keep me on track when seeing together! Here’s how it looked when I was finished.

Putting it all together

Back to the serger! Even though the skirt was so much larger than the waistband, it was pretty easy to sew together. Once I got it going, I just gently pulled on the knit to keep it nice and smooth. I had the knit side facing up so I could see what I was doing and not accidentally sew in any tucks. I used a half-inch seam allowance, which nicely trimmed off the serging I had just done to attach the lining and skirt together.

The resulting seam at the waist was really bumpy! See?

Ah well, nothing a good ironing couldn’t take care of!

The Verdict

OK you nearly extinct carnivorous turtles with a strike faster than a python! I wore my new-old skirt to work and to teach a class tonight. It was SUPER comfy! I really like how the waistline is smooth, even though I had to ease in so much to fit the stretchy waistband. I also liked the way the waistband accented my waist when I tugged it up a bit! Of course, the opposite is also true  - that waistband accents whatever it’s wrapped around (just image if I’d used the pink!), so there’s potential for a super unflattering look if one wears it down low and has hips like mine! I liked how the waistband made the length more fluid – I could even tug it up HIGH, and fold the entire waistband over the skirt and it still looked good and I shaved a good four inches from the skirt length!

On the other hand, I’m not sure how long the stretch will last in the waistband. I know my camis lose their stretch after a while, so we’ll have to see! In the meantime, I put together three outfits, although they all look sort of the same to me! I tried to switch up the length and how I wore the waistband. First up…

The 70′s Social Worker

{well, what would YOU call this look?}

Corporate Drone

{what? polka dots aren’t the norm
with the conference room set?}


{clearly, I was feeling fall-like today. It’s the tweed.}

The last word – Yoga waistband pencil skirt hack

pattern: mix of my own plotting, the Sew Mama Sew Yoga Skirt tutorial and the Threads article (link to the online extra for this article – not this specific method)

notions: thread

time to complete: about an hour

likelihood to make another?: I’m not sure I’d make a brand-new skirt with a waistband like this, but it’s a nice hack to save a skirt or just switch things up!

curvy girl score – 5. The good: well, really, it’s an elastic waistband pretending to be something infinitely cooler than that! Gold star for comfort and flexibility! Also, the elastic to woven fabric reduced some of the trouble I tend to have getting the waist to hips ratio right where I want them. The bad: hmmmm…. a waistband like this is really calling for attention. I’m not a fan of things stretching right across my hips and I found it a bit tricky to wear!

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  • Sparrow
    October 13, 2013

    Very cute. I’m making my daughters skirts out of corduroy and was worried a knit yoga waist would stretch out funny when I sewed it! But going by your project I think it’ll be fine. Did it end up holding up ok?

  • angel toews
    March 11, 2012

    You have a great blog, you are just so cute how you style your clothing.

  • Laura
    July 20, 2011

    Wonderful post, but the typeface needs to be heavier for easy reading.

  • Lynne
    July 14, 2011

    well, it certainly works! Great idea, great tutorial.

  • Ginny
    July 14, 2011

    Oh wow Patty, great save on the awesome tweed skirt! And K-Line is right on about the Mary Tyler Moore vibe — which is a totally excellent vibe!!! You now have my little head is spinning with yoga skirt variations! The waistband on the yoga skirt I made is retaining it’s snappy stretch, but I’m pretty sure the fabric is a cotton/lycra blend :D
    Ginny recently posted..Yoga Skirt Surprise!My Profile

  • K-Line
    July 13, 2011

    Shockingly chic! And I call the top look “Mary Tyler Moore”.
    K-Line recently posted..Shout Out to the Experts: Easing Full Hems and Facing DebaclesMy Profile

  • Carolyn
    July 13, 2011

    Your skirt looks great! I want to try this. Thanks for the photos and the links.

  • Tanit-Isis
    July 13, 2011

    Ooh, good save! I hope it’s more wearable this time, that fabric is luverly. My fave look is hiked up and short, but then I do like the high-waisted thing. I wonder if you could have included some of that super-wide elastic (I think you can get it up to 4″ wide?) inside the knit part to firm up the stretch. Or even layer of swimsuit lycra or something. Hmm.

    Happy wearing!
    Tanit-Isis recently posted..I want to work for Colette PatternsMy Profile

    • Patty The Snug Bug
      July 13, 2011

      I was thinking the same thing re. reinforcing with elastic. The jersey was surprisingly effective as a waistband, but I’m not convinced that it’ll STAY effective!!

      The high waisted/shorter look is my fave too. Not only do i like high waists, by the slightly longer skirt is frump city with calves like mine!
      Patty The Snug Bug recently posted..{7.12 | skirt restyle}My Profile

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