Tutorial: DIY scallop hem for skirts, dresses, shorts or tops


Supplies: A too-long skirt, iron, thread, a circular template, fabric chalk, scissors, and a butterknife or chopstick

Last weekend, I watched one of my younger brothers, Ed, graduate and was beaming with pride the entire time. I can’t wait for him to settle into the Bay Area for grad school, so big sis can invite herself over and gorge on all the good eats there. During our long drive home from graduation, I mentioned that I’d been meaning to post the steps for this skirt, but had no spare skirts or scrap fabric to recreate the hem. Ed offered to whip up a simple animated tutorial. I had no idea what to expect, especially since I was certain he dozed off while I yapped on about the detailed steps. A few late nights of editing later, I think he did a great job conveying the basic concept (& the nice manicure was a bonus)!

*The below can only be viewed in flash-enabled browsers (ie. not on iPhones). Click play to begin.*

Scallop template: Before you begin any cutting or sewing, it may take some playing around with circular objects (tuna can, pasta jar lid, etc) to find one that will fit a whole number of times across the hem of your skirt. You can do trial and error, or measure the total width across your hem and divide it by the # of desired scallops to get a scallop diameter measurement. I did this, then searched in my kitchen for a flat circular object with the same diameter 1/3rd of the way up from the bottom.

Scallop design: I messed up my skirt the first time around, and pinpointed the issues to the shape and number of scallops. I recommend more obtuse angles between scallops for easier snipping (Step 9), which will result in cleaner corners and edges after the skirt is flipped right-side out and “shaped.” As mentioned in a previous post, my first attempt with ~7 super-defined half circles came out looking like a Flinstones tunic. The second time around, I reduced the number of scallops to 6, used a larger circular template, and marked the circle 1/3rd of the way up (Step 5) for more shallow “waves” instead of deep half circles. Based on reader feedback, it looks like between 1/4th to 1/3rd of the way up results in ideal scallops. 

Ideal fabric: My skirt was a thin, stiffer cotton/poly blend, and I think precise detailing like shaped edges will come out best on similar material types. Sewers with experience may recommend using interfacing on the hem area. I didn’t have any and am not sure what the exact benefits of interfacing are, so if anyone can shed light on that it’d be helpful. I also want to note that the tutorial does not show serging the edges of raw fabric after the initial long skirt was cut. If you don’t have a serger, you can try one or two layers of zig-zag stitching to lessen any fraying.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and please let me know if you have any questions! (Note: This is a scheduled post, but I will do my best to answer your questions upon my return)


84 thoughts on “Tutorial: DIY scallop hem for skirts, dresses, shorts or tops

  • Reply Anonymous May 19, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    WOW! Jean, this is an amazing tutorial. You are so creative and awesome. I just want to thank you so much for sharing this with us. I'm so inspired by your amazing work, I'm gonna give this a try. Again, Thanks so much. You're amazingly awesome!!!


  • Reply Shira May 19, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    I can't even sew a button, let alone do this but ahhh now I'm going to bring my simple black pencil skirt to the tailor so she can make me a scalloped skirt:)


  • Reply Anonymous May 19, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    thanks jean for posting even though you are on vacation! you inspired me to try a sewing/DIY project. what sewing machine do you recommend for beginners?

  • Reply Angie | Pandaphilia.com May 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    this is very clever and gives a cute vintage vibe. your bro is handy with the computer skills! congrats to him for graduating too.

    i'm also having a giveaway for designer PETITE jeans that would look great on you and your readers!

  • Reply Emily S. May 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Whoa! Your brother is awesome! As are you. A lot of smarts in one family.

  • Reply Petite-ish May 19, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Wow, this tutorial is amazing and so original. So impressed by the animation your brother made, clearly creative talent runs in the family!

  • Reply Claire May 19, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Can you tell me what kind of fabric your skirt is made out of? In other words, what kind of fabric will work best with this technique? I've sewn a bit with interfacing. I can see that interfacing will reinforce the scallop, making it a bit more rigid/stiff and hold the shape better. I'd use the thinnest interfacing posible (like the one for reinforcing the pocket of a blouse, as opposed to stiff interfacing for the collar of the blouse) so the skirt still has a nice flow to it, although I'm not sure at what point one would insert the interfacing. Some interfacing has adhesive side, so you can iron it on, some doesn't and attaches to the fabric by sewing.

