Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TUTORIAL: the Layered Skirt

Many of you commented that Lucy's seersucker skirt last week would be great for Easter. So I got busy.
And here it is.
A tutorial for girls (and moms?) of all ages:
It's bouncy and girly and ruffly.
It's perfect for jumping rope.
Or sitting pretty and dainty,
sort of.
Asking Lucy to model for me is a grab bag of expressions. I hope the serious face doesn't foreshadow the teenage years. Maybe she'll stay a sweet goofball with a sucker in her hand.
But enough rambling.
"Want to make a skirt??!!"
Let's get started.
There are so many ways to make a skirt (check out the Tutorials section for more ideas).

This one is a layered/ruffled/tiered skirt. It's likely you've purchased or seen something similar in the store and wondered how to do it? Well it's easier than you thought. And after making one you can easily vary and mix up. Add more tiers, add "circle skirt" strips instead of ruffles, use knit fabric, use the concept on a shirt. This is a good go-to pattern.

I absolutely love seersucker cotton (detailed info on that here).
It's very bouncy and works well on this skirt. But you can really use any light-weight cotton, knits, linen, satin, etc. Stay away from fabrics that are thick and heavy.

This will vary on the size of skirt you're making, but for a 4-5 year old (shown here), 1 yard of fabric is great. You'll have a bit leftover but scraps are always welcome at our house.

The skirt is made of tiers. But rather than layering them as we did in the Simple Skirt (since it would be super bunchy at the waist) we're going to make connecting tiers....each made of one "connecting piece" and one "ruffle piece". And it's all based on ratios, starting with your waist size.
No rocket science here; it's easy to figure out:

For the skirt WIDTH
* Measure all the way around your waist (or wherever you want the skirt to hang, if you want a low-rider skirt on your hips measure around that area)
* The elastic will be the same length as your waist size above (plus 1 inch for overlap)
* For the connector pieces: multiply the waist size by 1.5
* For the ruffle pieces: multiply the connector length by 2

For the skirt LENGTH
* Decide how long you want your skirt to be....a couple inches above the knee? All the way down to the knee? Measure from your waist down to the desired length and then do some approximate math.....
* Decide how many ruffles you want and how wide you want them and divide that up by how long you want the skirt to be.
My ruffles here are 4 inches wide....but after sewing the layers together they end up about 3 inches wide. NOTE: the Connector and Ruffle pieces will be the same width.
* Factor in the waistband, which adds about an extra inch to the skirt.

So, for example....
For a 4-5 year old size skirt (my daughter is actually 6 in these pics but she's very skinny):
* Waist size = 20 inches
* Cut (3) Connector Pieces, 30 inches x 4 inches
* Cut (3) Ruffle Pieces, 60 inches x 4 inches
* Cut 1-inch wide elastic, 21 inches long

If you find that the skirt is too full - use smaller ratios on the numbers above
If you want the ruffles to be more full - increase the ratios above (make the ruffles 2.5 times as long, etc)

Making sense?
Pictures will explain it better....

First cut out your strips.
You need 1 connector and 1 ruffle per tier. If your fabric is only 45 inches wide, you'll need to sew a couple strips together for each ruffle (so that it's 60 inches long, as in the example above).
When you're all done cutting your strips, fold each connector piece in half with right sides of the fabric together and sew them (using a 1/2 inch seam allowance). Then serge the raw seam edges or leave them as-is if you don't have a serger (serging your seams makes them look nicer/cleaner and ensures that they won't fray over time and washing). Set the connectors aside and let's work on the ruffles.
Decide how you want to hem them.
If you have a serger, simply serge the raw edges. This makes the skirt even more light-weight (and it looks pretty cute). If you don't have a serger, no worries! Simply iron under the edge of each ruffle strip 1/4 inch, then iron it under another 1/4 inch and sew a hem. It's nice to hem the strips before sewing everything together cause then you don't have to worry about it at the end when you're so ready to toss the project on your little model.

After you hem one edge of each ruffle strip....gather the other side of the strips to create ruffles. The goal is for each gathered ruffle to be the same length as each connector piece. My favorite way to do this is the cheating method (set your stitch length very long and the tension very high. Read detailed info on that HERE). It's not exact but it gets the job done.
You may have to shimmy the gathered area around to get the desired size, pulling the gathers in a bit or letting them out. When each ruffle matches the connector length, fold each ruffle in half (with right sides of the fabric together) and sew, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Serge the raw seam edges or leave them as-is.
And now you have 3 tiers, ready to sew together:
Start with the bottom tier.
With right sides of the fabric together, place the ruffle piece inside the connector piece (line them up at the seam). Pin both pieces together. I find that using tons of pins is helpful with this type of project--keeps the ruffles from shifting or getting folded up somewhere.

Using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, sew the two pieces together.
Check that everything is sewed properly and nothing is bunched or folded, then serge off your seam or leave it as-is.
You've made the bottom tier!
Good job.
Now as always, iron out the seam. This is key to making your projects look professional (rather than homemade). It's okay if the some of the gathers are pressed a bit. I like how that looks.
Now the next tier.
The bottom tier is the only one that has two pieces. The rest of the tiers involve sandwiching 3 pieces together. So...
First place the ruffle over the previous connector piece, with the right side of the fabric facing OUT. Then place the next connector piece over that with the right side of the fabric facing IN (line everything up at the seam).
Pin everything together like crazy and sew them together, using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Serge your seam (or leave as-is) and iron it out.
Your skirt is coming together!
Continue the step above for how ever many tiers you have. When you get to the last tier, jump to the next step.
The final connector piece will become the waistband. Fancy, right?
Basically, you're going to fold the waistband under so that it's wide enough for your elastic. I prefer 1-inch wide elastic for kids' skirts. But if you're using skinnier elastic, you may want to trim the waistband down so it's not too wide when you fold it in-half.
Serge the raw edge of the waistband so it's nice and polished looking. If you don't have a serger, simply fold the raw edge under 1/4 inch. And then iron the waistband under all the way. Pin it place. I prefer pinning and sewing on the outside of the skirt in this step so you get a nice straight line (which is visible on your skirt). Make sure you leave an opening in the waistband to string the elastic through. An easy way to remember is to use red pins to mark a start and stop point--leaving a 2 inch gap between the pins.
Using safety pins or a bodkin, string the elastic through the waistband. Make sure the elastic is not twisted inside and sew the two ends together. Sew the opening in the waistband closed and if you have one....add a personalized label to the back (info on my labels HERE).
And you're done!
Piece of cake?
Or maybe a cupcake?
These layers are like frosting.
Mmmmm. Time to make some of these.
To coordinate outfits with your little guy, make a pair of seersucker Kid Pants, or shorts, and a sweater vest?...maybe for beach pictures? They'll look just dandy together.

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