Monday, August 16, 2010

Guest Post: Girls' Tiered Skirt Tutorial (size 4-6 with measurements to size 10)

Today, I have a guest post.   I would like to introduce Susanne. I met Susanne 5 years ago through a City of Toronto new mums' group.  Susanne is a mum of two (boy and girl) - our daughters are the same age.   After we moved on from the trials of nursing and potty training, we discovered we both shared a love for Scandanavia and sewing.  Recently, Susanne has been stitching up  tiered skirts and I asked her to share her measurements and tips to create a stashbuster tiered skirt for little girls, sized 4 to 6.  This project is ideal for using long strips of fabric that you may have left over from a larger project.  You can also piece together different prints for a quilted look and this skirt looks great in a light-weight corduory for autumn.

Hello, My name is Susanne and I love sewing! I've become somewhat of a creative blog addict, so I'm very excited to do this guest tutorial for my friend KJ.

I loved tiered skirts - my childhood was filled with them, and I was thrilled when I came across a pattern for my daughter and discovered how easy they are to make and how great they are for using up some of the smaller pieces in your fabric stash.

What you need is four long strips, each one longer and a bit wider than the previous one. I am going to demonstrate how to make a skirt sized 4-6, but later on I will give you the measures for a larger sized skirt.

Initial note about the waistband
For a size 4 skirt there is no need to sew an additional waistband, just fold the waist down around a circle of elastic and stitch it, after sticthing the skirt together.  However,  for a size 6 skirt, which is what I'm making here, I add a piece of fabric and construct a waistband casing at the top of the waist and stitch it on to the back over the elastic. That way you don't lose any length.  You can see in the photo below, how a strip of pink was added to the waistband to cover the elastic.

Cutting instructions 

Cut two of each

The waist piece measures 4.5 x 13.5 inches (as explained above, for a size 6 skirt, you will need a back piece if using should be 3 by 13.5 inches or wide enough to cover your elastic plus seam allowance)
Cutting instructions without seam allowance
Tier 1: 5 x 20 inches
Tier 2: 5.5 x 27.5 inches
Tier 3: 6 x 45 inches

Please note that if you add a seam allowance to each tier, the finished shirt will be roughly 21 inches long, which is too long for my five year-old. So I forgo a seam allowance and then it fits.
You need to cut every piece twice, i.e. for front and back of the skirt. But if you're making this out of scraps it's no problem to use three, four or even five pieces and stitch them together to make up the total length of each tier, the seams will disappear in the gatherings, particular if you're using prints. I'm making mine out of pink linen from the stash and fabric from a sundress that didn't work (something about the smock part being scratchy). Lucky for me the sundress had a ruffle at the bottom that fits bang-on as the bottom tier, so that's one tier I won't have to gather, plus it's already hemmed!

Stitching the skirt

Start by stitching the back and front pieces for each individual tier together to make four long strips, then serge or zig-zag any fraying edges. If you do use a serger or if you're the type to make really clean zig-zagged edges, you can put the skirt together with those seems turned out - I'll show you some pictures later - it gives the skirt a bit more texture.

Next step is to use a gathering stitch on the top edge of each tier. My sewing machine has a standard setting for a straight stitch of 2.5mm and I increase that to at least 3.5mm for a gathering stitch - more if it's a thick fabric like denim. You run the stitch about a quarter inch from the edge and then pull on the bobbin thread to gather the fabric. You need to gather each tier enough to make it the same length as the piece that comes before it. Tier 1 gets attached to the waist and thus needs to be gathered to measure roughly 27 inches (2x13.5) minus the seam if you didn't add for that, tier 2 attaches to tier 1 and thus needs to be gathered to measure roughly 40 inches (2x20), etc. It's difficult to make it the excact length - when you attach it the gathering seem tends to move and shift a bit, but there's enough width in the skirt to allow for a bit to be trimmed off at the end.

Side Seams and Stitching the Waistband

Once all the tiers are attached, you need to decide how to do the elastic at the waist. If the skirt is plenty long as it is, then just stitch the skirt side seam together and trim and zig-zag or serge the edge, then measure a piece of elastic to fit the girl's waist (waist circumference minus 2-3 inches depending on how stretchy the elastic. The wider the elastic the tighter is is). Stitch the elastic together to form a circle, fit it over the top of the skirt which should be inside out, and fold the waist over the elastic and stitch it on the back.

As explained above, if you don't want to lose any length, then before you stitch the skirt together, you need to cut and attach a length of fabric the same length as the waist piece and about half or two-thirds the width (again, depending on the width of your elastic). Once you've added this piece at the top of the waist, then stitch the skirt together, fold this added piece over the circle of elastic and stitch it to the back of the skirt.
Now, time to hem the bottom tier and you're done!

I thought I was going to use this one as a birthday gift for one of my daughter's friends, but my daughter thought the friend would much prefer one in the white eyelet cotton-crepe, and perhaps she should just keep this pink one for herself, then...? So I made a white one as well.

Alternative: Exposed seams

As mentioned before, you can stitch the tiers on wrong side out, leaving the raw edge sitting on top of the right side of the tier above it.

Like this:

 Or this:

Sorry, I didn't get a picture of how to do that, but you basically lay the raw edge of the lower tier over top of the bottom edge of the upper tier with about a half inch overlap ( the right side of the upper tier faces the wrong side of the lower tier), then stitch it on in the middle of that overlap to leave a narrow ruffle.

Alternative: Embellish

We thought the white skirt turned out really pretty, but my daughter is a strong believer in embellishments, and thought this one cried out for a bit of jazz....:

Now, to make the skirt fit girls beyond size 4-6, you could either add a tier at the bottom, but this would need to be one very long piece - 8 x 73 inches by my calculations and while it would make a fantastically twirly skirt, a more economical way would be to add to the width of each tier and the waist piece. I'd also add a few inches to the circumference of the waist piece and first tier to make sure it can still be pulled up over the hips. This is what those measurements would look like:

Size 6-8:

Waist: 5.5 x 15 inches
Tier 1: 6 x 21 inches
Tier 2: 6.5 x 27.5 inches
Tier 3: 7 x 45 inches

Size 8-10:
Add Tier 4: 8 x 73 inches to the above measurements

In any case, measure the length you want to skirt to be and go from there....

Happy sewing!

Thanks Susanne! Susanne's tutorial motivated me to bust my stash and stitch up a tiered skirt for my little one's dolly (it's a Corelle doll). She has advanced to a new stage of play and enjoys playing dollies and barbies. One of my immediate goals is to replenish our doll clothes stash with some interesting outfits.  This is what I came up with.

The top tier was 4.5 X 13 inch (which I folded over to cover a 6 inch length of elastic), the second tier  3.5 X 30 inch and the third tier was 3.5 X 60 inch. I then added a some gingham ribbon so it could be used as a sundress on her Corelle Doll - or if my daughter ever gets an American Doll a skirt with a bow!

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week and remember to check out all the great projects at


  1. These are really cute skirts! I love all the layers.
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a sweet comment this weekend on my blog!!

  2. Lovely! My mom used to make us tiered skirts for me and my sister when we were kids. I make them for my daughter. This kind of skirt gives you an incredible feminine feel and graciousness. A recent post of mine shows that I cannot shake the skirt off! Will I ever?


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