DIY: Full skirt tutorial.

I’m really loving creating projects on my sewing machine at the minute, I used to spend so much time on it, but I seem to have run out of love for sewing over the past year, I think that love might just be returning.

Its my birthday tomorrow, and we’ve had a trip to London booked for months. We’ll be booking into the rather fancy St pancras renaissance hotel, spending the afternoon on the Harry potter tour, and enjoying what i’ve be promised to be the most delicious feast at The hawksmoor (covent garden). I’m certainly in for an extraordinary day! Anyway, birthday excitement aside, with fancy plans comes the “what am I going to wear?” stress. Well, i’ve been super prepared for this, I bought my day outfit last month (and we’ve been promised gorgeous weather, (so I don’t have to change it YAY!) for our dinner out, I thought i’d make something a little pretty, which brings me to this tutorial. A full skirt (in the most beautiful retro grey gingham fabric I grabbed from the bargain bin at Abakan). There are a lot of different ways to make up a full skirt, this one is for a gathered full skirt, with a zip back. So lets get started.


Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Fabric,  this depends on your measurements, but i’ll go through working it out below.
  • Fabric shears,
  • 8″ zip in a colour of your choice.
  • measuring tape,
  • dressmakers pins,
  • and of course your sewing machine, i’m using an overlocker as well, but if you don’t have one, pinking shears will do.



And here’s what you need to do. 


So, before we even start with any fabrics, you’ll need to work out your measurements. you’ll need two. Your waist and the length you want your skirt to be. I’ve put on a little weight over the past few months (just generally given into all my urges, hello 11pm Timeout obsession!) so my waist measurement is 30″ and  my desired length for a mid calf midi skirt is 25″. So, below is the measurements of fabric i’ll be cutting out.

1 x 31″ x 5″ – This will be the waist band. The extra 1 inch is for folding under when attaching your zip, (1/2″ each side) SO whatever your waist measured at, add that extra 1″. The 5″ is the width, my finished waistband will be 2 1/2″, this piece s folding in half, hence the 5″

2 x 64″ x 25″ – The 64″ is the width, it sounds like loads, but general rule of thumb, for a gathered skirt the more fabric you gather, the fuller the skirt. I find quadrupling my waist size in fabric length gives me the perfect amount of fullness, I could do with a little less, but the length of my fabric was 64″ so instead of cutting off that 4″ I just kept it. The 25″ is of course the length I want my skirt.

I really hope I”ve managed to make that simple enough?



Anyway, moving on. Once you’ve cut out all your fabric, we can get started on some sewing. First, grab your two large main skirt pieces (64″ x 25″) Now for some ridiculous reason, whilst making this up, I gathered one piece, then added the other. This is actually a longer way of going about it. So, place your fabrics against each other, fabric on the inside. Line up the edges, pin down and sew. You’ll end up with one rather gigantic hoop of fabric. Half ONE of the pieces of fabric and cut all the way up (be very careful doing this bit that you don’t snip the other piece of fabric. You want to end up with pone super long piece.



Next, its time to get on that machine, before you start sewing check your bobbin is near full, if you run out of thread during this bit, its a real pain! So full bobbin and you can sew along the full length of fabric in one go, no breaks. Set your machine to the largest straight stitch, and you want tension at 5 for a basic cotton fabric.

Starting from one end, about half an inch from the top, sew a few stitches and do your back stitch to secure. Then carry on  all the way to the other end. When you get to the other end DO NOT back stitch and leave a long piece of loose thread before snipping away from the machine.




Next, go back to the beginning of the fabric ( where you just started the last line of stitches) and about 1/4″ below your last stitches, do the same step, going all the way to the end. Remember, no backstitch to secure and leave a long piece of loose thread. Your fabric should look like this.



Now, keep tight hold of your thread and pinch your fabric very gently pulling it down creating a lovely gather. You need to be very gentle with this step, if you snap the thread, you’ll have to unpick that whole line and re-sew. But putting two lines of stitches not only creates a prettier gather, it also strengthens for when you’re doing this step.