    Nice, creative tutorial!


  • Reply Franziska May 19, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Jean, that tutorial was amazing! I have no idea how he did that, but it was so much fun to watch. He's a very talented man! Now I need to keep my eyes open for a skirt at Goodwill. Thanks for the inspiration lady 🙂

  • Reply Cee May 19, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Simple? Ha! Coolest brother ever. Job well done by your explanations and his coding & drawing skillz!

    I don't know if this will work, but I wonder if you can upload the swf file (I'm assuming?) to Youtube and then embed it into your post as you normally do for videos.

  • Reply Cee May 19, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Scratch what I said. I don't think the buttons will work once the file is converted to a video format. It's probably best to upload the swf file somewhere first, then direct link it into your post.

  • Reply simplybeccablog May 19, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Jean this is an amazing tutorial! I love how your little brother made the animations, it is so easy to understand even for someone who doesn't sew! Thanks for this tutorial!

  • Reply meowycrystal May 19, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    You are greaaaat!!!! I love the tutorial!! :DDD The animation is simple yet good enough to understand every step! Hope you can keep on doing this so that I can learn more 😛 heheee Many thanks for your great efforts x

  • Reply New Petite May 19, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    That is a very well explained tutorial. I have never tried it but you make it sound simple enough for me to try.

  • Reply Victoria Meyers May 19, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    the skirt is so cute and the tutorial is even cuter! i hope i can find some time soon to give it a try.

  • Reply Michelle Huynh May 19, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    I absolutely love your brother's animation! I totally understood the entirety of your tutorial. I need to try this out with one of my pencil skirts tomorrow!

  • Reply Alterations Needed May 20, 2013 at 12:25 am

    Holy smokes! Your brother could make a nice side income for himself by making animations for DIY bloggers! That was AWESOME!

  • Reply Anonymous May 20, 2013 at 1:28 am

    this is so cute! i love the grumpy animated face at the beginning!

  • Reply Nora May 20, 2013 at 6:27 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply Nora May 20, 2013 at 6:28 am

    I really enjoyed the tutorial. It was cute and simple, and best of all easy to follow. You should get your brother to do more tutorials for you!

  • Reply Flora Amies May 20, 2013 at 6:37 am

    This is the best DIY sewing tutorial I've ever seen.I don't know the first thing about sewing but I really want to give this a try – the animated tutorial REALLY helps with this as it gives me the confidence I need…it's kind of like you're doing it with me step-by-step! Great idea, I'd love to see more tutorials like this as it makes me SO much more inclined to give it a go.

    I was given a 'get started' sewing kit by my housemates girlfriend yesterday as a birthday present – I'll show her this and see if she will help me!

    Flora x


  • Reply MissLilly May 20, 2013 at 8:26 am

    brilliant tutorial!

  • Reply racingcourne May 20, 2013 at 8:32 am

    What cute animation!

  • Reply Stephanie May 20, 2013 at 8:36 am

    I think interfacing is similar to the iron-on fabric people use to help mend jeans or add patches to worn out elbows. It's stiffer, so when you cut the fabric you will probably get a sharper edge? That's my best guess, and also on top of that if you are doing it with slightly flimsier fabric, it will make it easier to handle.

    Now I just need to get me an old frumpy skirt and a sewing machine (haha…my grandma has one but it's ANCIENT even though it works!)

  • Reply Anita May 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

    This was an AWESOME tutorial! I've been looking fw to your tut for the scalloped skirt, and to get the bonus animation was a fantastic bonus! Now I want to try the scallop AND learn how to animate! Does Ed have any recc's for learning basic animation?


  • Reply Anonymous May 20, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Great tutorial. It's easy to follow and understand. Well done!

  • Reply Van Nguyen May 20, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Great idea. Can't wait to try it. Your brother did a great job with the tutorial.

