Earlier this summer, I was sifting through a discount fabric store when this (poly blend) red squares print caught my eye. Even though it was under $4/yd, I was hesitant to buy due to the very stretchy nature. Materials like this are wonderfully comfortable and forgiving to wear, but they can be trickier to work with than non-stretch fabric. I’m glad it ended up coming home with me, as this resulting skirt set has been a favorite this summer – suitable for slightly dressier occasions, yet still appropriate (and lengthening!) when worn with casual flat shoes.
Most of my at-home projects have involved a basic straight stitch plus some zig zag (used in lieu of a proper serger machine, which needs to be rescued from my parents’ basement). However, using a straight stitch across stretchy fabric effectively “locks down” that area and prevents any stretching along the sewn line. I learned this as a kid after laboriously sewing a knit skirt, only to have the straight stitches rip open once I tried to pull the skirt on over my hips. Sewing entirely with a serger machine (since the stitches allow for stretch) is one solution, and this excellent detailed post discusses other ways to sew on knits.
With my basic stitch machine and lack of serger, I tried to come up with a skirt design that would be very stretchy at the waist, and require no zipper or elastic. I also liked the idea of a fold-over waistband for versatility. Fold-over skirts don’t get a lot of love outside the maternity department, but they’re actually quite nifty – you can adjust the rise of the skirt to accommodate shorter or longer tops, or adjust the length to accommodate both heels and flats.
Making your pattern
Before you begin: if you suspect your fabric may shrink in the wash, then pre-wash and dry it before cutting. Also, the measurement guides below do not include a seam allowance, so please be sure to add one.
A – Width of the waist. This depends on how stretchy your fabric is. If it only stretches in two directions (as opposed to 4-way), then orient the material so the stretch will go left and right across your waist. I suggest wrapping the material around your waist until it’s a snug fit, then measure the circumference and divide in half to get the waist measurement for the pattern. Note: when gripping the material for a snug fit at your waist, make sure to test whether it can still fit over your hips.
B – Width of the hips. I prefer my skirts to graze over the tush but not be curve-hugging. I took a loose measurement around the widest part of my hips, and divided it by half.
C – Width of the skirt opening. Take a generous step and keep both feet planted on the ground. Loop a measuring tape around both your ankles, and divide that measurement in half to get the skirt opening width. The flowiness of the skirt is up to you, but any opening narrower than this may be restricting when you walk.
D – Skirt length. Dangle a measuring tape from your waistline so that the end of the tape hits the top of your foot. I tend to add 3 to 4 inches to this measurement since the skirt can always be hemmed shorter once you try it on, but cutting the material too short leaves no recourse.
E – Waistband length. This depends on how thick you want the fold-over waist to be. If you want a 2” waistband, I would double that and add another 2” allowance, for a total of ~6” waistband length for the pattern. The foldover waistband area will be straight up and down, like a rectangle.
For reference, my skirt in this post measures A – 11″, B – 17″, C – 24″, D – 34″ (post-hemming) and E – 6″.
Now, time to make the skirt:
Step 1 – Pin your pattern to the fabric and carefully cut out two identical pieces. Using fabric chalk, mark the waistband line (where line A is on the pattern) on the fabric pieces.
Step 2 – Place the two pieces of fabric together with the “right side” facing inward at each other. Pin together down both sides, and stitch together. A serger is the easiest to use if you have one, but a straight stitch worked fine for me since I did not need this skirt to stretch in the up and downward directions. I did have to decrease the size of my straight stitch and lower the thread tension to get a smooth stitch.
Step 3 (bottom left) – Keep skirt inside-out. Fold down 1” at the top of the waistband so the right side of the fabric is showing.
Step 4 (bottom right) – Fold waistband over once again, this time down to the chalk line. Secure with pins.
Step 5 – Carefully turn skirt right-side out without stabbing yourself with the pins. Using thread that’s the same color as your fabric, stitch on the exterior of the skirt. Make your stitches right on top of the side seams (so your stitches are “camouflaged” inside the crack of the seam) down the length of the foldover waistband, plus an extra inch or two to secure it.
Step 6 – Hem skirt to your desired length. I used a blind hem stitch on my machine, but you can also do an invisible hem by hand.
Please note this is not the proper way to make a foldover waistband ski
rt, but I was pleased with the results. For those also without a serger machine or stretch stitch options, this design works because there is no stitching going across the width of the waistband to limit its stretchiness. The entire skirt took about 2 hours (including time for mistakes and re-do’s), and was even easier than the basic elastic-waist skirt.
In most of these outfit photos, my waistband is actually shown completely un-folded, since I wanted to cover up more belly to offset the cropped top. In the photo below, you can see it folded down 2″ on the far left:
I only planned on sewing a skirt, but couldn’t resist making use of leftover scrap fabric. These were some other top options I toyed with using the remaining fabric – which do you like best?