Summer Maxi Skirt - Simple & Stylish




About: Army Vet. I love learning & being creative.
I am excited to share this Instructable because I LOVE this skirt so much that I've made 4 already! You can sew one in less than a couple of hours and have a nice comfortable and stylish summer skirt! You can use a variety of fabric types and create some unique differing styles! Guess what else? It only requires two pattern pieces!

I'm also excited about Sketchbook Pro because it's the first time I've used it and I love the features and how easy it was to use! I used it to create the graphic image of myself and also for the pattern pieces. Tips on using it (for those interested) are in the final step of this Instructable.

If you have any questions, please ask! And Please vote if you like it! :)

Materials Needed:
  • 2 Yards of Material for Skirt (more or less depending on size)
  • Elastic Thread - Needed to Create Shirred Waistband
  • Sewing Machine & Scissors

Step 1: Sizing Information for Skirt

Before you begin - it's important to know your size compared to mine - so you can adjust the pattern to fit you! You need two basic measurements of your hips and waist. There is a good deal of leeway with this pattern, I should add. Not that you plan on gaining inches, but if it happens the skirt should still fit. I've made shirred skirts before and both gained and lost about 4 inches around the hips and the skirt still fit me fine.

My measurements are: Waist 26 and Hips 34. My shirred waistband, without being stretched, is at about 22 inches around. When fully stretched, it stretches to about 32 inches around before it can't stretch much more. Hopefully this information will help you determine if you need to adjust the pattern. It may take trial and error the first time -but once you have the perfect fit, you can make lots of skirts that fit you well! Please also note that my height is 5'3. The skirt is a perfect length for me - but you may need to add several inches to the bottom pattern piece to be safe, then try it on and hem it at that time!

Step 2: Cutting the Pattern Pieces

Lay out your fabric. There are only two pattern pieces to cut & they need to be cut two times. The good news is - there are only four pieces to sew and you're done!

Once cut out, you will then take the two main body pieces with their right sides together - and sew along the side seam. Repeat for the other side. I did both a straight stitch and a zig zag stitch to really secure it and make it last! Then, flip it right side out.

Step 3: Shirring the Maxi Skirt Waistband

Now for the fun, yet tricky part! Shirring is a technique used in sewing to create a fun elastic waistband - one which is comfy and flattering. If you've never done this before - now is the time to learn! I must state that all sewing machines are different and do not operate the same or as well as others. I used a Brother brand computerized sewing machine. On some fabric types, I have an issue with shirring - on others, it works fine by adjusting a couple settings. This is my method with my Brother sewing machine. If you have troubles, you can look it up online or let me know in the comments what kind of machine you're using and I'll try to help!

Before you shir the waistband, you need to get out your elastic thread. Some people say to hand wind it - this doesn't work for my machine. I machine-wind it onto my bobbin - while holding the elastic thread in one hand to steady it as it winds onto the bobbin. I don't want it too tight or too loose. Once done, I put the bobbin back where it belongs. I then put normal thread onto the top thread mechanism. Remember, top thread is normal and bobbin should have elastic thread on it.

Now adjust your tension. I normally have mine set between 4-5. When shirring, I set it at 8. The higher the setting, the tighter the shirring and the tighter the skirt. I then set my stitch length to 4.Take out a scrap piece of material to test on. The thing is, it may not look like it's shirring at first because it can often take four rows to really take effect. It's important not to mess up your cute skirt, so test it before making it on the real material.

If you have an issue and it is not shirring, here is one option (but please refer to your sewing machine manual or online resources) - you can manually adjust the bottom thread tension with a screw driver. I have done this with success. It took me one full turn to create the shirred effect needed on my heavier fabric. My normal skirt fabric didn't require any adjustments luckily, other than the tension and stitch length. Once you're done shirring after making this adjustment, don't forget to turn the screw back to how it was before!

Time to Sew! Set your skirt out with the right side of the material facing up. You should have a long tube at this point. Now it's important to fold the top of the skirt in about 1 inch, and iron it flat. Please note, there are numerous ways to do the top of the waistband - some people prefer to do this differently. This method might be one of the easiest and fastest. If you would prefer to add some major stability to your wasteband - you may want to check out this tutorial here on adding an elastic band around the top of the shirred waistband. I prefer not to because I like how flattering and comfortable the skirt is this way and don't want it too tight. If you like the shiny skirt I have in my pictures, and the waistband which is ruffly on the top, then you would not need to fold any material down. Rather, you would sew the top raw edge with a zig zag stitch and to prevent fraying, then begin shirring as usual.

