How to Sew a Skirt

by SaraD on April 26, 2011

Flared knit skirt and jacket

Flared skirt and jacket from rayon knit.

I’m experimenting with how to sew a skirt. For years I used the same Stretch & Sew pattern–a bias-cut, elastic-waist flared skirt (#180). This time I decided to try something different. I got out Marcy Tilton’s book Easy Guide to Sewing Skirts, and flipped through it for ideas. This book is one of my treasures.

I decided to try a 6-gored skirt pattern (Butterick B4136), but I wanted to give it a bit more flare. So I used the godets from Loes Hinse’s skirt pattern (#5007) and inserted them between each gore.

Once I had the godets inserted and the gores stitched together, I turned to the waistband. The Butterick pattern has a faced waistband. Both my mother and sister have tried patterns like this and ended up with skirts that were way too big around. So I decided to convert my pattern to a pull-on elastic waist.

Invisible zipper makes a smooth line in a skirt.

Invisible zipper

I thought I had calculated correctly and didn’t think I needed to add to the hip area in order to create the pull-on skirt. However, once I got the skirt put together, I realized that I really was going to need more room. Darn! I’d already serged off the excess seam allowances. The skirt was too big for a fitted waistband and too small for a pull-on waistband. So I punted. I narrowed the side seams and put in an invisible zipper on one side. That fixed the hip problem.

Stitch elastic to waistline seam allowance

Stitch elastic to waistline seam allowance

The next challenge was the actual waistband itself. I decided to go with Marcy Tilton’s technique of a fitted elasticized waistband. Basically this means constructing the waistband like a normal waistband, but instead of interfacing, you stitch the non-roll elastic (1 1/4″ wide) to the seam allowance of the waistline seam. It serves as an interfacing (stiffening) and it provides the stretch and comfort of an elastic waistband. It looks a little wrinkled on the hanger, but when I put it on, it created a smooth and beautiful fit. Very comfortable too!

With all the construction challenges behind me, the only thing left was the hem. Marcy’s book provides instructions for a very narrow hem and I decided to try it.

Narrow machine-stitched hem

Narrow machine-stitched hem

  1. Stitch just inside the hemline (5/8” in this case).
  2. Press along the stitching line.
  3. On the wrong side, use an edgestitch foot to stitch along the edge of the folded hem. Trim very close to the stitching with applique scissors.
  4. Fold the hem up to encase the raw edge. Press. Edgestitch again on the right side.
  5. Press the garment on the right side.

The hem turned out beautifully.


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