Convert Draw String Pants to Elastic Waistband Pants


Major pet peeve: archaic draw string pants revitalized by current fashion trends. After utilizing elastic waistbands for decades, why revert backward? After several years annoyance, I decided to do something about it during craft time this week. I researched the method, bought the supplies, and gathered up all of my pants for conversion. Finally, I have no hassle pajama pants that are comfortable! I don’t know why it took me this long to make it a priority!   

 Skill Level: Easy       
Cost: under $10      
Time Required: 1/2 hour per waistband      



  • measuring tape
  • elastic (non-roll preferred)
  • scizzors
  • elastic slide or bodkin
  • stitch ripper
  • thread
  • needle or sewing machine with stretch needle

First, measure your waist (area where pants rest on waist) and subtract 4 inches. Multiply that amount by the number of pants that you plan to convert. 

Research indicated that anywhere from 2 to 7 inches less will work for the elastic, and recommended beginning with 4 inches less and then test for comfort. 4 inches less worked well for me. You may want to consider allowing a bit extra (one inch) for overlapping ends to sew together. I didn’t allow extra for the overlap. 

Measure the length of the holes where the draw strings enter the waistband. Buy the width of elastic to fit the holes. Widths varied. My pants needed 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch widths. 

Research indicated that non-roll elastic works best. When shopping, I forgot to check for non-roll and bought regular braided elastic. This worked fine for me. I didn’t have any issues with rolling elastic when I wore the pants a few times.  It’s possible to purchase the elastic packaged or cut to length. Cost varies by width of the elastic and is priced by the yard. Non-roll would be more expensive than the braided elastic. 

Research indicated that bodkins work best for sliding the elastic through the waistbands. Since I already had the slides, I did not search for the bodkin, but found a picture of it on The bodkin resembles a modified clamp. 

Figure 1 - Rip back seam stitches.

The most time consuming aspect of this task was ripping stitches. Unexpectedly, I discovered that all of my pants were stitched vertically at the back to hold the draw strings in place. To pull out the draw strings, carefully rip the stitches and test draw string until it is loose enough to pull past the stitched area. (Figure 1)    

Figure 2 - Attach elastic to drawstring with a straight pin.

Figure 3 - Attach elastic slide to end of the elastic to help hold on to the elastic.

Since I needed to pull out the draw string anyway, I attached the elastic to the draw string with a straight pin (head directed to go through hole first), and slowly pulled the draw string through the waistband. (Figure 2) When solely utilizing the draw string to pull the elastic, I attached the elastic slide to the other end of the elastic to avoid pulling it too far. (Figure 3) After the draw string is out, hold both ends of the elastic and push the fabric down to get more room to work. Then, use the elastic slide to pull one end of the elastic under the fabric space between the two holes to meet the other end. (Figures 4 & 5)       

Figure 4 -Join the elastic ends by inserting slide through one hole to the other hole.

Figure 5 - Both ends of elastic exit same hole.

Next, overlap the elastic ends with enough room to sew together. I used approximately 1/2 to 1 inch overlap. Sew ends together. (Figure 6) It’s quicker to use a sewing machine. An overcast stitch such as “x”, diamond, ladder or similar style works best because of the stretchable nature of elastic. Adjust size of stitch to smaller width and length to fit the space better. (Figure 7) It took a bit of patience to line up the elastic under the machine needle, but I got it to work fine. First attempt not so neat; remainder got better with practice.      

Figure 6 - Sew ends together.

Figure 7 - Ends sewn with an overcast stitch.

After sewing the elastic together, push the elastic back through the hole. The holes will not be visibly obvious and the elastic will not be visible at all. (Figure 8) I did nothing with the holes. If desired, using the elastic guide, it’s easy to push a short ribbon or string through the two holes and tie a bow in front for decoration.      

Figure 8 - Finished. Holes slightly visible, but no one should notice.

Figure 9 - Sew back seam.

Last, don’t forget to run a vertical stitch at the back in case you broke any back seam stitches while ripping stitches earlier. (Figure 9) I stitched all of my pants as a safeguard because the tiny stitches were very hard to see as I ripped them. This will also help to hold the elastic in place at the back.      

The dark blue plaid pants posed a change of procedure when I discovered that the draw string was also sewn into the bottom of the waist area. Here, after I wrapped the elastic around the slide to lock the elastic in place (Figure ( 10 & 11), I easily slid the slide through and around the waistband by gathering the fabric over the slide and pushing it further along the way. (Figure 12) Later, loosely tie the drawstring for decoration only or cut it off.  (Figure 13)     

Figure 10 - Lock elastic.

Figure 11 - Could not remove draw string. Insert slide behind draw string.

Figure 12 - Push slide through by gathering fabric.

Figure 13 - Bow tied loosely for decoration only.

Despite the stitch ripping, I was pleased with the minimal time involved in this project. I’m happy and thankful that I took the time to get rid of my pet peeve! Now, if only the fashion designers will get practical with their styles!       

The boys took advantage of the opportunity when they saw me finishing this project. They brought over to me all of their stuffed animals that needed repairs. I repaired 2 teddy bears and one owl. If I wasn’t very hungry, I probably would have worked on the turtle too. Luke asked Papa to do the turtle since I didn’t get to it. Papa agreed to show Luke how to sew the turtle tomorrow. :-)

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