Before we start, let’s look at the features of the skirt we’re going to make.
The basic shape of the skirt we are making is a bell shape. This shape is suited for cute girly styles like Lolita fashion. This shape is very easy to make but it does take up a decent amount of fabric. When choosing your fabric keep in mind that if you are using a patterned print you may need more to make sure the patterns match up well.
The top of the skirt is gathered and there is a ruffle along the bottom of it.
This skirt features a flat waist band.
On the back the waist band is partially elastic to ensure a good fit.
Keep in mind I’m going to keep this as simple as possible so we are going to cut some corners and it’s going to be a very basic skirt (eg. it’s not lined). I only sew for myself these days so I don’t mind taking short cuts because I know how I wear clothes. A lot of my techniques are just my personal preference after way too many years sewing so I would suggest looking at several different courses and styles of sewing so you can find the one that works best for you.
So let’s get started!
You will need:
- Sewing machine
- Tape measure
- Any decorations you want like lace etc
I will be using dark thread so you can see what I’m doing again but please choose a thread that matches your fabric.
First thing you need to do is measure your waist. These skirts sit on the waist not the hips so measure around the thinnest part of your waist. I will do an entire post on how to measure yourself later because that is very very important. It is very hard to measure yourself accurately so please get a friend to help if possible.
Now you need to cut your pieces out.
This project will consist of 3 rectangular sections:
- The ruffle at the bottom
- The main skirt part
- The waist band
Here is how to measure for each piece to cut
This is made from 4 rectangles. Two wider ones for the front/elastic back and two shorter ones for the sides of the back
Height- Twice as high as you want the finished waistband to be plus 3cm for seams.
Width- The pieces for the front/elastic back should be 1/2 of your waist measurement. The pieces for the sides of the back should be 1/6th of your waist measurement.
This is made from 2 pieces (it can be more or less depending on the fabric you’re cutting from).
Height- This depends on how long you want the finished skirt to be. Make sure to leave extra for seams.
Width- This should be at least 3 times your waist measurement. The longer the width, the poufier the skirt.
This is made from several long strips. I used 3 but yours will depend how wide your piece of fabric is.
Height- This depends on how long you want the finished skirt to be. Make sure to leave extra for seams.
Width- This should be at least twice the width of the total skirt width.The longer the width of this, the frillier the ruffle.
The way my fabric was patterned I had to use several pieces where you could just use one if your fabric allows it. Keep in mind that this is more of a guide than an exact pattern, so experiment. I would ALWAYS suggest if you’re unsure on measurements to draw things out and use some basic math. I would also suggest pinning things together before you start sewing so you can check the fit before you go to the effort of sewing.
We are going to work from the bottom to the top so we’re starting with the ruffle first.
The first step is to seal the short edges of your ruffle pieces using a zigzag stitch or overlocker. Most of you will be using zigzag so that’s what I used too.
You will notice that some edges of the fabric have been sealed, it’s up to you if you want to bother zigzagging those, I generally don’t bother. Make sure when you do sew them into seams you sew far enough in that the edges won’t be seen.
Ok so once you have zigzagged the short edges you will need to sew the ruffle pieces together so they make one gigantic long rectangular piece. To do this, put the good sides of the fabric together and then stitch down the short side around 1.5cm from the edge. Make sure you secure the beginning and end of the seam as you go.
Repeat this for all of your ruffle pieces until you have one super long piece.
Now flatten out the seams you made by folding them in opposite directions. You can pin them in place or iron them or if you are more confident then just hold them down while you sew. When I first learned to sew we were taught very strictly to pin every single seam and then iron it in place before sewing. I would suggest doing that until you get a good feel for sewing and then you can be like me: lazy and avoid ironing at all costs.
While your seams are flattened out like that, zigzag down the long sizes of the ruffle piece to seal the sides in.
When you zigzag the long side make sure you have the seams open and go right over the top. This will hold them open permanently.
This side with the seams will now be called the bad side.
Now we need to close up the bottom ruffle in a proper seam. So fold the long edge over to the bad side. I make seams like this around 0.06cm so they aren’t too huge, this is personal preference so you can do whatever you prefer.
Fold it over again so the zigzag edge is completely inside. Pin it in place!
Fold and pin for one entire long edge.
Now sew along that seam using a straight stitch.
Be careful when you go over the flat seams. You want the whole thing to be nice and straight.
Now let’s turn this long rectangle into a ruffle!
There are a billion ways to make ruffles, I’m going to use the easiest machine one.
