Introduction: 50s Poodle Skirt
We decided to make our Halloween costumes this year because we thought we could make better costumes for less expense than the premade ones in the stores. We were right. Altogether for my daughter’s skirt, I spent about $7.50. We spent about another $5.75 on the poodle and rick-rack so altogether we spent $13.25 on this poodle skirt and it will be durable enough to last for quite a while. Plus, she got to work on her sewing skills. For the petticoat, we only spent about $3. Yay!!
We picked out Simplicity pattern 3836, and 3847, the corresponding adult pattern. The pattern envelope lists exactly what is needed for each version and size of the included patterns. There are measurements on the back of the pattern envelope to determine the sizing.
Here is everything we needed:
For her poodle skirt:
- Simplicity pattern 3836
- 1 1/8 yards 72” pink felt
- 1 7” pink zipper
- 1 hook closure
- ½ yard interfacing (we used fusible mid-weight interfacing)
- Fabric scissors (to cut fabric) (We used a rotary cutter and mat to go faster)
- Paper scissors (to cut out pattern)
- Straight pins
- Flexible tape measure
- Chalk, or other way to mark fabric
- Thread in a matching color, in our case it was pink
- Iron-on poodle appliqué, if using
- Coordinating rickrack for poodle leash, if using
For her petticoat:
- 2 yards tulle
- 1 yard netting
- <1 yard fabric for the waist tier
- matching thread and contrasting thread (we used black and white)
Step 1: Cut Out Your Pattern
First, open your pattern envelope. You will find instructions and pattern papers. Unfold the pattern papers and locate the template for the skirt you want to make. We customized our pattern to find a length skirt that we liked. We cut out the pattern for skirt A, which is long, but shortened it. Skirt B was not quite long enough when we measured it. Since my daughter is a size 10, we cut out the pattern along the size 10 lines for both skirt A and the waistband.
Before you cut your pattern, you may want to measure your model again. Determine the appropriate size for your model. Cut out both the skirt and the waistband patterns along the appropriately sized lines for your recipient. After those two pieces are cut out, the rest of the pattern papers can be refolded and set aside.
Step 2: Cut Out Your Fabric
The instructions included in the pattern envelope show the best way to lay the pattern onto the material. Pull out your felt and make sure that it is folded evenly. Lay it out on a flat surface and put the skirt pattern over the top of the felt as indicated in the pattern diagram. Be sure to place the side of the pattern marked and pointed to the center fold is at the center fold of your fabric. Line up the folded edge of the pattern evenly with the center fold edge of the pattern and carefully pin into place. Your pattern will stay pinned in place as you cut out the material. Carefully cut the material along the pattern edge. Do not cut the folded edge.
You will notice that there is a “v” notch on the cut side of the pattern about 7”-8” down from the waistband. Don’t forget to cut the notch out of the fabric. We will use this notch as a reference point and to line up the fabric when we start sewing. Be sure you are using fabric scissors to cut your fabric. Cutting fabric requires very sharp scissors and scissors used for cutting paper and other items tend to dull quickly. I have a pair of scissors that is exclusively for fabric. I never use them for anything else in order to preserve their sharpness.
Since we are shortening the skirt, it's ok that our pattern overhangs the edge of the material. Instead of using the size 10 cut line for our bottom edge of our skirt, we used the lowest size 8 petticoat sewing line. To shorten the material of the skirt rather than cutting our pattern, we gently folded the pattern backwards along the lower curve of our skirt on the lowest size 8 petticoat seam line. Gently and slowly, we marked the edge of the line with chalk on our felt so that our skirt would be the length we wanted. Once it was marked along the curved edge, we unpinned the pattern and cut out the bottom edge of the skirt.
Now you have one half of your skirt. Repeat the process to make the second half of your skirt. When finished, you should have two matching halves for your skirt. When you lay one on top of the other, they should be the same size and they should create a circle if you lay them flat with the matching cut edges touching each other.
Step 3: Pin and Sew the Left Side
Place the right sides of the skirt together, that is to say, the sides that will become the outside of the skirt should be facing each other. Line up the edges of the fabric so that they are even. The notches should line up with each other. Since we are using felt, I let my daughter pick which sides were right for this step and then put her matching sides together. Pin the left sides together from the bottom edge to the waistband edge.
We are using a sewing machine to make this skirt and my daughter is learning to sew with this project. This is her first real attempt at sewing and she is very excited. Using a straight stitch, sew up the left side of the skirt, beginning at the bottom edge and continuing to the “v” notch in the side.
Once the left side is sewn up to the notch, remove any remaining pins from the left side. Press the hem flat, including the section between the notch and the waistband that we haven’t sewn yet. This will help us put the zipper in.
Step 4: Install the Zipper
Lay the zipper face down in the gap between the sides of the skirt. The front of the zipper should be facing down, just like the front of the skirt. Pin one side of the zipper to the skirt with the hem folded back. Carefully pin the other side of the zipper in place then turn the skirt over and try it out. Make sure that the zipper doesn’t catch on the material and that the zipper teeth aren’t too close to the hem edge. I pinned my zipper as close as I could without interfering with the zipping function.
