How to sew a tiered, ruffled skirt
Moms and girls everywhere seem to be eating up the popular new style of tiered skirts made from strips of different, but coordinating, fabrics. My niece is no exception, and I thought it would be a fun idea to make one for her and let her pick out the fabrics. She needed only a little bit of help to get a good set of colors, and then she was so excited to get her skirt that I ended up making two.
These skirts are easy to make once you get the measurements figured out, and fortunately for you I’ve created a little tool to help you do just that. Here’s how:
Gather the supplies
You’ll need the basics like straight pins, scissors, thread, and a sewing machine. You’ll also need a length of elastic for the waist and two safety pins to help with threading the elastic.
And of course, you’ll need fabric. Since my niece picked out her fabric, I found it was easiest to do this by letting her pick fat quarters, which are easy to hold and carry. For the 6-tier skirt, I used one fat quarter for each tier except the last, which took two. Once you have your fabric, try laying it out on the table, overlapping the pieces, and rearranging them as needed until you get the stripe pattern you like. Then write it down so you won’t forget!
Determine your measurements
Measure your child’s waist in inches. Then measure how long you want the skirt to be from the waist to the bottom hem. Finally, determine how many tiers you want to have on the skirt. You can use any number up to 6, and as you’ll see in my finished pictures later, the more tiers you use, the fuller the skirt will be.
So how that you have the numbers, how big do you cut each piece of fabric for each tier? Here’s where our handy-dandy calculation tool comes into play.
|Click here to launch our skirt measurement calculation tool.|
Just enter your measurements into this tool and hit the “Calculate” button, and it will determine for you the width and length of each tier of fabric. Feel free to round each resulting calculation a bit to make the measurements easier to deal with (ex: 5.125 inches can be rounded to just 5), but keep in mind that too much rounding will affect your total skirt length.
Go ahead and cut all your pieces now, sewing strips together as needed for the last couple of tiers, which can end up quite long. As you’ll see in the calculations, each tier is going to be longer that the one above it.
Note that the chart’s calculations assume that you’ll be using a 3/8″ seam allowance for all of your seams.
Prepare the top tier
For the top tier (yellow in my case), start by folding over 1/4″ on one long side of the fabric. Sew this in place with the machine. Now fold that sewn edge over again, creating a 1″ pocket, and sew again. This is your waistband, where you’ll be inserting the elastic later.
Add the second tier
The second tier (striped in my case) on the skirt will need to be gathered on one long edge, so that it is ruffled. To do this, start by adjusting your sewing machine so that the stitch is as long as possible.
Then sew right down one long side of the fabric. When you’re done, pull the bobbin thread to gather the fabric up into a ruffle. Keep pulling as needed until the finished width of this tier is the same as the finished width of the tier above it.
Now line up the first (yellow) and second (striped) tier, and make sure that they are the same width. If not, adjust the ruffling on the second tier as needed.
Lay the second tier on top of the first, right sides together, and match up the top (ruffled) edge of the second tier with the bottom (unsewn) edge of the first tier. Pin in place.
Sew along the pinned lines, making sure that you sew inside the previous ruffle stitch, so that it doesn’t show through on the finished skirt. Unfold it and see that you’ve got the start of a skirt, with the waistband on top and a ruffled tier on the bottom.
Add the third tier
Take the third piece of fabric (green in my case) and sew along one edge as before, then pulling the bobbin thread to make a ruffle. This time, the final width of the fabric should match the final width of the second (striped) tier above it. Just keep adjusting the ruffling until you get the widths the same.
Then lay the third tier (green) on top of the second (striped), right sides together, with the ruffled edge of the third tier (green) lined up with the unsewn edge of the second tier (striped). Pin in place.
Now sew along the pinned line, again being sure to enclose the previous row of stitches so that it won’t show. When you’re done, unfold it and admire your progress.
Add the remaining tiers
If you’ve still got more tiers to add (this part is up to you!), go ahead and do them now, following the same method as before. My skirt had 6 tiers, so I had quite a bit to add, and the skirt got nice and full by the time I was done!
Finish the hem
For the hem, start by folding 1/4″ of the bottom tier over and sewing in place. Then fold the entire seam over again and sew in place, securing the hem and hiding the rough edge. Be sure to use a matching thread on this second seam, because it will show on the finished piece.
At this point it’s also a good idea to top-stitch each of the tiers. Just flatten it out as much as you can and run a row of stitches (in a matching thread) along the very edge of each tier to secure the ruffle. This little touch makes a big difference. Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until after I made this skirt, so I didn’t do it. However, I did it on the second skirt I made, so take a close look at the 3-tier pink skirt pictured at the end of this post.
Sew up the side
You’ve got this pretty ruffled piece of fabric, but it’s not a skirt unless we sew the ends together to make a loop! Line up the two ends of your fabric, right sides together. Pin in place, then sew the seam. Be sure that you do NOT sew the waistband pocket closed, or else you won’t be able to get the elastic in!
Measure a piece of elastic to that is the right length to fit comfortably around your child’s waist, with one extra inch to spare. Add a small safety pin to one end (this will help with feeding the elastic through the pocket) and a large safety pin to the other end (this will keep it from coming all the way through the other end!)
Feed the smaller safety pin through one of the openings in the waistband and keep going until it comes out the other side. Make sure the elastic is nice and flat throughout the pocket (and not twisted), remove the safety pins, overlap the ends by 1/2″ each, and sew them together with a needle and thread.
Then use a blind/slip stitch to sew the waistband pocket.
The finished skirt
Hey look! You’re done!
Here is my niece wearing the colorful 6-tier skirt as well as a solid pink 3-tier skirt that I made using the same instructions. You can see here that the skirt is fuller and more ruffled if you use a larger number of layers.