This is another really simple and summery fashion DIY. This maxi skirt is straightforward to make and the gathered, elastic waist style makes it easy to fit a variety of different body shapes. I’m going to show you how you can make it according to your own measurements. If you want to make it for you sister/friend/daughter/mum and you can’t get their measurements, just work with your own and add or subtract a little if they are bigger or smaller than you. Remember the elastic waist means it will stretch to fit a variety of sizes.
Um, how pretty is this fabric I am using? I love it! You will need a big piece of a light weight fabric such as cotton lawn. Make sure you prewash it before cutting out your skirt in case it shrinks. My piece of fabric is only 112 cm wide so I needed quite a long piece of 2.5 m (although I had a small amount left over). If you are using a wider fabric you may need less (and it will be a bit easier). The skirt is simply made out of rectangles, so if you work out the size of the rectangles according to your measurements before buying your fabric you’ll be able to determine how much you will need. You will also need general sewing supplies, a safety pin and enough elastic to go around your waist. I am using elastic that is 12 mm (1/2”) wide.
Here’s how to work out the rectangles you’ll need to cut out. Measure the circumference of your waist where you want the skirt to sit. In my case this is a bit below my natural waistline. My measurement is 75 cm (29 1/2”). Divide this in half as you’ll be cutting separate front and back pieces. So my waist figure is now 37.5 cm (14 3/4”).
The other measurement you need is the length of the skirt. I’m pretty short (about 5 ft 4” I think…) and will have the skirt sitting slightly low on my waist, so the the length I want my skirt to be is 91 cm (36”). Divide this number by 3 as the skirt will have 3 tiers of equal lengths. So the length of each tier of my skirt will be 30.3 cm, which I am going to round up to 30.5 cm (12”).
As the skirt is going to be gathered, you need to allow extra fabric for the gathers. I am working with a ratio of 1:1.5 because I think it gives nice, soft gathers without too much bulk. This means to work out the width of the first (top) tier of the skirt, multiply the waist figure 37.5 cm (14 3/4”) by 1.5 which equals 56 cm (rounded down from 56.25 cm) (22”). So the first rectangle needs to be 56 cm (22”) by 30.5 cm (12”) plus seam allowance on all edges. Add 3 cm (1 1/4”) to the top edge to allow for an elastic casing and add 1 cm (3/8”) seam allowance on the other three edges. These are the final measurements for the first tier of the skirt: 58 cm (22 7/8”) wide by 35.5 cm (14”) long. You will need to cut two of these, one for the front and one for the back.
To work out the rectangle for the next tier, start with the measurements for the first tier (without seam allowance), which were 56 cm (22”) by 30.5 cm (12”). All you need to do is make the next tier 1.5 times wider than the previous one, so multiply 56 cm (22”) by 1.5, which equals 84 cm (33”). The length will remain the same at 30.5 cm (12”). Now add 1 cm (3/8”) seam allowance to all edges to get the dimensions of the second tier rectangle. 86 cm (33 3/4”) by 32.5 cm (12 3/4”). You will need to cut two of these, one for the front and one for the back. Simple, no?
For the final tier, just repeat the process of multiplying the width of the previous tier (with no seam allowance) by 1.5 again. So this time it is 84 cm (33”) multiplied by 1.5, which equals 126 cm (49 1/2”). Again the length of the tier remains 30.5 cm (12”). This means the final tier rectangle will be 126 cm (49 1/2”) by 30.5 cm (12”) plus 1 cm (3/8”) all the way around for seam allowance, giving final dimensions of 128 cm (50 3/8”) by 32.5 cm (12 3/4”). As with the other tiers, you will need to cut two, one for the front and one for the back.
If your fabric is narrow, like mine is, this creates a bonus challenge as the fabric is not wide enough to cut the rectangle. Don’t panic, you can just sew two pieces together to get the rectangle wide enough. No-one will notice extra seams in the bottom tier of the skirt.
Okay, that didn’t seam at all complicated in my head, but now it’s written down it looks like a lot of maths! It’s not really, though. So take your time to work out your measurements, or if you think you are a similar size to me, just use mine (I am a size 6 -10 in Australian sizes, and yes, it really does vary that much depending on the brand!)
You will have three different sized rectangles and you’ll need to cut two of each out of your fabric.
Now for the sewing part, which is super easy.
Sew two rows of gathering stitches across the top edge of the third tier rectangles. To do this, simply adjust the stitch length on your sewing machine to a long setting and don’t back tack at either end. The first row of stitching should be just less than 1 cm (3/8”) from the edge and the second row should be be midway between the edge of the fabric and the first row.
Pull the two bobbin threads to gather the fabric until it measures 86 cm (33 3/4”), or the width of your second tier. Tie the threads to prevent the gathers from coming undone while you handle the fabric. Repeat with the other third tier piece.
Pin the two third tier pieces together at the side seams (the short ends of the rectangle), with the right sides of the fabric facing together. Sew with 1 cm (3/8”) seam allowance and overlock or zig-zag the raw edges to prevent them from fraying.
Sew two rows of gathering stitches across the top of each of the second tier pieces. Gather each of them to measure 56 cm (22”) wide, or the width of your first tier rectangle. Tie off the thread to secure the gathers and then pin and sew the side seams of the second tier, with the right sides of the fabric facing together, like you did for the third tier.
Now you need to attach the third tier to the bottom of the second tier. Pin the gathered edge of the third tier to the bottom (not gathered) edge of the second tier with the right sides of the fabric facing together. Match up the side seams and try to make sure the gathers are evenly spread. Sew with 1 cm (3/8”) seam allowance and overlock or zig-zag the raw edges to prevent them from fraying. Gently steam the seam with your iron with the seam allowance poking upwards towards the second tier.
Place the two top tier pieces together with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. Pin and sew down both side seams (the short ends of the rectangle) with 1 cm (3/8”) seam allowance and overlock or zig-zag the raw edges. Note that the top tier hasn’t been gathered at all.
Pin the lower edge of the top tier to the gathered edge of the second tier. Remember to match up the side seams and make sure the right sides of the fabric are facing together. Sew as pinned with 1 cm (3/8”) seam allowance and steam the seam.
To make the elastic casing, start by folding over 1 cm (3/8″) towards the inside of the skirt across the top edge and iron it flat.
Fold over another 2 cm (3/4″), ironing it flat and securing with pins. Leave a gap of a few centimetres at one of the side seams.
Stitch in place, close to the folded edge, leaving the gap open. Attach a safety pin to one end of the piece of elastic and poke it into the casing. Push the safety pin all the way around the casing until you get back to the start.
Try on the skirt and pull the elastic until it feels comfortably snug and secure the elastic with the safety pin, being careful to not let it disappear into the casing. Cut off the excess elastic and sew the two ends together. The length of elastic you use will be similar to your initial waist measurement, or a little less it you like it tightly fitting.
Open out the seam allowance of the elastic and stitch the raw edges flat with a zig-zag stitch. This will prevent the elastic from fraying and will make it sit nice and flat.
Stretch the waistband so that the elastic sneaks back into the casing. Pin the gap closed and then stitch in place.
To hem the lower edge, simply fold up 5 mm (3/16″) towards the inside of the skirt and stitch close to the folded edge. Iron it flat then fold it up again by a further 5 mm (3/16″) and sew on top of the previous row of stitching.
Now your maxi skirt is finished! Put it on and enjoy its swishiness. Or if you made it for a friend (aren’t you lovely!) gently fold it up, wrap it in soft tissue paper tied with brightly-coloured twine and pop it under your Christmas tree. Yay!
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