I've spent the last eight months or so re-learning to sew by following others' patterns and tutorials, and I'd been kind of wanting to try my own but didn't think I knew enough to come up with anything new. Well, I'm not going to say this is new -- it's not like I'm reinventing the wheel; there are loads of toddler skirt tutorials, even ones using fat quarters -- but I've never seen one exactly like this and it is the first thing I've ever really concocted on my own, sewing-wise, so I'm excited to share it.
The inspiration was this adorable skirt I bought H (on sale, of course). I love the crazy fullness. (I think the style is called dirndl, but I could be wrong.) It looks so cute on her, especially the way it sort of poofs out over her little bottom! The more I looked at it, the more I thought, I could do that! But I wanted to try with vertical instead of horizontal piecing.
For some reason, I got the notion to see if I could make it out of these two coordinating fat quarters I bought ages ago. If you aren't familiar, a fat quarter is a quarter-yard of fabric, but cut "fat" instead of long. I think it started out as a quilting thing, although there are lots of projects you can find using fat quarters. They're usually 18"x22". You can get them precut at Joann's for about $2.50, but I bought these on sale, so paid about half that. The Joann's precuts aren't quite highest quality, though. You can get the good stuff like designer quilting cotton and Japanese imports for about the same price (plus a usually quite small shipping fee) on Etsy. Designer-style, one-of-a-kind skirt for $5 and a bit more than an hour of your time? What's not to like?
I made this to fit a smallish 13-month-old, but it's easily adjustable to fit a smaller baby or quite-a-bit-larger child. You just need to know your child's waist measurement and how long you want it to be. I'll also show you how to add a ribbon belt, if you like. Okay, here's how you do it:
1. Prewash and iron your coordinating fat quarters. You may also want to square them up. I probably should have, as mine were obviously cut from the bolt quite wonky, but I didn't. The fullness of the skirt covers a multitude of sins.
|Here's how you cut it.|
2. Take Fabric A and neatly fold it in half lengthwise, then again widthwise. Press, creasing sharply, then unfold and cut along the creases. (All these cuts work whether your fabric is directional, napped, or neither--yay!)
3. Fold Fabric B in half lengthwise and press and cut in half. Set one half aside for just a moment. Take the other half and fold, press, and cut it in half again lengthwise, giving you two 22"x4.5" strips. These will eventually become your waistband. Set them aside for now. Go back to the other half of your Fabric B fat quarter. Fold it in half widthwise, then fold it in half widthwise again. Press and cut along the creases; this will give you four 5.5"x9 pieces.
3. You're going to make one long strip of fabric -- the main part of your skirt-- by alternating your Fabric A and Fabric B pieces. This is the most tedious part of the skirt, but even so, it only took me about 20 minutes, and I was doing French seams and ironing between each step. You can join these pieces a variety of ways, including serging if you're lucky enough to have a serger, or regular stitching (followed by pinking or zigzagging the edges. You don't want to leave them raw in this project). I'll show you French seams, because that's what I did. If you want to give your skirt even more fullness, you can use one of the other methods and a narrow seam allowance.
4. Put two of your pieces together with WRONG sides together. If you haven't done French seams before, this will look and feel really backward to you. Stitch with 1/4 inch seam allowance. I just use the side of my presser foot as my guide. Flip the fabric over and press your seam over the other way neatly. Now with right sides together, stitch, leaving 1/2" allowance. Now your raw edge is enclosed.
5. Repeat this process, alternating between Fabric A and Fabric B, until you have a long strip with eight individual pieces. (The first step of the French seam will look REALLY wrong when it's joined to a piece with the seam already finished, by the way.)
|Case in point.|
6. Do one last French seam to join the ends of the strip, making a loop.
7. Sew a basting stitch 1/4 or 1/3 inch from the top and gather. If you don't know how to do this, google "basting stitch gather," and you'll find lots of tutorials. It's super easy. Don't gather it as much as I did, or you'll have to loosen it up a lot. It should be about 1.5 times the waist measurement.