Now that you are ready to shir this waistband and you've tested out your settings - place your skirt back on that sewing machine with the material right side out. You will begin your shirring at about 1/2 an inch from the top (the top is where you folded the material under and ironed it down). As you are sewing to create the shirred effect, be sure to hold the material so it is flat as it goes under the needle. This may require you to maneuver it with both hands to keep it straight and steady. Do as many rows as needed to create both the desired effect as well as the style of waistband you prefer. Meaning, if you are trying to cover up the back side, making a longer waistband tends to be very flattering and will not accentuate it! My gray, yellow and white flowered skirt has a 3 1/2 inch waistband. If you have finished sewing the shirred waistband and aren't totally pleased with the way it is lying or resting on your body when wearing it, then you may want to add another row of shirred elastic closer to the top of the waistband - this should solve that issue! Also, if you want it shirred even more than it is at that point, you can iron it to achieve an even more shirred result. Don't iron as usual - just carefully place the iron on the shirred material and move it from spot to spot until it's all been touched by the iron - and that will tighten it up!

Good job - the worst is over! Next we'll add the bottom part of the skirt.

Once you know how to do this I think you'll be very pleased!!! Shirred fabric has a beautiful look to it, is comfy and can be used in lots of sewing projects. If you were to buy material that is shirred from the store, it is ridiculously expensive!

Step 4: Sewing Bottom of Maxi Skirt to Top

Next, you'll need to sew the bottom pieces together along their sides, then turn it right side out. The bottom of the main skirt piece is 48 inches all the way around. The top of the 2nd piece which you will be sewing onto the bottom of the main piece, is 54 inches around. If they were the same exact size, this would be way too easy! We basically need to decrease the size of the top of the 2nd piece by 6 inches or 3 inches per side. We will do this by gathering one inch in three different sections per side. Please refer to image!

To Gather: Do not backstitch. Set sewing machine stitch length to the longest size possible. When you do this, sew only about 1/4 of an inch from the edge of the fabric. Sew with your straight stitch about two inches per section which will be gathered. Then take the strands of thread and pull carefully until the material begins to gather. Ideally each little gather will be about one inch. If this is too difficult, you could do two gathers per side instead - at 1 1/2 inches gathered per section. Once it is how you like it, prepare to sew it to the main skirt piece. Leave your main skirt piece right side out and your bottom piece inside out - line up the edges and pin together. Be sure you have this setup properly.

Sew the two pieces together. I used a straight and zig zag stitch for double stability. I then trimmed the excess material and turned the skirt right side out. I Ironed it all.

Try the skirt on because you are 99% done! Figure out exactly how long you want this to be, then pin it, iron it if needed and hem the bottom under and up. I personally used a narrow hem presser foot to create a nice edge on the bottom of the skirt.

You are done!

The great thing about this project is how versatile it is. I came up with the pattern myself - through trial and error and I am really happy with how easy it is to make. It can be altered to be made into a dress for a child or a maxi dress for an adult. The options are endless. Knowing how to shir is a great sewing skill to have! :)

Step 5: Photos of Summer Maxi Skirt

Here are a bunch of photos of the skirts I made with this pattern! I also made the shirts in many of the photos but haven't had time yet to post Instructables on that!

If you want some tips on using Sketchbook Pro, please click for the next step. The program helped me visualize what I was trying to explain the tutorial! I'm also using it for another clothing idea I have - for a multifunctional coat - more on that in another Instructable. I'm still working on it!

Step 6: Autodesk Sketchbook Pro Tips - for Designing Clothes

From Concept to Creation...
I'm excited about this program - because I've been using Adobe Photoshop for ages and didn't know this existed until now, to be honest. I was very concerned about using a new program! But, I have some clothing ideas which I feel are very important yet very difficult to explain and some I am not ready to sew yet. So, having this program created a link between my concept and the creation of it. For this Instructable, I used it to help me create the pattern pieces so users would be able to understand what they need to make it. And, I also used it to create a caricature of sorts of myself - very similar to my real image of my sewn skirt. I'm amazed!

