DIY Rayon Challis Gathered Skirt Tutorial by Jessica Higginbotham
Hello foxes, Jessica here! Let me start by saying what a pleasure it is to be guest blogging for Sly Fox today; I was so encouraged by the response to my yellow polka dot skirt and am really excited to be sharing a tutorial with you so that you can make your own! Before we dive into the tutorial there are a couple of things I want to say to you:
- Welcome to the world of sewing wovens, it’s awesome! I know everybody is all about the comfort of knits, and I totally get that, but if you’re new to wovens get ready to be extra adorable. There’s just something nice about a garment with a little extra structure...especially if your body is like mine and has lost a little of its own structure. (Kids, Netflix, brownie batter...you know what I’m saying!) Don’t be afraid, because you can do this!
- I am a make-it-up-and-make-a-mess-as-you-go type, and a self-taught sewist on top of that, so if I pull some crazy renegade sewing stunts that are a little out of the box, let’s just all breathe and believe in each other and know that it’s going to be okay. And if you have a better way than what you see here, do it!
- I “cleaned” my work table for you, for this, so…*pauses for applause*...enjoy! (And yes, this is it at its best and cleanest. Just pretend like you can’t see the stains and chipped paint. It’s fiiiiiiine.)
So now that we’ve got introductions and all that out of the way, let’s jump into making our gathered skirts, shall we? Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 yds drapey, lightweight woven fabric (Both of my skirts are rayon challis; you can find the yellow polka dots here and the sandwashed chambray here.)
- Lightweight fusible interfacing
- Invisible zipper
- Sewing basics (machine, coordinating thread, measuring tape, scissors, etc.)
Step 1: Measuring for your waistband
Measure your waist wherever you want the waistband of the skirt to sit. Mine sits about two inches below my natural waist (where my torso is slimmest). Write down your measurement and keep it close by.
Step 2: Measuring and cutting your fabric
For the simplest version of this skirt, you only need to cut four rectangular pieces of fabric. See? I told you this would be easy. If you’re feeling like you want to level up just a bit, I’ve included instructions for adding pockets to your skirt, but it’s completely optional. You’ll be cutting:
- 1 waistband
- 1 skirt front
- 2 skirt backs
- 4 pocket pieces (optional)
To cut the waistband, take your waist measurement and add half an inch. This will be the length of your waistband. For the height, you need to cut it twice as high/thick as you want the final waistband to be, plus half an inch. For instance, if you have a 30” waist (lucky you!) and want a waistband that is two and a half inches tall, you’ll cut a piece of fabric that is 30.5” x 5.5”, as the maths below indicate:
- 30 + .5 = 30.5 (length of waistband)
- 2.5 x 2 + .5 = 5.5 (height of waistband)
Oh maths. Necessary evils, indeed. Nevertheless, we soldier on.
You can change a lot about the look of your skirt with the waistband depending on where you want it to hit, and how thick you want it to be. I cut my yellow waistband with a height of 9.5”, making the finished product quite thick. (I had to modify it for the contour of my body as well, so keep that in mind if you want a thicker waistband. On my blue skirt, My waistband was only 4”, so the finished product is less than 2” tall. Play around with it to see what you like best.
You’ll need a piece of interfacing which is the same size as your waistband, so cut that now.
Before we jump into the width of your skirt pieces, let’s choose the length. This is pretty simple, and as long as you give yourself some wiggle room (extra inches) you can chop off and hem up your skirt until you’re satisfied with the length. I let a measuring tape dangle from my waist to figure my length. For reference, my yellow skirt was about 30” before I lopped off about four more inches, and this blue skirt was around 26”, and then given a generous hem...and I’m thinking I’ll even take a little more off so that it hits above my knee. (Also, I’m 5’10”.) Once you’ve figured your length, just write that number down as well.
How wide you cut your skirt pieces depends somewhat on how full you want your skirt to be. Any gathered skirt should be at least two times your waist measurement, which is what you’ll get if your back pieces are as wide as half your waist measurement and your front piece is as wide as your full waist measurement, as indicated in the picture. I know, that was a lot of words, so let’s go back to the 30” waist measurement for reference. If that were your waist measurement and you wanted your skirt to be about twice as full as you are round, and 20” long, your front piece would be 30” wide by 20” long and your two back pieces would be 15” wide by 20” long each.
But here’s the thing: you can go even fuller if you like, and the fuller the funner! (Did “funner” pain you? It’s fine. I was an English major, and hereby reserve the right to skew the English language for my pet purposes.) I like to use the full width of the yardage, from selvage to selvage, so I get the fullest skirt I can out of two yards. This is where shopping Sly Fox is really great, because their yardage is always plenty wide. So I determine my length, and cut two pieces using the full width of the yardage, and then just cut one of those pieces in half, splitting it into my two back pieces.
Optional pocket pieces: Cut a sort of lopsided oval with one straight edge for your pocket piece. You will need four of these. Make sure they are big enough to fit your hand (or phone) and allow for ¼” seam allowance.
Step Three: Assembling the skirt
Finally, we get to the fun part with all the pictures! And the math is over! It’s happening, people. There’s a skirt in your near future.
First, get your iron heated up. Take your waistband and interfacing and fuse the two together. (I had accidentally cut mine different sizes, pay no mind, I trimmed them down after they were fused.) Next, turn the raw ends of the waistband toward the wrong side by ¼” and press. After that, fold the waistband in half lengthwise and press again. At the end of your ironing you should have a long strip of fabric, right sides facing out, with the ends turned and pressed inward, and the raw edges running the length of the waistband touching, as in the last photo. It’s a good idea to use a press cloth to protect your pretty rayon challis here. Set your waistband to the side.
If you’re attaching pockets, now is the time. (Otherwise, skip ahead to the next photo.) Take one pocket piece and lay it on top of your front skirt piece along the side seam, 1.5” from the top edge of the skirt piece, right sides together. Using a straight stitch and coordinating thread, attach the pocket piece to the skirt piece. Repeat with the remaining three pocket pieces, attaching one to the other side of the front skirt piece, and one to each of the back skirt pieces. Press the wrong sides together and topstitch along the seam.
Lay your back skirt piece on top of your front skirt piece, right sides together, lining up the outer edge (the “length” side of the pieces you cut), and pin or clip together. Stitch along the edge where you’ve placed your pins, using a ¼” seam allowance. If you’ve omitted the pockets, this will be a simple, straight seam. If you’ve attached pockets, you will sew straight down, dropping your needle when you reach the pocket, pivot, and stitch around the outside of the pocket pieces. After you’ve gone around the pocket and returned to the side seam, drop your needle and pivot again. (I like to backstitch before and after I pivot to help reinforce the seam where the pocket is attached to the skirt.) Continue stitching down the edge until you’ve finished the seam.
Turn your skirt over and inspect your seam. This is what the pocket opening will look like. Attach the other skirt back to the skirt front on the other side seam in the same manner. You should now have one looooong skirt piece.
Now it’s time to gather! I didn’t photograph this because there are several ways of gathering and they’re well catalogued on the internet and also because I kind of cheated and just used my serger. However you do it, gather the top edge of your skirt piece so that it is the same length as your waistband. Unfold the length of the waistband and lay it right side up, and then lay the skirt right side up on top of it. Clip or pin the gathered skirt piece to the waistband.
After you clip or pin the waistband to the skirt, it should look like this from the other side.
Sewing on the inside of the gathering stitches, attach the skirt piece to the waistband using a straight stitch.
If you’re looking at the inside of the skirt to where you’ve attached the waistband, it should now look like this. We’re in the home stretch now, so stay with me. We can do this!
Flip your skirt over so that you can see the right side of the skirt and the wrong side of the waistband. Press the seam where you attached the waistband to the skirt upward toward the waistband. Turn the remaining raw edge of the waistband to the wrong side of the fabric by ¼” and press, then fold in half and press again so that the folded edge of the waistband lays over the seam where the waistband connects to the skirt. Pin along the waistband in preparation for sewing.
Topstitch at an ⅛” along your pinned seam. This seam will show, so sew slowly and neatly, being careful that you fully catch the gathered seam inside of the waistband. When you’re finished, your waistband should fully enclose the gathers of your skirt and look like the picture below. You should now have what looks very much like a finished skirt, with only one open seam remaining.
You’re almost done. Attach your zipper to the skirt so that pull is at the bottom of the waistband when the skirt is zipped up. I used an invisible zipper here, but a big chunky exposed zipper would be cute, too! You do you, girl! Just like with the gathers, if you need pointers on attaching a zipper, I refer you to the multitudes of tutorials on the interwebs. ;)
Once you’ve attached the zipper, all that’s left to do is finish the seam below the zipper. With the pull at the top of the zipper, and turn the skirt inside out. Starting at the hem of the skirt with the right sides together, sew up the seam toward the zipper. Once you get to the zipper, make sure to sew just outside of it, then backstitch. Handstitch a hook and eye closure to the top of the waistband. Finally, hem your skirt and turn it right side out! You did it! You’re done!
All that’s left to do is try it on with several different shirts and take pictures of yourself.
Thanks for letting me share this tutorial with you! I know I can be verbose, but let’s chalk it up to being thorough and detailed, eh? Get your hands on this rayon challis and sew yourself a skirt! Don’t forget to share it in the Sly Fox Fabrics Facebook group because I want to see it! It’s gonna be great!
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