The “Oh wow that was totally easy!” Skirt-Making Tutorial

First off I have to say big-huge thanks to Trena of The Slapdash Sewist for schoolin’ me with this knowledge on Saturday night. I was up in DC for a great gathering of crafty internet friends, and we hung out at Trena’s house one night and she showed us how to make a skirt. This is so easy and I think it would be a very satisfying first sewing project for anyone. You even end up with clothes. Let’s do it.

gimme a minute

Step 1: Measure yourself. You need two measurements to get going here. First, the widest part of you below the waist. For most people this is their lower hips, for some, the thighs, whatever. Write that measurement down. The second measurement is the distance from your waist (where the skirt’s waistband will sit) to wherever you want the hem to fall. This will be a straight skirt, the same width all the way down.

Step 2: Calculate the fabric. For the width, you want the first measurement you took, plus ease. Ease is however much extra fabric you want that will allow you to actually move in the skirt. It’s totally a personal preference, but I think 3-5 inches is good for this project. You also need to add seam allowances. You can sew whatever width seams you want, but we’re doing 1/2 inch seams for this project because the math is easy. So here’s how you calculate.

Width equation: Hip measurement + ease + 1/2″ seam allowance times 2. (There is only one side seam, there will be 1/2″ of fabric on each side of it, so that’s why the times 2.) Let’s say your hip measurement was 45 inches and you wanted 3 inches of ease. You would get:

45 + 3 + 1/2 + 1/2 = 49 inches. Your piece of fabric needs to be 49 inches wide.

Length equation: Length measurement + seam allowances for waist and hem (1 inch each). Let’s say your waist to hem measurement was 22 inches. You would get:

22 inches + 1 inch + 1 inch = 24 inches. Your piece of fabric needs to be 24 inches long.

skirt tutorial with trena

Step 3: Cut! Measure your fabric and cut out your piece.

Step 4: Side seam. (If you have a serger, you can go ahead and finish the raw edges before you get started. If not, ignore that last sentence.) Fold the fabric in half widthwise, with right sides together. Pin if you want, or not, whatever works best for you. Sew a 1/2 inch seam with a straight stitch along where the edges meet. Make sure you backtack on both ends of the seam, your machine will have a button or lever for this. This is the same as tying a knot. Some tips for sewing a straight line: watch the lines on the needle plate, not the moving needle. Keep the fabric aligned with the line.

skirt tutorial with trena

Step 5: Finish your edges. If you’re working with a knit, don’t worry about it, but if your fabric unravels, you want to finish your edges of the seam. Change your machine to a zig zag stitch, and stitch as close as possible to each raw edge of the open seam. Eventually you’ll want to be able to get that zig zag stitch right on the edge so it actually holds the edge of the fabric, but at first, just do it as close as you can, it’ll keep it from unraveling. Depending on how you cut your fabric you may need to finish the top edge or bottom edge of the skirt too.

skirt tutorial with trena

Step 6: Press! As Burda says, well-pressed is half-sewn. Pressing is crucial in any sewing project. This will make the difference from people asking, “Did you make that yourself?” to people asking, “Where did you get that awesome skirt?”

Press your seam flat, then open the seam and press it open so it lays flat against the fabric.

Step 7: Elastic waist time! Grab a length of 3/8″ (or similar size) elastic. Pull it around your bare waist until it’s pretty snug with a little overlap, then cut it to that length. Sew the elastic into a tube (just sew the two ends together).

To attach the elastic to the skirt (obviously the elastic tube is quite a bit smaller than the skirt tube you just made), you want to mark both tubes with 4 pins each, at equal distances around. This will make attaching them to each other easier. This is a bit tricky to explain so let me show you with a crude drawing. An easy way to measure this is to lay the tube flat, put a pin at either side, then fold it flat the other way (your two existing pins will now meet in the middle) and put a pin at each side.


skirt tutorial with trena

Once you have marked with pins, match up the pins and pin the elastic to the wrong side of the fabric. You’ll be removing a pin each time you line the marking pins up, and attaching the elastic to the fabric. Don’t put the seam of the elastic on the side seam of the skirt, it makes for bulkiness.

