Silly trends come and go and for the most part, my wise(r) 33 year old self who has spent years developing a grasp of what it means to dress - and sew - in a classic, timeless manner can see through, and therefore avoid, the ones that lack longevity. But. Then along come two silly trends in one season that make the three, 13, 23 and 33 year olds in me all rejoice. Ruffles, wrap skirts and clashing gingham... Sounds wrong? Too much perhaps? Certainly not! If the double dose of gingham is a little OTT for you, the good news is that the ruffled wrap skirt itself is super easy to draft and sew, and ready to be made up in whatever colour/print/clash concoction that tickles your fancy.
You will need:
- Your fabric - cotton, linen, viscose, silk etc. Lightweight wovens will mostly all work a treat (we used the gingham polycotton from Craft Cotton Co.)
- Our circle skirt app
- Tape measure and your usual sewing tools and supplies
Step 1 - Find your radius
The main body of the skirt is a half circle skirt that is cut using your waist measurement plus a half so that it can wrap around. In order to cut a circle skirt - whether it be full, half, quarter or any other iteration in between - you need to find out your waistline’s circumference, and from there the radius of that circumference.
For this wrap skirt, your waistline’s circumference will be your waistline measurement, plus half of that measurement.
For example, if your waistline is 26”, your total circumference would be 26” + 13” = 39”.
Using our circle skirt calculator, you’ll need to first of all select whether you’d like to work in inches or centimetres, then select “half circle”, then “mini skirt” (but you don’t really need to pay attention to that part as the skirt’s we’ll be cutting will be shorter / dependent on your own taste), and finally your circumference measurement. The calculator will generate a radius for you, and show you a preliminary cutting diagram. It will most likely tell you that you won’t be able to fit your chosen skirt on traditional width fabric, but don’t worry about that…
Step 2 - Cutting your fabric
If your fabric is 60” wide and your radius no more than 12” and your skirt length no more than 18” then your cutting diagram will look like this:
Fold your fabric in half lengthways, and use your radius measurement, tape measure and pins or tailors chalk to map out the quarter circle curve of your waistline, and from there measure out the length of your skirt. We’re recommending you cut your skirt 18-19” long, but this part is totally up to you. We cut the main body of our skirt 19” long, and then the frill 10” deep, so, taking seam and hemming allowances into account, our skirt wound up about 27” long.
If your fabric is narrower, and your radius / skirt length total more than 30” combined, you will need to fold your fabric crossways and your cutting diagram will look more like this:
Fold your fabric in half across the width of your fabric, and map out the skirt in the same way as outlined above.
To cut the frill, fold your fabric in half lengthways. As opposed to being just long gathered rectangles, the frill for this skirt is cut circularly to give it more flounce and movement.
Mark out your frill pieces using the diagram below as a guide. We’ll be using a radius of 12”, and a frill depth of 10”, and we’ll need four sections of frill (five sections if your waist measurement is more than 34") that will be sewn together to form one long piece.
And finally, you’ll need a waistband. Cut one long strip of fabric that is long enough to encircle your waist twice, with excess to tie in a bow to fasten. The waistband strip needs to be about 3 ½” - 4” wide so that when it is folded in half lengthways and sewn it is about 1” - 1 ½” deep.
Step 3 - Trimming the skirt front
Before we start sewing it all together, we need to artfully trim down the front of the skirt so that the wrap curves down from the hip, thereby giving the ruffle a hi-lo effect instead of just being attached to a straight hem.
To do this, lay out your skirt flat, wrong side facing you. Fold the righthand side over the central third, and then fold the lefthand side over the top, mimicking the way the skirt would be wrapped when you wear it.
Using a fabric pen or tailors chalk, draw out a curve starting from about 3-4” down from the waistline, curving down the front and across to the hem of the other side.
Cut this excess away.
Step 4 - Sewing it all together
Start by seaming all your separate frill pieces to create one long piece.
We’re now going to gather the shorter inner curve of the frill piece before we attach it to the skirt. Sew two or three parallel lines of long basting stitches - backstitching at the start but NOT at the end of your lines of sewing - along the raw edge. For alternative gathering methods, check out this post, and this one too!
Gather the frill so that it matches the hemline of the skirt in length. Make sure that your gathers are evenly spaced, and secure the length by tying off the threads at the unbackstitched end.
With right sides together, pin the frill into place at the skirt’s hemline. Stitch carefully, going slow and making sure that the gathers remain straight and even. Don’t worry if you get a few puckers here and there - these can easily be unpicked in small sections and restitched if need be.
We get a lot of questions as to how gathers should be fed through a sewing machine - gathered side top or bottom?? Generally speaking, gathers should go on the bottom layer so they can be eased through by the feed dogs under the needle, and the flat layer of fabric thereby gliding under the presser foot. However, doing it this way means that you get less visual control over how the gathers are being stitched, and can lead to more than a few puckers / folds being sewn along the way. If you flip it and sew with the gathers on top, you can see what’s going on with the gathers much better, but the presser foot has a tendency to smoosh and distort the gathers as you sew, unless you’re working on a Pfaff machine which has a handy in-built walking foot / feed dog contraption on the top as well (called the IDT system)! Bottom line - no way is perfectly fool-proof. Try out both and see what works best for you, and remember that even the pros will probably have to unpick and restitch a few sections here and there that didn’t come out as perfect as the rest!
When your frill is stitched into place at the skirt’s hemline, finish the seam either on your overlocker / serger, or with a zigzag stitch. Press the seam allowance up towards the waist.
Now we’re going to finish the hem of the frill and the two raw side edges of the skirt.
Press the raw edges in by ¼”, and then again by ⅜” and topstitch into place. Alternatively, if you’re working with an overlocker, finish the raw edges and press in once by ⅝” and then topstitch.
Step 5 - Attaching the waistband
Take your long waistband piece and pin it into place at the skirt's waistline: right side of the waistband facing the wrong side of your skirt; placing the skirt in the centre of the long waistband. Stitch, and press the seam allowance up into the waistband.
To seal the protruding waistband ties (the bits that you will be wrapping and tying around your waist), fold them back on themselves so that you can pin the lengths right sides together either side of the skirt's waistline.
Stitch the waistband ties from the edge of the skirt's waistline, and out to the ends. You can decide if you want to taper the ends into a point, or keep them square: up to you.
Trim down the seam allowance at the ends, clipping corners and grading the seam to prevent bulk when you turn the ties to the right side.
Use a loop turner to turn the ties out to the right side. Use a pin to ease out the corners and get them nice and sharp. Give the whole waistband a good press.
Now the final thing to do is close the open raw edge of the waistline...
Press the seam allowance in and pin into place.
Edgestitch the waistband into place about 2mm from the fold. You could also continue this edgestitching down the lengths of the waistband for continuity (I didn't...!).
And that's all there is to it! One ruffled wrap skirt done and ready for some serious swishing! As a sewing project, this skirt literally ticks all my boxes - speedy and satisfying to make, but just enough focus on technique to keep me interested and feeling challenged (I do love a good gathering session!). I've already made two of these skirts - one in Liberty silk and this gingham one - and I've already worn them both a crazy amount! Great dressed up with heels, equally great pared down for daytime. Would it be mad to admit that I've already got plans for a third....?!