Friday, March 30, 2012

How I Make a Simple Elastic Waist Skirt

Typically when I applique a shirt for my daughter she has a matching skirt. I don't really think twice about it, I just make a skirt. Last time I made her one it got me thinking, maybe you (my loyal reader) would like to know how I "just make a skirt". Well, it's easy, I promise. One simple math problem and straight lines. Nothing else. Really!  

You will need ...

main fabric, 1 yard or less depending on the size
contrast fabric, 1/2 yard or less depending on the size
measuring tape 
rotary cutter and cutting mat (don't worry if you don't have them, it just makes things easier)
7/8 inch elastic although I often use 1/2 inch if that's what I have on hand
iron, sewing machine, you know, the typical stuff if you want to sew

First, you will want to measure the waist of your child and decide what finished length you like. Right now my daughter is 5 years old. She has a 22" waist and I like her skirts to be about 14" long. She is tall and very lean (a trait that I gave up years ago) and I am fairly conservative when it comes to her skirt length. She is a little girl after all.

Now, some simple math.

Main fabric
Subtract 1/2" from your desired length. For me that will be 13 1/2" (14 minus 1/2). We will call this your adjusted length.

Cut 2 pieces the width of the waist and the adjusted length. Again for me, that will be 22 x 13 1/2.

If you are making a skirt for a waist 20" or smaller just cut 1 piece on the fold. 

Contrast fabric
Cut 2 pieces the width of the waist x 5 3/4" long. This will ultimately yield a contrast band that is approximately 2 1/2 inches wide. 

Again, if you are making a skirt for a waist 20" or smaller you can cut 1 piece on the fold.

That's it for the cutting and the math. Now it's time to sew a few straight lines. For all seams the allowance is 3/8". 

Main fabric
With right sides together sew each side seam. I prefer to overcast mine when I am finished since I don't have a serger. If you are working with a smaller waist and cut 1 piece on the fold you only have 1 side seam to sew.

Contrast fabric
With right sides together sew each side seam. Do NOT overcast or serge these seams. They will need to lie flat in a few minutes. If you are working with a smaller waist you only have 1 side seam here too.

Press the seams open. Fold and iron the contrast fabric in half, right sides out, to create the contrast band. This is why we didn't serge or overcast the seams on the contrast, they are now tucked away neatly within the band.

Now, pin the contrast band to the main band, right sides together starting with matching the side seams. Sew, serge or overcast. 

If you are using a directional fabric for the contrast band be sure to check and make sure it is going to be facing the right direction after you sew it. If you don't you might end up with upside down snowmen and yes, that was the voice of experience you just heard.  

Next, iron open with the inseam up. On the right side, using the seam as a guide, sew along to tack the inseam up. If you wanted to add ric rac this is a great place to do so. 

The only thing left is to create the elastic casing and insert the elastic. I told you this was simple.

When creating a casing I always like to overcast the raw edge before I start. I don't know why. I'm sure I saw it or read it somewhere. You don't have to. I doubt anything would really happen if you didn't but I do.

Next, I press under approximately 3/8" of the raw edge and then another 1 1/4" to create the casing. Sew close to the lower edge of the casing leaving an opening to insert the elastic. 

Using a safety pin (because that's how my mom taught me) I then insert the elastic through the casing. I typically start with my waist measurement plus 1" for the length. Once the elastic is through I pin the elastic ends together (maybe this is why I start with a safety pin) and try the skirt on. Of course the elastic always needs to be adjusted but that is simple. After adjusting the fit I sew the elastic together, distribute the fullness, and stitch the opening close. I also make a habit of stitching in the ditch on the side seams to try to keep the elastic from shifting or twisting.

That's it! You're done. Now go make a skirt!

For those of you who applique here is a free design for you. I created this a week or so ago and didn't get it tested until now. Hopefully you are inspired to use it on something recycled.



  1. cute! I'd love to see a pic of the set.

  2. I enjoyed the tutorial ever though no one over here would wear a skirt. I'm bookmarking this post because it looks pretty easy, even for me, and a skirt would make a great gift :-) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the fabrics :-)

  3. I have a question...if she has 22" waist, and you cut the fabric also 22", wouldn't it be tight instead of full?

  4. You will need to cut two pieces the width of the waist and sew them together. The skirt is essentially twice the waist measurement minus the inseams.