Monday, June 17, 2013


My latest sewing project for my granddaughters came about when dil Sara posted a picture of a bunch of girls all wearing a skirt of varying shades of color.  She asked me if I could make the girls a skirt like it.  I checked it out and told her that I could.  The skirt was 3 gathered tiers or bands each one darker than the one above.  She said she wanted it pink….that pink was really big right now.  I noticed that the skirts in the picture were all solid colors and asked her if she wanted solid colors or were prints okay.  She said either one was fine.

It is harder than you might think to find three varying shades of pink that look good together, but I was satisfied with the three I finally came up with.  I have since made them one with prints that I failed to take of picture of before I mailed it to them.

I didn’t have a pattern when I got started, but came up with a universal one that can be used for any size….even adult size.  (Don't let the math scare you, you can use a calculator if you need to.) I have inserted examples from my granddaughters' skirts in my explanation of the pattern.  Hope this will make it clear if you have questions.

You need two measurements……

      Waist                        and                         length of skirt

The waist measurement will help you decide how long to cut each strip in the tier or band.

The length measurement for the skirt will help you decide how wide to cut each strip in the tier or band.

FIRST - Let's start with the length of the skirt:

Each finished tier of the skirt will measure approximately the same.  To accomplish this, take the measurement for the length of the skirt and divide it by 3. 

Ex. Sadie’s skirt length is 15 inches.  15/3 = 5.  

Hallie’s skirt length is 17.5 inches.  17.5/3 = 5.833333. …  .  (Make it easy on yourself and use “friendly” numbers to work with.  You can increase or decrease the number slightly and it won’t make that much difference.)  

So, for Sadie's I started with 5 inches and for Hallie's, I started with 5.75 inches.

You want the finished tiers or bands to measure the same length but they don't start off the same depending on where they are in the finished skirt.

The top tier has to allow for the casing and the seam when it is sewed to the middle tier. ( I make my seams 1/2 inch for the gathering instead of the traditional 5/8 inch.)

I allow 1 inch for the casing (and use 1/2 inch wide elastic) and then 1/2 inch for the seam to sew it to the second tier. 

So for my example with Sadie and Hallie’s skirts….

Sadie….top tier    5 + 1 + 1/2 = 6 & 1/2 inches wide
Hallie….top tier    5 & 3/4 + 1 + 1/2 + = 7 & 1/4 inches wide

The middle tier needs 1 extra inch since there will be 1/2 inch seam at top and bottom for the top and bottom tier.  

So for my example with Sadie and Hallie’s skirts….

Sadie….middle tier    5 + 1 = 6 inches wide
Hallie….middle tier    5 & 3/4 + 1 = 6 & 3/4 inches wide

The bottom tier needs 1/2 inch for the gathering seam to the middle tier  and 1/2  to  5/8 for narrow hem for a total of 1 to 1 & 1/8 inches. 

So for my example with Sadie and Hallie's skirts...

Sadie's....bottom tier   5 + 1/2 + 5/8 = 6 & 1/8 inches wide
Hallie's....bottom tier   5  & 3/4 + 1/2 + 5/8 = 6 = 7/8 inches wide

Here it is in generic terms:

Let X = length of skirt (in inches) /3 
1st tier =  X + 1 & 1/2 inches 
2nd tier = X + 1 inch
3rd tier = X +  1 & 1/8 inches

You have figured out the width of the strips, the next thing you need to decide is the length of the strips. You want the skirt to be big enough to be pulled up over the hips.  So add up to 10 inches to the waist measurement for the length of the strip.  The closer to 10 extra inches will just make the total skirt fuller.

For my granddaughters who have waist measurements from 19 to 21 inches, I cut all the panels 30 inches......Since you will cut the material on the fold, each strip will be cut 15 inches long.
Here are the tiers or strips after I cut them:

The top tier had 1 strip.

The middle tier had 2 strips.

