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How to make a simple skirt

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Learn to quickly make a simple skirt with an elastic waistband with this free sewing tutorial. Follow these instructions and you’ll have in the end a fabulous little skirt that looks 100% professional!

This skirt is great for your first sewing project. All you need to do is cut a rectangle, sew a few straight stitches, insert an elastic through the casing and that’s it. You can totally do this!

How to make a simple cotton skirt tutorial

This little skirt is easy and fun to make, and it’s perfect for playtime, party time, or anytime!

Your little one can wear it at the playground, at school, kindergarten, or for a walk in the park.

You can make it simple or decorate it with ribbon, rickrack, pompoms, lace, contrasting ribbon, appliques or ruffles – the sky is the limit!

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to cut and sew a simple skirt in less than half an hour.

This is literally the easiest skirt in the whole wide world you can make – a tube-shaped garment with an elastic casing.

That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for mistakes… there always is! That’s why I’m here, and I promise to try and give you all the tips and tricks I can think of. 

Be sure to check out my other tutorials on how to make a simple summer skirt with pockets (for yourself), a crib sheet (for baby) or a gathered dress for little girls.

little girl wearing a simple cotton skirt

Simple skirt tutorial – sewing supplies

Types of fabric Lightweight cotton (broadcloth, chambray, batiste, seersucker, voile), linen or viscose work best for this simple skirt. 

The amount of fabric necessary for a skirt – about 1/2 yard of fabric.

Simple skirt tutorial – skirt width

Measure around child’s waist and use a 1:2 ratio. The skirt width should be approx. 2 times the waist measurement.

Most cotton fabrics are 40-44 inches wide, so you can just use the fabric width.

That will be wide enough to fit a child from size 2 (standard waist size at this age is 20 inches) to about 10 years (standard waist size – 24 inches). 

Simple skirt tutorial – skirt length

Your desired skirt length measurement, plus 3 inches to accommodate the folded over waistband (I use here a 1-inch wide elastic) and the hem.

I made this skirt for my 2-year-old daughter, who has a 21-inch waist size, and used the following measurements:

Skirt width – 44 inches (fabric width)

Skirt length – 13 inches. My desired skirt length 10 inches + 2 inches for the waistband + 1 inch for the hem.

Elastic width – 1 inch. As for the length of the elastic, I have different types in my sewing room, and I find it best to always try on the elastic before I cut and sew.

Some elastics are more or less comfortable when stretched… There is no magic formula to follow for cutting elastic – sorry!

So, are you ready?

How to make a simple skirt tutorial

Step 1

Cut the fabric straight. Use a ruler or a measuring tape and a tailor’s chalk, a cutting mat if you have one, and don’t hurry, take your time.

This is a very important step – if you cut the fabric straight, you’ll get an even hem without much ado.

Step 2

I have here a rectangle that measures 44 x 14 inches, and the first step is to fold it in half, right sides together. I created a side seam that I’m going to pin down, then sew with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Tip: Use an average stitch length – 3 mm, so if you’d make a mistake, you could unpick those seams and quickly correct it.

I sewed my first simple skirt ever with a 2mm stitch length, and back then sewing a straight line was quite difficult. So, eventually, I had to unpick those tight seams…

Not only it was very frustrating, but I also tore the fabric.

Here are my top tips for beginners – how to sew straight lines on your sewing machine.

Step 3

Finish the raw edges of the side seam with a serger or a zig-zag stitch.

Step 4

The next step is very important if you want your creation to look professional rather than frumpy – always iron your seams!

You’d be tempted to skip this step, I know for sure I did in the beginning! But please don’t be lazy, you’ll regret eventually, and there’s no way of flattening the seams once the skirt is done.

ironing a simple skirt

Step 5

Serge each raw edge (the top and the bottom of the skirt).

This is one easy way to finish your serger thread tails – feed the thread chain back into the stitching using a large eye needle.

Step 6

Now it’s time to cut the elastic – best practice is to try it on! It should just feel right – not too large and not too tight! Comfort is the keyword here. 

How to make a simple cotton skirt tutorial

Step 7

Fold the fabric over to make the waistband casing and use the elastic to measure how wide it should be. Add ½ inch to that measurement.

