Saturday, January 12, 2013

The New Girl Skirt: One Yard, No Pattern, DIY Skirt Tutorial

I had a major moment this fall.  I gave away almost all of my clothes, I chopped off my hair, I started wearing makeup and promised myself I would never again suffocate under loads of laundry and a wardrobe that was anything but me.

Tim Gunn, who is amazing, told me to find a style icon.  Not in person or anything, but in his book (it's a great read!)  He had listed a ton of society types and other not so well known famous people, but after googling them all, I was slightly uninspired.  So I picked Jess, from New Girl.  I have no disillusion about looking like Zooey Deschanel.  I know I don't.  And anything looks cute in a size 2, which I very much am not.  But I love the easy, fun and colorful feel of EVERYTHING she wears.  It's like she just walks into a closet and picks out a few pieces and it all just works.  Lots of scarves, lots of tights, lots of color.  I love it.  So I've been trying to shop more along those lines.

I wanted some cute, easy skirts to help fill out the small collection of basics that my wardrobe currently consists of.  All of the new spring stuff is very colorful and graphic, but all the skirts are either a-line and professional or tiny and teenager.  And why pay $80 when I can just make one for $8?  Because that's how much these skirts were...$8 a piece!  So I made four....each with a different type of fabric but all with the same method.

Here's what I ended up with:

I had read some different elastic waist skirt tutorials on Pinterest and most of them had an exposed elastic waist.  There are pros and skirt does not.  Instead, I made a simple casting; technique that will create a lot of bulk if your fabric is heavy and thick.  But more on that later.  These are the fabrics I chose...all from JoAnn's.

On the left is a simple lightweight cotton quilting fabric, next is a "simply silky" houndstooth print which is a lightweight poly/rayon blend, then another quilting cotton that's a bit heavier weight, and finally a subtle polka dot jacquard.  I used the same "pattern" for each skirt and they all look totally different.

So how to do you make it?  Easy.  You need a yard of fabric and enough 1" wide elastic to go around your waist.  Each of fabrics were different widths, but it doesn't matter.  And if you're tiny, then you'll probably need less than a yard.  If you're not feeling adventurous and/or lazy, you can measure your waist and multiply by .8.  That should be about the width of each of the two skirt pieces (one front, one back).  For example, if your waist is 32" (I already hate you), but you can cut each panel to be 26" wide.  Otherwise, try out the 36" and see how full it is.  If you hate it, there's a point in sewing that you can stop, pick out the waistband and cut it down.

Take your fabric and fold it in half like it is on the bolt and cut on the fold.  So you'll have two 36" pieces by half of the fabric width.  For example, the quilting cottons were 44" when I cut the fabric on the fold, I had two pieces that measured 22" x 36".

With right sides together, stitch the two pieces together on either short side, leaving about 2 inches open on one end of one side.  Iron the seams open on the inside of the skirt like so:

You will now have a tube of fabric.  On the side that you left your 2" opening, fold down and iron the edge toward the inside of the skirt, like above.  Iron into place all the way around your fabric.

Still working on that end, which will eventually be the waist of the skirt, fold down again where you stopped sewing your side seam, like so.  Iron into place.

Stitch down into place on the inside of your skirt.  You will have an opening from where you left the 2" open on your side seam and this will be where you insert your 1" wide elastic.

Take a huge safety pin and thread your elastic through the skirt waist.

Once your elastic is through, you're going to put the skirt on and arrange the pleating to a pleasing amount.  Note, if you aren't happy with how MUCH fabric there is, now is the time to stop, take out the elastic and casting and cut it down.  Otherwise, pull the two ends of elastic out and tighten the skirt to fit your waist.  Using a back and forth zig zag stitch, sew the two ends of elastic together so it's secure.  I like to forward stitch then back stitch over and over to ensure it won't come apart while I'm sitting at my desk....awkward!

Now try on, decide on your length and hem.  Easy peasy, right?  And I'm pretty excited about how cute they are and how very different each one is.

This is the heavier weight quilting cotton:

It turned out really sweet and full.  I would say that this fabric holds the "flare" shape the best.

