I finally buckled down and put this skirt tute together for you, complete with pics every step of the way. About 6 months ago I gave a class here locally with step-by-step instructions, but with drawings instead of photos. I think the photos will help a lot.
And for those of you who aren't interested in learning to sew a skirt (I'm including tips for making grownup skirts too!) I'll apologize right now for the length of this tutorial. I haven't taken the time to figure out how to do a separate file that you can click on in the sidebar, and my previous attempts at doing so were less than successful. So, since I don't have the time or inclination to figure that out, be prepared for my longest tutorial yet! (insert cheer or groan here)
Before you know how much material to buy and cut, you'll need to measure the wearer. Decide how long you want the skirt to be, and how many different fabrics you'll be using. In this example, the FINISHED dimensions of the skirt parts are as follows:
waistband: 3.5" wide cherry fabric: 13" wide polka dots: 2" wide
bottom red+white fabric: 3.5" TOTAL FINISHED LENGTH: 22"
For a girl size 3T to 6T, the total finished length generally ranges between 17" to 22" for it to be at the knee or below. Eliza is very tall for her age, so your skirt will likely be shorter than 22".
Establish the girl's waist size.
Decide if you want to add contrast fabric to the bottom of the skirt (I added 2 different contrast fabrics to the bottom of this one, but if you're a sewing newbie, you might want to simplify on your first one). Draw a little diagram of what you want the finished dimensions of your skirt to be, and write those dimensions on the left side of the diagram as I have done below.
Now, to establish the true cutting dimensions. The waistband will have a built-in casing from fabric folded over itself, so you need to allow 1.5" additional fabric to whatever finished dimension you want. In the drawing, the finished width is 5" so it is cut 6.5" wide. In the cherry skirt example, the finished width of the waistband is 3.5", so it needs to be cut 5" wide.
Always remember to allow 1/4" seam allowance in your calculations, so in the drawing above, the 12" wide piece needs to be cut at 12.5" (1/4" seam on top and bottom). The fabric that is at the hem of the skirt needs to have 3/4" added because extra width is needed in the hem.
BEFORE YOU CUT: prewash and, if necessary, iron your fabric. Line up the selvedges so that fabric hangs nicely at fold (the raw edges will likely NOT line up to accomplish this, so fiddle with it until fabric doesn't bubble and buckle at fold. The raw edges will be off; Just make sure the selvedges are parallel. Only then will you have it truly on the grain.) Use a rotary cutting mat and ruler for best results.
FOR WAISTBAND: Cut 1 strip of desired width. (in cherry skirt, 5") Now open strip up and cut the length about 12" longer than waist size. My daughter's waist is about 20", so I cut the length to 32".
FOR MAIN SKIRT: Cut 2 strips of desired width (in cherry skirt, 13.5").
FOR CONTRAST FABRIC: Cut 2 strips of each contrast fabric you use (in cherry skirt, 2.5" and the bottom fabric is 4.25" to account for hem).
Okay, are you ready to sew??? Remember that all seams are 1/4" (usually the distance between the needle and edge of presser foot). If you feel more comfortable sewing a wider seam than that, be sure to allow for extra width when cutting, or your skirt will be much shorter than expected.
1) Take the 2 strips of each fabric, face right sides together lining up the selvedge edge, and stitch ONE side together to create a single, very long strip of each fabric. You may want to cut off the selvedge edge before sewing if it is really wide so it doesn't show on the right side.
Notice that I'm using a serger (I LOVE that machine!) but you can also treat your edges after straight stitching on a regular machine by zigzag stitching over raw seam or using pinking shears on raw seam (but don't cut too close to stitching!).
2) Now, take contrast fabric and line up the seam with the seam on main fabric (right sides together!). To ensure that the side seams line up exactly (because the lengths of the various fabric strips will all vary slightly), start stitching strips together where the side seam is instead of at one end (this eliminates the need for pinning as well). Stitch, making sure edges are flush, until you reach the end. Now clip the thread, turn it over, go back to the side seam, and stitch the other direction to the other end so that the two strips are now sewn together into one big strip and the side seams line up exactly.
Do a thorough job ironing all the seams at this point, first on the back side and then on right side to make sure seams are pressed open all the way. Press seams all in one direction.
The loose ends of the strip will be uneven, like this.
3) Cut off uneven selvedges from both loose ends of strip.
4) Now, with right sides facing eachother, sew the ends of the strip together so that you now have a giant loop of fabric.
Press the sideseam you have just sewn.
5) For the waistband, join the two short ends together and stitch (right sides together) so it forms a loop. Press. Turn inside out. On one edge of loop, press under 1/4" all the way around edge.
6) Now, on the edge you just pressed under 1/4", fold over an additional 1"+a little bit, so that a piece of 1" elastic can easily slip through but not wide enough that the elastic will easily get twisted during wear. Press this measurement all around edge, checking for accuracy from time to time.
7) Once top edge is pressed, turn right side out and stitch all along top edge to create casing. Take care to catch the underside of fabric but make sure you leave the casing wide enough for elastic.
Take your time, you can feel where the fabric is underneath with your fingertips before it's fed under the needle. When you have come full circle with your stitching, backstitch.
Now your waistband is ready for attachment to skirt. Set aside.
8) It's time to do the gathers on the skirt!