To sew the zipper to my skirt, I had to change the presser foot on my machine. If you are sewing on a machine please be careful that the needle doesn’t hit either the foot or the zipper while you are sewing to prevent any breaking or damage. I used the center straight stitch, as instructed by my manual for my sewing machine, and carefully stitched the zipper into place. I started sewing down the left side of the zipper from the waistband, leaving the tabs overhanging the waistband just a bit.
To make the turn to sew across the bottom of the zipper, I stopped sewing, lifted the presser foot and rotated my fabric. Then I could continue across the bottom and repeat to come up the right side of the zipper. This was the first time I have ever put in a zipper so I was very excited that it turned out to be a relatively simple process.
Step 5: Sew Up the Right Side
Once the zipper is in, lay the skirt, right sides together and pin the right side of the skirt, being sure to align the notches on the right side edges. Beginning at the bottom edge of the skirt, sew up the right side of the skirt to the waistband edge. Press the hem edge as it was sewn. Then press the hem open so that it lays flat.
Step 6: Now to Get the Waistband Ready
You will need your felt and your interfacing as well as the waistband pattern that you already cut out. Cut out one waistband from the felt and one waistband from the interfacing. The interfacing with help the waistband hold its shape and help provide a little more structure for the hook closure we are going to add.
Once both pieces are cut, lay the bumpy side of the interfacing against the wrong side of the fabric. Carefully press the interfacing to the fabric, moving the iron about every 15 seconds or so. Don’t slide the iron or the interfacing might move. Pressing the interfacing allows it to adhere properly to the fabric. After the interfacing is attached, transfer the dots from the waistband pattern onto the interfacing side of the waistband.
Step 7: Sew on the Waistband
Carefully line up the right side of the waistband (the side with the dot) with the right side of the skirt. Sew together along the edge. Turn down the top edge of the waistband and pin in place. Then fold the waistband in half to cover the interfacing. We made our waistband 1 5/8” wide. Sew the band down. Make sure the tabs from the zipper are tucked inside the waistband so that they get sewn into the waistband. Sew up the ends of the waistband then trim the edge of the seam close to the stitching. The left side of the waistband will overlap the right side. This allows space for the hook and bar closure.
Step 8: Attach the Hook and Bar Closure
To attach the hook and bar closure to the waistband, we have to hand sew. I don’t know if there’s a way to use the machine to do it or not. Start with the hook side, which goes on the left side of the waistband since it overlaps the right side. With the inside of the waistband facing up, center the hook with the hook opening facing away from the hem edge. Hand sew all the corners of the hook closure being careful to only catch the inside layer of fabric so that the hook stitching doesn’t show through to the top of the waistband. I used pins to hold the corners in place while I was sewing the hook to the waistband.
Now that the hook is sewn onto the waistband, slide the bar over it. Match up the left side of the waistband over the right side and mark where the bar should go on the right side of the waistband with a pin. Once the placement is marked, pin the bar in place and double check that it lines up with the hook and that the waistband is aligned correctly when the hook and bar line up. Hand sew the bar into place, again being careful to only catch the inside of the waistband with the thread so that the stitching doesn’t show through the waistband.
Step 9: All Done With the Skirt But Is It Fluffy Enough?
Now that you've done all that work, you've got a cute circle skirt. You can leave it as it is or add a poodle or other decoration. It's up to you.
Once we started trying to add the poodle however the skirt wasn't quite fluffy enough. So we decided to make a petticoat to go under it. I got a couple yards of tulle and a yard of netting that altogether cost me about $3. I had elastic for the waistband and cut up an old tshirt to make the waist portion of the petticoat so that it would be soft. I did not use the petticoat pattern that came with the skirt pattern but made my own version of one. I had 1" elastic that I measured to go around her waist snugly but not too tight. I wanted it to be comfortable.
Step 10: Cut All Your Strips
Out of the tshirt I cut 2 strips that were 6" wide x 25" long. (You can customize this for you by substituting your waist measurement for the length.) It is ok if you make the length a little shorter than your waist since there are 2 pieces that will be sewn together. Sew the short ends of the strips together so that you have a large loop. Set this aside for now.
Out of the tulle I cut out 4 strips that were 8" wide x 54" (the length of the tulle). Sew the short ends together so that you have a large loop. I also cut out 8 strips that were 4" wide x 54". Sew the short ends together so that you have an even larger loop.
Out of the netting I cut out 2 strips that were 8" wide and 4 strips that were 4" wide, each as long as the tulle. Sew the short ends together so that you have 2 loops, an 8" wide loop and a 4" wide loop. The netting is stiffer so it will give more fullness to the petticoat but the tulle is softer so its easier on the skin and on the fabric.
You should have 3 pairs of loops. Each loop pair will become layer in the petticoat.
