Pattern Drafting 101 - Curved Waistbands


Hello everyone, are you ready to go to pattern drafting school? Yes? Well get out your rulers and your pencil boxes cause today we're gonna talk about curved waistbands.
Curved waistbands are the way to go if you prefer your garments to sit at a point lower than your natural waist. They are also a godsend for us curvy girls who just have a "steep hill" to cover.  (Yeah I'm talking about my big round hips) The added shaping in the side seams area means the band will sit flush against your body, instead of standing out the way a straight waistband would.  Of course drafting a curved waistband takes several more steps then a drawing a straight rectangle, so some pattern makers will just take the easy way out.  Or if you're like me, you might be hacking a pattern into a new garment and need to create your own waistband.  

Luckily drafting a curved waistband isn't hard to do, since you are essentially following the curves already established in the main skirt.  All you need are some on to the fun part.

Tools needed - Trace paper, clear ruler, writing utensil, scissors and your front and back skirt pieces with the seam allowance marked on the waist area. I will be using my bluegingerdoll pattern hack pencil skirt for the example. This skirt has CF/CB pieces and Side front/back pieces.

Steps to Draft a Curved Waistband
1. Starting with your front skirt pattern, pin/tape any center front and side front pieces together at the seam line.  If it the skirt has darts pin/tape them closed.
Two Piece skirt
Skirt with Darts
2. Place a piece of trace paper over the waist area and trace the waist seam line. Not the pattern edge, you don't want to add any seam allowance yet!
3. Now using the skirt's edge as a guide for the angle, trace in the side seams of the waistband. In this picture I've laid my clear ruler up against the side seam of the skirt. The idea is that you are extending that angle upward.
Now your waistband should look something like this. It's good to label your CF or CB now so you don't get confused.
4. The next part of the waistband we're gonna draw is the top seam line.  But first you have to decide how wide you want the waistband to be.  You probably want to keep it somewhere in the 1" to 2" range for a normal/non-design element waistband. My example waistband band is going to be 2" wide.
Now taking the clear ruler, place it on the bottom seam line to use it as a guide for tracing the top seam line.
Slowly pivot the ruler along the bottom seam line to trace the top. In this pic I've trace a few inches of the curve at a 2" width. 
Finished pic - I've drawn in the side seam allowance and added FOLD to the center front since my zipper is going in the back. If you were making a skirt with a fly zipper in the front, add seam allowance to the CF as well.
5. Next use the clear ruler to add seam allowance on to both the top and bottom of the waistband.  I've put the standard 5/8" SA on this example.  Then use the CF as a guide for the grainline and label the pattern as necessary. (My waistband has the pattern name "Pencil skirt front waistband," on it and also has the cutting information, "cut 2 on the fold self, cut 1 on the fold interfacing.")
6. Cut out the waistband pattern and bring over to your front skirt pattern.  You'll want to "walk the seam" to make sure the two pieces will fit together when you sew them.  
Turn the waistband like I have it pictured here (how you're going to sew it on) and match the two seam lines on one end.  Then slowly pivot the pattern along the seam lines matching them up. "Walk" the pattern all the way down the seam line and if they are both the same size then perfect!  If not then add or subtract from the waistband so that they are the same size.
7. Repeat steps 1-6  to draft the back waistband.  If you are putting the zipper in the back, add seam allowance to the CB seam.  If the zipper is going on the side seam then mark the CB as FOLD like you did the front.
Make sure the two side seams are the same width and you're done!

Remember to test for fit with a muslin before cutting your fashion fabric.  If the waistband still stands away from your sides you can take it in at the side seams and then adjust the angle on your pattern.

Cut facings and interfacing like you would on any commercial pattern and finish it with your favorite technique. (I've hand tacked the facing down on my example.)  On this type of waistband I usually close with an invisible zipper in the center back or side seam like so...
If you wanted to instal a fly zipper in the front you'd need the additional pieces of the fly and fly shield.  Let me know if you guys are interested in how to draft that.  In fact if you're interested in learning how to draft any particular pattern piece, I'd be interested to know.

This post got a little long so I'm gonna split out my bluegingerdoll pencil skirt pattern hack into another post. See you guys next time and happy drafting.


  1. Thanks for the tutorial...I am definitely one of those that needs contour in my waistbands due to all the slopes happening below...

  2. This is great! I've been thinking that I want to redraft the waistband for my jeans pattern, the next time I make a pair, so that it's more curved. I had to do some serious tweaking on my one me-made pair to avoid the dreaded gapiosis. But my pattern-drafting skills are abysmal, so having this tutorial will be sooooo helpful. Thanks!

  3. This is a great tutorial! I'm such a visual person and all the pics along with your detailed instructions are perfect.

  4. Thank you so much for this excellent tutorial. :)

  5. Yay, great tutorial Heather :) I might need to pattern hack my Billie Jean pattern as well :)

  6. You're welcome Jackie, hope the tutorial works out for you.

  7. Thanks Becky, that gapiosis in the back of jeans is a real pain in the butt. A curved waistband will certainly help, you can even put a seam in the CB of the band for more shaping.

  8. Thanks Shar! I'm glad the pics worked out well. I kind of wish I had pretty illustrator drawings but you gotta work with what you got.

  9. Your welcome Laura. :)

  10. Thanks Jennifer, I'm all for more Billie Jean hacking.

  11. When constructing pants with a contour waistband do you still sew the darts?

  12. Yes, sew all darts in the pants or skirt or the waistband will not fit.


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