When I was young, I though elastic waist jeans were about the most awful thing in the world. I’ve grown a lot since then (in both maturity and waist size) and I’m at the point in my life when I’m realizing elastic can be my very best friend. I’m still resisting the pull of the elastic-back mom jean, but there are days when even my comfiest stretch jeans don’t feel quite comfy enough. And those are the days I pull on a skirt instead.
I know, seems like that maybe doesn’t make much sense. Most people equate wearing a skirt with dressing up, which usually involves being less comfortable. But a nice soft gathered elastic waist skirt? Well, that’s about the most comfortable thing around. I love having a few casual skirts in my wardrobe that are perfect for everyday wear, especially on those days when my jeans might seem a little too tight.
Now, when I started sewing again a few years ago, one of my first projects was an elastic waist skirt. It was a big rectangle of pretty quilting cotton that I sewed together, threaded elastic through, and pulled on with excitement, only to realize it looked HORRID on me. The fabric was too stiff and the gathers so intense that it just puffed out from my waist in a way that made me want to cry. Maybe it would have worked on someone tall and slender, but on me it was a complete fail.
So I figured out a better way to make a gathered skirt, something that would still look good even though I don’t have a tiny waist. This skirt is cut with a bit of a curve, kind of like a half circle skirt, so there aren’t as many gathers right at the waist, but it’s still roomy enough at the bottom to drape nicely and be comfortable.
Since I’m cheap, I also figured out how to make this skirt from just one yard of 55-60 inch wide fabric. And because I’m also a little on the lazy side, I simplified the waist band so I can make one of these in less than an hour. It’s really the perfect everyday skirt. And when I wear it with a tee shirt tied in a nifty side knot I feel pretty awesome, as you can tell.
Here’s how you make the simple everyday skirt:
First, start with one yard of 55-60 inch wide fabric that’s soft and drapey. That’s a requirement. Stiffer fabrics like quilting cotton just won’t look good. Rayon challis would be great. A lightweight linen would probably work. Anything that drapes nicely and is on the lightweight side should work fine. I actually used a knit that doesn’t have much stretch but was still soft. Wash and dry it however you plan to treat the finished garment.
Fold the fabric in quarters, and lay it out as shown below, with the corner of both folds in the upper left (you can see a yellow pin sticking out of it). Take two measurements: the widest part of your hips (mine is 42), and the finished length of the skirt (mine was 24). Divide the hips measurement by 4 and add one inch to get your measurement A (11.5), and add an inch to the length measurement to get your measurement B (25). Note: depending on the width of your fabric after washing, you may not be able to make your skirt much longer than 26 inches.
Most gathered skirts have you cut a rectangle, but we want more of an A-line shape that has a slightly curved waistline and hemline. This gives you less gathers at the waist but still gives a fullness at the hemline. Starting a few inches down from the main corner (photo above), pin a slightly curved waistline that measures the length of your measurement A (mine was 11.5 inches). From the end of this curve, measure down and out to the edge of the fabric, using measurement B (mine was 25 inches). Continue to measure B inches down from the waistline, making a gently curved hem that matches the gently curved waistline. Cut along the pins and you’ll have two pieces that look like this:
Ok, the measuring and cutting is by far the hardest part. The sewing is easy! Grab some elastic (1 to 1.5 inches wide) and cut it an inch shorter than your waist measurement. Sew the ends together and zigzag the seam allowance flat. Place the two skirt pieces RST and sew down the sides.
Turn the skirt right side out. Divide both the elastic and the skirt into quarters or eighths and mark with pins. Place the elastic over the right side of the skirt and match up the pins – the skirt will be bigger than the elastic, causing the skirt fabric to bunch up. You’ll need to stretch the elastic until the fabric lays flat in order to sew them together.
Once the elastic is sewn to the skirt, flip it to the inside of the skirt and pin the bottom edge of the elastic to the skirt in about 8 places. Sew the bottom edge of the elastic to the skirt to create a “waistband”. You’ll need to stretch the elastic again to keep the material flat as you sew. A straight stitch is fine here.
This is what the finished waistband looks like up close:
Turn up the bottom edge of the skirt 1/4 inch twice and sew with a straight stitch to hem, and the skirt is complete!