Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tutorial: Adding Boning to a High Waistband

This is a technique that I've been researching for quite some time. So when Sunni approached me about contributing to her Ginger sew-along, I knew now was the moment to share it with you! Ginger is a great pattern for beginners, but if you're reading to try some more advanced skills, consider adding boning to the waistband. This technique adds structure to the waistband to keep it from scrunching, wrinkling, or buckling around your middle. It's similar in theory to a strapless bodice: both keep your garment where it's supposed to be. The garment I'm working on here isn't Ginger; it's actually a sneak peek of a project from my book! But it's very similar to Ginger in construction, so you'll get the idea.

I'm using spiral steel boning, which you can buy in many lengths here. You can also buy longer steel boning and cut it down, just make sure to get end caps to cover up the raw edges. (See my video on this here.)

You can also use rigilene, a polyester boning sold by the yard.

You'll need to slightly singe the ends of rigilene to keep it from poking through your garment.

There are different ways to approach this technique, and here's the one I mashed-up after much reading and thought. Here's what you'll need for this particular tutorial:
  • cotton flannel for the waistband underlining
  • horsehair canvas or other sturdy sew-in interfacing for the waistband facing
  • silk organza for the waistband facing
  • spiral steel boning or rigilene boning
Okay! Let's begin. For your pattern, you'll have two sets of waistband pieces: 2 front pieces and 4 back waistband pieces.We're going to start with the pieces that will be attached directly to your skirt, not the facing pieces.

I started by using cotton flannel to underline the fashion fabric. I'm using a thin suiting, and the flannel cushions the boning to keep it from showing on the outside of the skirt. If your fabric is thick or textured, you can skip this step. (If you're not sure, test some layers of fabric and boning in your hands and see if the boning shows through.) Cut out one set of waistband pieces in the flannel.

 Lightly draw in the seam allowances on the flannel.
 Pin the flannel to the fashion fabric.
 Hand baste the flannel to the fashion fabric just outside the seam line.

 Cut the flannel out of the seam allowances to avoid bulk.
Repeat on your back waistband pieces. My pattern has a button underlap, which I omitted the flannel in.
Next, sew these pieces together at the side seams and then attach your waistband to the skirt by stitching it to your skirt upper edge as usual. Set the skirt aside and get out your other set of waistband pieces.

Now we're going to apply interfacing to the waistband facing. It will be a double layer of horsehair canvas and silk organza, which will be stitched together to create boning channels. (This is similar in technique to my yellow dress boned lining, shown in this post.) Cut out a set of waistband pieces in horsehair canvas (or another sturdy sew-in interfacing) and another set out of silk organza (or another thin fabric like cotton batiste).

Draw in your seam line on the interfacing. Pin the interfacing and silk organza together.

 Arrange the boning pieces on the interfacing.
Draw around the boning with a ruler and pencil. Your boning lines should be 3/8" wide.
At your machine, stitch along the boning channels. Also stitch along the top seam line. Leave the bottom open so you can slide the boning into the channels, between the interfacing and organza.

 I ended up adding a couple more channels because it wasn't balanced.
 Baste or stitch along the bottom seam line to keep in boning in place.
Next, you'll baste the boned interfacing to the waistband facing. Lay the boned interfacing on top of your fashion fabric facing. Hand baste the layers together, just outside the seam lines.
Here's your finished front waist facing. It has three layers: the fashion fabric, the interfacing, and the organza.

 Cut the interfacing and organza out of the seam allowances.
Next, baste interfacing only to the back waistband facing pieces. The back waistband is narrow and doesn't need boning. Stitch the front facing to the back facing at the side seams.
Turn in the lower seam allowance.
 Now pin the waistband facing to the waistband (with flannel underlining) at the upper edge.

Carefully machine stitch the facing to the waistband, using a zipper foot to avoid stitching over the steel boning. Trim, grade, and press your seamline and turn the facing to the inside. Here's what the facing looks like opened out.
The turned-under bottom edge of the facing is hand stitched to the seam allowance to enclose the waistband.

I hope this all makes sense! Let me know if you have questions.


  1. Oh, Gertie, this tutorial couldn't have come at a better time - I am making a halter style dress with a boned midriff, and your tutorial will help tremendously! Thanks so much! Have a great day on your first "work from home" day!

