Learn how to make your own tiered tulle skirt with this easy sewing tutorial. I’ll walk you through all the steps of how to sew a tulle skirt with an elastic waistband, from cutting the fabric pieces to hemming the skirt, with lots of pictures and all of my best tips and tricks.
This is actually a very simple skirt, although a bit time-consuming to make. All you need for the tulle layers are rectangles of soft tulle fabric, while the lining is a half-circle satin skirt.
For this tiered tulle skirt, the ratio is 1:4. The top tulle tier is approximately 4x the waist measurement, and the bottom tier is 4x the top tier.
It’s made of soft tulle, but it has plenty of volume nevertheless, so you can also use it as a petticoat for skirts made of lightweight fabrics.
Also, I have written another article on how to make a simple tulle skirt in 10 easy steps! You can read it here.
Sewing supplies – DIY tiered tulle skirt tutorial
- 3-4 yards of 118 inches (300 cm) super wide soft tulle (depends on your size, the length of the skirt, on the fullness you want)
- 2 yards of satin fabric for the skirt lining
- 1 inch wide elastic
- sewing machine
- sewing machine needle
- matching thread
- fabric scissors
- rotary cutter
- cutting mat
- fabric marking pencil
- sewing pins
Step 1 – cut the tulle fabric pieces
Decide on the desired length of your skirt. Take this number and divide it by 2, and that will be the length of all your tulle fabric pieces, each being 118 inches (300 cm) wide.
The finished skirt will have 2 tulle layers. Each tulle layer will have 1 fabric rectangle for the top tier and 4 rectangles for the bottom tier (4:1 ratio). These are all the pieces I used for the tulle part of my skirt.
To make everything clear. You don’t have to take into account the seam allowances when calculating how tall your tulle rectangles should be (height-wise, there will be 3 such seam allowances – 1 at the waist, 2 at the middle seam where you join the top tier, and the bottom tier).
The total length of the finished skirt will be around the desired measurement, as long as you use a (relatively) narrow elastic for the waistband (I used 1” wide elastic).
If you use 118 inches wide tulle, fold the yardage 3 times so the width of the fabric becomes approximately 14.7 inches. Now it’s a piece of cake to cut the tulle. Use a rotary cutter, a ruler, and a self-healing mat, this way it’s easier to get a straight edge. (See Step 1 in this tutorial)
If your fabric is wrinkled, iron it before you cut the pieces. Use a low heat setting and you’re safe to go.
I wanted my skirt to be 24″ long, so in total I cut 10 pieces of tulle, each measuring 118 x 12 inches.
Side note: It’s totally possible to make the top tiers taller than the bottom tiers, or vice versa.
This is simply a matter of style, and there’s nothing wrong with either option. In fact, I might just make myself a tiered tulle skirt with uneven tiers, just for fun. I’ll be sure to post it here on my blog, of course.
What if you want a fuller tiered tulle skirt?
You have two options. First, you could keep everything as-is and just make your tulle skirt shorter. Had I made my skirt 20” long, instead of 24”, it would have been much fuller and fluffier.
The second option, you could make your skirt with three tulle layers instead of two. For that, you’ll need 3 rectangles of tulle fabric for the top tier, and 12 rectangles for the bottom tier.
Again – feel free to adjust the 1:4 ratio to be 1:3.5, if you’d like (or in case you run out of fabric). It’s just an example. There are so many options, and none of them are wrong!
Step 2 – cut the lining
Measure your hips – since we’re using an elastic waistband, the skirt opening has to be big enough to fit over your hips.
I added 4 inches to this measurement, just to be sure – 35+4=39 inches in my case. This is the length of the circular line that will be on the waist.
Now take this measurement and divide it by 3.14 to get the waist radius. I used the circle skirt calculator from byhandlondon.com to determine the waist radius for a half-circle skirt – which is 12 inches in my case.
The length of my skirt lining is 24 inches – the same as my desired skirt length, but I admit that’s a bit excessive. The lining could have been 2 inches shorter, and that would’ve been a better choice (easier to hem, less fabric waste).
Waist radius – 12 inches
Desired length of the skirt – 24 inches
Lay the lining fabric on the floor and fold it in half, so that selvage edges coincide.
Measure out from the top corner using the waist radius to create a curve, as shown. Now, measure again to create a hem curve, this time using the skirt length.
Step 3 – sew the side seams for the lining
Sew the side seam of the lining – place the fabric wrong sides together, pin, and slowly sew it.
You can finish the seam with a serger (in which case you should sew the side seam with the fabric right sides together), but I prefer the french seam method.
I trim the seam allowance and press with an iron.
Then, I turn fabric right sides together, press again, and stitch to encase the raw edges within the seam allowance. Now there are no visible raw edges to fray.
Step 4 – sew the back seams (for the upper tier)
Take one of the tulle layers that compose the top tier and sew the short ends together to form a loop. Repeat this for the second tulle layer. Each of these loops will be about 118″ wide (minus the seam allowance, of course).
To sew the tulle seams without puckering, switch your needle for a new ballpoint/jersey needle – size 70/10 is what I used. Then, use a short straight stitch and slow down your sewing machine speed to avoid puckering.
Find more tips on how to sew tulle fabric on your regular sewing machine here.
Step 5 – make the tulle ruffles (for the bottom tier)
Now, change the stitch length to the longest possible and run a basting stitch to the top of each of the 8 tulle rectangles that compose the bottom tier. Leave long thread tails at the beginning and end of each row, and do not backstitch!
Ideally, you’ll use a contrasting thread for the basting. That will enable you to unpick it easily later on.
