I finally finished a summer patchwork twirly skirt for Joanna, which means I can now make good on that promise of a tutorial. While this skirt does require a decent time investment due to the amount of cutting, piecing, and gathering involved, it really is quite easy to make.
As for the math, Joanna wears a size 3T, and is tall and slender. This skirt finished out at about an 18″ waist circumference, and 14″ long. I cut 4 tiers, as follows:
- tier 1–9 pieces, 4″ wide x 4.5″ tall
- tier 2–14 pieces, 4″ wide x 4″ tall
- tier 3–21 pieces, 4″ wide x 4″ tall
- tier 4–32 pieces, 4″ wide x 4.5″ tall
The reason the 1st and 4th tier pieces are taller is to allow for the elastic casing on the 1st tier and the hem on the last tier, while still keeping all 4 finished tiers about the same height.
These dimensions will probably work for anything from 2T to 4T, just adjust the elastic length accordingly. If you want to make a bigger size, you could either make the squares larger, or you could add in more squares to each tier and add extra tiers. In general, the 1st tier is 1.5 times the waist measurement, and each addition tier is 1.5 times the measurement of the tier above it, rounded up to the nearest whole number (or square).
I used 6 coordinating fabrics. Here are some of my cut squares:
The first step is to lay out the squares for each of your tiers, then sew them together into long strips. I used a 1/4″ seam allowance for all of my seams.
When you complete a strip, sew it into a continuous loop or tube, by placing the two ends right sides together and sewing them together.
For added security and a much neater finish, overcast or zig zag stitch along the edges of all of your seams.
Iron all your seams to one side.
Once all your tiers are sewn into loops, take the top tier and make the elastic casing. I folded in my top edge 7/8″, and pressed in the fold.
Then I folded under about 1/4″ along the raw edge, and pressed and then pinned the fold in place.
Continue until you have folded and pinned all the way around the top edge of the tier:
And then stitch on the wrong side of the tier, just inside the lower folded edge.
Leave about a 2″ opening unsewn, for inserting your elastic later.
Now take your bottom tier (the longest loop you have sewn) and fold up the bottom edge about 3/4″ Press in the fold.
Now, open up the fold you just pressed in, and fold the lower edge of the fabric up into the fold line.
Then fold again at the pressed line, to create a narrow hem. Pin in place all the way around. Sew along the inner edge of the top fold to finish the hem.
Next you will gather your 2nd tier. This step is much easier if you gather in sections, instead of one long gather around the entire circumference of each tier. Since my 2nd tier is 14 squares around, I divided this into 2 sections of 7 squares, and pinned at the edge of each section:
Set your machine to its longest stitch length, and starting at the first pin, stitch around to the next pin, about 1/2″ from the edge of the fabric. When you get to the next pin, stop stitching and cut your thread, leaving a long tail on the fabric for pulling up your gathers. Move to the other side of the next pin, and continue stitching (do NOT overlap stitches or back stitch!)
Now I go back and stitch a second row of basting stitches about 1/4″ down from my first row. I think it makes it easier to pull the gathers this way, plus if one thread breaks, you still have another one.
Keeping your right sides together, pin the basted edge of your 2nd tier to the bottom of your 1st tier, matching your two pins to the center front and center back of the 1st tier.
Pull in the bobbin threads to gather…
Then pin your gathers all the way around, trying to keep the gathering as even as possible.
Stitch the two tiers together with a 1/4″ seam allowance. (Here you can see my seam at the top, then the two basting seams below that.)
Cut and pull out your basting stitches, then over lock/zig zag your seam.
And here’s what it should look like so far:
Mark, baste, and gather the 3rd tier in the same way. (I placed a pin every 7 squares again, so I gathered it in 3 sections.) Attach it to the bottom of the 2nd tier:
Then do the same with the final tier. (Mine was 32 squares, so I placed a pin every 8 squares and gathered in 4 sections.)
Cut your elastic. I wrapped mine around Joanna’s waist, then added a couple inches extra. I used 1/4″ elastic since that’s what I had on hand, but 3/8″ would work also with the size casing I made. If you want to use wider elastic, you will want to allow a little bit more room for the casing. Stick a safety pin to one end of your elastic, and thread it into the opening you left in the casing.
Once I got it threaded through, I pinned the two ends together, then tried it on Joanna to figure out exactly how tight I wanted to make it, then repinned the ends.
Carefully stretch the elastic out of the opening, and sew back and forth over it a few times to secure it. I do this at both places where the elastic overlaps.
Tuck the elastic back into the open edge of the casing, then sew the rest of the casing closed.
Now this last step isn’t strictly necessary, but to help keep the gathers even and keep the elastic from rolling, I like to evenly distribute the gathers around the elastic, then stitch over the elastic through a few of the seams, as shown below.
It really doesn’t show, but it holds the elastic in place nicely. Since I had 9 squares in my top tier, I stitched it in 3 places, every third square.
And here it is on my little princess, Joanna:
If any of this is unclear or you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments. And I’d love to hear from you if you do decide to try this!
***My preschool busy bag giveaway is still going on…you have until Friday, May 4th to enter! Scroll down to the next post to read all about it! Or you can click HERE***