Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist

They say the best way to learn something…is to teach it.  Right?

So, I’m going to attempt to teach what I just learned in my beginner sewing class at my local Jo-Ann’s Fabric store last Monday: how to sew a denim skirt.

Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet

Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet

Surprise in the back!

There is no pattern involved, and it’s a very do-able project for novices – - I can attest.  Our instructor, Jeanette, has been teaching at Jo-Ann’s for fourteen years, and this project is her go-to move for all Sewing 101 students.  And I can tell you as a beginner sewist that it’s extremely rewarding to not only MAKE something, but to be able to wear it with pride.  I’ve already donned my new animal-print denim skirt to work and church…and it hasn’t fallen apart yet, so I think we’re on the right track!

Now, rather than make myself a second denim skirt in this tutorial, this one is for my sister, Lisbeth, who is a busy, busy bee in grad school right now.  She is dearer to me than words can say.  We are many miles apart and sending her a package with a hand-made giftie is my way of sending her a big hug.


  • 1 yard of denim (or another heavy-weight material like twill or target) – pre-washed and ironed
  • 1 yard of 3/4″ elastic
  • pinking shears (a.k.a. zig-zag scissors) OR a serger
  • scissors or snips
  • a chalk marker or other fabric-marking utensil
  • all-purpose thread to match
  • tape measure
  • yardstick or acrylic ruler
  • iron and ironing board
  • one large safety pin
  • seam gauge

I’ll do my best to be detailed and easy to follow.  If anything is unclear, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification in the comments section.  Here we go:

  1. Take some measurements for your skirt: waist (where you want the elastic to sit), hips (the widest part around your rear), and length (from your waist to wherever you want your skirt to end; keep in mind, there will be a 5-inch slit in the back, so be careful of going too short).  For the purposes of this tutorial, I’m going to use some imaginary measurements.  Let’s use a waist size of 35″, hips 41″, and length 22″.
  2. Time to do some math.  Waist: subtract 2″ (i.e. 33″).  Hips: add 3″ then divide by 2 (i.e. 22″).  Length: add 2.5″ (i.e. 24.5″).  These are the adjusted measurements, and we’ll work with them from now on.
  3. Now, we’re going to cut a block of fabric to work with.  Fold your fabric so the selvedge edges meet and right sides are together.  Using the letters denoted on the image below, side A (folded side) and side C need to be marked to match your length measurement (24.5″).  Sides B & D need to match your hips measurement (22″).  Use your chalk marker and a ruler to mark your cutting lines on the fabric.  Then, cut your fabric using the pinking shears.  DO NOT CUT THE FOLD.  Although they’re old-fashioned, pinking shears will help minimize fray; as my teacher said, “it will fray from the mountains to valleys, but stop there.”  Note: the dark side is my “wrong” and lighter side is my “right” side.
    Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet
  4. Pin across side C (opposite the fold) about three inches apart, except for the last six inches (to accommodate the slit).  Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet
  5. Thread a bobbin and your machine with your matching all-purpose thread.  If you need detailed instruction on how to do that, check this out.  I used black for my skirt and am using a Blue Ridge, Coats & Clark’s Color 4740, for my sister’s.  Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet
  6. Use a straight stitch with a 3.0 length.  Then, sew across side C of the skirt (removing pins as you go) using a 5/8th seam allowance.  Stop where the pins stop, so you are leaving 6 inches at the end.  Back tack at the start and finish of all stitches for this project (sew forward, backward, and forward again to prevent your thread from unraveling).  Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet
  7. Iron the raw edges of your new seam flat, all the way down, including the slit.  Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet
  8. We’re now going to prep for sewing the waist of the skirt.  Folding over the right side of your fabric onto the wrong side, use your seam gauge to measure a 1.5″ fold.  Pin it down as you go.Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet
  9. If your machine has a removable accessory compartment in front, remove it so you have more room to work.  Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking ClosetStarting at the seam you just sewed, line the left side of the foot up to the raw edge of your waist-line.  Move the first pin back two inches behind where you started and pin it upside-down; this will serve as a reminder to you NOT to close the seam when you get to it.  You need that 2 – 3 inches as an entry-point for your elastic.  Make sure your needle is centered, then sew!

    Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet

    Upside-down pin reminds me to stop sewing there,
    so I leave space to insert the elastic!

  10. Cut your elastic to the adjusted waist measurement (33″).  Use your high-tech elastic threader (i.e. a large safety pin) to push the elastic through the opening and all of the way through to the other side.

    Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet

    Shove that little guy through!

  11. Pull the elastic out at both ends to give yourself something to work with, making sure it is not twisted inside.  Overlap the two ends of the elastic over each other one inch.  Sew back and forth over the raw edges of the elastic a few times to secure them to each other.Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet
  12. Now, you can tuck your elastic inside the seam and stitch the opening closed.
  13. Make sure your elastic band is evenly distributed through the waist, then stitch and back tack vertically at four sections of the waist (front, back, left side, right side). This will keep it from twisting in the wash or during a vigorous dance party.  Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet
  14. Use a seam gauge to pin up 1″ around the hem.  Open up the fold at the slit for this step and the next.Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet
  15. Sew along the raw edges of the hem using a 5/8″ seam allowance.  Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet
  16. Now, fold back the raw edges on the slit (feel free to re-press with your iron if needed).  Line the right side of your foot up with the folded edge.  Sew up, across, and down the slit.  To work around the sharp edges, sink your needle, raise your foot, and pivot your fabric 90 degrees before dropping your foot and sewing again.  Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking ClosetHere’s a rough sketch of what your stitching should look like around the slit, since it’s hard to see in photos at this hour.

    Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet

    When sewing across the top of the slit, leave about a quarter inch above where the slit ends.

And just like that, you’re done!  Turn your skirt right-side out, admire your creation, and start planning some fun new outfits.

Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist via The Thinking Closet

P.S.  I’ll be sure to post a photo of my sister modeling her new skirt once she receives it!  UPDATE: Photos are in!  Check out the cuteness in my post, Denim Skirt Reveal.

P.P.S.  If you’d like to easily add a clothing label to your skirt, read my tutorial here.

P.P.P.S.  Check out some of the parties where I link up.

Lovely comments so far...

  1. Nice skirt, looks great! :)

  2. First of all, you make a beautiful model with your skirt, which looks adorable–as do you!! I will have to try to make one of these when I get the chance! So cool to make a skirt with the side that usually is on the inside…so not traditional. Lisbeth told me you were making her a skirt and she was really touched and honored. Thanks for sharing and keep sewing. I have some fabric I will bring or send soon which has possibilities!

    • Thanks, Mom. Using the wrong side as the right side was sort of an accident – - the fabric cutter at Jo-Ann’s pointed out to me that the dark side was the right side (which was confusing since the light side was facing out), but she affirmed that I could use whatever side I wanted – - and she also preferred the lighter denim. So, hooray for being unconventional! And yes, do bring some fabric when you visit. Could be fun to do a sewing project together….

  3. You are a wonderful teacher! These instructions are fantastic! I’ve been sewing for about 40 years and would like to teach my granddaughter, Liz, and I can use your instructions for a project for her – patterns and books just don’t explain it the same way! Thanks so much, Lauren!

    • I’m so happy to hear that you’ll be able to use this! I recently did a project with a pattern, and if my M.I.L. hadn’t been there to help me, I would have been completely lost, so I understand your frustration with patterns and books. It would definitely be a fun one to do with Liz. Happy sewing!

  4. It looks bee-yoo-tiful! I am so honored and thrilled to start wearing this little beaut. Will be sure to send a pic of me flaunting it! And the tutorial is so great…will keep this tagged so that one day, once I get my “lil’ brother” :), I can make one!

  5. Every time I read one of your blog posts, I can’t help but think how much I love you! I’m so happy that you are finding so many exciting outlets for your creativity in your new home. God is so good! You are excellent in all that you do… thank you for sharing your creativity and inner beauty with the world! (And outer beauty too… looking good in your new skirt girl!)

