Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Shabby "Chick" Skirt Tutorial

Let me first admit, I do not consider myself a seamstress.  Yes, I enjoy sewing.  I quilt and do various projects requiring a sewing machine, but I have limited experience following patterns and sewing clothing.  This tutorial is for you if you have a sewing machine and some practice in sewing.  If you can cut and sew straight lines, you're already half way there!

Supplies Needed:
-  Fabric, Pre-washed: about 1/2 yard of your main fabric, and enough to make 6 - 1" strips from coordinating fabrics.
-  Thread
-  Elastic, 1" width
-  Cutting Board, Ruler and Rotary Cutter (all very handy, though not entirely necessary)
-  Other handy things... Measuring Tape, Pins, Small Ruler

1)  Measure from your child's waist down, to determine how long you would like to make your skirt.  I decided to go to the top of my daughter's knee, which measured 12".

 2)  Add 3" to the length you measured for your skirt.  (So to make my 12" skirt, I will need to cut a 15" length of fabric).

3)  Cut your length for the main skirt.  First, fold your fabric in half so the salvages match up at the top.  Smooth out your fabric, and line your ruler along the bottom fold, as shown in the first picture below.  In the second picture below, you will see the ruler is placed and ready to cut the excess fabric from the right side, leaving a straight edge for us to measure from.

I used the grid on my cutting board to count over 15", and lined my ruler to make the final cut, as shown below.  Set aside.

4)  You will need a number of 1" lengths cut of coordinating fabrics to create the "shabby" look of this skirt.  I chose to use 6 strips, in a gradient from darker pink, to light pink, to white.  make sure that the lengths you cut are as long as the length of your skirt piece cut above.

Here, you will see I saved some time by stacking each fabric, lining up my ruler to cut the excess on the right, then cut my 1" strips.

And here of my finished strips...

Ok.... so AFTER I'm almost completely finished sewing my skirt together, it dawns on me that, had I cut my strips on a 45 degree angle as opposed to square to the salvages, the finished fray affect would have been much nicer and less stringy!  Good grief!

If you think this is important to you, when you are cutting your 1" strips as I show above, you may want to consider another method.  Cutting on the bias (45 degree angle to the salvage) will, however, require more fabric to work with.  Here is a link that explains a trick to cutting strips on a bias at

Hopefully I have not confused you.  If I did, ignore that last little blub, and forget I mentioned it.

5)  Take your main skirt length, matching right-sides of the fabric together, sew the two salvaged ends giving yourself at least 1/2" seam allowance.  As shown below...

6)  Press your seam open.  You will now have a tube, about 40" wide, and 15" (depending on your measurement for the length) long.

7)  Turn each side of the skirt in 1-1/2", pinning in place.  One side will become the casing for your elastic, while the other side we will finish for the hem of the skirt.

8)  For the hem of the skirt, I folded under about 1/2" of fabric, and carefully sewed along the edge, as shown below.  If you aren't confident in your sewing, you may prefer to first pin your hem in place.  I'm lazy, and measure and sew as I go.

9)  Now for the elastic casing!  I like to edge the top of my elastic band by sewing near the fold, as shown below.

10)  Next, you will need to turn under the remaining fabric for your casing to close it off.  If you are using elastic with a 1" width, you will need slightly more than 1" in width.  Below, you will see that I am measuring from my casing edge seam.  I've turned the fabric under and pinned it.

11)  Carefully sew the lower seam for your casing, keeping close to the edge so that you leave enough room for your elastic.  Make sure to leave an opening about 2" long, as shown in the second photo below.

The opening is marked with the pins.  I like to leave this in the back of the skirt.

Ok.. seriously!  When I kept putting off learning how to use the snow blower because I was not excited about standing out in the fridged temperatures we've been having in Iowa this winter, I didn't expect it would come back to haunt me!

My husband leaves for the other side of the world yesterday morning.  This morning, I wake up to another 6" of snow needing to be removed from our drive and never-ending sidewalk.  So, instead of enjoying my sewing, I had to shovel.  Do I look impressed?!  Let me just tell you, I'm not!


Enough of that!  Back to the fun stuff...

12)  Begin sewing your "shabby" strips.  Decide what order you would like to lay them, depending on the colors your have selected.  I have chosen to go from white to light pink, to dark pink, on my example below.  You may also want to decide what color thread you will use, assuming that your thread will be visible.

Start with the first strip, lining up with your bottom hem, and sew a 1/4" seam (see where the fabric edge under the foot hits the sewing foot... this is 1/4" on my machine).

Add each strip, following the same directions, until complete.  I am working on the 5th of the 6 strips I used for this project in the image below.

The strips should wrap entirely around your skirt.  Cut the excess and overlap the ends slightly.  You can also piece strips together if you need to add more length.

13)  With a small, fine pair of scissors, cut in between the seams you've just sewn on each strip, as shown below.  Be careful not to cut through the skirt fabric beneath!

Here is what it will look like when you are finished cutting... 
And if you noticed, this image is slightly different from the one above.  One skirt I had used the coordinating fabric with the right-side showing.  On the second, I sewed the coordinating fabric with the back-side showing.  I used the same fabric in both.  Just was curious to see the difference in the finished results...

14)  Time for the elastic!  We are almost done.  You will need to measure the tummy of whomever this skirt is for.

15)  Cut your elastic to that length exactly.

16)  Work your elastic through the casing.  Add a large safety pin to your elastic if you have one.  This will help you move it through the casing.

In goes the safety pin...

Working the safety pin and elastic through...

And we made it!  Safety pin removed.