  2. This is absolutely brilliantly written out! As someone who loves high waistbands, the challenge has always been to get them to stay up properly. Boning is something I've considered, but not really focused on. So thank you for laying it out step-by-step. This is definitely going in my bookmarks to refer to.

  3. Love it, can't Waite to buy your book. This is so perfect to try this holiday weekend!

  4. Going in my bookmarks too! I have the same problem with high waisted garments (I think this would be great for a pair of trousers too) and have often wondered what I could do to keep those waistbands in place. This is an eye opener! Love! Thank you Gertie!


  5. Fabulous tutorial! I now feel ready to try it out. One question I still have is care. When using boning, do you assume that this will be a garment that requires dry-cleaning, or can you wash and iron as per normal?

  6. Great tutorial! I've never thought about adding boning to a waistband but it makes sense. I know I even have some boning in my stash, from some corset top I was going to make and never did (oops).

  7. Frankly, boning scares me. When I went to my high school prom, my mother felt the need to truss me up in all manner of boned undergarments. She said it was to keep the girls in place, but it took an hour to get into all these constricting foundation garments. And I was in high school with the tight body only a 17 year old possesses. I think she was doing her part to ensure that I didn't drink or have sex because it was hell getting in and out of them. My mother had me in there so tight, that I couldn't slouch or be comfortable. Yes my posture was perfect, but does posture need to be perfect in the limo AFTER the prom? From that day to this one, I refuse to wear anything that tightly boned. When my mother hinted about doing the same thing for my wedding I scrapped the dress that I wanted for one that didn't require boned foundation garments. I'm scarred.

  8. Gertie, I'm so excited for your book! This skirt looks amazing!
    And what an excellent and detailed tutorial. :)

  9. Great tutorial, will definitely try it out! I'm using 2 fabrics on my Ginger's waistband so I fear if I add another fabric and boning it will be just too bulky, compared to rest of skirt. Or maybe not? Need to think about it.

  10. There's a particular Vogue pattern for a skirt where I would like to try this technique..but I have yards and yards of stretch lace I need to sew up first into cute little tops. That's my excuse for now.

  11. How great! I've been wanting to try boning for a while but really had no idea how to do it. This post made it seem so much less scary! I'm definitely bookmarking this!

  12. Gertie, this is so helpful and clear, thank you so much! I can't wait to try this technique. I just have to buy horsehair canvas, silk organza, boning, and, oh, yes, a pattern. Sigh. But when all that comes together I will be on this tutorial like white on rice! Or brown on rice! Whatever you prefer!

  13. Been there. Done that. But kudos, you took more photos.

  14. fab tutorial! something for me to consider when doing high waisted pieces. it's always nice to learn somthing new. thanks for sharing :)

  15. what a fabulous tutorial! ahhh i think i'm gonna have to end up buying the ginger pattern - i've been trying to hold out, but the various tutorials everyone keeps posting are making me itchy (in a good way! haha!). i've always had trouble with high waistbands scrunching up, can't wait to try this! thank you so much for taking the time to make & post it!

  16. I think this tutorial will prove essential to me. Plus I was just at Anthro yesterday and am already trying to figure out how to knock off a draped bustier they had that featured a peplum with pockets!

  17. I do this too on high waistbands, although not quite so profusely as here - last time was a pair of trousers and I only used it at the side seams and zipper for comfort.

    I tend to use rigilene/nylon boning as it's washable but I sew it into pocket channels a) to keep it upright as body heat can cause it to curve and b) so I can remove the boning prior to washing (like the boning tabs in men's collar points). A trim of bias tape finishes the edge and covers the pockets so the boning doesn't escape.

    I also like the very short lengths of plastic-coated steel boning for real stiffness.

    For Natalie: Steel bones aren't washable but are dry-cleanable. Spiral boning will rust if left damp. Synthetic whalebone is another washable and dry-cleanable option.

  18. I could kiss you; i've just bought a high waisted vintage skirt pattern to make for my eldest daughter! I'd been thinking about the waist fold issue... No more worries :)

  19. I will totally be bookmarking this tutorial! Thanks!

  20. Great tutorial! As someone who has done some sewing on fully-boned corsets, I thought I'd throw out another boning material that's the secret of corset makers everywhere: plastic duct ties/cable ties. They're ever so much nicer than rigilene -- stronger, easy to cut and shape, less likely to warp or poke through the fabric. And you can find them at any hardware store for very cheap. The last package I got was 24 3 foot ties for about $3.50, and I used three of them, cut to length, to fully bone a renaissance bodice. For boning a high waistline you don't need the boning to support the body, but I've found duct ties to be quite nearly as strong as steel boning (that renaissance bodice supports my 30G bust with no trouble).

