Pattern Overview

4 tips for Fancy Gathered Skirts

Gathered skirts are pretty simple projects. I have made quite a few with elastic in the waistband when I started sewing. My daughter loves them, because they are so easy to put on. No zippers, no buttons, just step in and go play! I put together some tips & tricks I used for the "Fancy Gathered Skirt" in  the Cat's Cradle post.

I'll explain how to draw the "pattern" with just 1 measurement in tip #1.
Lately I have been seeing loads of gorgeous gathered skirts with sparkly elastic waistbands. My daughter had asked for them whenever she saw on pop up at my screen, but I didn't try because I did not see how to finish it nicely. What does a sewing mom do in cases like these? Ask Google! It found a great tutorial in Dutch by Seija that really works like a charm. You get a clean finish without itchy threads on the inside. Check out tip #2!

I like it when a gathered skirt has some volume, so I usually go for at least the whole width of the fabric. On Starbrite (Cat's Cradle by Michael Miller) skirt, I even used twice the fabric width. If you want the skirt to stand away from the body a bit more, you add a little something to make the hem firmer. If you get a nice finish in the process: bonus points. On my first elastic skirt I used piping: Have a look at tip #3! The Starbrite fabric was too shiny to let anything else steal the glory, so I went for bias binding on the inside. Check out tip #4 if you want more info on that.

Tip #1 : Drafting your "pattern".

There really isn't much actual drafting going on here. All you have to do is draw a rectangle. Hold a measuring tape from where you want the elastic to sit to where you want to hem to be and add seam allowances at the top and the bottom. The seam allowance depends on how you want to finish the skirt.
The width of the rectangle is the width of the fabric or twice the fabric for a full effect on older girls. The finished measurement is a result of gathering, so an inch or 2 really doesn't make that much of a difference in the rectangle's width.

The picture probably makes more sense than the words here ;-)
For the size of the elastic, you just wrap elastic around the waist and mark where it overlaps. I cut right there. You make it almost an inch shorter when you close the elastic, so it will stay put.

Tip #2 : Finishing the elastic seams without itchy threads

note: This technique is not mine. I'm only translating Seija's hard work here with a few shots of my skirt. The first discovery I made at Seija's blog was a clean way to close the elastic. I forgot to take pictures of those steps, so check it out at Seija's blog. It's in Dutch but the pictures really tell it all. 

I did take a few pictures while attaching the elastic to the gathered skirt. I'm assuming you already gathered the rectangle using your favorite gathering method. I always use gathering threads in a contrasting colors so I don't accidentally rip out the wrong one. If you want an overview of gathering techniques: Google is your friend ;-)

step 1: 

Put the closed elastic on the skirt, wrong sides together. You want to leave the edge of the gathered fabric about 1 or 2 mm from the edge of the elastic. Pin it in place and stitch. Use a stitch suitable for stretchy fabric. The one I use looks like lightning. 
Remove the gathering threads. You won't see them in the finished skirt, but they will not stretch as well as the elastic. After you removed gathering threads, trim loose threads. We don't want anything like that peeking on the right side of the skirt later. If the gathered fabric comes to the edge of the elastic: trim it down a bit. This will also reduce bulk.

step 2: 

Flip the fabric to the (b)right side of the elastic. Stitch on the elastic, with a stretchy stitch (like the lightning one). Using a foot with a guide of some sort is a good idea, as you won't be able to see any markings on your machine. Remember to gently pull the gathers to the side while stitching. If you don't do this, you may get some lumps in the inside. Sew slow, so you can simultaneously control the gathers by pulling and keep your stitches straight.

Tip #3 : Finishing a hem with piping

I have made hems with piping before and they tend to look very nice on the outside. On the inside the view was less attractive. I could always see the raw edges of the piping and sometimes that even flipped to the outside *the horror*.
So I tried to make it look nicer this time. I did not feel like cutting a facing, so I tried to imagine how I could somehow fold the fabric so encase the edge of the piping. I came up with this approach.

It takes longer than just sewing on the piping but with the help of my new best friends, it worked out nicely.

Meet "my Friendly Feet":
From left to right we have Mr. Blind Hemming Foot, Mr. Concealed Zipper Foot and Mr. Ditch Quilting Foot. I have not sewn a blind hem with this machine, but that foot has been used quite often. The name of sewing machine foot does not limit the possible use to just zippers, just hems etc. Experimenting can be fun!

step 1:

Stitch the piping on the right side of the fabric. If you are using store bought piping with a pretty straight stitch on one side and an ugly chainlike stitch on the other side, put the pretty side down (facing the right side of the fabric).
Normally I put the raw edge of the piping right at the edge of the fabric. This time I planned to fold the fabric over twice so I added twice the width of the piping. Use a regular straight stitch and stay as close to the cord as possible without hitting the cord. This is where a piping foot or a concealed zipper foot comes in very handy. They both make it easy to stitch right next to the cord. If you don't own these friendly feet, use a regular zipper foot. A regular flat sewing foot will wobble on the cord and make your stitches look messy.

step 2:

Fold the edge of the fabric towards the raw edge of the piping. Then fold it over again, encasing both raw edges. I think the pictures show it better than I can ever explain it in words.

step 3:

Fold the finished edge of the piping to the inside of the skirt. Stitch it down at the distance you like best. You can use a Quilting foot if you want to stay close to the edge of the piping. I don't recommend stitching right next to the piping, as the hem tends to flip. I stitched at about 1/4 inch from the edge (aiming for the row of flower petals to hide my red thread). That was too far for my quilting foot, but my blind hemming foot could still lead the way. You can stitch with a regular foot, if it stays far enough from the piping cord.

You end up with quite some rows of stitching on the inside, but only one of them is visible on the outside. Every row of stitches adds a bit of firmness to the hem. Together with the piping cord, that  firm hem that makes the skirt stand away from the body a bit more. You can see how it even stands up a bit while laying down.

Tip #4 : Finishing a hem with bias binding

A bias finish does not need a lot of seam allowance. Half the width of the bias binding is enough.

step 1:

Put the raw edge of the bias binding on the raw edge of the skirt (right sides together).
Stitch in the ditch of the bias binding.

step 2 (optional):

You can fold the bias binding. I did not do this because I quite liked the width of that yellow strips on the inside. If you like it smaller: by all means: fold in half. It will even be firmer and make the skirt stand away from the body more.

step 3:

Fold the bias binding to the inside and iron it so you have 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch of fabric showing on the inside. This prevents the bias binding showing on the outside of the skirt.

It's nice to see it peeking on the inside when the skirts whirls up, but you don't want it to show on the outside all the time.

Stitch it down at a desired length. You can go for a bold contrasting thread or choose for camouflage (with one of the colors of the outer fabric) like I did.

Do you feel like trying any of the tips here?
Do you have another tip for me?

I'd love to hear what you think!

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