14)  Sew the two ends of elastic together.  First, make sure your elastic has not twisted in the process!  This is very important.  Next, overlap your ends about an inch, then sew.

15)  Sew the hole you left in the casing.  You can see, I'm having to stretch my fabric out a bit since it is already wanting to gather with the elastic in place.

16)  Once the elastic is in place, stretch the skirt out and try to even out the gathers along the waist.  I like to add a seam down the right and left side of my elastic casing, shown below, to keep the elastic from twisting when it is worn or washed.

And here is the skirt... all sewing complete!

But we're not done yet!

17)  Time to wash and dry your skirt!  By doing so, the raw edges of our strips will begin to fray, giving us the "shabby" look we are going for.

Remember a while back when I mentioned the idea that cutting strips on a bias was a good idea?  Well, this is where you realize that.  If you cut strips as I had, you will find that you have lots of "mess" to trim off of your skirt after washing and drying it.  This would virtually be avoided if your strips were cut on the bias.  So...

18)  If you find your skirt has lots of long, tangled strings after the wash and dry, go ahead and trim to your hearts content.  Once you have, your skirt will look something like this...

Hmmm... I already have some ideas for my next skirts.


  1. LOVE THIS, my daughter deffinalty needs one!
    Thanks so much for sharing

  2. very cute- is the bas cut skirt the one on the bottom in the last pix?

    also- when I have made a doll dress like this before, I cut a small slit in the middle of my strips, where I know I will be cutting. it gives me a starting point and reduces possibility of cutting the bottom layer of the skirt!

  3. Hi Nicole,
    Neither of the two shown were made with strips cut on the bias. It was an after-thought on my part! As you can see, they still turned out great. I just had to do some trimming of threads after the wash, when, if cut on the bias, I wouldn't have had to.

    That's a great idea with cutting a small slit in your strips. I didn't mention it above, but I started cutting on the end of each strip, where they had over-lapped to make the loop. Since that left an opening it was an easy place to cut from.

    Thanks for your posts!!!

  4. This is so cute!! Thanks for sharing. I am a new follower from Canada. I see you have had your fair share of snow too. :)
    I hope you come by to say hi.

  5. this skirt is way too cute! I had no idea how you got it to look like that until I saw all the way through the tutorial! Love it! Would love for you to link up to Handmade Tuesdays @ Ladybug Blessings if you get a chance!

  6. very cute! thanks for sharing I am going to give this a try!

  7. absolutely genius!!!!! i am so making one of these! or six or seven!!!!

  8. Darling! I love how the fabric strips look!

  9. very pretty! thanks for sharing a brilliant tutorial ;)

  10. Hop on over to the Party! Would love for you to link-up @

    The Treasurista
    Finding and Creating FUN things...

  11. Absolutely darling! Great job!

  12. This is so creative!! I was wondering how you took all that time to sew on all those ruffles, but cutting it after sewing is genius!!

  13. Brilliant and beautiful. Thanks for the detailed tutorial I'd be lost without the photos to look back at on almost any project.

  14. totally love this skirt!!

    thanks for the easy to follow- very honest- detailed points to follow...

    my little one may just have found her special birthday skirt for when it warms up here in april...

    although we are done with the snow...looks like you're still well and truely in the thick of it!!

    a very happy new follower...melissa x

  15. This is so cute. I have a skirt I made with shabby ruffles. I love it but at least one person wherever we go say "Wednesday's skirt is losing threads." It is so hard being fashion forward ;) Thanks for sharing.

  16. Super cute! You made that look really easy! Thank you for linking to It's Stinkin' Cute Craft Thursday!

  17. This is a cute idea...I love how it turned out!

    I am stopping by from Show Off Your Stuff at Fireflies and Jellybeans!

    Stop by and check out my scrapbooking layouts if you get the chance!

  18. What a cute idea! I love the shabby look! And thanks for the link to cutting strips on the bias. I've been looking for a good tutorial!

  19. Very cute! It reminds me a lot of the Mary Adams dresses.

  20. would LOVE to try this...thanks for the step by step!

  21. Thanks for the idea, I "made" this today and man do I have a lot to learn. I am pretty sure not a single strip was even CLOSE to being cut straight, don't get me started on how crooked my sewing was. THEN before I am about to finish it I can' figure out why it looks so long, and then it occurs to me that maybe I made the skirt completely backwards.

    In the end (the pre-wash stage) it seemed to be okay. I guess I will find out once it comes out of the wash. Cute idea, but mine might look like something made BY my 5 year old, not FOR my 5 year old.


  22. So, I was going to tell you to try it on the bias (45 degrees) then I went back and re-read... You figured it out. What might happen it that the more you wash, over time, it will unravel all the way...
    I do this on quilts and have a slashing tool. Makes this VERY quick. My favorite is to do this with knits. The knit curls and is SO cool! I have blogged a few of them previously. It is a little bit trickey without a coverstitch serger... Anyways. The skirt is adorable!
    Thanks for linking up to Making It With Allie! I can't wait to see what you have for next week!

  23. Hi Rachel! That skirt is adorable! I found you @ Debbie's & your newest follower! Would love it if you came over to my blog for a visit & maybe follow back! Allison @

  24. Those are too cute! Fabulous job! Thanks for linking this up as well.

  25. I love this! I made a blanket with a similar technique, but never thought of a skirt. I'll have to add this to my to do list! Thanks for sharing :)

  26. Cute skirt - I'll have to try this one out! I'm following your blog...feel free to come visit any time!

  27. Thatis a really cute skirt! :) Makes me think of all the spring colors. :)

  28. I love it! I love the colors and they style, very cute.

  29. Featured you at Today's Top 20! Hooray!



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