Introduction: The Shirt Skirt

Picture of The Shirt Skirt

The Shirt Skirt is the best skirt you'll ever own! It's shirred waistband allows has plenty of give and allows the wearer to be comfortable at all time. They're perfect for when you're pregnant, they're perfect for after you have the baby. They're perfect if you change size or shape or hate your clothes. They're just simply PERFECT. Comfortable, casual, and cheap.

For more pictures on this and other tutorials, please visit my blog:

Step 1:

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I call this The Shirt Skirt for 1 good reason: it's made from a tshirt!!

I prefer to get my shirts from Goodwill. Their tshirts are $2.09. But they tag everything with a colored tag and every week a different color is half price. So I usually seek out shirts that are the weekly color to score them for $1.05!

So, get your super cheap thrifted shirt. The bigger you buy it, the better. It's hard to find them with stripes, so I'm always drawn to those first. If you really want a pattern, check out the polos. They're more expensive, but if you get them half price, they're still in the $2-$3 range. As with anything you get second hand, check it out to make sure it's not faded, full of holes, or stained. I like to wash mine before I begin sewing.

Step 2:

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To determine what shirt size you should get, just make sure it will go around you. Most of the shirts I use are at least 24" across (so 48" total diameter). You lose 2-3 inches after you shirr it, so take that into consideration. Like I said, the bigger the better!

So, lay your shirt out flat, and whack it off right under the sleeves. This doesn't need to be perfect. That's the beauty of this skirt. No measuring, no perfection. Wing it–you won't be disappointed!

I like to use thread the same color as my fabric. You don’t notice sewing boo-boos so much if the thread blends in. But if you're gutsy enough, use a contrasting thread! You’ll also need an elastic bobbin so your skirt will shirr.

**There are several places online to find information on shirring. It's an easy skill and one you can master quickly. When you shirr, you only need elastic in your bobbin. Use regular thread on the top. You can find elastic thread in any store that has elastic products. I've purchased it in JoAnn's, Hancock, and Walmart. It will be with other elastic notions, not with thread.

Hand wind your elastic bobbin. You don't need to pull the elastic or have extra slack in it. Just wind it from the spool it comes on, filling your bobbin. Then load it in your machine and sew.

Step 3:

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You want to start close to the edge so you don't have a huge ruffly waist band. There’s no need to hem the top band, your knit shirt won't fray. I like my first row of stitching to be 1/8th of an inch from the top of the skirt. So I line my fabric up with the edge of my presser foot and put my needle in the right position.

Now, I break a rule of shirring. Instructions will tell you to leave your threads and tie them. Well, I threw that rule out the window 6 skirts and 2 dresses ago! When I start sewing, I back stitch a few stitches, then sew all the way around the skirt. When I get back to my starting point, I back stitch twice (so back 3-4 stitches, forward 3, back 3, forward 3) then leave my elastic ends about 1/4" long.

Step 4:

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There's no need to mark your rows. Just use the edge of your presser foot as your guide as you sew. I like to put my needle in the left position, but my machine doesn't like that lately. Sewing at 1/4" rows with the needle in the middle turns out just fine so that's what I do 95% of the time.

Unlike 100% cotton that doesn't shrink much as you sew, knit shrinks up LOTS. So you need to make sure you pull the shirt flat as you sew. Use medium pressure when you pull. You don't want to work against your machine, so don't pull hard. Do it in small sections to maintain control over where you're sewing.

Step 5:

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When you get back to the start, hold the fabric open and flat while you do your back stitching.

Just keep sewing as many rows as you want! I do somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-15, depends on my mood and the length of the skirt. I generally need to use 2-3 elastic bobbins, so you might want to wind several before you start sewing to save yourself the hassle. Check your bobbin between rows to make sure you have enough to get back around. It's okay if you don't, just back stitch a few times with the new one and keep going. It just doesn't look as tidy that way.

Step 6:

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And that's it! The best skirt you'll ever own!


LeslieB30 (author)2016-05-29

awesome! going to try this today!

suenammy (author)2015-11-11

I love this! I can't wait to make a trip to the thrift store!

grannyjones (author)2015-01-12

Very nice idea. The sleeves could be made into gathered side pockets.

sdmuller (author)2010-11-07

I haven't ever done shirring, but could you just sew in a spiral instead of individual rows? Then you wouldn't have to backstitch each time. Very cute, and looks so comfy! I'm definitely doing this!

sewlikemymom (author)sdmuller2010-11-07

I suppose you could do a spiral, but I'm not sure how well it would work. I think it would get hard to maintain control of the fabric if you did that. Since you need to make sure it sews flat, not already gathered, it might be a lot harder that way. Also, you'll still need to re-wind your bobbin several times during the sewing, so there will still be some backstitching and restarting. If you do it as one continuous spiral, please share photos! :)

mmacvane (author)sewlikemymom2014-12-27

I sew my rows of shirring in spirals all the time and find it easier to maintain my rows and keep everything flat when sewing. But you are right, for a project this size (adult sized), you will need to replace the bobbin a number of times. Keeping track of how much elastic thread is left bobbin one can just worry about back stitching and cutting only on the passes that are close to running out of thread.

mmacvane (author)2014-12-27

Know what is even easier than back stitching and cutting at the end of each row? Just angling down as you are about to finish the row and keep going on to the next row. If you want each row to meet then stitch until they meet , back stitch a few stitches, then angle down and continue.

ttowngirl (author)2014-05-24

Cool as heck! Thank you so much!!!

mamalaoshi (author)2013-06-18

I really like repurposing old t-shirts (t-shirt yarn and dresses for my daughter, etc.) but I never thought of making myself a skirt. I'm 7 months pregnant and getting really sick of the clothes I have. My favorite maternity wear are the four shirred skirts my husband bought me on a business trip but they are getting worn and rather delicate (one is silk) so some inexpensive and sturdier cotton ones will be great for wearing over the summer! Thanks for your instructable!

snoopylove (author)2012-08-09

Wow! Now I have a use for my husband's old t-shirts. Even ones with printing on them would make a cool skirt! I can't wait to try this! Looks easy and quick and I am so into skirts lately! Your instructions are also very thorough and easy to follow! Thanks I will be making one or two of these this weekend!

