31 Days of Shut Up and Sew: Ruffled Skirt

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Day 22 of...

Before we get started, I have to say that making this skirt was my first big sewing triumph.  I had a moment when I put the last stitch in that I thought, wow, I can really do this!  I can really make something that doesn't totally suck!  But what I was most proud of was that I figured out how to make it all by myself.  Sure, I was inspired by this skirt for the t-shirt ruffles and this skirt for the waistband but they were just jumping off points.  I didn't follow any tutorials - I just figured it out as I went along.  Lemme tell ya, there's nothing better than realizing that you can actually do something you previously thought you couldn't.  So, for all you non-sewers out there who would love to learn but are intimidated by the whole process, I'm living proof that YOU, TOO, CAN SEW!  You just gotta dive right in and not be afraid to pull out a few stitches here and there.

Now that the motivational portion of today's post is over, let's dive right in. :)

3 old white t-shirts your hubby has relegated to the rag pile
1-2 yards muslin, depending on your measurements (or other fabric for base)
Fabric dye in the color of your choice
1 1/2" elastic
Fabric for waistband (not pictured)
Coordinating thread

8-10 hours (yikes, I know, but this includes all my mess-ups and figuring out what to do next, so you could probably do it faster)

First, let's do the waistband.

Take your elastic out of the package and wrap it around you where you would like your skirt to sit.  Make sure to pull the elastic tight so that when you have your skirt on, the elastic feels nice and snug around your waist.  It should be roughly 2 inches shorter than your waist measurement.

Now, cut your waistband fabric to 2 times the length of your elastic piece by 6" wide.  Fold it in half length-wise and iron a crease down the center.  This crease will become the top of your waistband.  Open it up and iron 1/4" hem on each end.  You should have something like this:

Take this long piece of waistband fabric to your sewing machine and sew 1/4" seam along the folded edge.  This will make a cute little top ruffle when your skirt is on.

Next, insert your elastic piece so the top of it meets the seam you just sewed, and it is sandwiched inside your waistband fabric.  This next step is very important:  pin the elastic to one end of your fabric.  If you don't, you'll be searching for it later.  Trust me.

Sorry I don't have a picture of the next step, but after your elastic is sandwiched in your waistband, take it to your machine and sew a seam right beneath the bottom of your elastic.  Make sure not to sew through your elastic!!  It should just be floating there in between the two seams.  Now, this is where you'll be glad you pinned your elastic to your fabric:  the ruffling.  Here's what I did, in numbered list form:

1)  Happily sew along the elastic until you reach the end of it (remember, your waistband fabric is 2 times the length of your elastic!).
2)  Take it off your machine and push the fabric up to ruffle it however much you think looks good and pin the end in place.
3)  Put it back on your machine and sew down the length of elastic you exposed by ruffling the fabric.
4)  Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you're happy with the amount of ruffling and you're at the end of your elastic.

As you can see, I had a little bit of fabric left over, but that's no big deal - just trim it off!  Better too much than not enough, I always say.

Okay, now to make the base of the skirt... something to sew the ruffles onto.  I picked up some cheap white muslin at HobLob (I think it's less than $2/yard) and ironed each edge down about 1/2".

Now the not-so-fun part... remember when you just finished your ruffled waistband and felt all proud of yourself?  Well, take one of the pins out and un-ruffle it.  I know, it's very sad, but it's the only way I could figure out exactly how much fabric I needed for the waistband, and also, I think it's easier to sew the tube with the elastic in there rather than trying to sew a straight line all on your own (am I the only one with straight-line-sewing difficulties?  surely not.).  If the elastic is already in there, it's makes for an easy guide to follow.  Anywho, so with your waistband unruffled, insert one edge of the muslin into the 1/2" opening along the bottom of your waistband.  Push it up in there so it meets the seam you sewed along the bottom of the elastic and pin in place.

Sew the bottom of the waistband closed to secure your muslin to your waistband.  Use a 1/4" seam allowance.  Now you should have this:

Painstakingly ruffle your waistband again by pushing the fabric up the elastic.  This part is not too easy, but it can be done, so persevere!  Now go check yourself out in the mirror and realize that whoops - you have a slit in an undesirable place.

Why, yes, I sew in leggings and wool socks, don't you?

To fix the slit, I just ruffled the waistband a little more to give me a little bit of fabric to play with, then added on another strip of muslin.  Annoying, but fixable.  Then sew a seam all the way up and through your waistband so you have a wearable skirt!

Hem the bottom of the muslin and you should have a finished skirt base!

I kind of wanted to just leave it like this because I was so proud of it, but alas, the muslin was a little see-through.  Not a cute look.

Adorbs, right?

Now we're ready to get crackin' on the ruffles!  Take your hubs old t-shirts, cut off the bottom hems, and cut them into 3" strips.

Make sure to cut one edge of each strip so they're not tubes.

Next, follow the directions on your package of fabric dye to dye the strips.  I used the washing machine method because I'm lazy but I was nervous the entire time that my washing machine would be forever dyed yellow.  But it was fine - whew!

My strips came out more of a light yellow than a golden yellow, but at least they were uniformly yellow, so I was happy with them!

Set your machine to the longest straight stitch you have and sew along one edge of each strip, making sure not to backstitch at the beginning or end.  Pull one of the threads and slide the fabric down to create ruffles!  I only did a few at a time because the process gets boring, plus it's likely that you will have way more strips than you need, so why waste time ruffling them all?

Starting at the bottom of the muslin base, pin your ruffled strips into a row and sew them on, trying to follow as close to your ruffle stitch as possible, just to make sure both seams will be hidden by the next row.  It's unlikely that one strip will be enough for a whole row of your skirt, so when you piece strips together end to end, make sure to overlap them at least an inch, and stagger the seams from one row to the next so it doesn't become obvious in your finished skirt.

Work your way up until you have room for only one more row because we have to do the top row a little differently to make it look more finished.

Iron down the long edge of a couple of un-ruffled strips about 3/8" (I just eyeballed it), then pin the folded edge on top of your waistband under where the elastic ends.

Using the smallest seam allowance you can comfortably manage, sew the top strip on top of your waistband, pulling the elastic tight as you go so you're sewing through flat, not ruffled, fabric.

And that's it.  A finished, ruffly skirt.

Sorry for the following photos, but I chose to dye the t-shirts yellow specifically so I could wear this skirt to ASU games, and the day I decided to wear it, I totally forgot my camera so these are both from Steven's cell phone.  D'oh!

Cute, though, right??

This day also happened to be our anniversary, so after the football game we headed up a little further into the mountains and stayed in a beautiful bed & breakfast.  

I got so many compliments on this skirt and even requests to make them for other people, but alas, with the amount of work that goes into them, they'd have to be about $1,000 each, which puts them out of most people's price range.  :)  I bet the next one would go much faster, though.  If you decide to make one, leave me a link to it in the comments - I'd love to see!

To read all 31 Days of Shut Up and Sew, click here.


  1. I can see jow much your skills are improving. You are taking on more difficult projects and the execution is amazing. I woul love for you to also make me a skirt. Lol. It looks fabulous on you! Did you see that I mentioned your shut up and sew on my blog? Keep it up!

  2. I want one! I have been wanting to make a ruffle skirt, I will have to pin this tutorial. If you get a chance I would love for you to link up your tutorial at my Pin Party.


  3. This is so adorable! I would love to feature this on Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle. Feel free to stop by and grab a featured button. Thanks!

  4. Love, love, love your skirt! It turned out so well! I found your blog via Reduce, Reuse, Upcycle!

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