Tutorial: Easy fold-over waist skirt using stretchy/knit fabric

coral maxi1

DIY maxi skirt & top (tutorial below), Ann Taylor clutch, Talbots sandals (similar under $25 starting in sz 5)

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.coral maxi
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.
foldover waist skirt DIY
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.
foldover waist skirt tutorial
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.
foldover waist skirt tutorial1
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.
foldover waist skirt tutorial2
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.
foldover waist skirt tutorial3
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.
foldover waist skirt tutorial4
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:
coral maxi tops
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?

coral maxi2For anyone who decides to make a maxi skirt at home, please leave me a link or photo – I’d love to see it!

93 thoughts on “Tutorial: Easy fold-over waist skirt using stretchy/knit fabric

  • Reply Crystalin August 19, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Lady, you are a freaking genius! I debated ordering the navy pumps from Loft as well…while debating they sold out of size 5. You'll have to share your review on them… and I might need to track them down on ebay lol.

  • Reply Anonymous August 19, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Wow! Beautiful dress!! You've got some mad sewing skills. Great job!

  • Reply rodelmalopez August 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    im in awe, I love this post the skirt and the top is beautiful, you have an amazing skills girl

  • Reply Angela August 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    I love this! I've been a long time follower of your blog, but never posted. I've always wanted a designer to come up with top and bottom options that can be worn together (and look like a complete set, or a one-piece dress) or separately, and i love that you are doing it for real. I think the third top looks the best, but it seems that it's the same basic pattern as the second… so you can make it so that both are options. I guess my dream designer would come up with so much versatility in the clothes, so we can have a more compact but thought out wardrobe, yet still make them look upscale and gorgeous (ie, not American Apparel, which is not my taste). I suppose it's not the best business model (help consumers buy less), but I just wanted you to know that I love what you're doing!

  • Reply Angela August 19, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I think the point is to appear taller and slimmer without wearing heels, which might completely change the look.

  • Reply Olivia J August 19, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Jean, another great tutorial! Such an inspiration to other DIY-ers!

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  • Reply gul August 19, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Hey Jean,
    I have been following your blog for over a year . Can u please do a post on building an office wear wardrobe on a budget . I would really appreciate that.

  • Reply Faith Kyunghee Chen August 19, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    This is gorgeous jean! You are truly an inspiration! Have you heard of Yala brand before? I recently discovered it at my local boutique here in Ann Arbor and their maxi skirts are amazing – very soft and fits petites really well. Just thought I would share the info!

  • Reply Anonymous August 19, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    But jean crosses her legs even when he is wearing heels…

  • Reply Lima Watson August 20, 2013 at 6:16 am

    Wow I like your skirt pattern and cloth design. It's look awesome. You look also pretty.

  • Reply Anonymous August 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    if you follow other fashion blogs or even magazine shoots and models in general, you would notice that it is a common pose.

  • Reply Anonymous August 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    ^ that was in response to the crossing the legs, not the tip toe-ing

  • Reply Ruby Grace August 21, 2013 at 2:27 am

    I like your dress very much. You look also pretty and I like your smile.

  • Reply Ann-C. August 21, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Hey Guys–why don't we turn this into something productive instead of petty. Jean, I think this would be a great opportunity for you to do a post on petite posing for photos-would be great to get your tips!

  • Reply Daphne D August 21, 2013 at 10:52 am

    You look amazing…you are definitely my style crush, I wish I had your eye for fashion…please post more tutorials and ootd

  • Reply Kai-Li August 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Hi Jean:
    You are very talented, and I love your pairing style.
    I love your tutorials. You inspired me to create my own fashion blog, and I hope you will visit it sometimes.

  • Reply jusalilflipthaigirl August 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Hi Jean! I really admire you and your taste in fashion. It is as you say, very classic. And I want to add -> lady-like. Anyway, something out of the subject (sorry), but I'm concerned that shoe companies are phasing out of size 5 shoes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What do you think? What can be done? Where can we shop?

  • Reply Sarah August 22, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    So Pretty! great pictures. : )

  • Reply Petitetomatoes August 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    awesome tutorial! Im in the middle of making my maxi skirt. I will share when I complete it. You look gorgeous!

  • Reply Joy August 24, 2013 at 1:13 am

    what a useful tutorial with helpful diagrams! I also love your beach pics!


  • Reply Michelle Kim August 24, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Jean– I need your Boston expertise! I've been a reader of your blog for a few months now and will actually be in Boston for work all of next week! Are there any must-sees for a Boston first-timer? I'll mostly be in the financial district but plan on venturing out to do some sight-seeing. Any recommendations for food or attractions? Let me know 🙂

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks Rosanne for all the suggestions! I've only ordered before from Fabric.com. They had great customer service and free returns, but I don't think I'd order online again just because I personally prefer to see and feel the fabric in person.

