Tulle isn't too practical for my everyday wardrobe, but I do love how fanciful it looks for special occasions (like NYE parties!). These skirts cost me just ~$10 each in materials, plus the basic circle pattern and elastic waist can be applied to skirts of all types of materials. The only tricky part if you're a beginner might be sewing on the elastic waistband in step #13. If you're not big on tulle and want a regular swingy circle skirt, do just steps 1 through 3 using a fabric of your choice, then skip to step #9! I can't wait to make another one with just a fun printed fabric. The plaid, pearls + tulle trifecta above was inspired by Blair, who has shown several stylish ways over the years to wear her tulle skirts.
I initially made one of these as an inner "petticoat" as shown in this post, then realized how easy it was to make them into presentable skirts that can also be worn on the outside. As suggested in my post on how to re-style a bridesmaid dress, tulle also looks soft and romantic for engagement photoshoots (or bridal activities which I might use this white one for). Yes I'm freezing my toes here again but the snow was so pretty, I couldn't resist jumping outside for a pic.
H&M plaid shirt (borrowed from cousin), DIY skirt, Manolo Blahnik BB heels
Ready to begin? : )
- stretchy, elastic band at least 1" in width and long enough to fit around your waist. I used 1.5" for a wider waistband.
- Base / lining fabric. Otherwise the tulle will be sheer. I like the weight of polyester crepe since it will hold some fullness without looking too poofy, plus it's often on sale or you could print a 40% off coupon for JoAnns. You need a square piece of fabric measuring this along each side:
Length of each side of square fabric = [A + B] * 2
A = (your desired skirt length)
B = (circumference of your hips divided by 3.14 divided by 2)
For example, if I want a 20" long skirt, and my hips are 33" wide, then the calculation goes:
A = 20"
B = (33" / 3.14 / 2) = 5.25"
[A + B]* 2 = [20" + 5.25"] * 2 = 50.5"
So, I would need a square piece of fabric measuring 50.5 inches, aka 1.4 yards on each side. Please remember most fabric sold in the store on bolts are folded in half lengthwise, and you can look at the label to quickly find out the width in inches when unfolded. A common width for fabric is 54" which would work for my skirt with room to spare. If you need wider material than that, consider sewing together two halves of semicircles to form your circle.
- Optional: tulle fabric, depending on how many layers you want. You need the same amount as your lining, per layer. I wanted 3 layers, so I needed 3 x 50.5 inches, or 4.2 yards.
- sewing machine, scissors, pins, and some sort of fabric marker or chalk
- paper or mulsin for your pattern
For my skirt, for reference, I bought a piece of wide elastic, 1.5 yards of lining fabric, and 5 yards of tulle (rounded up to be safe) for a total of $10. If you live in Boston, I went to Winmil fabrics and also love Sewfisticated. JoAnns has a bigger selection so is good with coupon in hand, but none really close to the city.
1. Make your pattern. I used some packaging paper lying around with a right angle edge. At this edge, measure out a small quarter circle. The radius of this circle should be "B" that we measured above, or 5.25" for me. Make sure to measure around your hips at the widest point, since this hole needs to fit comfortably over that!
2. Draw a larger quarter circle, but measuring out length from the smaller one in Step 1. The length here should be your desired skirt length (or "A" from above), plus a few centimeters of allowance for seam allowance if desired. I wanted a 20" skirt, but my paper wasn't big enough (nor was my lining fabric) so I just made sure to cut my tulle a little bigger than the pattern. Cut along both curved lines that you drew.
3. Fold and cut lining fabric. As mentioned above, fabric at the store usually comes folded in half lengthwise. Fold your piece of liner material lengthwise if it isn't already, then fold once again from left to right. You should now have a piece of material that is one quarter the size of the original piece.
Place your pattern with the small quarter circle over the folded corner of the fabric, so that after you cut the pattern you will unfold the piece to get one continuous donut. Please be careful here and don't mis-position the pattern, otherwise you'll end up with a very strange cutout shape!
4. Fold and cut tulle. If you want a tulle overlay, repeat step 3 over tulle material that has been similarly folded into quarters. I cut out 3 donuts of tulle to get the desired fullness once layered.
5. Organize + pin together your layers. Tulle gets static-y and troublesome to manage real quick, so one way to keep everything organized is to find a cylindrical object to act as your "waist" and layer your cutout donuts one by one on top of each other. In the photo above with the cute red pot, my lining material is on the bottom, with three layers of tulle on top.
6. Sew layers of donuts together. After pinning all your layers together, sew along the inner circle to secure them in place, leaving about a centimeter of seam allowance. Be very careful to remove pins before they reach the sewing machine needle, and also not to stab yourself! Safety pins are a little more time-consuming to attach and remove than these open-ended pins, but the chances of self-stabbing would be much lower for beginners.