Turn skirt loop right side out, and at top edge you will need to stitch a scant 1/4" away from raw edge with a basting stitch. The numbers vary by machine, but increase your stitch length number to as high as it will go (on my machine, a #5) so that the stitches are very long. I also like to increase my bobbin tension so that it begins to gather even as I stitch it, as you can see in the photo. NOTE: be sure to leave a long "tail" of thread both at the beginning and end of stitching. DO NOT BACKSTITCH when you come full circle, as this will make it impossible to gather. Do not gather stitches yet.
9) Okay, now take your waistband and turn it upside down. Turn the skirt inside out. Locate one of the side seams on skirt and line it up with the side seam on waistband, and put one pin there at the side seam, making sure the skirt is right side up (but inside out) and the waistband is upside down (but right side out). How's THAT for confusing?!
Hopefully a picture truly is worth a thousand words.
10) Now locate the other side of waistband (there won't be a side seam) and pin that to the other side seam of skirt. You will now have it pinned on both sides, and the skirt will be all floppy.
Grasp one of the bobbin threads that you left tailing out (right?) and GENTLY pull to begin gathering one side of skirt. Some machines make the top thread easier to gather, but on my machine it's the bobbin. Just experiment and you'll figure it out. Work the gathers (patiently so you don't break the thread) down the whole length of the side until it matches the length of that side of the waistband.
11) Pin gathers in place every 3 or 4 inches or so.
Now, grasp the other bobbin thread and repeat gathering procedure to other side of skirt. Pin in place.
12) Your skirt should look like this -now you're ready to stitch the waistband to the skirt! Hooray!
13) Making sure your machine is switched back to its normal stitch length, stitch carefully around the entire loop, readjusting gathers as necessary and making sure you don't accidently get extra fabric caught beneath the needle.
DO NOT RUN OVER YOUR PINS! It could break a needle or, worse, damage your bobbin casing.
Backstitch when you have come full circle. Inspect to make sure no fabric got caught underneath.
14) Treat the seam with a serger or zigzag stitch, or it will be an ugly mess.
Turn skirt right side out.
15) Topstitch seam where gathers and waistband meet, taking care to ensure that the bulky seam underneath is facing UP so it gets caught in the topstitching. This will make your seam lie much more flat.
As you are topstitching, make sure that you are using both hands to pull the two fabrics apart so that the true stitching line is seen and you won't have any bubbly and wobbly problems with your topstitching. Go slowly and carefully, as it can be a little tricky to sew over the bulky seam underneath.
This is what the completed topstitching will look like.
16) Using a seam ripper, rip out about 1.5 to 2" of casing seam near side stitching.
Cut a piece of 1" non-roll elastic about an inch shorter than actual waist size. Hint: stretch out the elastic to "break it in" before cutting it, as it gets more stretchy with use.
Attach a large safety pin (I use a diaper pin) to end of elastic and draw it all the way through casing, easing the gathers around the waistband. Take care not to let the tail end of the elastic get drawn through as well - or you'll have to start all over!
17) Lap one end of the elastic over the other end about 1 inch, and stitch back and forth a few times over the lapped edges as shown.
Insert elastic and adjust so that it is fully inside the casing and all the gathers are distributed evenly around waistband.
If possible, make sure that it's a good fit on your little girl. Readjust length of elastic if necessary.
18) To stitch the casing shut, make sure elastic is where it should be and the loose ends of the casing are where they should be. Position the needle over the point where the stitching was ripped out, backstitching over a little of the existing seam. Gently pull elastic tight in that area using both your hands, so that the casing area to be stitched has no wrinkles or gathers.
Carefully stitch casing all the way closed, backstitching at the point where original stitching starts up again.
19) For the hem, turn under about 1/4" (or less, if it's not too tricky) all the way around the bottom edge.
20) Turn under one more time, so that the raw edge is completely hidden.
21) Stitch hem, making sure that needle catches the folded-under edge underneath.
.....and you're done! Unless you want to add some ribbon embellishments. If so, follow the instructions below.
Decide which ribbon you want and where you want to put it. Lay it on the finished skirt to visualize what it will look like, paying attention to color and width of ribbon. Step away from it to look at it from across the room to see if the ribbon you're considering is the right choice.
Make sure you have enough ribbon to go all the way around your skirt, but don't cut it to exact length yet!
22) Place the ribbon about 3/8" beyond the side seam and sew all along one side, paying attention to where the ribbon is in relation to the seam of fabric that it is covering.
23) Just before you come full circle, stop stitching and cut off the ribbon about 3/8" beyond the side seam so there is about an inch of overlap.
24) Carefully fold under end of ribbon so that the fold happens exactly where the side seam is on the skirt.
Finish stitching that side of the ribbon, backstitching once or twice at the fold.
Lift up needle and presserfoot and bring needle over to other edge of ribbon. Begin stitching just after the fold, so that when you come full circle the fold will be the last thing you sew over. Backstitch over the fold a few times at the very end of your stitching.
25) With needle still inserted in ribbon, lift and pivot presser foot at edge of fold so you can stitch the fold completely shut. Backstitch before needle runs off the ribbon.
Press ribbon, and now you have finished your very own twirly skirt!
Since this post is already a mile long, I'll write directions for adapting the skirt into a grown-up skirt in a separate post. Please let me know if something is confusing to you, and I'll rewrite it or explain it further. Also, I'd love to see what you end up with, so feel free to send pics my way! Enjoy your new skirt!