This is rather tedious, as you have to baste 8 x 118”=944 inches (or 24 m) in total, however, it’s quite easy, I promise. I basted each tulle rectangle in approx. 1 minute (but I have a lot of practice!), however, if you are a beginner, sew slowly – you’ll be done with them all in 30 minutes at the most. Soon enough, all of this will be worth it.
Now let’s create the gathers. Grab a thread with one hand and push the tulle fabric over with the other hand.
Continue until the gathers are evenly distributed and each rectangle is about 1/4 of the upper tier’s length. I like to add 2 inches to that measurement, because the ruffles will overlap by 1″ and because you also need to make room for error.
Therefore, each of the tulle ruffles that compose the bottom tier is now gathered to (118:4) + 2=31.5 inches.
Step 6 – finish the tulle part of the skirt
The ruffled rectangles that you made in the previous step now need to be attached to the upper tiers. There will be two tulle skirts (or layers) – each layer is composed of 1 fabric rectangle for the top tier and 4 rectangles for the bottom tier (4:1 ratio).
So, let’s begin. Place the first tulle loop of the upper tier with the right side out on the sewing machine throat plate.
Then align the first ruffle and attach it to the upper tier with a straight stitch. Use a matching color thread this time.
The next ruffle will overlap the first ruffle about 1″ (please notice the threads in the photos above). The threads going right belong the the first ruffle, the threads going left belong to the second ruffle, and they overlap a bit.
Continue around the circumference of the upper piece until you attach all 4 ruffles.
I made a lot of tiered skirts in the past and sometimes I would run out of ruffles before reaching the starting point, and it’s really annoying! That’s why now I prefer to make my ruffles a bit longer – I recommended gathering them to 1/4 of the upper tier’s length, plus 2″. I think it’s better to trim the excess ruffle a little bit than to cut another tulle piece, run a basting stitch, do the gathering, then finally attach it to cover that small gap that ended up getting no ruffle.
So, cut off the excess ruffle (if any). The ruffles should cover the entire circumference of the upper tier – nothing more, nothing less.
This is what the skirt looks like right now (see photos below). You’ve successfully finished the first tulle layer of the skirt, and you used 5 tulle rectangles out of 10. Now repeat the steps for the second tulle layer. It’s the same process – attach 4 ruffles to the upper piece.
Here comes the fun part – removing the basting stitches! I actually enjoyed this step. The contrasting color thread you used in Step 5 helps a lot.
Next, to maximize the fluffiness of this DIY tiered tulle skirt, I gathered each tulle layer individually. Just run a basting stitch at the top of each tulle layer and gather them to fit the waistband casing.
Finally, sew together the two layers of tulle.
Step 7 – sew the waistband
Cut the fabric strip for the waistband about 40 inches long x 5 inches wide. The whole skirt opening will be 39” (See Step 2, where you cut the lining), and you need to add 1” for the seam allowance.
Take the waistband piece and sew the short ends together to make a tube. Then fold the waistband wrong sides together, matching the long edges so you have a loop with the seam inside; press it with the iron. Stitch about 1 1/8” from the folded edge to make the casing – this is where you’ll insert the elastic. Leave a 2” opening for the elastic.
Step 8 – attach the lining to the waistband
First, decide which side of the satin will be your „right” side. Mine is the dull side because I like it better.
Place the lining inside the waistband, with the wrong side out, then pin and stitch on top of the existing seam line. Stay away from that 2” opening for the elastic – leave it unstitched.
As weird as it may seem, at this moment the raw edges should be on the right side of the lining.
Align the lining back seam with the waistband seam (I didn’t, sorry).
Step 9 – attach the tulle layers to the waistband
Now place the lining inside the tulle skirt. The waistband is sandwiched between the tulle and the lining.
It’s very important to get this part straight, otherwise, you’ll very much use the seam ripper.
In the picture below, the tulle skirt is with the wrong side out. The right side of the tulle skirt touches the wrong side of the lining.
You’ll once again sew on top of the existing seam line of the waistband to attach the tulle layers.
Make sure not to catch the lining in your stitching – unfortunately, it’s not that hard to make this mistake, especially if you’re in a hurry or a bit tired.
I somehow keep repeating it, time and time again.
Do you know that meme: „I never make the same sewing mistake twice. I make it a whole bunch of times, just to be sure.” Yup, that’s me!
Step 10 – insert the elastic
Separate the tulle layers from the lining, then insert your elastic through the 2” opening using a safety pin.
Make sure the elastic is not twisted inside the casing. Overlap the ends of the elastic and sew them together.
Step 11 – finish the waist seam
First, you have to close the small opening in the waistband with a simple, straight stitch. Now decide on how to finish the waist seam.
You can use your serger, but beware – you’ll need four matching thread colors, otherwise, your threads will be somewhat visible at the waist.
I took a shortcut with this DIY tiered blue tulle skirt – the pinking shears work just fine too.
Four or five years ago, when I made a tiered pink tulle skirt for my daughter, I was less lazy than now and I actually changed all 4 thread cones to match the color of the pink skirt.
It has withstood the wear and tear far better than I thought it would.
Step 12 – hem the lining
Turn your tulle skirt right side out, with the lining on the inside.
All we have to do now is to hem the lining – use sharp scissors and trim excess fabric from the bottom. Be careful to not cut through the tulle.
I finished the raw edge of the lining with a narrow rolled hem on the serger. And that’s it, you’re done!
Did you find this DIY tiered tulle skirt tutorial helpful? I’d like to hear what you think of it! And I would LOVE to see pictures if you give this skirt a try.