The bottom tier had 3 

To assemble the skirt:

Top Tier or band:

With right sides together sew the ends together to make a continuous band.  (I make this seam only 1/4 inch wide and then zigzag or overcast the seam)  Press on right side to one side.  This seam will be the center back of the skirt.

On the upper edge (if you are using a one-way print, this is important - otherwise it doesn't make a difference which edge you chose) make the casing for the elastic by turning down 1 inch and pressing.

To have a "finished" looking casing,
then turn under 1/4 inch and press.

Starting in the center back, stitch close to the edge leaving about 2 inches open (to insert the elastic.  You can also go on and finish the casing by sewing the ends of the elastic together and then top stitching the opening closed.)

The only other thing you have to do with the top tier is divide it into fourths -- front and back.  (Some people just mark the centers and sides but also marking the quarters makes it easier to make your gathers even when pinning the gathered edge to the tier.)   

To do this easily

  • lay the band down flat with the seam on one side, then clip at the fold on a diagonal to make a "v" -- this will be the center front. 
  • refold the band by bringing the center front (clip you just made) and matching it with the seam or center back -- clip at each fold.  These clips mark the "sides"
  • matching these side clips with the center and back and clipping will divide the front and back of the tier in fourths.

Now the middle tier or band:

This band is the easiest one to sew.  

You have two strips cut for this tier and you want to sew them together to make one long band by bringing right sides together, sew one band to the other band, overcast the seams (so they won't ravel when washed), and press to one side. (you have to look closely at the picture)

You will be marking/clipping quarters on both the upper and lower edge of tier: 
  • the seams will be the clipping necessary
  • bring the sides together wrong sides together (pin to hold together) and clip the folds on the diagonal to make a "v".  These clips will be the center front and back.
  • on each folded end carefully bring the folded edge to the seam keeping the two pieces of material together, then clip the fold through both layers.  This last clips will be the quarters. 

For the gathers, on the upper edge, sew 1/2 inch in from seam to seam with several inches of extra thread at beginning and ending using the longest stitch on your sewing machine.  

I usually start pulling on one of the threads to make gathers before I start pinning.  The middle tier is twice as big as the top tier so the gathers will be fairly thick.  Pin one of the "v" to the center back of the top tier (SEAM) and the seam of the middle tier to the clip of the top tier.  As you make the "gathers" you can match the quarter clips, pin the two together here also and work gathers evenly between pins.  Add additional pins to hold in place and continue this until you have worked all the way around.

With the machine stitch back to normal, stitch over the gathering thread.

Bottom tier or band

The bottom tier will be gathered on the upper edge and a narrow hem on the lower edge.  BUT first you have to sew the three strips together to make one LONG band.  (Same as before.)

Then make the narrow hem.  

I turn up 1/4 inch first and press it.  Then I take it to the sewing machine and just fold this pressed 1/4 inch over again and holding it down with my fingers, top stitch it down to make the narrow hem.

Then I divide it into fourths.  The bottom tier has 3 strips sewed together.  You can easily divide it into quarters by first matching the seams of one of the strips.  Make a "v" clip at the fold.  This will be the center front.

When you refold the long band, match this "v" with the seam for the other two strips.  The seam will be the center back.  Pin them together to hold in place. When you clip on the folds formed this time, you will be clipping the sides.  As in the middle tier, bring the folds to the centers you have pinned together and clip through both pieces to mark the quarters.

Repeat as before and gather the upper edge and then sew to the middle tier.

I have tried to make this clear, but if you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will get back to you asap.  The skirts turned out so precious.  I hope you will have the same results.


  1. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial. I think your DIL and I saw the same skirt (at Garnet Hill)! I think I'll try to make it based on your instructions, now to find the fabric.

  2. I need to get some fabric so I can have some fun with making this skirt. My little girl saw the pink skirt and gasped! So I know I'm on the right track.

    1. Good luck Caitlin. It is easy and turns out so cute!

    2. Good luck Caitlin. It is easy and turns out so cute!