Owlherder (author)2012-08-05

You've probably already figured out that "Shirt Skirt" also means you can also wear it as a top. That's what I thought you meant by "shirt skirt!" Great idea, on my way to the XXXL section at Goodwill! Thank you!

MKosterich (author)2012-06-29

This is fantastic. I'm going to try and make this today!

justinefx (author)2012-05-08

how do I pin this?! there is no pintrest button!

scurtiss (author)2012-03-27

I have tried this project and loved doing so.. I have wanted to try Shirring ever since I had seen a project on Martha Stewart. However, on her project she spritzed the fabric after sewing in the elastic thread with water. Then pressed with an iron to make it shrink up or Shir up. Do you think she did this because it wasn't jersey cotton? She was making a tube top dress out the same material used in quilting type fabric.

oud25 (author)2011-09-02

so it does that automatically?
you dont have to scrunch it as you sew?
just pull it taut and sew and it will spring back and scrunch because of the elastic?
im asking cause im thinking of making a tube shirt or something as a surprise for my gf

lhose (author)oud252011-12-08

Yes it will do it automatically, just make sure the tension on your machine is correct. And if you want it to scrunch up even more just iron over it at the right heat setting

HollyMann (author)2011-03-18

I love this. I have never sewn with elastic thread before. That makes me a little nervous but I think I have some. If so, i am doing this today! Thanks for the awesome instructable.

lizzistardust (author)2011-02-06

What a great looking effect! I'm pregnant and have been looking for some easy and inexpensive options for bottoms, so I'm totally going make these in time for warmer weather.

masalatea (author)2010-11-27

This is a cool thing to do with old and new tees. It took me about 10 minutes to whip up a new skirt for myself using my husband's old tee. :) I am thrilled!

Gottwinkies (author)2010-11-14

Great 'ible! I didn't know you could shir fabric with your machine like that and I have been sewing for many years! Gonna have to try this. Wonder how it would look to buy the cheap shirts and do the shirring at bottom for fitting a shirt?! SO many ideas, so little time! Thanks!

sneakyparasol (author)2010-11-07

could you use elastic thread on top and a normnal bobbin and just sew upside down?

KittyF (author)sneakyparasol2010-11-08

no that doesn't work because the tension assembly above is not able to handle such thick thread as the lower tension is able to handle. sorry, only the bobbin tension can handle elastic thread.

pattyaitch (author)KittyF2010-11-09

My older New Home machine has a foot that allows you to thread a 1/8 inch elastic, and using a special zigzag stitch, apply the elastic. You then can pull the elastic to fit. I've used it on Polar fleece, do you think it would work? Great idea, by the way.

sewlikemymom (author)pattyaitch2010-11-09

I'm not sure. I've only ever shirred the way I described in my Instructable. It'd be worth a shot, though!

I don't think so. The elastic comes on a cardboard spool that doesn't exactly allow itself to be used as a traditional spool of thread. But I'd certainly be interested in knowing if that works! :)

Let Me Knit (author)2010-11-08

The timing of this project is amazing. Summer is rearing it's ugly head here in Australia and I just found out I'm pregnant with No.2. I'll be making a LOT of these skirts over the next few weeks!

Your instructions are clear, helpful and the pictures are perfect. Well done, you clever thing!

binary (author)2010-11-07

these are adorable!

it looks like if you sew an additional 15-25 more rows for a total of 30-40 rows of shirring, you will have a tube top!

sires6 (author)2010-11-07

This looks so easy and fun. I bet my girls would love these!

salypo (author)2010-11-07

This is a great instructable. I have been sewing for years and I never thought of using a T-shirt for a skirt. It saves time, money and it recycles. I have shirred traditional cotton dresses and it was always soooo tme consuming, but your method is really slick. I am going to make some of these for my grand-daughters. i am off ot the Goodwill. Happy sewing!

LilithAvalon (author)2010-11-07

This is cute and very versatile. I'd probably make a dress out of one of these (with my insanely oversized freebie and Salv-o shirts). It would also be a very cute maternity top. (Yeah, I took "shirt skirt" a different way)

Archergal52 (author)2010-11-05

This sounds pretty useful! But for those of us who have never shirred before, is there a particular kind of elastic thread to get and use? And do you just thread it and sew like you would with non-elastic thread?

sewlikemymom (author)Archergal522010-11-05

I've edited my Instructable to include some more information about shirring. In my experience, it's been very easy to do. I don't think there's any particular brand of elastic thread that's better than the others, so I just pick up whatever the store I'm in has on hand. You do sew with it just like you would any other bobbin, with the exception of hand-winding it instead of using your machine.

If you have any questions at all while sewing this, please don't hesitate to email or message me! My email is

Archergal52 (author)sewlikemymom2010-11-05

Awesome. I hadn't even thought about hand-winding it! But I only know the absolute basics about machine sewing.

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