Tutorial: Making a Ruffled Skirt

Here is how I make my ruffle skirts.
I usually make mine with 3 panels, but you can obviously change that number.
You’ll only need 1 body measurement: your hips.

Upper panel:

Width: If you want your skirt to be flattering and not be bulging at the waist (who would want that, eh?), you’ll have to add a minimal amount of ease to the upper panel. 7 cms seem a good amount.
My hips are 90 cm (=35″1/2). I always add 1.5 cm seam allowances (because the plate on my sewing machine has that guide, and this way I don’t need to actually trace anything on the fabric! I just use that guide). 1.5 cm is 5/8″ for you friends across the Atlantic.
Since you need to add a seam allowance to both sides of the panel, you’ll add a total 3 centimetres to the panel’s width.

So for me: 90cm + 3 cm seam allowances + 7 cm ease = 100 cm (39″ 1/5).

Length: That will depend on your own height and preference. You’ll have to add a 1.5-cm allowance to the panel bottom, and 3 cm to the top, to allow for the elastic casing.

06-06-11flounced skirt-transparified-blue3.0

Lower panels:

Make each panel 1.5 time wider than the previous one. Make them to desired length. You could make all the panels the same length, or make each panel a little longer than the previous one – like I did here:
Just another possibility would be to make a smaller flounce at the bottom, like here:


N.B.1: Be careful to cut the panels perfectly on grain. Respecting the grain of the fabric is the key to making a garment that will hang well on you.
N.B.2: Don’t forget to prewash the fabric so it has shrunk before you sew it! Wash the fabric just as you plan to wash the finished garment.
N.B.3: unless you make a mini flounced skirt (or a skirt for a little girl!), the width of your fabric won’t be sufficient for the lower panels (or even the upper panel). That means you’ll just have to sew two half-widths together (don’t forget to add seam allowances!) to create your panels. I find a skirt holds better with a seam on each side.
N.B.4: don’t forget to serge or overcast the raw edges (with a zigzag or overcast stitch). Since the panels will be gathered, it seems easier to serge all the cut pieces before you start sewing them.


First panel & casing:

Sew the first panel’s sides together. Press the seam(s) open.

Make the casing on the upper edge of the upper panel: turn under half a cm or so, press to mark the fold. Then turn under another 1 cm, press to mark the fold. Pin-baste the casing as you press. Stitch close to the lower fold, leaving an opening to put the elastic in. Insert a 1-cm (or narrower) elastic into the casing (using a saftey pin or, in my case, one of those big, long needles knitters use to weave their loose ends).
Slip this panel on to decide on the elastic’s length. Pin the elastic to desired length, overlapping the elastic ends, and take the panel off (take care not to prick yourself with that pin!)
Stitch the elastic closed with a wide zigzag stitch. (I stitch several times to make sure that seam is strong).
Stitch the casing’s opening closed.
To prevent the elastic from rolling on itself inside the casing, tack it to each side with a tiny seam perpendicular to the elastic.

Lower panels:
Sew the panels’ sides together. Press the seams open.

Gathering the lower panels

Now for the tricky part: gathering the lower panels.
I use the basting stitch method explained here, in the “Gathering your Ruffle” part, towards the middle of the page.
NB: since the panels are so wide, I advise you to divide your width into 2 or (better) 4 even sections, and to sew basting lines for each section: this will prevent the thread from breaking when you gather the fabric. Use STRONG bobbin thread here – nothing is more frustrating than having to unpick those basting lines and restitch them when one of them breaks.
Gather the fabric evenly until the upper edge is the same width as the upper panel’s bottom edge.
The next part in that page, “Attaching your Gathered Ruffle”, also explains you how to sew a lower panel to an upper panel.

Don’t forget to press each seam as you go. Pressing each seam properly is essential in garment sewing and helps to achieve a professional result. Pressing is not ironing: press the iron down on each seam, but do not slide it back and forth. I first press each seam as stitched, then I press it open.

Hemming the lower edge:
Turn under 0.5 cm, then turn under again. Press to mark the fold. Pin-baste as you press. Sew with a straight stitch.

You’re done!
Now put on the skirt, make a hat to match, and go enjoy the sun.
Essaouira, Morocco, April 2006.

I hope this inspires you to make a skirt or two – or more!
I hope these explanations are clear enough – if not, please do ask me to clarify and I’ll edit this post.

I would love to hear from you if you use those directions to make a skirt:
That would be the nicest way to thank me.

17 thoughts on “Tutorial: Making a Ruffled Skirt

  1. Maggie Ann says:

    A very clear tutorial…I think I’ll have to try one…=). Thanks Isabelle. Once on a television sewing program, Miss Martha ?… made a skirt by taking a kitchen fork and using it to just simply fold pleats around the fabric..making a skirt. Then you made a waistband. I made several of these one summer and just loved them. I used some semi-sheer fabric and lined them. One was a wonderful orange color and one was actually made from a ‘Martha Stewart’ curtain panel that was the prettiest fabric…all roses. I remember sewing a secret pocket inside the waistband for a kleenex. How I loved those skirts! I like the length you made your skirt too. I’m so sleepy right now…=) time for a little nap I think!


  2. Cathy says:

    Hi Isabelle! I don’t sew clothes – tried many years ago, but became very frustrated when my projects didn’t turn out! Anyway, it sure was nice of you to take the time to provide these instructions. I’m sure there are many others who will try this out. So nice of you to take the time to do this!


  3. Maggie Ann says:

    Good Morning Isabelle, You have made my week fun! I just posted a picture of my partially made flounced skirt on my blog and am looking forward to finishing it today. If I want it longer and I do, I’m going to have to make one gathered section a solid pink…I’m thinking of a small band of the print at the bottom…hmmm. I’m glad to have made you remember a good ‘coffeememory…smile. Hubby reminded me last night as I put another pot on..that to much of anything is not good for me. Rats…but he’s right.We’ve never tried Maxwells, though I’m familiar with the brand. Our local stores sell small 37 gram pkgs of Arbuckle’s fine roasted coffee (couldn’t resist the whole title there =))..for only 69 cents and I think its yummy. Thank you so much for the tutorial…I’m having so much fun making this and looking forward to more sewing. Anytime you offer or tell about a tutorial in the future I’m going to sit up and take notice…smile. This should make me a great cello skirt…for that I’ll be grateful and its been such fun to get the whole thing from you.


  4. Anonymous says:

    hello Isabelle,very nice skirts ;o)quelle curieuse, je passe ici aussi de temps en temps pour apprendre un peu plus de vocabulaire anglais de la couture…et découvrir quelques photos en avant-premièreOlivia


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