How to Replace the Elastic in Elastic-Waist Pants

Alter the Elastic in Elastic-Waist Pants

One of the GREAT things about sewing is the way that it gives you the ability to modify off-the-rack clothing to actually, you know, fit correctly.

Take my younger child. She’s a string bean, a 9-year-old for whom size 10-12 pants would fit just right in length, if only they didn’t fall down around her ankles in a puddle.

We’ll discuss how I alter pants for my older child, who has a booty that clothing manufacturers simply do not make clothing for, in another post, but for now, let’s alter some pants so that my younger kid can actually wear them.

Elastic-waist pants are the easiest to modify, of course, since the absolute only thing that you have to do is swap out that elastic. You will need:

seam ripper. 


sewing supplies. This is actually an easy project to sew by hand, so feel free to save it to do while you’re sitting in the bleachers, cooling your heels, during ice skating practice.

And here’s what you do!

1. Check the waistband for places where the elastic is sewn in. Sometimes you can do this visually, looking for a line of vertical stitching to sew the elastic into place and keep it from shifting, and sometimes you may have to feel around the waistband to find it. Generally, good-quality pants will have at least one of these places where the elastic is sewn in, and if they don’t, you may want to sew the elastic to the pants at one point when you replace it. Have you ever worn a pair of pants in which the elastic twists? Sewing the elastic down in one spot helps prevent that.

When you find a place where the elastic is sewn in, carefully remove the stitching with your seam ripper.

2. Open up a hole in the elastic casing. Again using your seam ripper judiciously, open up a hole a little wider in diameter than the width of the elastic. The stitching that you’ll use to close this hole won’t be identical to the rest of the stitching at the waistband, so make this opening somewhere inconspicuous–at the side or back, perhaps.

Replace the Elastic in Elastic-Waist Pants

3. Pull out the elastic, and cut it to size. If you’ve missed one of the places where the elastic is sewn in, you’ll find it now!

You *can* cut the elastic to size without removing it from the waistband, but honestly, it ends up every time being quicker and easier for me to just pull it out, measure it, and put it back.

To cut elastic that will fit my kids right away but also give them plenty of room to grow before becoming too snug, I like to cut the elastic to exactly my kid’s current waist size. I’ll sew it together with a 1/2″ seam allowance on both ends, so that will make the elastic waistband only 1″ smaller than my kid’s waist size–the pants will stay up, but they also have PLENTY of room to grow!

4. Thread the elastic back into the waistband. Fasten a safety pin to one end of the elastic, and use that to thread the elastic back through the waistband casing–be mindful that you leave a tail of elastic showing!

5. Sew the ends of the elastic together. Overlap the elastic by 1/2″, being careful that it’s not twisted inside the casing, and then stitch it together. The strongest stitch is a big X with a box around it, or at least that’s what I do, and I’ve never had an elastic waistband come unstitched.

Remember, you can also hand-stitch this!

5. Sew the hole in the casing closed. You can hand-stitch the hole in the casing closed, as well.

Don’t think this method is only good for kids’ clothes! If you’ve got a favorite pair of elastic-waist jammy pants, you might find that the elastic will eventually wear out on them–and now you know how to mend it!

Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

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