Tips for new users:
  • First create your document and then make yourself aware of the layers palette on the right-hand side. This is very important. When you create new items, I think it's a wise idea to create new layers for each item. You can name the layers and edit or delete them - all by a click of the mouse. Please see images.
    • Be sure to click on the proper layer if you want to edit the specific item that is contained on that layer. If not, it won't work!
    • You can merge layers by pulling down on one into the one below it.
  • The Symmetry tool is the most useful tool, in my opinion. First make sure you're center, then click to use the tool so that you can easily draw with perfect symmetry. I did this while creating the pattern pieces. It saved lots of time. I also used the straight line tool to prevent broken and uneven lines.
  • For clothing texture and details I used both the regular paintbrush at varying opacities as well as the synthetic course angular brush.
  • Use your mouse and its roller button to zoom in and around the image and canvas.
Caricature Drawing Based on Image:
  • First open up your real image and place it into a layer. Do this by clicking the plus sign to add a layer. Then go to File, Add Image. Then create another layer above that one. You will be working on the layer above your real image.
  • You can change the opacity of your real image by going to the layer palette and pulling down on the little bar next to it. Take out a tool (I used the felt pen and the steady hand tool) to outline all the major parts of my face and body.
  • I created another layer on top of that to add color with the paintbrush. I built on that process until it was done!
Using the Program for Clothing Design:
  • I recommend that you go to this website: Fashionary to download a template to use. They are free. They are templates of bodies so you can draw your clothing design onto them.
  • You can then open the template up in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro to create your clothing creations and you can give the template body a face and hair like I did (see images). I have a hardcopy of their book, which includes these templates. For me, I drew over the template to give it a head, face and then clothing. I then scanned it in and opened it up with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. From there, I redrew things by going over the lines with the symmetry and felt pen tool. It's all in the images. It would be easiest to download the template and draw it with the Sketchbook tools!

Let me know if you have any questions at all!
Dream It, Draw It, Wear It Contest

Second Prize in the
Dream It, Draw It, Wear It Contest

Fashion Contest

Runner Up in the
Fashion Contest

Epilog Challenge V

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge V



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    38 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great work Hollymann! I love them. I'm going to try making one of these gorgeous skirts tomorrow...can hardly WAIT!! I'm curious though, how did you come up with the amount of fabric needed? Your diagram shows 20 inches of fabric for the waist however your blog says your waist measures 26 inches. What am I missing?
    Thanks for sharing your amazing talent with us!

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Rhonda - I am SO SO sorry for not replying to you sooner - I don't know how I missed this comment/question. I wanted to tell you that the diagram is for 20 inches x 2 = a total of 40 inches. I should have explained that better.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Lay out your fabric. There are only two pattern pieces to cut & they need to be cut two times. The good news is - there are only four pieces to sew and you're done! (this was from one of the steps) - I Hope this makes sense ...if not please let me know and i"ll clarify!

    Didn't I tell you that you will win 'Dream it' contest too :). May I have those repeated color t-Shirts that you got :D. Great Show Holly :). Congratulations!!!! I wish you win the grand prize.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nice how you transformed yourself into your Sketchbook drawing. Your skirt is really cute!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Okay, first you are such a doll! These skirts are gorgeous, I need some for summer! Never used elastic thread before you use it on the bobbin as well? Okay, off to do some more research--and dig through my fabric stash! :) Thanks!

    3 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Oh you are sweet! what's your first name? :) Seems funny to call you "doodlecraft" although that name is cute! :) Thanks for the compliment on the skirts! The elastic thread is only used on the bobbin - and the top thread is normal. Some people hand wind it onto the bobbin - but that didn't work for me or my sewing machine. So I did that as normal - going a little slower so it wouldn't get too tight. Once you learn how to do the shirring - you can make so many cute comfy things. I love it! The waistband is very flexible on sizing too - so as long as it's not too loose - it can fit through a range of sizes because it stretches so many inches! I hope you end up making one of these - they are very comfy flowy skirts. I


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Hey Holly--my name is Natalie! :)
    I just went tonight an bought a ton of elastic thread! I did some more research on shirring and saw better how to do now I just need to get doing it! I'm desperate for some summer time skirts--and so is my daughter! :)
    Thanks so much for the inspiration!
    Nat :)


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Natalie!!! :) Awesome about the skirts - let me know if you have any questions! I'm glad you found some more tips on shirring - I could make a whole instructable just on that - a very detailed one. it is hard to explain it without a lot of pictures. I'm sure you'll get it! And the skirts are so comfy! :) Good luck and let me know how they turn out!!!

    Thank you so much Tarun! I'm happy to win anything!!! So I love that there are 19 finalists and 19 prizes! Even if it's just a robot shirt - I love it!

    This is such a great thought Holly. Winning should be a habit and failure should never be final. I am sure you will be in the finals for Dream it contest as well. It shows mam :)

    Thanks Tarun also for this comment :) You're right - it should be a habit - and a positive attitude - it goes a long way!