Turn your machine tension to the highest number. Anchor a line of stitching around 2cm from the zigzag at the top of the rectangle.
Straight stitch all the way down the side of the ruffle. You should notice that the fabric coming out the back of the machine is pulling and very slightly ruffled. This is because the tension on the thread is very high. This may not work with heavy fabric.
It is important that if you want to do this method that you use good thread. Cheap thread will just snap when you try to pull it later and that is VERY frustrating when you’re half way through several meters of ruffles.
Do not anchor the end of the stitching when you reach the other end and leave a long trail of thread.
This is what it looks like when it comes out of the machine.
Look closely at the thread, one side will be a tight straight line, this is the end you will pull if you want more ruffles.
Put the ruffle to the side for the moment so we can prepare the middle part of the skirt.
Zigzag all of the edges of the skirt pieces. As you did with the ruffle pieces, stitch the skirt pieces so they become a really long rectangle. Fold the seams flat as well.
You should have something along these lines with one big rectangle for the skirt and a super long ruffle underneath.
We need the ruffle to be… rufflier XD
Basically it needs to be the same width as the skirt piece so you can sew it on to the bottom. To make it rufflier you need to pull the tight thread gently and slide the fabric along it so it gathers evenly along the way.
Be careful as you go especially when you are pulling over the top of seams. If your thread snaps you will likely need to start this again so many people suggest using two lines of stitching at once so there’s no big strain at anyone point. I am lazy so I choose to use one strong piece of thread ;)
Pull the ruffle and arrange it until it’s as long as the skirt piece and then tie the end of the thread in a knot so it can’t un-ruffle itself.
Now let’s attach the ruffle to the skirt.
Place the ruffle upside down with the good side facing the good side of the skirt and pin it in place.
Sew down the long side around 1.5cm from the edge.
You can see there will be two lines of stitching when you’re done, the one you just did and then the line you used to make the ruffles.
When you fold the ruffle flat you can see the stitches too.
Use an unpicker or scissors to remove the ruffle stitching.
Get mad at your dog for insisting that she lay all over your projects.
Back to the point, yay you just made a ruffled edge!!!
Now we need to gather the top of the skirt so it will sit in the waist band properly. Use the same ruffle method and gather the top of the skirt.
Now we need to put the waist band together.
Zigzag all of your edges and then sew the pieces of the waist band together to form one long rectangle. The order should go: side, front, side, elastic back.
We will be folding the waist band in half and then sandwiching the skirt part inside it. If you want to iron a fold it to make it easier for yourself, now is the time. You can also run a line of stitches close to the fold if you want to.
Get the rest of the skirt off your dog again. Seriously Lottie, what makes laying on my projects so appealing?!
Put the band on the ground (bad side up) and lay the skirt on top of it (good side up)
Fold the waist band over.
And then fold the zigzagged edge of the waist band under again. This can be a little bit fiddly so do it a little bit at a time and pin as you go.
Straight stitch just next to the edge of the band and you’ve made a waist!
If you want to be really great about it, you can fold the edge of the inside of the waistband over too but this can be a little tricky for beginners so I didn’t bother.
You can see the difference of the inside and outside here:
Now we need to add in the elastic part of the skirt.
Thread the end of the elastic through the inside of the waist band. I find this is easiest when I put a safety pin on the end.
Stop threading when you reach the first seam of the waist.
Stitch a line through both the elastic and the waistband. This will hold the elastic inside.
Pull the end of the elastic so the fabric gathers on it. Make another line of stitches on that side of the waist band and then cut off the extra elastic. The elastic should now be secure inside the skirt.
Now we have one thing left to do… turn this long frilly rectangle into a skirt!
Fold the whole thing in half so the good side is inside. Match up the last zigzagged edges along the side.
Stitch right down it making sure to anchor well.
Snip off all of the loose threads everywhere.
Turn it right way out and you’re finished!!
The back now has a fancy elastic section to ensure a great fit!
You have officially completed your first piece of clothing, congratulations!!
This is just a very basic skirt but from here you can decorate in numerous ways including adding lace to the edges or seams, ribbons, bows, anything really!
Depending on the fabric you choose you can make a whole variety of styles. Once you get more confident with sewing and understanding how different pieces work with your body, you will be able draft patterns like this easily and whip one up in an hour or so!
I hope you enjoyed the tutorial, if you have any questions make sure you leave them in the comments and let me know if you give this a try. I can’t wait to see all of your finished skirts!