I'm excited to have another tutorial is also appearing on Riley Blake's blog today, yay! This was fun to put together... hope you enjoy it!
I’m a big fan of long, flowy skirts and I love the look of patchwork, but don't have enough time these days to make entire quilts. This project is a great way to get that look without spending days or weeks cutting, pinning, sewing, basting, quilting and binding.
This skirt is sized to fit my older daughter who wears about a size 7-8. If you use fewer squares or fewer tiers, it can easily be adjusted for a smaller girl, or you could add squares and tiers to make a larger size, even for an adult. I had enough fabric left over to make a second skirt for my younger daughter, who wears a size 5. (Measurements for size 5 appear in parenthesis.)
It makes a rather full, almost-circle skirt that flies out rather well when the wearer spins around. If you'd like it to be not quite as full, just eliminate some of the squares, using the same ratio of squares (see *formula, below, to figure it out!)
To make it longer, you could either add a row at the top, or a row at the bottom. If you add a top row, use about 7 squares for it; if you add a bottom row, use 30 squares. Note: Adding a top row will make a skirt with less bulk at the top which may be more flattering for an adult.
The more variety of fabric coordinates you have, the more boho/gypsy it will look. For my version, I used a selection of fabrics from Lila Tueller's Priscilla collection, mostly in the blue colorway since my daughter's favorite color is blue. To me, the fabric’s design feels a little bit Victorian and the colors are very springy and feminine, which makes the skirt more sophisticated than boho, but different fabrics could completely change the feel of the finished garment.
There’s no pattern, because all that’s needed are 45 7”x7” squares — all you need is your fabric, a good ruler (I recommend a quilting ruler), cutting mat, and rotary cutter.
The skirt is easy to sew… it's just a lot of careful cutting, pinning, and straight seams. The hardest part is gathering each of the three the tiers and lining them up to sew together. Hey, if I can do it (despite the perpetual chaos that comes with three kids aged 6 and under, a puppy, a geriatric cat, two cockatiels, and a fish) anyone can!
Fabrics Used — Lila Tueller Designs’ Priscilla
- 2½ to 3 yards total of coordinating fabrics, about 1/8 quarter of each
- rotary cutter
- quilting ruler
- 3/4" elastic, about 1" longer than the diameter of the wearer’s waist
- The usual sewing paraphernalia: pins, thread, sewing machine, scissors
1. Measure & cut: Cut 45 (36) 7” squares from your fabrics. (NOTE: Included in that 7" size is a 1/4" seam allowance, so each tier will actually measure 6-1/2" high, making the finished skirt about 19" long. You may want to eliminate the bottom tier if making this for a very young child.)
Stacks of 7 inch squares ready to go
You’ll be sewing three tiers: the top tier is 10 (8) squares, the middle tier is 15 (12), and the bottom tier is 20 (16).
*Or use this formula to figure out how many squares you'll need if you're making it larger or smaller: amount of top tier squares; amount of top tier squares + 1/2 amount of top tier squares = middle tier; amount of top tier squares x 2 = bottom tier.
Lay out your squares on a table or floor in three rows to represent the three tiers, switching around fabrics until you’re happy with the layout. I tried to make sure that none of the same color or same patterned fabric ended up next to, above or below each other, which didn't work out quite as planned, not having taken into account the gathering that makes the lower tiers narrower. It still worked out okay! Of course, having lots of coordinates to choose from will give you more options.
2. Pink edges: (If you have a serger, you can skip this step.) Using pinking shears, trim the vertical edges of all the squares to prevent fraying. This also eliminates the need to zigzag stitch each seam after sewing, which I'd ordinarily do, since my kids, as most kids, are not particularly gentle on their clothes.
3. Pin & sew: Pin 10 (8) squares together for the top tier and sew, using a 1/4" seam allowance. Pin 15 (12) squares together for the middle tier and sew, using a 1/4" seam allowance. Pin 20 (16) squares together for the bottom tier and sew, using a 1/4" seam allowance. Serge the seams if desired (not necessary if you pinked the edges.)
4. Gather tiers: Adjust sewing machine to longest stitch length, adjust your tension way up, and sew a straight stitch about 1/4" from the top edge of the middle and bottom tiers. Pull one thread to gather fabric until the top width of each tier matches the bottom of the tier it will be sewn to.
Pinning & sewing tiers together
5. Sew tiers together: Pin right sides of tiers together: top tier to middle tier, middle tier to bottom tier, adjusting the gather if necessary so the widths match up. Sew using a straight stitch. Zigzag stitch or serge along the edges you just sewed to prevent fraying — it’s more important to reinforce seams here, since there’s more stress on these seams than on the vertical ones in between the 7” squares. This can take significant fiddling to get them to match up properly... just be patient... it'll look great!
After sewing tiers together, it actually looks like something!
Note: I always put the gathered piece on top and the flat piece on the bottom when sewing; that way I can make sure the machine isn't pulling out the gather as I sew. I get so frustrated when I mess up and have to rip out all the seams and start over, which happens a lot! so I'm all for tips and tricks to prevent that!
That's what happens when you don't zigzag or serge the edges... lots of stray threads!
6. Sew side of skirt: Pin right sides of skirt together and sew, then zigzag or serge the edges to prevent fraying.
Note: It seems to be easier, for me at least, to sew the tiers together when they're flat. Some tutorials have you sew each tier together on the short side, making a tube, then gather and sew all the tiers to each other. I think having them flat makes it easier to measure and pin, so that's what I'm recommending here.
5. Create waistband: Fold over 1/8" of top edge, press. Fold sewn edge down again, creating a 1˝ channel, press and sew again, leaving about 1" open. Feed the elastic through the channel, putting a safety pin on one end of elastic to help it slide through more easily. Overlap ends of elastic, hand sew or machine sew together. Blind stitch the 1" opening closed.
Hemming. 3/4 of the way through, my fancy machine broke a needle and kept giving me an
error message... so out came my mom's old trusty Singer that can sew through fingers
(really! it's gear driven)! That's why I didn't zigzag my edges.
6. Hem: Fold over 1/8˝ of bottom edge, press. Fold entire seam over again, press, and sew in place.
7. Topstitch: Sew a straight stitch just above the seam where each of the tiers are sewn together. This is totally optional, but I think it gives the skirt a really nice finishing touch and makes it look more professional.
That’s it… Now your little one has something new to wear to school, or just for spinning around the livingroom! :)