This is the lighter weight cotton that I added pockets to:

This fabric was really awesome and the stripes made it super easy to get everything straight.  If you want to put pockets in your skirt, this is a really great tutorial.

This is the black polka dot jacquard fabric:

I will say, out of all the fabric, this was the least suited for this skirt making method.  I had to cut down the fabric a few times so it didn't look like my waist was thicker than it already is.  And the length and fullness of this skirt isn't really suited to this fabric.  But for an $8 skirt,  it's cute and I'm sure I'll wear it.

And finally, the silky houndstooth and the worst picture (I was losing my light)!

This one was super successful.  It was a bit of a pain to work with, but it is super cute and flattering.  And COMFY!

Who's that Girl??  It's MEGHAN!


  1. These are super cute! I love your inspiration, too. ;)

  2. I can't tell you how excited I am to have found this tutorial. I have just about the same body type as you (or so it looks anyways) and have been wanting nothing more than to sew up a bunch of skirts for the spring and summer. But being new to the sewing world, I have been having a hard time picking out the "right" fabric to work with. I just went to Joann's the other day (the ONLY fabric store near me) and after speaking with a semi-helpful associate, I decided to go with a Simply Silky fabric (in Abstract Floral). I have been trying to find a good tutorial for a skirt that I can 100% say it will work with that fabric...and here I have found it! I was also wondering how quilting cotton would work since it is so thin. Both fabrics look great in your pictures. Did you feel that you had to line the lightweight quilting cotton skirt? I am afraid it will be too see-through, but not sure.

    1. Hey Angela! I'm glad you found my post too and that it's helpful! The cottons I picked were not light colored so I didn't really worry about lining them and have worn both several times without major wardrobe malfunctions. If you picked something that you can see through, maybe line it with another lightweight cotton in white would be good. I always hate the way lining fabric feels on my skin.

      I can't wait to make a few more for summer! has a great selection of adorable prints, btw...I always try to shop there as we don't have a great fabric store around either.

      Thanks for reading!


    2. Thanks for the quick response Meghan! I actually just cut my fabric and came back here to re-read the tutorial before I start. If I can figure out how to post a picture here, I will post my finished project in just a little bit!

    3. Well I can't figure out how to add a picture her, but here is a link to my facebook where I have posted the picture. Thanks so much!

  3. This is a great tutorial thanks! I bought a metre of some fabric today and wanted to make a skirt without a pattern and this blog post was the top hit on google. I've just blogged about you: Thank you for your post! :D xx

  4. Hi Meghan! I just wanted to say thank you for such a great tutorial!! I made a skirt yesterday for the first time and it turned out great! When I wanted to make a skirt doing so without a pattern didnt seem like the answer, patterns are expensive! I stumbled on this post after googling 1 yd skirt pattern at the fabric store! Seeing were inspired by New Girl as well made my day!! Seriously that's me whole reason for wanting to make some skirts. Love love that show!! I guess you watch as well?? Anyways I just wanted to say thanks again

  5. I love super easy DIY skirts! I love all four of your skirts. Also love your tagline at the end.

  6. What an inspiration! I would say there are alot more non-size 2's out here than there are size 2's!! Thank God! And I think you are cute as a button! So thanks for making a new wardrobe seem so easy!

  7. Frankly, I think you're adorable! And the black ensemble looks fantastic and professional, but the others are really cute. I think the scarf sets it off. I'm not brave enough for scarfs. Keep your lipstick in your pocket and sewing for the rest of us!

  8. THANKS!!! I prefer my skirts full and ankle length. I buy the wider fabrics like 90" for sheets, etc. I learned this trick from some Plain Christian friends!

  9. Thought I would take a second to make a suggestion. I enjoying sewing for the orphanage children in South Africa and Kenya. Simple patterns like this one, is a great, quick and easy to make for these children. I also make pillowcase dresses. Sewing for these children is such a blessing. The ladies I work with try to send 50 to 75 dresses twice a year....... Give it a try...... the blessing will come back ten fold. Happy sewing.

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