Once you’ve reached the end and you’ve gathered all of your fabric, grab your tape measure and measure your now gathered fabric length. You want it to match your waist band fabric length.



So, now we move on. Get your waistband fabric and take to an iron, fold it in half (pattern on the outside), Iron. Then fold under the raw edges of the waist band, hiding them on the inside of your band. Give it a good thorough iron and steam, this will keep everything nice and folded.



Now, we’re going to add the gathered skirt to the waistband. Its really simple to do this, but can get a little fiddly. Simply lay your waistband down, open side facing to you. Slot the gathered edge inside your waistband and pin the whole lot together, not forgetting the back of the waistband. You don’t need to put your skirt right up to the top of the waistband, just an inch or so under, will do fine. enough so the waistband conceals the stitch lines.



Now its time to sew. The best way to do this part is to go slow and steady. Make sure both the front and back of the waistband is in line before you start, and on the middle length stitch (you should have 3 stitch sizes for a straight stitch on your machine) start from one end, sewing right to the other, doing a backstitch for wither side to secure.




By now, you have something resembling a skirt, but now we need to attach both sides together. To do this, fold both ends back, so your skirt is inside out. Line up the edges and place down. For this skirt I used an 8″ zip This is more than enough, it only has to give you enough room to pull your skirt past your hips. If you have a particularly long torso (i’m 4′ 11″ so that has never been a problem!) then maybe switch it for a longer zip. Anyway, with your skirt laying down, measure down from the top, the length of your zip and pin the two pieces together at that point.



Now sew up from the bottom of the skirt, to where your pin is. Finish with your overlocker, pinking shears or using the double fold method, I wrote a post about it here.




Now its time for the fussy bit, fitting in the zip. though its actually its not as hard as you’d imagine. First up you’ll need to prep your skirt ready for inserting your zip. To do this is really simple. Simply pinch in the edges, and pin. Of course this skirt isn’t lined, so when you’ve passed your waistband there’s only one layer, just fold that over 1/2″ and pin. Once its all pined, give it a good going over with the iron. *Note, don’t do this with those dressmakers pins that have a plastic ball head. If you do, plastic will melt over your fabric and your iron. I know this from experience. Sadly.






And now its time to pop in that zip. Firstly, gather some contrasting thread, and set up your needle for some hand sewing.




Next, fold over the end of your zip, the piece that starts just before the top of the actual zipper part.



Now, with the top still folded over, slot it into the very top of the waistband. Grab your needle and thread, and tack the zip nice and tightly into your skirt. Do this all the way down and back up to the other side so the entire zip is tacked in.





Next its time to sew your zip in. This is actually the easiest part. Just go slow, starting from the top left, working down until you get to the bottom. Stop your machine with the needle still in your fabric, lift your foot (on the machine, not your actual foot.) spin your skirt to the side and sew across the bottom for a couple of stitches. Once you’ve reached the other side, stop again with your needle still in your fabric. Lift your foot, spin the skirt so your angled ready to sew up the other side of the zip.



Now using a pair of snips, or small scissors, snip out the contrasting thread. Now is also the time to re-sew any of that waistband that has come loose just before adding your zip.




And thats all the complicated parts of your skirt made! We’ve one last thing to do, before your skirt is finished… and thats hem it. Now would be the perfect time to try your skirt on, make sure the length is as you want it, if you want it shorter, just give it a trim- remember though, you will be taking about 1/2″- 1″ off that for hemming, so don’t cut too much off.

To do this, simply use your over locker, fold over, pin and topstitch like I have. Or if your don’t have an overlocker, you can use pinking shears, fold and topstitch. Or you can use the double fold method here.





The last thing to do, is to give your skirt a complete iron over, get every seam crisp, get the fabric completely crinkle free. and thats it, your gathered full skirt with zip back is now ready to wear!







The little woman pretends.








0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *