Using Buttonhole / Adjustable Elastic in the Potato Chip Skirt or other patterns

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The Potato Chip Skirt pattern has a flat front and elastic back, plus separate waistband, so it’s a perfect candidate for adjustable “buttonhole” elastic to accommodate a growing child or a child whose waist size you aren’t sure of. You can use this adjustable waistband technique in this tutorial in any pants, shorts, or skirt pattern with a flat front/elastic back and a separate waistband.

Be aware that you won’t be able to have a reversible skirt if you use the adjustable elastic option, because the elastic would show on the outside if you tried to wear it reversed.

That said, I am using the Potato Chip Skirt’s reversible skirt option for this one made of quilting cotton. I could have lined it using the pattern’s lined skirt option, but making it by the reversible instructions is slightly quicker  and I think it gives the quilting cottons some nice body so they stand out in the pretty A-line shape.

You’ll need buttonhole elastic … or will you? You can commonly find buttonhole elastic in ⅝” or 3/4” widths. I bought my 3/4″ buttonhole elastic on etsy. The Potato Chip Skirt pattern calls for 1” wide elastic so you’ll need to make some adjustments or you can experiment with making your own buttonhole elastic. Using 1” wide knit elastic I was able to use the stretch buttonhole function on my sewing machine to make a decent buttonhole. I also found that simply cutting a small slit in the center seemed to work well neither DIY option frayed when I tugged on it and roughed it up a little to see how it would hold up, though I haven’t tried a longer term test. Also, I didn’t try these methods on other elastic besides knit.

Buttonhole Elastic Tutorial

Cut buttonhole elastic for the back 4″ or 5” longer than the pattern specifies. Zigzag to finish the raw ends, or turn the ends over and stitch down to secure.

You’ll need to leave gaps in the inner waistband at the side seams for the elastic to exit. To do this, you’ll want to press the Potato Chip waistband folds before you join them,  reversing the steps on pages 11 and 12. So, first press the waistbands in half lengthwise to make a crease and unfold, then press the inner edge under 3/8″ and unfold. For the Potato Chip’s reversible waistband you’ll use the seam between the two fabrics as the center guide. Lay the front and back waistbands right sides together, and when you join them at the side seams, leave a gap by sewing ½” of the inner waistband, stop and backstitch to secure, then start again about ⅛” before the fold. For the Potato Chip Skirt, this will leave a gap of about 1-1/8” for your elastic. Shown below is how this will look with a two-fabric or a one-fabric waistband.


Attach the waistband per the pattern instructions, except that you can stitch the waistband down all the way around the skirt -you don’t need to leave gaps for elastic since we’ve taken care of that. See our nice hole for the elastic?


Sew two flat, smooth buttons on the inner front waistband about 1” from the side seams. Stitch only through the back layer so your stitches don’t show on the front. You’ve interfaced this per the pattern instructions (right?) so your buttons will stay secure.

Thread the elastic through one gap. Before the tail disappears, fasten the last buttonhole to the button. You don’t need to be fancy about this, but I like to fasten this one “right sides together” so it stays in place – you will always leave this buttonhole buttoned. So I give my elastic a flip before I button it down. Then I button the second, or third, or fourth buttonhole down to the same button, that’s where the adjustable part comes in.



Pull the elastic all the way through and repeat the buttoning on the other side. As you need to let out or take in the waist, adjust only the top buttonhole, leaving the very end buttonholes in place.

Because the waistband casing is 1.25″ wide, designed for 1” elastic, if you are using 3/4” wide you might want to stitch across the waistband to create a narrower channel. I topstitched the top edge of the back waistband to make it a little narrower, but it still feels a little ‘slidey’ in the casing, and I may go back and sew 1” below that for a narrower casing.

That’s all there is to sewing buttonhole elastic for an adjustable waistband!


The instant-download Potato Chip Skirt pattern comes in sizes 12 months through 14 years.


2 thoughts on “Using Buttonhole / Adjustable Elastic in the Potato Chip Skirt or other patterns

  1. I've been putting buttonhole elastic on my daughters' skirts and pants since I started sewing and love it. The only thing I do different is I put a buttonhole on each end of the inside of the back waistband for the elastic to come through 🙂 I love the look of it.

  2. Great tutorial – I've always had to use this option for my girls who are thin, but used to be afraid of doing it myself. Great explanation and tutorial!

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