buttonhole elastic buttons and jeans

Adding elastic to a jeans waistband (buttonhole elastic tutorial)

Today is all about adding elastic to a jeans waistband with buttonhole elastic.

If you have kids, you’ve probably seen buttonhole elastic on pants. And if you have kids with smaller waists, you LOOK for pants with buttonhole elastic.

Buttonhole elastic is great stuff it turns out for helping create an adjustable waist. For kids who can’t yet use a belt well, cinching up the elastic on the inside of the pants as needed is the next best thing. Who doesn’t want the security of pants that won’t fall down your backside?!

The problem is that not all pants have this awesome helpful feature. That’s why you’re here.

In this post, I’ll show you how to deconstruct a waistband, add buttonholes, and then we’ll work on adding elastic to a jeans waistband.

All it takes is a little stitch unpicking, some easy sewing and of course, buttonhole elastic.

So find a pair of your kids pants and let’s fix them up.

buttonhole elastic and jeans

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Supplies for how to make an adjustable waistband

What is buttonhole elastic?

Before we get into adding buttonhole elastic to our pants, what is buttonhole elastic anyhow?

Buttonhole elastic is a specialty elastic. It has small holes in the center of the elastic. When worn, you can use a button to anchor the elastic in place. It’s a brilliant little notion for growing kids!

This is a different kind of elastic waistband than what you usually see. Buttonhole elastic lets you adjust everything to fit which lets you get a much better

Adding elastic to jeans waistband

Deconstruct the waistband

First, use your seam ripper to remove the stitches at the bottom of the waistband. This will open up the waistband to the inside. A lot of times with jeans, the waistbands are stitched on with a chain stitch. The cool thing about this is that if you can break the stitch (a pair of embroidery scissors is great here), you can pull on a thread that will unpick the stitch pretty much by itself.

If you want to, cut through any belt loops on the bottom of the waistband. There’s no need to remove any stitches holding belt loops in place on the top of the waistband.

Later on I’ll show you how to leave the belt loops undisturbed while you’re stitching things back together, so it’s not 100% necessary to remove belt loops.

If for some reason you can’t open up the waistband to reveal the waistband’s inside, go ahead and remove the waistband entirely.

Mark the buttonholes

Mark two buttonholes each 1” away from the first belt loop on the front on either side of the zipper.

Make sure that the markings will sit on the inside when you flip everything back in place.

You will only be sewing the buttonholes through one layer of fabric.

Sew the buttonholes

Optional: From here, place your fusible interfacing on the wrong side of the waistband over the area where you have each buttonhole marked. The scratchy side of the interfacing should be against the wrong side of the waistband.

Fuse the interfacing in place. You can almost get away with not using interfacing if you’re working with denim. With other types of pants, go for the interfacing.

From here, grab one of your buttons and hold it up to your buttonhole foot. Adjust the foot so that it is just slightly too small for the button to fit in the back of the foot.

Sew two buttonholes through the right side of the inner waistband where they are marked.

Cut open the buttonholes with your seam ripper or a buttonhole chisel.

Sew the waistband

At this point, fold the waistband back in place. Make sure that the pressed edge of the waistband covers the waistband’s seam. If you like, add some glue stick to hold the waistband in place.

Stitch the waistband to the pants close to the waistband seam.

As you’re sewing and get to a belt loop, use your finger to move the loop out of the way. Sew as far as you can, then lift the presser foot and slide the loop under the presser foot.

From the other side, you can slide the loop out of the way.

Get as close as you can to your last stitch, then keep on stitching to reattach the waistband.

Sew on the buttons

sewing button on waistband

Sew on the buttons about 1/2” closer to center front on the inside waistband. Be sure as you stitch that you’re only going through one layer of fabric.

Adding the buttonhole elastic

Cut a length of buttonhole elastic long enough to go from buttonhole to buttonhole around the back plus a few inches.

Use the drawstring threader to pull the buttonhole elastic through the waistband. The elastic should move from the front around to the back and through the other hole in the front.

Anchor the elastic

anchoring elastic

Stitch through all layers of the waistband and the elastic at center back right in the seam if there is one. Use a straight stitch and backstitch at the beginning and end of the stitch.

This will anchor the elastic in place and keep the elastic from falling out in the wash.

Gather up the elastic

To use the buttonhole elastic, pull on the elastic through the casing.

Fasten one of the elastic’s holes on a button, then repeat on the other side so that the pants sit comfortably on your child. Slide any extra elastic back inside the buttonhole for a clean inside look.


So that’s the simple way you can add buttonhole elastic to pants. Enjoy the comfort of an adjustable waistband!

Save your pants’ knees!

Looking for more ways to fix your kids’ clothes? Check out how to add knee patches to your kids’ pants.

kids' knee patches

2 thoughts on “Adding elastic to a jeans waistband (buttonhole elastic tutorial)”

  1. I love reading your tips, thank you. I am a grandmother of 2 girls, so far! Aged 13 years and almost one year! My 13 year old asks me to do lots of alterations, this waist elastic in jeans is the most useful yet. Thanks.

    I so admire you as a busy person. Teaching violin and doing all your sewing plus family time. Superwoman/Supermum no question.


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