tutorial: the cutest back-to-school skirt ever

My daughter is 13, which is awesome.  First of all, I don’t know what I was worried about because teenagers are very fun to be around, despite popular beliefs.  Secondly, she really likes to dress in cool stuff, and of course that suits me well because I like to sew (you may have heard). She went through a few years where she only would wear boy’s clothes.  She would wear a boring button down oxford and pants to fancy events like Bat Mitzvahs and the like.  Of course I supported this because I don’t think girls need to dress pretty, but boy clothes are generally pretty dull and it wasn’t fun for me as I kept my mouth smiling and shut.  But here she is, maybe a little obsessed with clothing and style, but it is a blast and she still is more than happy to shop at the thrift stores and re-make things.

Since she is a writer, I found this completely awesome fabric with typewriters on it. I thought I would whip up an easy elastic waistband skirt, but she had another design in mind.  With a bum knee, crutches, and a day until school starts, I decided to wing it (what? no!) and follow the ol’ improvisational sewist in me.  What this means for you is this: I didn’t have an iron (in the studio up too many steps) so nothing is pressed, and that my process may be a little backasswards.  The beauty is that it doesn’t really matter and the skirt turned out really well and she wore it to school!

What you’ll need:

– 1 yard of woven fabric

– half a waist measurement of elastic (I used fold over elastic because it was narrowest and I needed it to be narrow due to the skinny little waistband I made.  You might plan differently and make something with a wider waistband.  Any elastic will do.)

– iron (I suggest it, but it is optional)

– straight pins and a safety pin

How it’s done:

1. Cut the fabric

Cut the yard of fabric in half from selvage to selvage. Next, cut a 2″ strip off of each 1/2 yard piece from selvage to selvage (be sure that you don’t cut both from one piece or one skirt panel might end up too short).  This will be used for the waistband.

2. Make the pleats

Making sure your pattern is going in the right direction, pin one inch pleats across the entire width of one fabric panel, then repeat on the second panel (this will be the top edge of the skirt). If you’ve never done this before, just picture a ruler and take the fabric from the second inch mark and fold it to the first inch mark, then repeat.

3. Attach the waistband

Fold the waistband strips in half with the right side of the fabric facing out and lay it atop the right side of the pleated fabric so the raw edges are aligned. Some might want to remove the half worn away nail polish before photographing themselves. 

Stitch the waistband strips to the skirt panels using an overcast stitch like the one I am pointing to below in this underexposed photograph.  You might notice the basting stitch in the above picture which I did on the front side of the skirt but then skipped it for the back panel of the skirt and it went just fine, so I think you should skip it too.

4. Elasticize the back panel

Attach a safety pin to the end of  your length of elastic.  Slide it through the back panel’s waistband casing and pull it through until it comes out the the other side.

5. Sew the side seams

[Here is where things teetered in the confidence department, and I wasn’t exactly sure what the next step should be.  I took Ava’s waist measurement but when I used them as the basis for where I started the seams on the waistband, the skirt was way too big.  Maybe it was because I didn’t pull the elastic taut enough, but I was off by many inches.  So, I have no more pictures of sewing the side seams but here is what you should do]: Pull the elastic so it is gently taut and pin it securely to either side of the waistband.  With the right sides together, pin the skirt so it fits the wearer — I did this right on Ava.  If you don’t have the wearer with you, take a measurement where they want the skirt’s waistband to sit, and you should be fine as long as you have pulled the elastic taut (when it is sewn in that position, it will scrunch back when you are done and pull the skirt tighter).

Ava’s skirt has an A-line shape, with a 4″ flare. I had a bunch of waste fabric once I was done with the side seams, but that was because I didn’t plan it out well ahead of time. All of those caveats aside, the skirt was a total success and it is amazing on her and she loves it…AND, I learned what I would do differently next time (the elastic stretching part—duh).


Turn the bottom of the skirt under 1″ and zig zag around the raw edge.  That’s it.  Works great.

There is our poor pooch with his Elizabethan collar to keep him from scratching sore eyes.

This entry was posted by nicoleblum.

7 thoughts on “tutorial: the cutest back-to-school skirt ever

    • I’ll write her name on the inside as a reminder for 5 years from now, though my feeling is that she will never outgrow it but just be ready to part with it – she is nearly full grown!!!

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