Friday 14 April 2017

How to Make a Simple Gathered Skirt ~ Tutorial

A gathered skirt is one of the easiest garments to whip up, making it an ideal project if you are new to sewing. It's all straight line stitching, with the addition of some elastic. Today's tutorial will step you through the process of sewing a knee length gathered skirt with the all important twirl factor.

You don't need a pattern for a simple, gathered skirt. All you need are some measurements. I'll show you how to work out your own measurements, as well as providing measurements in case the child you are sewing for is not on hand.


Take two measurements...
  • waist measurement
  • waist to knee measurement


  • fabric
  • ¾" (2cm) elastic


Cut fabric

Length of skirt = waist to knee measurement + 3" (8cm)
Width of skirt = waist measurement x 2, or for a fuller skirt - x 2½. The skirt pictured is 2½ x waist measurement.

If fabric is wide enough, cut 1 rectangle according to the measurements above.

If the fabric is not wide enough to cut the width of the skirt in one piece, divide the measurement by 2, and cut 2 pieces, adding seam allowances.


If you have one rectangle of fabric, you will have one seam at the back. If you have two rectangles of fabric, you will have two side seams.
  • Fold fabric in half with right sides together (for 1 rectangle) OR
  • Place 2 pieces right sides together (for 2 rectangles)
  • Sew the seam/s, stitching ⅜" (1cm) from the edge along the short sides / back.
  • Neaten seam/s with an overlocker (serger) or a zigzag stitch.


Casing for the elastic

  • Fold over ¼"
  • Press

  • Fold over 1½" (4cm)
  • Press
  • Baste (hand sew with a long stitch) if you need to hold the hem in place.
  • Stitch close to the hem of the casing - ⅛" (3mm), leaving a 2" (5cm) opening in the middle of the back.

  • Sew a second line of stitching ⅜" (1cm) from the top edge of the skirt.
NB: I stitched ½" from the top edge, but it made the elastic a very tight fit in the casing, making it more time consuming to even out. Next one I sew will be ⅜".

Inserting the elastic

Length of elastic = waist measurement minus 1½" (4cm) to 2" (5cm). It all depends on the stretch of the elastic. Try the elastic around the waist of the child and see what length feels comfortable.

  • Attach a safety pin to the end of the elastic.
  • Feed the elastic into the casing through the back opening. Leave the other end sticking out of the opening. 

  • Remove the safety pin.
  • Hold the elastic with a wonder clip or hand baste one side of the elastic.
  • Stitch the ends together with a zig zag stitch. Overlap ends about ½" (1.5cm)

  • Push the elastic into the casing.
  • Spread out the elastic so it is evenly spaced, with the elastic join at the centre back seam.

Stop the elastic from twisting

  • Sew through the elastic and casing at the back seam and/or side seams (stitch in the ditch). This will prevent the elastic from twisting.

See Stop Waistband Elastic from Twisting for better photos.

Close the back opening

  • Stitch the back opening closed.

  • Turn under ¼" (6mm) and press.
  • Turn again 1" (2.5cm).
  • Baste (hand sew) to hold in place and/or press
  • Stitch.

That's it - your skirt is finished!

If you don't know the measurements for the person who will be wearing the skirt, the following measurements may help. They will produce a reasonably full skirt that is 2½ times the waist measurement, as per the photos.


Size 2
Child's waist measurement = 20" (50cm)
Child's waist to knee measurement = 12½" (32cm)
Cut 2 pieces of fabric 15½" x 26" (39cm x 66cm)
Cut 1 piece of ¾" (2cm) elastic x 18" (46cm)

Size 3
Child's waist measurement = 20½" (52cm)
Child's waist to knee measurement = 13½" (34cm)
Cut 2 pieces of fabric 16½" x 27" (42cm x 69cm)
Cut 1 piece of ¾" (2cm) elastic x 18½" (47cm)

Size 4
Child's waist measurement = 21" (53cm)
Child's waist to knee measurement = 14" (36cm)
Cut 2 pieces of fabric 17" x 27" (43cm x 69cm)
Cut 1 piece of ¾" (2cm) elastic x 19" (48cm)

Size 5
Child's waist measurement = 22" (56cm)
Child's waist to knee measurement = 15" (38cm)
Cut 2 pieces of fabric 18" x 29" (46cm x 74cm)
Cut 1 piece of ¾" (2cm) elastic x 20" (51cm)

Learn how to sew a simple gathered skirt. Measurements provided for ages 2 - 5. Tutorial shows how to work with your own measurements ~Threading My Way

If you make a gathered skirt using this tutorial, I'd love to see photos:

Even if you have been sewing for years, it can still be extremely satisfying to whip up a simple project. There are some days when an easy make is called for - sewing without too much thinking.
What's your go to project when you have the need to finish something in one go?

... Pam

Edited to add: This skirt was sewn in support of Skirting the Issue, and will be making its way to Angels for the Forgotten, a group in NSW, Australia, providing tangible support to help change the experiences of those in crisis situations. They assist children and families who have experienced the foster care system, domestic violence and homelessness.

If you think others would benefit from reading this post, feel free to share on social media.


  1. I love this take on a simple skirt. I love the "paper bag" effect at the waist and the exact fullness needed. I have saved this to my Beginner Sewing Projects Pinterest board.

  2. Oh I love that you posted the assortment of sizes, with measurements included - I'm usually sewing for donation items and don't have measurements, so I just attach a note that says the size and the sizing information I worked from :) I totally agree that somes days we need something simple that can get *completed* quickly, using what we already have so we don't have to make a run into town to buy supplies. When I have the need to get a finish under my belt, it's usually a zipper bag of some form. I also like doing drawstring bags - it's easy enough to personalize them and to use up scraps. Bibs are a favourite too - I always have stacks of flannel in stash (bought on sale, of course) and they make great donation items and gifts :)

  3. I remember making similar skirts for my grown up daughter, and the best thing is no one will have one the same. I also made her a very simple sun dress when she was a toddler, basically a tube of fabric with several rows of shirring elastic stitched at the top and plain straps added. Wish I had a pic.

  4. Such a great tutorial. I bet your daughter loves her twirly skirt!

  5. Such a great tutorial, this is so similar to the first thing I ever sewed for myself. I didn't do the stitching that stops the elastic from twisting though at first and I remember my nan suggesting exactly the same method that you do - great minds think alike!

  6. Love this type of skirt my Mum used to make me loads when I was small, such fun to wear

    1. I had lots of these skirts as a kid, too, Carolee.

  7. My daughter has been asking for me to make her a couple of skirts, so this tutorial is just perfect. Thank you for sharing at The Really Crafty Link Party. Pinned!

    1. I'd love to see pics if you make a skirt, Teresa.

  8. So cute, Pam! I used to sew most of my girls' clothes ;) Thank you for sharing @Vintage Charm!

  9. I newly started sewing and your tutorial is very simple to understand for the beginners. Thanks so much for putting this down :-)

  10. So excited to find this. I'm making some for the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes, Samaritan's Purse. Thank you for posting this.


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