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How to sew a gathered skirt

Observant types amongst you may have noticed that here at By Hand Studios, we love making skirts. A quick project with infinite possibilities, minimal drafting required (omitting wiggle skirts of course), and best of all - so damn easy. So far we've taken you deep into the world of Pi and de-mystified the mathematics of circle skirts, shown you how to hack up your man's flannel shirt to make a slouchy flannel skirt for you, and transformed a charity shop pillowcase into a breezy button-down skirt. And now that we've broken down the bare bones of skirt construction with our tutorials on invisible zipper insertion and the perfect waistband, we thought it only fitting to take you through some of our favourite go-to skirts to sew (and beef up our own me-made wardrobes at the same time!). First up, and following on swiftly from our 3 ways to gather tutorial... yup, you guessed it - the gathered, or Dirndl skirt.

A firm favourite with lovers of vintage, it's pretty hard to go wrong with a gathered skirt. Waist-cinching, enhancing (or giving the illusion of) a juicy bottom (we love a juicy bottom), and equally cute made up mini, midi or maxi.

You will need:

  • fabric - roughly 3 times the length of your waistline measurement by however long you want your skirt, with enough leftover to make a waistband
  • an invisible zip
  • hook & eye or snaps to fasten

Step 1

Decide how full you want your skirt: a really pouffy skirt will require a length of fabric at least three times the length of your waistline measurement, and for a minimally pouffy look, cut twice the length of your waist. Bear in mind, you want to be cutting your fabric on the straight grain - check that the individual threads that make up your fabric are running parallel and at a right angle to your edges.

Step 2

Gather the topline of your fabric - please see here for gathering how-to. Be sure to secure your gathers once you have checked that the topline matches your waistline and that the gathers are evenly spaced.

Step 3

Insert an invisible zipper and close up your back seam (or side seam if you want the zip at the side).

Step 4

Assemble and attach your waistband.

Step 5

Hem your skirt: having decided on the length, press the hem in by 1/4" then press in again by 1/4" and either blindstitch by hand or finish off by machine with a regular straight stitch or even a decorative sitich and contrasting thread. All done!!

And here's what we have to show for how we spent Elisalex's birthday last Tuesday...

Victoria made: red cotton gathered miniskirt with contrast elasticated waistband & red silk velvet gathered skirt with leather front-fastening waistband; Charlotte made: peach cotton gathered midiskirt; Elisalex made: tartan brushed cotton gathered skirt (and later made matching braces to go with it).

Comments on this post (11)

  • May 14, 2018

    Thank you for this great tutorial. I made the cutest velvet skirt for my daughter, and she loves it! I folded the seam allowance of the gathered part and the waistband towards the bottom of the skirt and did an extra “seam line” just below the waistband to help with the bulkiness of the gathers

    — Rhonda

  • Nov 20, 2016

    I tried making the gathered skirt and it turned out really well but hte gathered fabric under the waistband became really bulky

    — J

  • May 23, 2016

    these are lovely. thanks.

    — tla

  • Jan 05, 2016

    Love the skirts! Is the peach midi skirt a full or half circle?

    — J

  • May 04, 2015

    I love these simple tutorials! Thank you for making, erm, making so accessible!

    Question – what are you doing with the gathered fabric when attaching the waistband? I’ve sandwiched the gathers between the folds of the waistband, but it’s BULKY! Is there a cleaner way to finish this?

    — Maggie

  • Aug 27, 2013

    Hello. I just tried you gathering technique #3. My elastic didn’t reach to the very end of my fabric. What did I do wrong? I was pulling my elastic and fabric…was I not suppose to do that? Thanks very much.


    — Jessica g

  • Aug 27, 2013

    Hi! Firstly, you should only be pulling and stretching the elastic, not the fabric. Also, gathering with elastic requires a very stretchy elastic… This technique works really well for light gathering, but if you want super tight and full gathers, it’s much better to do it with the running stitch method. Hope this helps!

    — byhandlondon

  • Oct 09, 2012

    What a cute group of skirts! Love ’em! Looks like a fun way to spend a birthday!

    — gingermakes

  • Oct 10, 2012

    Darling! I love a good dirndl!

    — Lizz @ A Good Wardrobe

  • Oct 10, 2012

    Very nice!!

    — Beth

  • Oct 09, 2012

    Love these! So simple and versatile… I especially love the yellow midi-skirt. I have a weird love of midi-skirts right now =D

    — 7cakes

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