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Hi Peony, yes I zig zag the very edge of the fabric (so the stitches literally fold under the material), then fold over the hem. If your fabric is very prone to unraveling you may just have to leave enough seam allowance to fold over the edge twice so any raw edges are completely folded under and concealed. Or, just invest in a serger! Those things are great.

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Hi there, this fabric is very smooth so I didn't wear any slip. Usually I do wear the Vassarette half slips from Target (under $10) in black or nude.

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Thank you so much, Nicole!

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Thoa, thank you for all of your kind words! So happy that you found my old posts to be a good read for your weekend : )

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Their sizing is unfortunately inconsistent, but I took a 32A in the Sascha and it fits really well. I take a 30A in most VS bra's for reference. I usually rotate between the Sasha, a light push up bra like the Yvonne, or a wireless, unpadded T-shirt bra for daily use.

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Wow, thank you so much for snapping a photo & letting me know! I haven't had a chance to visit NYC in a while and really appreciate you taking the time to share this : )

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Hi Angela, I would absolutely love it as well if more designers offered versatile, convertible pieces that could give us more bang for our buck. I have seen some skirts this year from Gap and wrap dresses from other brands that can be twisted into different positions, which is a step towards that direction.

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Hi there, thanks for the suggestion! I will keep it in mind for future posts. Off the bat though I'd suggest one set of suit separates in a classic color (dark gray or navy or black) that can be mixed and matched with other pieces in colors and prints. From there you can expand into pencil skirts and trousers in different colors and materials to add interest. For blouses, look for items that are easy to wash and just as pair-able with your jeans on the weekend as with workwear. I like stores like H&M; or LOFT (esp during a sale) for affordable work-apropriate pieces.

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Hi Faith, I haven't! I just Google'd it and am not sure if it's the brand you're talking about (bamboo and silk garments?).

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Hi there! Yikes, is that happening? I haven't heard about it, but I sure hope not. Nordstrom is a great resource for smaller shoes and carries down to size 4 in many styles (even if the manufacturer doesn't make those shoes for their own website, Nordstrom sometimes gets a special order of small sizes). I also order size 5 shoes from Ann Taylor, LOFT, J.Crew and Banana Republic online.

  • Reply Jean August 25, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Hi Michelle! What kind of stuff do you like? I'd recommend the duck tours (very touristy, but fun), maybe strolling down Newbury St which is Boston's shopping mecca, or a walk along the esplanade of the Charles river. You can also walk the freedom trail if you like history. Near you I can think of Marliave (love the sunday gravy substituting the homemade linguini, and oyster happy hour), Shojo if you like upper scale Asian fushin, Shabu Zen if you like good ole comforting & affordable hot pot, and a number of ethnic lunchtime eats like Falafel King, Chacarero, or Gene's hand pulled noodles. If you have time, check out the North End for all of our good Italian places. Neptune Oyster is THE place for a heaping lobster roll, but there will always be a huge wait unless you arrive at 4pm or a similar random hour.

  • Reply Michelle Kim August 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    This is perfect. Thanks, Jean! Marliave sounds fantastic, as does Gene's hand pulled noodles. Now if only I could somehow squeeze in 6 meals per day, I might just be able to try everything on my checklist. Appreciate the recommendations, thanks again! 🙂

  • Reply Isabella August 26, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Great suggestions – thanks!

  • Reply Petitetomatoes September 16, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Hello, here is my DIY maxi skirt, inspired by you!


  • Reply Julie Wang October 14, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I love this

  • Reply Cin Dy October 25, 2013 at 7:43 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply Anonymous December 26, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    I was confused about this too- let's see if I can explain it correctly. I think that the twice-folded part she is talking about isn't technically folded over yet. You have to have the right side of the fabric against your skin so that when you actually do fold it over, you have the right side of the fabric showing. If you didn't do this step, you would see the wrong side of the fabric when you folded over the skirt when wearing it. Does that make sense?

  • Reply Dana Blake April 26, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    thank you! I've been wanting to make a fold-over waistband skirt but I don't have a serger, so I LOVE your idea! Thank you again 🙂

  • Reply la reina June 4, 2014 at 3:08 am

    I love this top, could you give some more details on how to make it and/or other summer (halter-esque) tops?

    thanks a million

  • Reply www.sectionalcouchesonline.com June 13, 2014 at 5:36 am

    Find it very useful, thanks Jean.

  • Reply Sully Ann June 30, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Do you have a pattern (like the one of the skirt) but for the shirt you have on the pictures? Its beautiful!!

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