To make a basic elastic skirt, the only two measurements you need are waist (measurement A) and desired finished length (measurement B). The supplies needed are: fabric, 3/4" non-roll ribbed elastic to match the waist measurement, and thread. I ended up using some embellishing techniques that I will mention later in the article.
To figure out how much fabric you need and how to cut the skirt pieces, use measurements A and B to determine the size of the strips that you need to assemble. In general, most skirts will need between 1/2 a yard and a yard of fabric. The skirt will be cut across the width of the fabric between the selvages so that the lengthwise grain runs from the top to the bottom of the skirt.
To determine the dimensions of the skirt strips, multiply measurement A by either 1.5 or 2 (for a fuller skirt), divide in half and add one inch for seaming (I used a 1/2" seam allowance). For length, add two inches to measurement B. For example, the little girl I was sewing for has a waist measurement of 20" and her mom wanted the skirts to be 12" long. So, I needed 2 skirt pieces that were 21" wide by 14" long: (20 x 2 = 40/2=20 + 1 = 21" and 12+2=14") In my case, I decided to use the entire 44" width of the fabric and eliminate one of the side seams. Using the entire fabric width folded in half works best for waist measurements between 20 and 30 inches.
Putting the skirt together:
- Sew the side seam/s to make a tube.
- To hem the skirt, turn up the bottom edge toward the wrong side 1/4" and press flat. Turn folded edge up again by 1/2" and press flat. Stitch in place close to first folded edge.
- To make the waist casing, turn the upper edge 1/4" toward the wrong side and press. Fold in again so that there is 1" between the folded edges and press. If you have a serger, you can eliminate the first 1/4" fold on both the hem and waistband and simply fold over the overlocked edge, adjusting for the 1/4" difference. Sew close to first folded edge (no more than 1/8" away), stopping 2" away from beginning of stitching to leave opening for inserting elastic.
- Insert the elastic, using your preferred tool (mine has always been a safety pin). Be sure to not let the loose end escape. When you reach the other side of the opening, pull the elastic out enough for you to sew it together. Instead of overlapping the elastic ends, which creates bulk, the method that I prefer is to butt the ends together and lay them on top of a scrap of fabric (stretchy works best, but any is fine) and zigzag across the butted ends a few times, attaching the elastic to the fabric. Trim any excess fabric away from the sides. This method keeps the elastic secure and reduces bulk.
- Close the seam to finish encasing the elastic.
- Shake out skirt and stretch the waist a few times to distribute the gathers evenly.
Beyond the basic skirt, there are some easy embellishment techniques that can add some pizzazz to the style such as a hem band, adding ribbon, and adding ruffles. In one case, the embellishment allowed me to be able to make the skirt, because I didn't have enough fabric. Below, I show you how you can add some zip to a basic skirt.
Hem bandA hem band replaces traditional hemming with a band of fabric that is folded around the raw edge of the bottom to encase it. To cut a hem band, determine how long you want the band to be, multiply that figure by 2 and add 1" for seam allowances. The width will match the skirt panels. On the skirt panels, subtract the original length of the band (before multiplying) and add 1/2" for the seam allowance. The skirt shown below has a 2" hem band so I cut the skirt panel at 12 1/2" long (instead of 14") and the hem band was 5" long (2 x 2 + 1).
Sewing the hem band:
- On hem band, press down 1/2" on one long edge.
- Sew both the skirt panels and the hem band panels into tubes.
- With skirt wrong side out and hem band right side out, place hem band inside skirt so the right sides are together, matching raw edges and seams. Using 1/2" seam allowance, sew hem band and skirt together.
- Turn skirt right side out and press seam allowance toward hem band.
- Press hem band in half, wrong sides together, so that the previously pressed edge slightly overlaps the seam by 1/16". Pin in place from the right side.
- From the right side, edgestitch inside the hem band close to the seam edge so that the back edge is caught in the seam.
- Trim threads and press to finish.
Tied Ribbon EmbellishmentThis embellishment is just a grosgrain ribbon sewn near the bottom of the skirt and finished with a perky little bow, but it gives the skirt a ton of extra style as you can see in the photo below!
- Cut a length of ribbon that will go around the bottom of the finished skirt + 12 extra inches for tying the bow.
- Once you have decided on the position of the ribbon and finishing bow, use chalk or a removable marking pen to trace a line around the bottom to guide placement of the ribbon and mark a dot where you want the bow to sit.
- Using pins or fusible tape, attach the ribbon to the skirt, centering your drawn line underneath the ribbon and leave the first six inches of the ribbon free for tying the bow. I had some 1/4" wide Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 left over from my Zippy Keychain Wallet Tutorial and it worked perfectly for this. Pins will work, but they don't lay as flat and can put holes in the ribbon. Edgestitch ribbon down along both edges, stopping 1/4" before your marked dot. Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seams.
- Tie ribbon ends into a bow and tack in place by hand securely so the bow will stay permantly in place. Try to sew underneath the top loop so your stitches don't show.
Ruffly Ruffle Embellishment
This ruffle is made from a narrow strip of fabric that I hemmed on both sides using the rolled hem feature on my serger. If you don't have a serger, you can use a contrasting ribbon instead. Attach the ruffle to the skirt before sewing the side seam so you can attach the ruffle while the skirt is still flat.
- Cut strips of fabric (or ribbon) 1 1/2" wide and long enough to equal twice the circumference of your skirt. I cut two strips that were 42" long and seamed them together.
- Finish both edges of the long strip with a narrow rolled hem (if using ribbon, skip this step)
- Find the middle of your strip/ribbon and starting from there run a gathering seam down the middle of the finished strip or ribbon from the middle to the end. Repeat on the other side so that you will gather up the ruffle in two sections. If you are feeling brave, you can use one continuous seam, but just be careful while pulling on the thread so it doesn't break.
- Mark a line on the skirt with a non-permanent marking tool at the desired spot on the skirt.
- Gather strip/ribbon evenly to fit skirt and pin in place following the marked guideline.
- Sew strip in place, stitching down the center. Remove gathering stitches.
- Sew up side seam/s and finish as previously explained.
Ruffle Variations: For a different look, you can add multiple rows of ruffles. Another option that would look cute is to sew on the ruffle in a curved fashion rather than a straight line.
Ribbon Hem EmbellishmentI don't have a picture of this one, but this is fun finish that also simplifies the hemming process. It uses a smaller seam allowance, so you can cut the skirt 1/2" shorter, if you wish.
Use a length of ribbon long enough to go around the bottom circumference of the skirt, plus 1" inch for overlapping. Using a 1/4" seam allowance, sew the ribbon to the bottom of the skirt with the right side of the ribbon facing the wrong side of the skirt. When you are near the beginning again, fold the ribbon up toward you a half inch and finish sewing around (when the ribbon is turned, this fold will cover the raw end at the beginning). Turn ribbon toward the right side of the skirt and press in place. Edgestitch along the top edge to finish.