    Anyway, thought I'd throw it out there as an alternative!

  21. Fantastic tute, Gertie! I plan to use this in MANY ways this fall. Those high-waisted styles are neat, but I struggled with trying to layer multiple interfacings to get the stiffness that boning will do so easily. Bookmarking!

    Glasscannon & Molly: Great tips! So helpful! I've got a bajillion duct ties in toolbox. Cool!

  22. Loved this tutorial! Thanks, Gertie!

  23. What a great tutorial - clear instructions and excellent photos. I will defintiely put this to use as I recently developed an interest in high waistbands that then turned into a frenzy of seeking out every high-waisted skirt and pant pattern I could find. Boning totally makes sense for those of us whose middles want to slump over the beautiful lines of the garment.

    Question: if you have a pieced waistband, say 4 front and 4 back, would you incorporate the boning into the seams, or between them? To me it seems logical to enclose them in the seam allowances somehow, but past experience tells me that my version of "logical" does not always result in a nice end product.

    P.s. When can we get your book? I want it now!

  24. I'm with Paula. I've added boning once and it didn't come out right. Now I know why.

  25. Another great tutorial. thanks, Gertie.

  26. Thanx for the tutorial! Like the look of the high waistbands but afraid that I am to short waisted for the style to work for me :(

  27. This is an awesome tute... thanks Gertie. I honestly can't wait to get my hands on a copy of your book!

  28. one of the best boning tutorials I have seen, thanks.

  29. Superb superb superb! Thanks a bunch!

  30. This is a brilliant idea! I seriously cannot wait for your book -- I don't think I've been as excited for a book release since... well, since ever, maybe.

  31. I use 14" zip ties as synthetic whalebone for corsetting, and would also use them for this application, if you want a washable skirt. They're easy to cut with utility scissors, then you just file the ends down with sandpaper (or an old nail file!), and voila! Washable bones that are less likely to warp than rigeline. You can't iron it, though... :)

  32. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I attempted making a boned bodice for the dress I wore to my friend's wedding a few years back, and over the course of the day the boning tore through the fabric (organza, not very wise I admit) and stabbed me in my hips. I think they drew blood. Ha. Can't wait to try again!

  33. I love this, and can't wait to try it out as I'm going to try it with my Ginger when I make it soon. I just have a couple of questions.

    1) I'm planning to make the Ginger out of a red seersucker. Does boning work better with a fabric with more substance vs. a light cotton? Or does it even matter? I know with a lot of the vintage, couture gowns from "The Daily Dress" almost all of them have boning of some kind going on, but with the ones made out of chiffon it seems like the inner structure is almost like a building, and the chiffon is just draped on top. What are your thoughts around cotton and boning?

    2) I feel kind of silly for asking this. I love little belts with high-waisted skirts. Would the boning mess up the fit of the belt? I wanted to make Casey's (Elegant Musings) bow belt in red or aqua to go with my Ginger skirt.

    I'm very new to sewing, and am just starting to re-vamp my wardrobe with the things I enjoy wearing that make me feel beautiful. So please pardon my newbie-ness.

  34. Thank you, Thank you!! I am just starting a vintage pattern for a slim skirt that has a built up waistband and I think this will be a perfect technique to use with it!!!


  35. While I'm too much of a beginner to even think of adding boning, I love the ginger skirt pattern. This may have to be my second sewing project. Thanks :D.

  36. How interesting! I wouldn't have thought of that. Thank you!

  37. Brilliant! I have a certain high-waisted pencil skirt pattern that I love to return to. Now it's going to look even better :) Thanks so much for the well-written tute!

  38. Thank you so much for this tutorial. My next project is a highwaited button-down skirt and I was considreding adding boning. This is perfect!
    I do have one question: in my mind I was thinking of lining the waistband (using lining for the facing basically), but is it better to make a facing in the fation fabric instead? What would you recommend (with the boning especially? Thank you in advance!

  39. If your looking for cheap rigilene amazon has it the cheapest...Theres a 50 yard roll for $18 with free shipping


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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