Up-cycled Holiday "Tree Skirt"

Introduction: Up-cycled Holiday "Tree Skirt"

Is your bank account looking slim this holiday season? If you're lucky enough to have at least time (in lieu of money), all you need for this pun-ny look is 2-3 hours and some basic sewing skills, then you'll be able to turn those work pants you loathe into the hit outfit of your office ugly sweater party.

All jokes aside, one of my family's Christmas traditions has been to create a new Christmas decoration to display or gift, often utilizing scrap fabric from the previous year's DIYs. From actual tree skirts, to ornaments, to stockings, leftover fabric is transformed into a meaningful gift for loved ones. It really couldn't get more "Christmas."

And hey, after that office party, maybe you can give your family the gift of laughter by wearing this look to Christmas dinner.

Time: 2-3 hours

Skill Level: Basic (with patience and realistic expectations) to intermediate sewing skills

Supplies:

  • Worn pair of pants (that fit your waist, preferably in green)
  • 2 swatches of coordinating fabric (Should exceed the "thigh gap" between each pant leg, and be as long as the length of your desired skirt length)
  • Sewing machine
  • Coordinating Thread
  • Fabric scissors
  • Fabric pins
  • Fabric pencil or fabric chalk
  • Ironing Board
  • Iron
  • Notebook (or other hard/flat item)
  • Other desired articles of clothing to complete your look (i.e... green top, ribbon, gift boxes, etc.)
  • *Optional* Seam ripper (makes it easier to fix your mistakes)

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Step 1: Select Your (Up-cycled) Fabrics

Pants
Choose a pair of pants that you are willing to sacrifice for a DIY. Bonus points if they are green. Make sure they fit your waist. Straight cut (or looser cut) pants will work well. A sturdy polyester works great and was used in this tutorial (but you can use colored jean fabric, strong cotton, and firm cotton/polyester blends).

Inner fabric
Gather your old clothes and fabric scraps that would coordinate with your pants (the more cliche or uglier the better). Circle them around the pants and imagine which would be best as an inner triangular insert. Suggested fabric that produce a light, flowing effect includes thin polyester/acrylic and lightweight cotton. For this DIY, I choose to use two pieces of fabric from the skirt of the red polka-dot dress (light polyester).

Step 2: Open the Pant's Inseam and Crotch

Inseam
Note the "U" shaped inseam, running along the inner leg-crotch-inner leg line. Cut along each side of the seam to remove the serged fabric with fabric scissors. You will notice that the upper inner thigh area (zipper-fly inseam) of the pants is not lying flat.

Crotch
To allow the zipper-fly inseam to lie flat, trim/rip the stitches vertically along the crotch side of the zipper-fly seam (remove the stitches holding the sides together, no need to cut out the inseam entirely). You can use fabric scissors, or if you have a seam ripper, you can use as well. You should only need to open up about an inch-or-so. Do the same on the back crotch (you'll need to seam rip/cut further up to achieve a flat angle).

Step 3: Trim Pants to Length

Determine the Skirt Length
Try the pants on. Mark a 1/2 inch below where you want the skirt hem with a fabric pin.

Trim the Fabric
Fold the pants in half to reveal the pinned side on top. Smooth the fabric out so that the waistband is level, fabric is without lumps, and the seams are mostly in-line with their corresponding side. Cut away the legs of the pant straight across, right below the pin. Try the skirt on to confirm the general length. You can trim away a little more if you desire.

Note
If you want a midi or maxi skirt length, you must have pants long enough to accommodate this length, as well as insert fabric able to fit the length and width of the space between each pant leg (plus at least a half inch surplus on all sides for seam allowance).

Step 4: Prepare Your Inner Fabric

Spread your skirt open to be able to imagine the area your scrap fabric needs to fit. Trim away your scrap fabric from the last garment, if necessary. Place the over-sized swatch, preferably on the bias (diagonal) to allow more flowing of the insert, beneath your pant skirt inner triangle. Mark with a fabric pencil the minimum dimensions the insert fabric needs to be.

For a taught/straight skirt
Trim away the excess inner fabric, leaving an inch for seam allowance and a pressed pant hem.

For a flowing insert
Trim the excess insert fabric away using a gradient. Leave ~1 inch seam allowance at the top point and up to 4 inches seam allowance on the bottom edge of the inner fabric swatch.

Step 5: Press the Skirt's Panel Inseams (Front and Back)

Initial Press
With your skirt inside out, lay the front side's crotch onto an ironing board. With your fingers and an iron (set to a temperature safe to your pant's fabric), fold and press the hem into a straight line (eyeball it), starting from the crotch and pressing down towards the bottom hem. Depending on how equally you trimmed the pants in the first place, you will likely notice that the total width of the pressed hem varies. As long as you have a half inch or so to sew the insert into the seam, you have pressed the hem deep enough and can continue.

Adjusting Hem for Straightness
Flip your skirt back to right side out. If your fabric has stretch in it, or you are poor at pressing fabric into straight lines (I am too!), you may notice that the pressed hem does not appear straight. If you cannot tell how straight the hem is, use your contrasting fabric or a piece of paper beneath the hem to make the pressed hem fabric "pop." Use a ruler or another straight object if you are still uncertain. Note the areas that are curved with your memory, fabric pencil, or fabric chalk. Turn the fabric inside out and re-press the hem straight. Repeat as needed until you are satisfied. Repeat on the three remaining inner panel seams (1 front seam and 2 back seams remaining).

