Nicole Blum from Improv Diary is back today with her Pretty + Full Skirt, a simple skirt which is also easy to adapt to any size. Nicole is the co-author of Improv Sewing: A Freeform Approach to Creative Techniques, a favorite book here at Sew,Mama,Sew! It’s full of fun and easy designs for lots of creative clothing, accessories and more. Nicole has joined us before with her Hooded Tunic, Reverse-Appliqué Skirt and the pretty Ruffled Wrap. Learn more about Nicole in her introduction, enjoy today’s tutorial and get your copy of Improv Sewing today!

This skirt is so sweet and easy and you absolutely do not need a pattern to make it, so it satisfies all my requirements for fun sewing.

I created this because my daughter was eyeing some adorable skirts in the Jonnie B. catalogue and I figured I better get stitching before she showed them to me even one more time. My first go was blogged about on Improv Diary, and though that turned out great, I have streamlined the directions and am here to share them with you. I used one yard of fabric, which was perfect for the length she likes to wear (and she is now 5’5”). If you are stitching a teen or adult skirt and desire something longer, then you will need more than a yard. All children’s sizes will only require a yard. There are a couple other changes you can make with slightly more fabric and still follow these directions, so consider the finished look when you gather your materials. If you want to hem this skirt, then you will want one and ¼ yard. If you want a wider waistband, add a ¼ yard for that too.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 to 1.5 yards of woven fabric (mine was 44” wide after washing). Always wash fabric before sewing garments.
  • .5 yards elastic (I used ¾”fold over elastic, but any elastic will do.)
  • Matching or contrasting thread
  • Pins
  • Measuring tape
  • Safety pin

1. Cut front and back waistbands and skirt panels
If you are like me and are trying to get by with the 1 yard of lovely fabric you have on hand, then you will most likely be making a 1” waistband (unless, of course, this skirt is for a child, then the option for a larger waistband is there because you’ll have more fabric to work with). Cut a 2” strip from selvage to selvage, press in half the long way, and set aside for your waistband.

You will need two measurements to make this skirt. First take a waist measurement and divide it by two, and then add an inch for seam allowance (file this info away for a later step). Next, measure from the waist to where you would like the skirt to fall. If you are not hemming your skirt (I didn’t because I only had a yard and didn’t want the skirt to be any shorter) this will be the length of the panel. However, if you are hemming your skirt, add 1 inch. Scroll down to see how I stitched along the “hemline” to create texture and minimize fraying while still allowing the soft raw edge to remain (pretty!). Now mark and cut 2 panels that are as wide as the fabric came-– from selvage to selvage– and the desired length measurement (your panels will be wider than you need, but you will cut it to the correct waist measurement after pleating).

2. Pleat the panels
Make 1” pleats along the top edges of both the front and the back panels. I do this by folding from the second inch back to the first inch, so the pleats are an inch wide and spaced every inch. Pin these pleats in place.

3. Attach the waistband
Cut the waistband into two pieces that each measure the waist measurement divided by two. For example, if your waist measures 30” (including the 1” you added for seam allowance), then each waistband will measure 15”.

Cut the skirt panels so the pleated edges are the same length as the waistband pieces; in other words, the pleated edge of the skirt will be half the waist measurement (which makes sense, right, since it will need to fit your waist).

Tip: A good way to get a perfectly straight line is to make a snip where you want to cut the fabric and rip the fabric from waistband to hemline.

Insert the pleated edge into the folded waistband, remove pins one at a time and repin with the pleats enclosed in the waistband. I did this one pin at a time so I didn’t unpleat anything.

Notice how I am leaving the raw edge of the waistband exposed? Intentional!

Once it looks like this, it is time to sew it in place.

Align your presser foot with the raw edge of the waistband and sew a straight stitch along the entire length of the panel.

You might also notice that I am sewing right over those pins. My machine didn’t notice (shrug).

After I removed the pins, I decided I wanted to make another pass along the edge of the waistband in a meandering sort of way. This is the front panel of the dress so it doesn’t matter how many decorative stitches are made– it will be a flat fronted waistband.

To make the back panel of the skirt, you do the exact same thing EXCEPT, you must make sure to leave a casing for the elastic.

4. Make the back waistband elastic
Attach a safety pin to the end of the elastic to feed through the casing.

When the elastic is pulled through to the other side, pin it securely.

Pull the elastic to create a slightly bunched waistband and pin the other end of the elastic in place. Cut off excess elastic.

5. Sew the side seams
With the right sides of the fabric together, pin the front waistband to the back along the side edges.

Sew a ½” seam from the waistband to the hemline.

Press side seams open.

6. Finish the hemline
If you read my intro, you will know that I didn’t hem this skirt, but instead stitched several rows of stitches to create a little weight to the bottom as well as minimize (but not completely stop) fraying. The world’s your oyster on this one-– contrast stitching, hand embroidery, zigzagging the edge, etc.

A simple hem could be made by folding and pressing the raw edge under 1” and stitching a zig zag to secure it in a nice and cute way. Any hem will do.

Even though this skirt is made with panels that are rectangles, the pleats make it a-line in the end. It is adorably full and poofs out nicely in a spin. The elastic back waistband makes it easy to pull on but I like the front’s flat waistband– it allows the pleats to shine and not get scrunchy.