Now you will pull the elastic taut and use a zig zag stitch to attach it to the skirt. If you use a straight stitch, it’s not going to work, because a straight stitch can’t stretch. Keep the elastic pulled tight so the skirt fabric lays flat as you sew. This is a little tricky but you can do it.

skirt tutorial with trena skirt tutorial with trena

Step 8: Finish waist. Your elastic should be on the inside of the skirt now. Stop what you’re doing and try it on! Hey look it’s becoming clothes! Now turn the top edge under to cover the elastic. Pin it to hold it down and sew with a zig zag stitch down the middle of where the elastic is. You’re gonna have to pull tight again so the skirt fabric lays flat.

Step 9: Hem it! Iron down your hem edge to the inside of the skirt about an inch all around (iron the crease so the wrong sides of the fabric are together). Double fold the edge and pin to hold it down. Double fold just means you fold the raw edge to the crease you just made, then fold it over again. Sew your hem with a straight stitch with the left edge of the needle foot against the folded edge of the seam (or approximately 1/2 inch). Press your hem, and give the whole skirt a once over with the iron if you want.

wardrobe remix 07.01.08

Step 10: Wear it! Whipped this one up last night in mere minutes from an old sheet. I’m gonna be making a lot of these! Perfect for summer.

I hope this tutorial is helpful. See, you can make clothes! If you have any questions or if I got something wrong, which is quite possible, please leave a comment!


  1. says

    I just got my first sewing machine and this might be the perfect project for my daughter and I to work on this summer. She is a much more accomplished sewer than I am, so she will probably be able to figure it out in no time!!!

    Congrats on the nuptials.

  2. ladyjane says

    YAY! I actually like the zig-zag method for gathering the skirt. This is way easier than the whole “shove the elastic thru the casing” method I’ve used.

    Another option is to take a simple a-line skirt that you already own, trace it onto newspaper, and add seam allowances to the pattern. Two pieces, Two side seams, one hem, one waistband, badda bing badda boom, DONE!

    Thanks for sharing, Trena and Amber!

  3. ladyjane says

    PS – it’s ladyjane – can I link this to ThreadBanger’s forums? I’m sure that the ThreadBangers will LOVE this tute!

  4. says

    You are amazing! I was telling my mom about you (IRL!!) and your cooking. I wish I was talented, but I have no talent. :)

    Congrats on the wedding as well :)

  5. Jenn (emilytbm) says

    Amber, that is just beautiful! Again you are inspiring me to be creative and whip out my sewing machine and fabric (after an awful failed attempt at the infinity dress, boo). Now if only I could cut and sew in a straight line!!!!!!

  6. Amy G says

    Wow, that’s so easy even I could do it! LOL I think I will abandon my ridiculous attempt to crochet a lap blanket and start sewing! You’re right, these simple skirts are perfect for summer. And that skirt is an old sheet? AWESOME!

  7. Shanin says

    Oh my gosh how cute and the instructions are great! Ones I can actually understand. I have been wanting skirts like that but they are hard to find since I’m fat and short, they are all to long but that is just perfect. Thanks for posting!!!

  8. says

    First time commenting on your blog, but have been reading for ages… Thats such a great skirt tutorial, can’t wait to try it… though I will need to borrow my mums sewing machine. (sorry if I accidentally posted twice btw)x

  9. says

    My boyfriend & I just moved into our new place last weekend and I finally have a craft room! I cannot wait to unleash my sewing machine… I think I’ll try your skirt demo first.

    P.S. Thanks for adding me on LJ so I can enjoy your RSS feed.

  10. Jessie says

    Thanks for the tutorial! I’m teaching myself to sew and the pictures were great! I also saw a mention of Threadbangers in Ladyjane’s response. When I checked it out I was amazed at the number of tutorials.
    The pictures of Belize reminded me of my trip to Costa Rica in my younger days. Just beautiful. Enjoy those kinds of adventures now while you are young. (I’m a fifty-something old fart now, but I thoroughly enjoy your site, from the recipes to the craft information.)
    Take good care.

  11. minna says

    Awwww! I missed it. Is looks great on you, can’t wait to try it. I am having a good time browsing your blog. Hit me up sometime.