Jupe du Jour

Classy Elastic Skirt Tutorial

Sewing, DIYMonica Stebb6 Comments

Do you ever feel like the only place you could wear a skirt with an elastic casing is a Pioneer Day reenactment? Are you looking for a simple easy way to make a skirt without using interfacing or installing a zipper? Would you like to know how to make this waistband? Carry on, dear readers!

Supplies needed:

  • 1" wide elastic: You will need enough to fit around your  body where you want your skirt to hang on you. Typically your waist or your hips or somewhere in between. 
  • 1-2 yards of fabric: You will want a lighter weight fabric. My favorite for this pattern is a cotton/polyester blend called rayon, though a lighter weight linen will work too. When fabric shopping, drape it over your hand. If you can see through it or it doesn't hang well, then move on. The amount of fabric you'll need will depend on how long you want to make your skirt. I prefer to have skirts end at or just below my knee so I used closer to a yard of fabric. The closer it gets to the floor/taller you are the more fabric you'll need so plan accordingly. 
  • Thread: You'll either want to match or coordinate the color with your fabric.

Begin by deciding where you want your skirt to hang then take that measurement. For this project I wanted my skirt to sit just below my waist so that's where I measured. You will want to remember this measurement and it may even help to write it down somewhere. This magic number will help you as you build your skirt by first telling you how much elastic you'll need and then helping you figure out the amount of fabric you'll need for the entire circumference of your skirt. 

Elastic:

To find how long your elastic needs to be, take your magic waist/hip/somewhere in between number and subtract 1/2 an inch (or a full inch if you want it to feel snug). 

Once you have that number you can cut your elastic.

After you cut your elastic, overlap your elastic ends by about 1/2 inch and sew a square with an X in the middle. The idea here is to really anchor your stitches. You don't need to go overboard, but if you stitch something similar to the picture above you can be sure that your stitching isn't going anywhere. 

Pattern graphic.jpg

Width:

The next time you're going to use your magic number is when you figure out how much fabric you want gathered in at the top of your skirt. If your fabric is a flowy lightweight material then you can afford to have either a 1.5:1 or even 2:1 ratio of fabric to elastic. For example, if your magic number is 25" then you will want to make sure you have close to 50" of fabric for your width. (If possible you may want to add 1 1/4" for seam allowances, although if you're gathering in twice as much fabric to elastic, it's ok if you lose a little in the seam allowances.) 

Length:

Here is where you'll need to decide on the length of your skirt. Find a friend to help you with this part because sometimes the measurements can get a little wonky if you try to do them yourself. Essentially you will want to find out the length from where you want your skirt to start (waist/hips/somewhere in between) and where you want it to end (by knees/toes/somewhere in between). Take that length and add an inch and a half. This will account for the hem as well as the elastic. 

After you know how wide and long your fabric needs to be you are ready to cut out!

Side Seams:

Once you have your skirt cut out you are ready to sew your side seams which will make your fabric into a  tube-like thing. Pin right sides together. If you're lucky like me your edges will be the selvage edge of the fabric (it was very serendipitous) and you won't need to worry about a seam finish. 

Now that your side seams are sewn (mine only had 1) press your seam as it is sewn then press it open. This extra pressing step will help your fabric lay better and will help you later on with your elastic and hem. 

Now that your skirt is in a tube-like shape you are ready to put in your gathering stitches. This is a topic that deserves its own tutorial so if you get lost at this point email me! I want you to be able to understand this process. 

Gathering:

  • Lengthen your stitch length to a basting stitch, this is usually 3-4mm if you're sewing on a machine that follows the metric system.  
  • Pull your threads long like I have in the picture above. 

The next step is to sew 3 lines of basting stitches 1/4 inch apart, starting at 1/4" from the edge, then 1/2" from the edge and lastly at 3/4". This is now the top of your skirt (yay!). 

It is imperative that you DO NOT BACK STITCH  when doing these 3 rows, keep your threads long and keep track of which side is your bobbin thread. 

Your next step is to divide your elastic into 4th's and put a pin to mark each quarter mark. Do the same with your skirt waist. Line up your pins from your elastic to your skirt and pin them together. If all goes well you'll notice that your fabric is close to twice as large as your elastic. Your next step is to pull your bobbin threads so that your fabric is scrunched down to fit along the elastic. You will need to move some of the gathers around to make sure it's spaced evenly throughout your skirt. 

After your gathers are evenly distributed between all 4 of your quadrants you can stitch the top of your elastic to the top right side of your skirt using a zig-zag stitch. Here is what the finished product will look like. Don't be scared by unraveled ends, they become part of an enclosed seam in a minute. Not pictured is the amount of pins I used to keep everything in place. 

Now fold fabric and elastic up and over the top of that seam so that now your zig-zag stitches are facing the wrong side of your fabric.

Do you see where the heads of my pins are? Behind that fold is where your zig-zag stitches are. 

Your second to last step is to stitch the top and bottom of your elastic down to your skirt using a straight stitch. Do this within an 1/8th to 1/4th of either edge of the elastic. You may have some folds/gathers get in your way, gently sew over them; doing this will help achieve a more flat elastic skirt waist rather than letting it become puffy.

 Finish your skirt with a hem of your choice. I chose to use a clean finish with machine blind hem because it's quick to do and with the print on my fabric it easily hides the stitches compared to a solid. The total width of the hem should be between 3/8" and 1/2" (depending on how much fabric got folded over to do the elastic). 

Did you make a skirt following these instructions? Have you made a skirt with an elastic band using a different method? Share with us! contact [at] jupedujour [dot] com.