For girls and women who need, or miss, those skirts from when we were kids that would flare out when you spin around, I have a solution for you! And even better, you don’t have to cut any curves. It’s the fine art of turning rectangles in to a circle. Honest, it works!
Step 1: Read the Instructions and Gather Your Materials. Prepare Fabric.
Stitch Ripper (just in case)
Sewing Machine (this can be made by hand if you have more willpower than I have)
Ironing board or another safe place for ironing
Elastic 3/4” - 1 1/4"
Measure the waist and hips of the person to wear the skirt. Decide on the length of the skirt from the waist down.
I made this skirt with 4 tiers, but you can use more or less depending on your desired look. This was also an exercise in using up some of my stash of fabric and other bits. This version was done with light weight denim and some left over decorator fabric. I used 1.25” wide elastic, I think it’s a bit wide for my taste and in the future would use .75” or 1”, but it is completely usable.
Below is a link to a Google Docs Spreadsheet I tossed together. You can save a copy to your own documents and edit it at will. Give it your numbers in the top portion and the bottom table will churn out the numbers for your fabric dimensions. With decimals I recommend rounding up always; more skirt is better than less. For the lower tiers piecing may be required.
Clicky Here For Spreadsheet
For the link-phobic or folks that just like doing math, you can do it long hand too.
The Long Lengths
Elastic: the measure of the waist+1
Tier 1: (hips+5)+2*preferred seam allowance
Tier 2: (1.5*(hips+5))+2*preferred seam allowance
Tier 3: (1.5*1.5*(hips+5))+2*preferred seam allowance
Tier 4: (1.5*1.5*1.5*(hips+5))+2*preferred seam allowance
I add 5 inches to the hips for plenty of wiggle in and out room, as well as starting off the flare at a nice size. DON’T BE WORRIED IF YOUR LOWER TIERS ARE REALLY LONG. The final tier will be very long for an adults skirt, but it will be wrangled to your control before it’s finished. My 4th tier was somewhere around 13 or 14 feet long when this started to give you an idea of what to expect.
Tier 1: Length of skirt/# of Tiers +(2*seam allowance)+2
Tier 2, 3, 4 and beyond: Length of skirt/# of Tiers+(2*seam allowance)
I add two inches to the width of the top tier so there’s room for the elastic.
Step 2: Gathering the Tiers
Taking tiers 2, 3 and 4, run two parallel sets of basting stitches (the longest stitch your machine can give you) along the long top edge of each tier. Leave some excess thread at either end that you can grab ahold of to pull on.
What you’ll do is take the two threads from one side of the fabric and gently slide your fabric down the thread to cause gathering. Only pull the threads on one side, do not pull the threads from the opposite side. You’ll need to gather the one side of tier 2 so that it is the same length as the top tier(shortest of the tiers).
Repeat for the other tiers, gathering one side of tier 3 to match the not gathered side of tier 2, and match tier 4 to tier 3.
Step 3: Building the Skirt
With right sides together, pin the gathered edge of tier 4 to the ungathered edge of tier 3. Stitch in to its permanent residence and don't forget to back stitch at the ends. I tried out stitching between the two rows of basting so I would only have to pull out one row of basting. If you do your basting high enough, you won't have to pull it out of the finished product.
If you have fabric that's fraying(like mine did), now's a good time to do a zigzag stitch along that edge as well. The added stitch will help improve the skirts wear from the inside as well as when it goes through the wash.
Repeat to attach tier 3 to tier 2, and then one last time attaching tier 2 to 1. You can do this with shortest tiers first to longest tiers if you prefer.
Step 4: Side Seam and Top-stitch Tomfoolery
With right sides together, pin the side of the skirt. I pin at the top, bottom and then match up the changes in tiers; then pin between when necessary. Stitch up the side, remembering back stitches. Zigzag as well if you'd like.
On to the bottom of the skirt for the hem. My top-stitch skills are kinda lackluster as far as straight lines go, so I've been opting to use one of the decorative stitches instead. Then crooked lines aren't really noticeable. I got out the iron and ironing board for this one and pressed the hem to where I wanted it and pinned it in place(Ruler time if you want to make sure your bottom tier is the same as the middle two). I picked my stitch and ran the decorative stitch with the top side of the skirt facing up. Remember, even though the skirt is now pretty much a circle, the unfinished edge is still a rectangle. No clipping curves required!
You're in the homestretch now! Grab your elastic, overlap the ends by half an inch, pin if you want to, and stitch it down. This part gets a little tricky. I wanted to do this so there wasn't a funny nub of skirt/elastic in the hip when it was finished so I finished it up this way around. Folding over the top of the skirt to the inside, a bit longer than the elastic(now's the time for a ruler if you want all your tiers identical heights). Pin the skirt in place, wrapped around the elastic, and stitch the skirt *not the elastic*. I used my decorative stitch again for this instead of risking wonky 'straight' stitches.
I put the skirt in the dryer(no heat) with a dryer sheet to shake any loose threads free(a good, sound, shaking could do the job as well). Trim any loose threads and you're done!
Step 5: Alternate Options
Like I said, this was an exercise in using up extras I had laying around in my stash and I have a pile of quilting type fabrics left over from other projects. Having a pile of 6" squares, I just pieced them together to make the long runs in about the proper length as the first skirt.
Instead of gathering(I thought going through seams every 5.5" would make gathering quite a bit more trying), I opted to pin by halves. With right sides together I pinned the ends together. Find the middle of both tiers, pin that together. Find the middles of each half, pin, middles of those sections, pin again(picture 3). Keep halving until you get a gap you like the looks of(see the 4th photo for mine). I then just folded the excess flat and pinned it down, so that the flaps would go towards me when being fed in to the sewing machine(so the foot wouldn't get caught up while feeding in). I stitched and zigzagged as before. This time around, just so I could try a different method, I did the hem and made a pocket at the top of the skirt for the elastic, pulled the elastic through the pocket and then stitched up the side. My husband and I call it 'Strawberry Shortcake'.
Each method has its own pros and cons, but they both get the job done.
Step 6: 29 Year Old Spinning in the Yard
Remember, Growing old is mandatory, Growing up is optional. That is my only defense for these pictures lol. Please excuse the non-matching shirt.
This a great, quick way to crank out skirts if you need a quick one for an event for an adult or child, or in bulk for dance recitals, holidays, put a further tier or two towards the top and use it as a tree skirt. It can be easily hemmed with double fold bias tape if you don't like hemming, trimmed with beads, buttons, or laces.
Runner Up in the
Summer Sewing Contest