Skirt series 1: How to make a basic maxi

Maxi Skirt 11Maxi Skirt 12

Want to make a maxi skirt? Good.

An online tutorial for a fold-over yoga waist skirt was basically what got me into sewing a couple of years ago. The internets will give you lots of how-tos if you ask, and the best one I’ve read through is here. I’ve written one out below not because I think it’s better than everything else, but because I think sometimes you gotta hear (read) things different ways before they click.

Material: 3 yards of heavy-ish synthetic knit; a double needle (srsly); matching thread; elastic thread wound for the bobbin.

Also, measuring tape (or ruler if this is a craft binge and you can’t be bothered to go get measuring tape) and a pencil/tailors chalk/etc for marking.

An indelicate note on the fabric choice: This is a stretchy material that is going to be spread over your hips and whatever lady lumps (ew, i know, sorry.) you’ve got. Envision that when at the fabric store and do not buy a very thin t-shirt weight knit unless you know what a slip is and wear one regularly. I did my first skirt in a very dark brown, very thin knit that very quickly became a dust cloth because it was very unwearable.

1. Measure yourself! Superfun, right? You’ll need the circumference of your waist or hips, wherever you want the skirt to hit; your hips at the apex of your ass (I’ll look up the proper sewer term for this some day I promise); and the length from the floor to waist/hipbones/whatever measured at the back (it takes length for the fabric to go over your butt). Also helpful: distance between waist and ass apex circumference along your side and an approximation of your stride length. Take a very large step that is larger than a step you would normally take. Measure distance between your two feet.

2. Draw yourself a little picture of your pieces so you think this through real hard before messing with your fabric. You will have four pieces: a trapezoid shaped skirt front, a trapezoid-shaped skirt back and four waist band pieces that are all rectangles of equal size.


Skirt piece: (1/2 waist measurement plus seam allowance) x (waist-to-floor length plus seam allowance) x (stride length plus some).

Use 1/2 inch seam allowances for your sanity in making this very basic pattern**.

Par example:my waist at my hip bones is 33″, my ass apex (let’s use AA so I can stop writing ass and don’t have to use some diminutive) is 37″, my hip bone to floor length is 36″, and my stride plus some is 30.

With halving and then adding seam allowances for the circumferential measures  that’s 17.5, 19.5, 7 , 36, and 30.

So! Draw a little mock up with some notes on it. Use graph paper if you’ve got it because then you can scale it and omg see any mistakes early.

The AA is a double check so you don’t wind up with a skirt that is too tight in there. You might have to make a slightly wonky trapezoid to give yourself the room in there. In my drawing above, the red side seam represents what happens when I draw a straight line from the waist to the stride end points. The black side seam is re-angled to reach the AA width and then goes out to the stride measure.

Waist band: (waist msrmnt + seam allowance) x (waist band length + seam allowance).

In my example: 17.5 x 5

yer pieces.
yer pieces.

Onto cutting!!!

Okay, don’t cut yet. I know it’s super satisfying to get out your fabric and slice into it, but if you slice incorrectly your skirt will not hand right. The next three steps are meant to avoid cutting at all on a diagonal, which can make the skirt wonky.

that dotted line is parallel to the selvages. this ish is serious.
that dotted line is parallel to the selvages. length and width lines of the fabric should be guides for the length and width lines of your garment.

3. Fold fabric in half, lining up the selvages. Press to give yourself the middle fold as a guide. Leaving fabric folded, draw two rectangle pieces. Cut out. Unfold. Cut at the fold line. Now you have four!

4. Unfold fabric and lay flat. Fold end-on-end with the right sides of the fabric facing itself. This prevents you from having to measure out two skirt pieces, and if you leave right sides together and cut daintily you will not have to spend forever lining up your skirt pieces.

5. Measure out and mark your skirt trapezoid. Cut!

6. Pin skirt pieces right sides together. This will be very easy if you followed the light-face directions in  step four.

8. Using a straight stitch and half-inch seam allowance, sew up the sides.  Turn outside-out, and try on to make sure you don’t need to adjust anything.

9. Put two rectangles together, front sides facing and pin. With a straight stitch, sew up the sides. Put two other rectangles together. Sew up the sides.

10. Turn one rectangle band outside out. Insert into other band. Pin together along one of the raw edges.

11. Using the elastic thread in the bobbin, a zig zag stitch and a half-inch seam allowance, sew together the two bands. Press seams open. Turn outside out.

12. Insert your band into the skirt so that the raw edges of the band face the raw edges of the waist. Line up the side seams and pin in place.

13. Using the elastic thread in the bobbin, a zig zag stitch and a half-inch seam allowance, sew together the two bands. Press seams open. Turn outside out.

14. Flip waist band up. Put skirt on. Flip waist band down. Yay!

ugly raw edges...
ugly raw edges…

15. Using your double needle, hem. That skirt is pretty good looking on you.

**I’ve used 1/2 inch seam allowances because one-half + one-half = one and that is easy and this is an easy tutorial. You can listen to the sewing dictators who tell you to use a 5/8ths seam allowance if you want, or you can do it on their time, when they already made you a pattern that you paid for. I’m convinced that the 5/8ths thing was made up by a bunch of jerks who were better at fractions than everyone else so they could corner the market on tailoring. Jerks, I can get good at fractions.

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