8. Set your main skirt piece aside for now. Join your two waistband pieces into one long strip. Again, I used a French seam. Then cut this to about 1.5 times the wearer's waist measurement. The scrap you cut away is the only bit of fabric you won't use of your fat quarters (and there is actually a way you can use that up as well -- to come).
9. Fold the waistband strip in half lengthwise and press a crease into it. Then turn one long edge under 1/2 inch and press. I use this awesome folding guide I got as a free download at the Scientific Seamstress blog. Turn the other edge under 3/4 inch and press. You've just made what sort of resembles a double-fold bias tape, except that it isn't cut on the bias. Fold each short end under 1/2 inch and crease.
10. Now we're going to cut four belt loops. I used metallic gold ribbon for a little bling, but you could also use that little fabric scrap you cut off to make four skinny tubes. Cut them about the same length as the waistband is wide (4.5") and pin three of them at even intervals on the right side of your waistband strip, as shown. The fourth will cover the waistband ends, so space them accordingly. Stitch them down at each end.
11. Grab your main skirt piece again. At one of your seams (any one, since there's no front or back at this point), start attaching your waistband like this: With your skirt wrong side out, put your waistband wrong side out with the narrower folded edge positioned at or just ever so slightly below the gathered edge of the skirt. This is hard to explain, so see the photo! Pin.
11. Adjust your gather so it is the length of your waistband (with ends folded under) minus half an inch. Pin your waistband to your skirt all the way around, keeping the gather as even as you can. The two folded ends of your waistband strip should overlap. I really tried to show this in the picture, but it's very hard to tell with the fabric I used.
12. Stitch all the way around your skirt, as close to the uppermost casing fold as you can.
|Here's what you've got after stitching your waistband "tape" on.|
13. Turn skirt right-side out and bring your waistband "tape" over so that it encloses the raw top of your skirt and makes a casing for your elastic. Just like with bias tape, the other fold you made in the waistband should be folded under so there are no raw edges exposed. When you stitch in a moment, you will be closing the waistband and enclosing the gathered edge of your skirt.
At the point where the two ends of your casing meet, slip the end of your fourth belt loop under the casing (just on the outside of the skirt -- the other side will remain loose for now).
Topstitch down as close to the edge of the casing as you can.
14. Cut a piece of 1" elastic 1" longer than the waist measurement you are using. My daughter has a 19" waist, so I cut 20". Using a large safety pin, feed it through your waistband.
When it's all the way through, overlap the elastic 1" and sew to secure.
15. Now sew a seam perpendicular to the casing seam you just sewed (vertical as the skirt is worn) right across the folded-over ends of your casing, which will close your casing and secure your elastic.
16. Fold the bottom edge of your skirt under 1/2 inch and press.
If your child is taller, you can save yourself an inch here by using bias tape instead of hemming.
Here's the inside now. Look at all those seams! Aren't you glad you enclosed them all so they're not an unsightly mess?
18. With a needle and thread, sew your last belt loop in place. It is hard to take a picture of yourself sewing with a needle and thread unless you have a third arm, so this looks ridiculous.
19. The part of the skirt with the wider space between the belt loops is the front. Your bow goes here! Cut a nice, wide piece of ribbon to your desired length for your belt. String it and use fray-check or heat sealing to finish the edges. A matching fabric sash would be even cuter if you have one more fat quarter!
20. Do a Snoopy dance! You did it!
It looks pretty darn cute on my little one, if I say so myself. Cuter in person. I had a very tough time getting a picture of it on because she was in a whirling dervish mood today. I'll update this if I ever get a better shot of it. Imagine how much cuter it would be with some fantastic Amy Butler or Michael Miller fabric! I'll have to give it a try sometime.
This is my first tutorial, so I hope it makes sense! If I've left anything out, please let me know!