Full Bottom Ruffle Skirt Tutorial

This tutorial has been a long time coming.  I hope it makes sense.  If you need clarification, please ask and I’ll try to reword or take additional photos or whatever I need to do to help.

The full instructions are below, but here is the downloadable PDF version–Full Bottom Ruffle Skirt Tutorial 2012.

Let the fun/frustration begin!

My 4 ½ year old daughter’s body measurements

To make this skirt, get the waist measurement and also take a measurement that goes from the waist to an inch above the top of the knee. The second tier will need to start here to allow for optimal leg movement.

I purchased a yard of fabric. This gave me enough to make the headband piece and the flower pin with extra left over for more flowers and a wristlet if I want. The fabric was roughly $6 a yard.

You will need three cuts of fabric: one for the top and two for the bottom.

Top Piece

Msrmnt A plus 8″ = length of fabric (22 + 8 = 30″)

Msrmnt B plus 5″ = height of fabric (9 + 5 = 14″)

These measurements include seam allowances. You can adjust your measurement depending on two things: the width of the elastic you will be using and how sturdy of a casing you want. I folded my casing over twice, and for this skirt I used 1 ½” elastic. Therefore, I had to have a 4″ allowance just for my waistband. If you’re only using ½” elastic, then you will only need add 3″ instead of 5″.  One inch will also be used when attaching the top piece to the bottom piece.

Bottom Piece

Msrmnt A plus 8″ = length of fabric (22 + 8 = 30″)

Msrmnt C plus 2″ = height of fabric (9 + 2 = 11″)

These measurements include seam allowances for a small hem that will be folded under twice.  One inch will also be used when attaching the top piece to the bottom piece.


If you want to add the ribbon, I actually made my own out of some other fabric, but you can take the easy way out and buy some pre-made ribbon. Its finished measurement should be whatever height you want, but it needs to be as long as your top fabric piece. I think mine finished out at 1 ½” x 30″.

Let’s get to sewing!

We are going to start with the two bottom pieces. I’m sure I do this completely upside-down-and-backwards but this is what works for me.

Make one long bottom piece

Get your two bottom pieces, overlock one edge on each piece.

put them right-sides together,

and sew down one side.

and then press your seams open.

Now you have one really long piece of fabric. We will not close the skirt up until almost the very last step.

Hem the Bottom

I’m going to go ahead and get my hem out of the way. I don’t like to use the little bitty sewing ruler. I am also an artist, so thankfully I have a good eye for linear equivalency. Using my eye, an iron, and markings on the pattern, I fold the bottom of the fabric under ½”, press, fold under ½” one more time and press again. Go sew the hem in place.

Preparing to Gathering the Bottom Piece

****I interrupt your normal broadcasting to point you in the direction of this nifty gathering tutorial I found on Youtube.  But if you want to know how to do it the long way, follow the instructions below.  Skip to “Attach the Top to Bottom” below to continue with the tutorial.  Thank you, Time Warp Wife, for giving me a shout-out.  : )  ****

Now we are going to sew across the top of the really long piece so we can gather the material. Set your stitch length to the longest setting and set your stitch type to single stitch.

Before you begin sewing, pull your thread about 5 or 6 inches. For a piece this long, sew from one side to the middle and stop, pull your thread about 5 or 6 inches before cutting, cut it, pull 5 or 6 more inches and start a new stitch through to the other side. Do two rows of this, because unless you are using a really heavy thread, it’s liable to break at some point during the gathering.

Find a table or just get in the floor with your top piece and your really long piece. Find the middle of your top piece and line up the middle of your bottom piece with it. Pin it just to hold it in place. You may want to do this down the length of the fabric to help you gather evenly.

Let the gathering begin!

Find your bobbin thread and begin to gently pull. Remember that we sewed two rows, stopping once in the middle. You may want to alternate between bobbin threads and ends to get the best gather. The end result should be that your bottom piece is gathered evenly until it fits onto the top piece.

Attach the Top and the Bottom  

The end result should be that your bottom piece is gathered evenly until it fits onto the top piece.  This part is tricky to explain. Basically, you will fold the piece in half horizontally, so that the right sides of your top fabric and the right side of the bottom fabric are facing.

Then pin that sucker together along the top, with pin heads facing out for easy removal when sewing! It is very easy to get frustrated here, so remind yourself how beautiful she is going to look.

Sew the two fabric pieces together, go nice and slow, making sure that the layer on the underside doesn’t get bound up or left out and also make sure that you sew below the gathering stitch so the gathering stitch won’t be visible.

For this part, I just use a long, straight stitch first. Then I examine my work, make any corrections, then I go back over the stitch with a triple straight, short stitch.

The last step here is to serge or overlock the ends of the two pieces together to prevent fraying.

This is the inside of my finished skirt.

Attaching the Ribbon

This is a photo of the finished skirt, showing the side seam and how the ribbon lines up horizontally.

At this point, topstitch your ribbon in place, putting a stitch along the top of the ribbon and along the bottom of the ribbon. Take care that your ribbon ends along with your hem lines will match up when it’s folded over for side-seaming.

Sew the Sides of the Skirt Together

Fold your skirt from right to left, with right sides together, making sure that your hem and your ribbon ends line up, like in the picture above. Make sure the top of the garment is square (or rectangular) so that it will be a good fit with a good flow. The top of your skirt may not line up, and that’s okay. That’s why I do the waistband part last, so I can make adjustments if necessary.

If you’re happy, sew up the side seam. If you’re not happy, make corrections until you’re either satisfied or frustrated beyond measure.

If you step back and evaluate the skirt at this point, you can see how this could easily become a dress. Just make a few adjustments to the measurements and add some straps.

The Waistband

To prevent me from having to take a whole new set of pictures, see this tutorial on how to measure the elastic for the waistband and how to create the ruffled waistband.

You’re done!  Enjoy your skirt!

Beautiful Gigi!

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