How to make a simple cotton skirt tutorial

Step 8

Pin the waistband every 2 or 3 inches. Use pins to mark a 2-inch wide opening for the elastic.

cotton fabric, pins, sewing machine

Step 9

Sew the waistband. It’s easier to sew a straight line if you take your time, slowly sew and follow the markings for the seam allowance on the throat plate under the needle.

Don’t forget to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam, and – most important! – don’t sew the opening marked by pins!

Step 10

Here is one trick that helps prevent the elastic from turning and getting twisted inside the casing – edgestitch the top edge of the waistband before you feed the elastic through.

Stitch 1/8 inch away from the edge, all the way around – no need to leave an opening this time.

This paper-bag waist ruffle not only looks pretty, but also plays a role in keeping the elastic from twisting.

Step 11

Hem your skirt with a straight stitch. I created a 1-inch hem for this lollipop skirt, but you can opt for a narrow hem, that’s totally fine!

How to make a simple cotton skirt tutorial

Iron the hem so it lays down flat.

Step 12

String the elastic through the waistband with a safety pin.

elastic, waistband, safety pin

Hey, let’s take a moment to enjoy this! It already looks like a skirt – you are almost done! 🙂

Step 13

Join the elastic ends and sew them together. Make sure the elastic isn’t twisted inside the casing! 

join elastic ends

Step 14

Close the waistband with a straight stitch.

Turn the handwheel towards you and put the needle down in the fabric. Gently, but firmly pull the fabric with your left hand, so you don’t sew the elastic onto the skirt.

How to make a simple cotton skirt tutorial

If you don’t have non-roll elastic, I will show you my favorite hack to an elasticized waistband that doesn’t twist – first, make sure to distribute the gathers evenly around the waistband.

Now sew three stitches vertically across the elastic, using a backstitch – one at the back seam, two at the side seams.

It’s not visible for anyone but you, and this holds the casing and elastic in position.

Aaaaand… you’re done, hooray!

Your little adorable skirt is ready to wear now!

How to make a simple cotton skirt tutorial


Even more cool stuff:

– if the elastic is too loose, you can open the casing back up and take out some of it.

– if you want to lengthen the skirt – easy peasy! Just cut a strip the same width as the main rectangle and sew it right sides together at the hem.

– if your child grows and the elastic becomes too tight, you can unpick 2 inches of the casing and add some elastic.

– you can also make this toddler skirt from an old t-shirt as well, or a dress, a pair of wide-leg pants that you don’t wear anymore. Any lightweight and nice fabric that can be sewn into a big rectangle is great for this project.

Simple skirt tutorial – making the skirt in adult size

You can also sew this simple skirt in adult size. Measure around the hips and multiply the hips size by 1.5.

You can also double that number for extra gathers, but you should know in this case the waistband can get quite bulky.

So, in my opinion, it’s best to multiply hips size measurement by 1.5, this way you’ll surely get that cinched up look – the skirt is full enough.

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12 thoughts on “How to make a simple skirt”

  1. do you have a chart of sizes for ages. I want to make some for O.C.C Shoeboxes girls 2 to 14 they are sent in groups of 2 to 4, 5 to 9 and 10 to 14 so I would probably do sizes 4, 8 and 12.

  2. Do you find that it gets wrinkled after washing? I made a little cotton skirt like this for my daughter and after washing the hem has a crease in it just above where I sewed. Does that make sense?

    • Hi Robin,
      Totally! Cotton’s great for sewing, but those creases can be a pain. Still, when it comes to making skirts for little ones, the cute prints usually win out over any wrinkle worries. Kids care more about playing than fussing over clothes anyway!

  3. Love this! You did a great job of explaining. Here’s my question…do you have any idea why edgestitching the top of the waist helps the elastic not roll? I’ve always done the stitching at the back and sides part, but am curious about edgestitching the top.

    • Hi Gloria,
      I feel it would take me a very long time to give good instructions on how to make a ruffle and a tie bow in the Comments section. And it’s not ideal anyway, because without photos most people have a hard time visualizing the steps. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help to you. That’s a great idea for another tutorial, though, so thank you!


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