Next up in the maternity sewing series is two ways to add a full pregnancy panel to a below-the-belly pair of maternity pants. The first way is for drawstring or elastic-waist pants, and the second is for less flexible waistbands.
Pregnant women are pretty sharply divided between those who prefer the below-the-belly waist bands and those who prefer a pregnancy panel. I am 100% in favor of the panel because it provides better coverage- I won’t accidentally flash my belly if my shirt shifts, hangs, or flutters- and because it distributes the elastic pressure used to hold the pants over my entire belly instead of only on my lower intestines. Apparently, I’m really prone to the myriad of reasons for GI upset during pregnancy, and I also have bouts of sciatica and round ligament pain which affect my midsection. It is not an exaggeration to say that when I put on a pair of intestine-squeezing, below-the-belly pants, it initiates a countdown to debilitating abdominal pain. So, when I find a pant style that is only available in below-the-belly, I use one of these techniques to convert it to a mercifully more comfortable full-panel version.
Converting drawstring or elastic-waist pants to a full panel
I forgot to take a before photo, but this method preserves the existing waist band, so you can see it in the photos below. I had two pairs of these Old Navy maternity capris with an elastic waist band as well as a draw string. This is a simple conversion that requires only a few cuts and a straight line of sewing.
1. Locate where the elastic is sewn down within the waist band casing. You’ll probably see a vertical line of stitching somewhere on the casing marking this spot, and it’s likely at the back of the pants near the tag. Cut through the inside wall of the casing at this point.
2. Cut the elastic to the left or to the right of the vertical stitching. Don’t cut on both the left and right because the elastic will retract into the casing where it’s cut. Also take care not to cut the drawstrings if you have them.
3. Starting on the side you did not cut, begin to pull the elastic through the opening in the casing to remove it. If the elastic won’t pull through, it is likely sewn down at another spot, so cut through the casing at that spot to either remove the stitching or cut the elastic free on either side of it, if you don’t mind leaving a little elastic remnant inside. Once the elastic band is out of the casing, cut it free on the other side of the vertical stitching and discard, again without cutting the drawstrings. You’re left with a little patch of elastic attached to the drawstrings.
4. Dealing with the drawstrings: if you don’t want the drawstrings, remove the elastic patch and the attached drawstrings at this point. If you want to retain them, refashion the draw strings such that they are pulling on either side of the elastic so you have more give in the band. I had actually already completed this step when I took the photo above. I cut the drawstring free on either side of the vertical stitching and reattached each side of the drawstring to the corresponding half of the elastic. This way there is a tiny amount of give when the drawstrings are in use.
5. Prepare your elastic panel. You can use a pre-made maternity panel, upcycle fabric from an old garment, or use any kind of stretchy fabric you want. Like my last project, I used the hemmed bottom of an old cami that no longer fit right but was still stretchy.
6. Pin the panel. Because you’re preserving the existing waist band and it’s not meant to be seen anyway, there’s no need to make a traditional right-side-to-right-side seam which would hide your line of stitching BUT add uncomfortable bulk inside the band. Instead, with both the pants and the panel right side out, arrange the bottom edge of the panel inside the waist band of the pants- exactly how the finished pants will look- and pin inside the waist band, taking care to keep the drawstrings low in the casing below the pins.
6. Sew the panel to the pants. After pinning, fold the elastic panel down around the outside of the pants to reveal your pins inside the waist band. Using matching thread*, sew a straight line around the entire waist band where the panel and waist band overlap, being careful not to catch the rest of the elastic panel, the opposite side of the pants fabric, or the drawstrings inside or outside of the casing. Remember, you aren’t sewing a typical right-side-to-right-side seam- the raw edge of the panel will be visible below the line of stitching inside the waistband…but only to the wearer!
*TIP: You may want to use elastic thread if your waist band fits snugly, and if you can manage it. I haven’t gotten elastic thread to work on my machine, and I’d rather risk a break in the thread (which usually doesn’t affect the integrity of the garment and/or is an easy fix) than try to hand sew the elastic thread.
You are ALL done!! Put on your new comfy pants and relax.
Converting side-panel, semi-fixed, or fixed-waist pants to a full maternity panel
I defer to those who have come before me on this topic. I successfully converted this pair of side-panel maternity jeans to a full-panel using this helpful tutorial from bloggers Shwin and Shwin. This tutorial can actually be used to add a pregnancy panel to non-maternity pants as well as existing maternity pairs.
Here is how mine turned out. After the alteration, they became my favorite maternity jeans for all three of my pregnancies.