Step 6: Pin Insert Fabric to Skirt

Start with the skirt lying on a flat surface, right side up. With your insert piece right side up, lay the fabric beneath one side of the panel (front or back does not matter, just choose one side). If you have a flowing-style insert panel, start with making sure the top is aligned, and that you pull the fabric so that there is a 1/2 inch seam allowance on the side you will be pinning. Smooth out any fabric lumps. Place a notebook beneath the inner fabric along the pressed inner hem. This separates the front and back sides of the skirt so that you don't pin them together. Pin from the bottom edge to the top, with the pin heads facing the mid-line of the skirt (towards the insert piece).

Repeat*
You will return to this step to repeat the pinning process for the remaining front and two back inner pressed seams, after you sew this side down. For straight/taught skirt designs, pin as usual. For flowing skirt styles, pull the excess center fabric to the sewn side, leaving the pinning side of the insert fabric about a half-inch beyond the pressed line of the skirt.

Pro-Tip
You may notice that one side of the front (and back) panels will want to lie along the top of the other seam. Pin this "dominant" side second, and tug the top to gently make a small fold at the angle of the triangle to help the fabric lie more flat.

Step 7: Sew the Insert and Skirt Together

Using coordinating thread and a sewing machine, start at the bottom edge of the skirt with right side up, and sew towards the top using a straight stitch. Remove pins as you sew. Trim away loose threads.

*Repeat
Return to Step 6 to pin the opposite panel's side. Return to Step 7 to sew the panel down. Repeat Steps 6 and 7 for the remaining panel.

Pro-Tips:

  • Make sure the other side of the skirt fabric does not get pulled into the stitching area. You will then have sewed the front and back panels together.
  • Re-maneuver the skirt often to reduce tension on the sewing area to reduce puckering and reduce the work you have to positions the line of the hem to be straight.
  • Reverse your stitches at the start and end of the seam to reinforce stitching.
  • If you used the folded dominant crotch side tip from Step 6, then stitch to the top as normal. Extended past the tip until your needle is line with the other side's stitched line. Lift your pressure foot and pivot the fabric to match the stitched line. Stitch down to hold the folded portion down and match the angle of the other side. This will resemble a mountain when you are done.

Step 8: Preparing the Bottom Hem

Trim and Shape the Hem
You may need to trim off extended inner panel fabric or the skirt overall to be your desired shape prior to hemming. Most skirt are straight-ish in front and curve down longer in the back to mimic a straight line when worn (because your buttock takes up more skirt material than your front).

Press the Bottom Hem
Flip the skirt inside out. Flip the hem up and press the hem in a straight line about a 1/2 inch. If the pressed line is straight but the hem is different lengths, this indicates your eyeballing hem trim was uneven, but your pressing skills have improved. If you are struggling to match across each side, consider folding the skirt in half and marking with a fabric pencil or fabric chalk the pressed hem line onto the raw edge. From here, choose one of the following:

  • If you want to have the most secure hem, you can trim the excess to be 1/2 inch even across and roll the hem up another 1/2 inch. This will hide the raw edge in the seam. Press this new edge down.
  • If you want an easy detour, you can leave the folded edge raw, and proceed to Step 9.
  • If your patience is shot, you can skip pressing the skirt bottom hem entirely and simply wear your trimmed but raw hem skirt around. It's merely a costume at this point, but you deserve better, so challenge yourself to one of the other options above.

Pin the Bottom Hem
If you chose to single or double press your hem, pin the hem down, with the pin heads facing the hem edge.

Step 9: Sew the Bottom Hem

Adjust Your Sewing Machine
If you have a sewing machine that has a detachable arm to allow for circular sewing ease, please adjust accordingly. If not, be careful not to sew your front and back sides together. Adjust your fabric frequently while sewing.

Sew the Hem
Starting with your skirt inside out, begin sewing at a side-seam edge and sew across the bottom edge. Trim your threads. Congratulations! You have sewn yourself an atrocious skirt.

Pro-Tip
I went rogue and rolled the inner panel front and back pieces from a raw, unpressed edge and hemmed as I went, just to give it a go. I tucked the edges of the hem in, pulling fabric to create stretch when my angle was disappearing (given the curved inner panel hemline I trimmed). This created a flouted effect and added to the "bouncy dimension" of the inner panel. If you wanted a more secure finish, you could practice a rolled hem here. If that thought sounds awful, please press the inner panel in the traditional manners suggested in Step 8.

Step 10: Finishing Touches

Suggested finishing touches

  • Press the skirt to look as smooth as possible
  • Style yourself as a tree with a green shirt and a head adornment that is tree-topper themed
  • Get extra ugly by hand stitching Christmas ornaments onto your outfit (better yet DIY them from your fabric scraps)
  • Consider a tree-topper (hat, bow, or headband with attached paper star) to really complete the look
  • Place your feet in a large gift bag
  • Place one leg behind the other
  • Extend your limbs in your best tree-fashion
  • Say "Cheese!"
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