When I first started sewing, I sewed simple things. Easy pull on shorts and pants that had few pieces and parts and didn’t require a lot of skill, but still taught you good things in the process. Pull on pants, shorts and leggings are still one of my favorite things to make because after so many years of sewing them, they go together quickly and you can have a new pair of warm flannel pajama pants within a few hours.
But, pull on pants and leggings, while functional, don’t look very fancy and I wanted to make boutique style clothes that meant learning tons of skills I didn’t have yet.
I wish pre-ruffled fabric had been an option all those years ago.
Pre-ruffled fabric is so awesome. It comes in different varieties and I’ve worked with both the soft ruffles and the more firm mesh ruffles that this skirt is made in
These skirts are so simple to sew, require no pattern (just measurements) and some basic sewing skills (basically, sewing in a straight line).
How to Sew an Awesome Ruffle Skirt!
1) Get some ruffle material and elastic. I bought mine in store at Joann’s and it’s available on-line too. Most fabric stores should have something. Ruffle fabric tends to be pretty wide. I was able to get two skirts (4t and 7/8) out of one yard and Littlebit’s skirt is super full. Always over estimate to avoid having to run out for MORE ruffle fabric once you start cutting and realize you don’t have enough
Your elastic should be quite wide (2 inches or more) as this skirt will have an exposed waist band. No casings=easier to make!
2) Measure someone who wants a ruffle skirt. This is a very simple process with this skirt as you only need two measurements. Measure around the tummy of the recipient (or their widest area). Then measure their “outseam”, That’s the length from where you want to the skirt to sit (waistline) to where you want the skirt to end. We like ours around knee length to allow for a little growing. Baby Bee who is a very skinny 4t measures 21 inches around and 12 inches from waist to knee. LIttlebit who has a little bit (ha!) of a booty is 27 inches around and 17 inches long.
3) Cut your skirt piecesTo make the process simple, you should cut two rectangles per skirt. Baby Bee would have two fabric rectangles that were 21×12 and LIttlebit would have two that were 27X17. Double the waist measurement should give your skirt a nice fullness. If you want your skirt less full, multiply your waist measurement by 1.5. If you want your skirt to be fuller, the sky is kind of the limit, but the more skirt matieral you have, the more difficult it will be to attach the waist band.
As a note, ruffle fabric tends to be a “knit” fabric. “Knit” fabric is like a t-shirt material. Strechy. As a bonus, it does not fray after cutting and washing, so carefully cutting the bottom to be even means you won’t have to hem your skirts so you won’t lose any length to your hem. This is why I’ve added no hem allowance.
As another note, ruffle fabric tends to have lines on the back that will allow you to cut the skirt evening fairly easily. Just turn it over and cut along the back side. Be careful, though. If you cut into the ruffle stitching, the ruffles will come apart and you’ll have to cut some of your skirt off to compensate!
4) Sew Your Skirt Sides together With the right side of the fabric facing each other, use the stitch lines for the ruffles on the back of your material to make sure your rows of ruffles line up. Pin the skirt together and then sew up both sides.
As a note: I use a stretch stitch to sew knits. It creates, well, a stretchy stitch that will let the seams give a little with the material without the seams popping. A regular stitch will be okay, but you might want to zig zag over top of it or just sew it twice to make sure your seams are firm
5) Trim that nylon
I figure that extra nylon peaking through the seam would be uncomfortable, so I trimmed it off. Don’t cut your stitching!
6) Measure and sew your waist band.
Choosing a wide waistband allows it to be exposed on this skirt and it looks pretty nice! To get a waistband that fits well, cut the elastic to 1 to 1.5 inches smaller than your waist measurement. Using a 3/8 seam allowance, sew the ends of the elastic together to make a circle. This should make a waist band that fits your recipient comfortably. It’s always best to err on the side of too big and then try it on your recipient if you’re unsure.
7) Sew a basting stictch all the way around the top of your skirt to gather it to fit the waist band
The proper way to do this is to sew two lines of basting stitches. What are basting stitches? They are very loose/long stitches that allow you to hold two pieces of fabric together in a manner that is temporary and easy to remove. They will also allow you to pull your skirt into gathers to attach it to your wasitband.
Baby Bee’s skirt was 2x her waist measurement and gathering it wasn’t very difficult. Littlebit’s skirt was 3x her waist measurement. There was a LOT of fabric to gather.
8) Mark your elastic and skirt in 1/4ths and start pulling strings.
I use a pen to make small marks along the bottom edge of the elastic and the top edge f the skirt. To get an even gather on your skirt, pin your 1/4 way markings to each other. I gather in segments. I use a pin to pull up the basting stitches in the middle of each segment and pull to gather. Be careful! If you pull too hard, especially if the thread seems caught, you will break the thread!
You can see my 1/4 markings here and the amount of fabric I need to gather to fit the waistband. Pin your elastic and fabric right sides together. That means the bottom of your elastic will be pinned to the top of your skirt.
9) Pin your waistband to your skirt.
I have trouble gathering this much fabric neatly. I admit it. To get a cleaner edge on the outside, I pinned the bottom of my elastic UNDER the first row of ruffles. While pinning, I’d push the ruffles up with my fingers to keep them from getting caught up in the stitching and looking kind of ugly.
Here it is with the waistband all pinned. Hopefully, this helps with the visual of how to pin the waist on. I struggle a little bit with this sort of technique. I have trouble visualizing it. You can see that I have pinned the elastic under the ruffles and that I’ve kept the ruffles over the top of the edge of the elastic.
10) Sew your waistband onto your skirt
I let the right edge of my presser foot be the guide and sewed this with a stretch stitch again. I do stretch the elastic some as I sew. I want the stitches to stay and not pop as the fabric gets stretched. Baby Bee’s skirt was much simpler to sew as it had less gathering. Littlebit’s took a while because there was so much heavy fabric to try to maneuver through the machine. Just take your time! If you need to take a break, make sure you roll the needle down into the fabric to hold your place.
11) Trim off the extra nylon over the top of the waistband and present skirt to recipient!
I always encourage a good twirl to test the skirt out. If it doesn’t twirl well, what good is it?
I was able to make these two skirts in a matter of just a few hours. I would have finished Littlebit’s sooner, but Baby Bee wanted to sit with me and “help” and read and that makes it hard to sew. These would be adorable for Easter, dressed up with a little cardigan over top. I planned on Baby Bee wearing hers to school with her awesome black boots, but we opted for Mary Jane’s instead. ;)