You'll end up with this - a skirt without the elastic waistband:
7. Try it on over your hips. At this point you should be able to step in and out of this skirt with the inner circle gliding just over your hips. If the hole is too loose or impossibly tight, you may have measured your pattern wrong or cut too off the mark.
8. Finish raw edge (optional). Once you confirm the skirt can glide over your hips, finish the raw edge with a serger if desired to avoid the tulle unraveling, or use a zig zag stitch like I did below since I don't have a serger:
9. Measure and stitch together elastic waistband. Wrap a piece of elastic around your natural waist and cut to that length. When measuring around your waist, don't "stretch" it out per se, but do pull it fairly taut so it's a snug fit. Use nice and stretchy elastic that will fit at your natural waist when taut, but can extend when fully stretched out to fit comfortably around your hips. Next, stitch the two ends together, going back and forth over the same line a few times to make it extra secure. Quickly try the waistband on to make sure it fits snug on your waist, and stretches enough to fit over your hips.
10. Reinforce the waistband raw edges. If you have a serger, you can use that. I pressed the edges down flat, then stitched them down to reinforce:
Now we are tasked with "aligning" an elastic waistband the size of your waist, to a hole in the skirt fabric the size of your hips. Since more often than not your waist measurement will be a lot smaller than your hips, we have some organized stretching to do. The attachment of a smaller elastic band to a wider piece of fabric creates the pretty "gathering" and "fullness" in this type of skirt.
11. Mark a few "guides" on the waistband and skirt opening. To help guide us in organized stretching, I like to mark both the waistband and the waist "hole" of the skirt in quarters, as shown below using fabric chalk:
I added more guideline marks, to technically 1/8ths of a circle. Each mark on the waistband will soon be pinned to the corresponding mark on the skirt material. The guides help ensure that the waistband gets evenly stretched across the circumference of the skirt opening, so there isn't too much bunching in any one place.
12. Pin the waistband to the skirt opening, one guide at a time. Lay the waistband over the top surface of the skirt, so that the edge of the waistband is flush against the zig-zag stitched or serged edge of the skirt opening. Match up two guidelines and pin down, close to the outer edge. Repeat all around, pinning at each chalk marking we made.
When you've matched up each chalk mark from the waist band to the skirt opening, you'll get something that looks like this:
13. Sew waistband to the skirt. This part can be tricky for beginners who have never worked with elastic so please pay attention to the below.
Start by setting up everything in place. Your skirt should be the bottom layer, with the lining on the very bottom and the tulle sandwiched between the lining and the pinned-down waistband. To start, turn the wheel on the side of your sewing machine to manually lower the needle into the materials, to hold materials in place. Stitch a little forward, and then backstitch to secure.
Notice the "pockets" of extra fabric that form in between each pin, due to the skirt opening circumference being a bigger circle than the elastic waistband, as mentioned before. We will need to stretch the waistband out one small section at a time, while simultaneously sewing it to the skirt.
Notice where my thumb is in the picture above. I'm going to put my index finger beneath the lining, and use my thumb to pinch that "pocket" to the waistband elastic that was directly above it:
Do not release that pinch! Next, use your other hand and firmly grab waistband + material behind your sewing machine needle, as shown below. Once you have a good grip, slowly pull your pinched hand towards you, stretching out the elastic until it is long enough to lie flat on top of the skirt material. Notice in the photo below there are no pockets of extra material between my right thumb and the machine needle anymore. Do not move your hand that is behind the sewing machine needle (my left hand) during this process. Lock in this distance between both hands.
Next, keeping both hands in place, slowly pedal your sewing machine to stitch the waistband to the skirt, while simultaneously gently guiding the stretched waistband forward using both hands. The distance between your two hands (my right is pushing forward, while my left is pulling slightly so that the elastic being sewn remains pulled taut) should consistently be the same and move at the pace of your machine.
Once your hand that is doing the stretching (my right hand) gets close to the sewing machine needle, stop peddling. Always lower the needle back into the material (vs. leaving it raised) when you stop stitching and move your hands to the next section of fabric. This will help keep everything in place while you repeat the entire process of stretching and guiding once again.
My next step here would be to repeat everything. 1) "pinch" again where the blue pin is with my right hand, 2) remove the pin carefully with my left hand, 3) firmly place my left hand behind the needle, 4) pull the elastic towards me with right hand until it lies flat against the skirt, and 5) pedal the machine while guiding everything forward with both hands, always keeping the same distance locked between both hands. This sounds like a lot, but I promise once you get the hang of it, working with elastic will be a breeze! Repeat until you have sewn around the entire waistband and it is fully attached to the skirt.
Voila! Dust off any remaining fabric chalk and hem the lining material if necessary.
Wear happily and festively!