    • Aw, G. You are one of the most encouraging and uplifting people in the whole wide world. I’m having lots of fun flexing my creative muscles; God IS good for providing this new space in my life for such endeavors. I only wish we were closer so we could “craft” together. You can teach me how to create a mosaic table! Love to you and Raj.

  6. What a great tutorial!

  7. So cute! You could do so much with this! Great tutorial, thanks so much for sharing!

    • Thanks, Meg! I know, the possibilities are endless. If I was a little more savvy on the sewing machine, I might add a pocket or a cute bow at the waist or trim at the bottom…that’ll be my Sewing 201 project!

  8. Thanks for linking up at Submarine Sunday! I am a “beginner sewist,” and denim is so difficult, so thanks for sharing!

    • You? A beginner? From the look of your blog, it looked like you have made some really stellar sewing creations already. And I haven’t worked with denim before, but I managed to make the two skirts without too much of a problem. I think the elastic saves the day on that front. ;-)

  9. Thanks, I pinned this for my daughter. We live on opposite sides of the country and she just got a sewing machine and would like to learn to sew, but it is kind of impossible for me to teach her from here.

    • I’m glad to hear your daughter might be able to use this tutorial to kick off her sewing. I found it really do-able as a beginner and extremely rewarding. And perhaps you can be on standby (on skype) to answer her questions! Best of luck, Felicia.

  10. Thanks for sharing such a great tutorial!! You make it look easy!!

  11. This looks great! I haven’t sewed with denim yet, thinking it would be too hard for a beginner, but you’ve given me the encouragement to try this skirt. I’ve never taken a class, but I’ve wanted to. I’m a self-taught sewer. I have a couple similar skirts to this one in spring prints but without the slit, you can check out at http://thedomesticatedprincess.blogspot.com/2012/06/simple-spring-skirt-take-two.html. I’m pinning this for sure!

  12. Love this! Thanks so much for linking up. I’m featuring it tomorrow on Crafty Cousins, so be sure to check it out and grab a button! :)

  13. This is a good tutorial! Thanks for sharing at Sew & Tell!

  14. Beautiful skirt!

    Blue Eyed Beauty Blog

  15. Thanks for the valuable post! :)

  16. Look at you, Fancy Pants (or shall I say Fancy Skirt?)! Love the look and that you just dove right in. Even though I’ve been sewing for years, clothes are still a bit frightening to me as none of the quilts, baby accessories, or blankets I’ve made have had the additional requirement of actually fitting someone’s body appropriately. Perhaps my first clothing attempt for myself will be a moo-moo! I’m looking forward to more apparel appearances from you!

    • It makes me so happy to see you digging through some of my “archives”, Jessica. And the elastic waist with this skirt really helps with getting it to fit…hence why it’s such a great project for beginners! That and/or a moo-moo! Ha ha. (I’d love to see you rockin’ one.)

      And I have so many clothing projects pinned to my sewing board in Pinterest. It’s just a matter of mustering up the courage to tackle one! Thanks for the push in that direction, friend.

  17. I know that this is an older post, but I stumbled upon it and am going to try it tonight in white denim. My first piece of clothing ever, I have been making curtains and some other things that involve sewing straight lines. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Yay! I’m so glad that you stumbled upon it. White denim sounds AWESOME, Shannon. In fact, I’m tempted to run to Jo-Ann’s right now to pick up some white denim for a skirt of my own! (Oh wait. They’re closed. Foiled again!) You can totally do this, especially since you’ve tackled curtains. I know it’s going to rock, and please please please send me a pic of you rockin’ the skirt when it’s all said and done. I’d love to feature you in my next Reader Showcase at the end of the summer!

  18. Just found your site and have added you to my favourites, thank you:)


  1. [...] a lot, it was anything but “easy” for us.  I felt like I went from Sewing 101 with my denim skirt to Sewing 505.  But you have to admit, even though it took me from 9a – 9p to complete two [...]

  2. [...] Looking for another cute n’ easy sewing project?  Check out my Easy Denim Skirt Tutorial for the Beginner Sewist: [...]

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