  • Reply SydneysFashionDiary.com May 20, 2013 at 11:16 am

    What an awesome tutorial (and brother)! I am a visual learner and definitely respond best to illustrations and pictures. Can't wait to get my sewing machine out of the storage and try this. Have a great time in London, Jean!

  • Reply Joules May 20, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I have to try this! I love the tutorial vid–your bro did a great job!

    Also, jealous of the San Fran connection. I had the best sushi I've ever had outside of Japan there.

  • Reply Vivian May 20, 2013 at 11:34 am

    This was such an easy tutorial to follow, thanks!!

  • Reply Dice May 20, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Wow! talent sure runs in your family. =) Your brother did a great job with the tutorial! I'm sure your brother will love the Bay Area as there's plenty of good eats here.

  • Reply 3girls1apple May 20, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    This is genius!!!


  • Reply Candice May 20, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you for this tutorial and the video was cute and to the point. I love these posts because I really want to try these DIY projects. They seem doable for someone without much sewing experience.

  • Reply thedemuremuse.com May 20, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Your brother did an AMAZING job with this tutorial. The steps you provided are at the perfect level of detail and the graphics and animations he used to bring the whole story together makes for an awesome, easy-to-follow DIY project. I'm excited to try this out!


  • Reply Ann May 20, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Your bro is talented!
    Intelligence runs in the family!
    Btw, grad school or undergrad? I've always thought your bro was just in his late teens!

  • Reply R.L. May 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    What a cute animation, I especially enjoyed the facial expressions on cartoon Jean! Your brother did a fantastic job. I hope you can convince him to do more in the future!

  • Reply Midori May 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    yer bro is amazing

  • Reply Vicky May 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Now that's a quality post that you don't see around that often. Thank you for taking the time and pain to put this together. Congratulations to your brother again. You must be so so proud of him.

  • Reply kimmie May 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Amazing tutorial! I had wanted to do a scallop hem on one of my skirts awhile ago, but I took a look and decided that it was just too difficult, but now looking at your tutorial I think I might be able to do it. Thanks for the inspiration and awesome animated tutorial!! 🙂

  • Reply lisacng @ expandng.com May 20, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    I love the animation, good job lil bro! Very lovely tutorial, as always!

  • Reply ACakeStory May 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    This is amazing. Thank you thank you thank you! You made this so approachable. I can't sew but it doesn't seem so intimidating anymore. 🙂

  • Reply Melanie May 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    seriously — how cute is this tutorial. that little bro of yours is talented! hope u're enjoying your vaca =D

  • Reply Olivia J May 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Great job little brother! That's a great way to introduce someone to a DIY!

    Corporate Catwalk
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  • Reply Krecipe May 20, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Great job!!! It's easier to understand with that cute animation :))

  • Reply Anonymous May 20, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    your brother did a great job!

  • Reply Cua Wendy Muas May 20, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    He did an amazing job on the video. =) WHEN you visit SF .. please do a "meet and greet!" =)

  • Reply Kelly {Sparkles and Shoes} May 20, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    How cute is this, thank you for the step by step instructions!

    Sparkles and Shoes

  • Reply Anonymous May 21, 2013 at 12:27 am

    I have been making my own clothes for a few years and currently finishing my wedding dress. Interfacing comes in both fusible and sew in. It's used to provide more body and strength to fabrics. Google Tilly and the buttons she made a suit with scallops a while back. Oh and for those who have asked about sewing machines, the best beginner machine is one with consistent tension, just a few stitches, a button hole, adjustable foot tension and ease of use. I've used many brands, (currently on a Viking) and though some are better than others it all comes down to preference.


  • Reply Tia May 21, 2013 at 1:14 am

    I love the advice and ADORABLE video tutorial!!! Bravo! 🙂

  • Reply Catching Flight May 21, 2013 at 1:45 am

    you make me want to get a sewing machine so badly. Do you have any recommendations for beginners sewing machine?

  • Reply Anonymous May 21, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Awesome tutorial! Thank you! Great job on the video 🙂 Greetings from Russia!

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