The rule of thumb for petticoat tiers is that each layer is 2-3 times longer than the one before it. So if the length of the first tier (the tier attached to the waist section) of tulle is 108", the second tier (the tier sewn at or near the bottom of the first tier) should be 216" or more. This gives more fullness as the petticoat gets longer. Petticoats can be as long or as short as you want them to be with as many layers and tiers as you want to add.
Step 11: Time to Ruffle
Once all your loops have been sewn, baste stitch in a contrasting color about 1" in from the top of each of the 4" loops. Baste all the way around each loop. Leave a tail when you cut the thread that can be used to ruffle the layer. We start with the bottom tier and work up toward the waist so that we are working from the longer loops to the shorter loops. Using contrasting thread makes the basting easier to remove after the tulle is sewn together.
Take one of the basted 4" loops of tulle and its matching 8" loop and lay them out side by side. Pull one thread tail on the basting stitch and the material should start ruffling. If it doesn't, pull the other tail. The 4" tier will be attached to the 8" tier so the 4" tier needs to be ruffled until it shrinks to the length of the 8" loop. Space the ruffles out so that they are somewhat even. Carefully pin the 4" tier to the 8" tier. It sounds simple but it can be tricky and frustrating because the tulle sticks together and catches on itself. I tried to pin the tiers together so that the bottom of one tier overlapped by about an inch with the top of the next tier.
Once the 4" tier is ruffled and pinned to the 8" tier, use a straight stitch to sew them together. Repeat this process with the other 2 layers.
Now that you have 3 two-tiered tulle skirt layers, its time to repeat the ruffling process with the 8" loops. Baste each of the 8" loops about 1" in from the long side of the loop so that it goes all the way around the loop. Begin to ruffle by pulling one of the thread tails and spread out the ruffles evenly along the entire loop. Each of these loops will be ruffled down to fit the waist tier of the petticoat. Get each of the layers close to the size of the waist tier.
Step 12: Put It All Together
Now that you have all 3 tiers together, set one of the tulle tiers aside. Place the other tulle layers inside the netting layer. Adjust the ruffling so that the layers are about the same size. Take the waist tier and place it over the netting layer so that the right sides are together, that is to say the outside of the waist tier is against the top side of the netting layer. Carefully pin these three pieces together all the way around the loop.
Once pinned, sew a straight stitch around the edge of the fabric to join them. I used a 1/2" seam allowance. After sewing, press the hem then turn the skirt right side out and press the hem again. You may have to turn down the iron so as not to damage the netting. I ironed my tulle and netting using the nylon/silk setting on my iron.
Once its ironed down, carefully put the waist section through the remaining tulle layer, right side out. Adust the ruffling and loop size to fit the waist section size and pin carefully so that the tulle layer is about an inch above the hem where the bottom 2 layers attach to the waist tier. Using a straight stitch, sew the top layer onto the waist tier.
Step 13: Finish It All Up
Now all of your tiers are attached and all of your tulle and netting is in place. All that remains is the actual waistband.
First, we will sew the casing for the elastic. Measure the width of your elastic. Mine was 1" wide. Fold over the top edge of the waist tier to allow room for the elastic to be inserted into the fold. Since my elastic was 1" wide, I folded over 1 1/4" so that the elastic would thread fairly easily through the band. I used a straight stitch. Leave about a 2" gap when sewing the casing. We will use this to insert and sew the elastic then sew it up when we finish.
Measure and cut the length of the elastic so that it is comfortable around the waist of your model. I cut mine to about 23". Attach a safety pin to one end of the elastic. This will make it easier to thread through the casing. Insert the elastic, safety pin first, into one side of the casing. Carefully thread the elastic all the way around the casing to the other side. Do not let go of the other end of the elastic as you thread. Bunch up the casing fabric as needed to get elastic all the way around the waistband.
Once each end of the elastic is sticking out of each side of the casing, its time to sew it together. There are two ways to sew the elastic. First you can overlap the edges of the elastic. When I do this, I usually overlap it by about an inch. Or you can sew a piece of non-stretchy fabric behind it and join the elastic end to end. This method will lay flat and not have extra bulk on the waistband. This is the method I used. With your elastic end to end, lay the fabric over the join and pin into place. Pin about an inch or so away from the join on each side. Using a stretchy zig zag stitch, sew right down the center of the join of the elastic. Then sew along the top horizontal edge of the elastic and along the bottom horizontal edge of the elastic about an inch on either side of the join. Now sew vertically between the ends of the seams you just made. Basically you are sewing a box around the joined ends of the elastic. Finally sew corner to corner to make an "x" over the joined edges of the elastic. This helps secure the elastic to itself and strengthens the join. Trim any extra fabric from around the stitches so that it doesn't bunch up inside your waistband. Slip the elastic up under the open waistband casing. Straighten the casing and sew, using a straight stitch to close the opening. All finished.
Step 14: Ready to Go
Now you have a petticoat to go under your poodle skirt and make it puffier. There is a big difference between with and without the petticoat.
We pinned on the poodle and voila! Cute little 50s girls!