30 min. Summer Skirt : Tutorial

This is going to be my first tutorial.  I make a lot of these skirts, and I mean a lot of them, and I always have someone come up to me and ask me how I made it.  Well, now you’ll know, everyone.  I only hope I’ll make some sense as I explain it to you.
    Now, before I even start the tutorial, I should tell you about how big these skirts are.  I only use a yard of fabric for myself.  I am a whopping 5ft. 1in. tall ( I know, I’m giant, aren’t I? ) and my waist is  less than the 36 inches in the yard.  The amount of yardage is going to be the waist measurement, so all you have to do to increase the waist is buy more than one yard.  Just remember, you’ll want more than what your waist measurement actually is, so that the skirt will bunch up and create the ruffle look.
As for the length, that is going to be half the length of the bolt, minus the hem and waist band.  That ends up being about 21 inches in the end, which for me, goes from my waist to the top of my knees.  If you’re taller than me, which you probably are, considering that most of the world is, then it’s also easy to add length.  I’ll tell you where to do this in the tutorial.
If you think you need more than 1 yard to make your skirt ( or less, if it’s for a tiny fairy princess or something ), than I would read through the whole tutorial first to make sure you understand how the fabric is going to be used before you go buying or cutting anything.
Now, let’s get going!  First, how about I tell you what you’ll need?
  • 1 yard of fabric ( or however much you determine you need )
  • 1/2 wide braided elastic, enough to go around your waist
  • Thread to match the color of your fabric ( optional )
And ta-da!  That’s about it, folks.  No fancy tools are needed, just your average pins and such.  So grab your chocolate, grab your tea, and put your music on.

( Just a couple of notes first: always back stitch!  It’s very important.  You can click on the pictures to enlarge if you need to see something clearer.  And please forgive me switching between two different skirts in the pictures. )

There’s no need to prewash your fabric here, or even worry if everything is at a perfect 90 degree angle.  Just lay your yard down, folded in half salvage to salvage with the wrong sides together, and cut it in half at the top.

Just to clarify, the part labeled WAIST in the picture above is the folded edge, like it comes off the bolt.  This is the part you cut.  The HEM is the salvage edges, and BOLT is equivalent to width of fabric if you’re more comfortable with that terminology.

So this is where you would add the extra length if you wanted it.  You have your two panels, yes?  ( See picture below. )  The bottom is the hem.  So figure out how many inches you need to add, cut two rectangles that are that wide and the length of one of the panels, then sew the rectangles along the bottoms of your panels.  This will add the extra inches to the bottom of the skirt.


Now, here’s the part that might throw you.  Normally you sew things with the right sides together to hide the seam.  But I want to you sew the panels together with the wrong sides together, at 2/8 in. seam allowance.  Trust me with this.  We’re going for a French seam here, which comes with bragging rights.
Seam up the left and right sides of your fabric like this, then turn the tube inside out.  Now you’re going to be sewing with right sides together.  Iron the seam flat and use pins to keep it from rolling in on you, and go right back down the two sides you just sewed up, this time at 3/8 seam allowance.

This will tuck the 2/8 seam on the outside of the skirt out of sight, and give you a fray free seam on the inside of your skirt.

When you’re done, your tube will look like this.  ( Note that it is inside-out in the picture below. )  Now as a bonus step, we’re going to sew those two seams down to the sides before going onto the hem and waist band, to give a more professional look.  Please take no note of the switching of skirts in the pictures.  Just pretend that I’m still working with the same fabric.

It doesn’t matter which side you press the seam to, just made sure you press it and keep it taught.  Do this to both seams.  It’ll keep it nice and flat looking on the outside.

Now we can start ironing the hem and waist band.  And I really do recommend that you iron well and pin.  It’ll give you nice, straight finishes on both the hem and waist band.  If you have a handy-dandy tiny sewing ruler with the sliding bit on it, then that’s great!  I use tape to keep the sliding bit in place so that my measurements are always the same.  If you just have a regular ruler, then easy-peesey, those are great too.

For the hem, fold over about a 1/2 inch all the way around the bottom ( maybe just slightly less ).  It doesn’t matter which open end you choose to be the bottom ( unless you added length to the bottom  or you have a directional print ).  Just pick.  When that’s all pressed down, fold it over on itself and press again, this time pinning as you go, making sure you line the side seams up nicely.

Sew less than a 1/4 inch away from inside edge of the hem ( don’t forget to back stitch! ).  That’ll be less than along the side of the presser foot, about half way between it and the needle.  I also like to start sewing my hems around one of the side seams.  I feel like keeping next to the seam helps make the back stitching less noticeable.  When that first seam is done, sew a second one next to it, at the same distance you used with the first.

There’s your hem.

For the waist band, fold over and iron a 1/4 inch first, and then 3/4 of an inch over that.  Pin it down!  And head over to the sewing machine ( do not forget the back stitch! ).

Only one seam is required to sew it down, still using a tiny seam allowance that is half way between the edge of the presser foot and the needle, but, you can not sew it all the way closed at first!  In the middle of the back of the skirt, leave a 1 or 2 inch opening so that you can put the elastic in, or else you won’t have a waist band at all.  Mark off that little area with a couple of pins and pay attention when you’re sewing.  This is a little something I like to call “The No Sew Zone”.
Start off on one side of it, and finish on the other, but do not sew within it.
Can you feel that?  That’s the “Hooray, I’m on the home stretch!” feeling.  Because we are almost there!  And doesn’t it feel great?
Ok, so now you need your elastic.  You could get out a tape measurer and see exactly how big around you are and then make an exact cut on the length for your elastic, or you could just wrap it around your middle and snip it a couple of inches short like I do.  Why a couple of inches short?  Well if it’s not a bit shorter than your waist line, then the elastic won’t be able to grab around you and keep your skirt up when all is said and done.  It’ll just be too loose.  Let’s try and avoid having our skirts fall down.
I like to use braided elastic in waist bands.  To me, it’s just a bit thicker and more durable to hold up to the wear and tear of a waist band.  Because lets be honest, those things get tugged on a lot.
Use a straight pin to hold one end of the elastic in place by the “No Sew Zone” hole, and stick a safety pin in the other end.  The safety pin will help you fish the elastic through.
Once you’ve got the elastic through, take all the pins out and pull the two ends of it out far enough for you to get them under your presser foot.  Overlap them by about an inch, and use a zig-zag stitch to go back and forth over it again and again.  It’s not coming undone on you after that.
All that’s left to do now is pull the elastic in and sew up the “No Sew Zone” using the same seam allowance you did on the rest of the waist band.  WARNING: do not forget to switch back to a regular stitch!  One of the worst things is going to close up that hole and accidentally throwing some zig-zags over it from when you stitched the elastic together.
And look at that!  A finished skirt, with snazzy French seams, too.  If you didn’t bring chocolate with you at the beginning, go get some now, because it’s celebration time!
This might take you longer than 30 min. your first time around as you get the hang of it, but for all the times after that ( because there will be more times, I assure you ) these skirts will be flying off your sewing machine.  30 minutes isn’t even my record time for making one of these.
I hope you love this skirt as much as I do!  If you have any questions or if something isn’t quite clear for you, I would love to hear from you in the comments.  Nothing would make me happier than to help you fill your closet with wonderful twirly skirts.
Em :)

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