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.
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
- fabric 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
- sewing machine (I heart mine!)
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:
- 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″.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pin across side C (opposite the fold) about three inches apart, except for the last six inches (to accommodate the slit).
- 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.
- 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).
- Iron the raw edges of your new seam flat, all the way down, including the slit.
- 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.
- If your machine has a removable accessory compartment in front, remove it so you have more room to work. Starting 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Now, you can tuck your elastic inside the seam and stitch the opening closed.
- 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.
- Use a seam gauge to pin up 1″ around the hem. Open up the fold at the slit for this step and the next.
- Sew along the raw edges of the hem using a 5/8″ seam allowance.
- 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. Here’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.
And just like that, you’re done! Turn your skirt right-side out, admire your creation, and start planning some fun new outfits.
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.
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