Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gathered skirt with a deep yoke and skirt band

 My oldest daughter adores wild prints so I just could not pass this fabric up.  I knew it was exactly her.   We discussed it and decided that she would get this skirt for her Christmas dress.   She loves the skirt and it was super simple to make.

I will now confess to pulling apart patterns and only using the pieces I need for something.  If I have a sewing project in mind, why come up with an entirely new pattern when I have the parts already?  Why reinvent the wheel?  But also, I hate going the fabric store with a garment idea in my head and never finding the pattern I need to make what I'm planning to make.  So that's when I started mixing things up.

For this skirt I used a pencil skirt pattern I had on hand for the yoke and went patternless for the skirt.  Who needs a pattern for a gathered skirt anyway?  It's just one big rectangle.

To make this you will need one pencil skirt pattern that does not have a waistband, aprox. 1 1/4 yard main fabric (unless you are taller than about 5'4".  add fabric in that case based on how long you need your skirt to be),  1/2 yard accent fabric, enough trim to wrap around your hip with 4 or so inches left over, and a 9" zipper.   You will also need to use a good measuring tape and your quilt cutting tools.

To start, decide how long you want the skirt yoke to be. ( Our pattern is from the '90s and so goes all the way to the natural waist.  You may want a shorter or longer yoke.  And don't laugh at my pattern.  I know you've seen the Hollywood starlets in their natural waist pencil skirts lately.  It's totally cool again.) We finally decided that 6" of finished yoke would be perfect on my daughter.   Add 1 1/4 inches to that measurement.  Lay out the skirt front pattern and mark that measurement on the pattern.
  Fold the pattern up at the mark making sure you line up the inside edge of the pattern (that "place on fold" line)  to be sure you get a straight fold. 

Finished yoke length+1 1/4 inches=length of pattern piece

Pin the pattern piece down to the fabric leaving the rest of the skirt free from pins.  You do not have to cut apart your pattern.  Just cut around it so you can use it again.  Because I know you are dying to be like a Hollywood starlet and have a natural waist pencil skirt you can tuck your crisp, white oxford top into. 
 Now do the same measure, mark, and fold with the skirt back.   This time when you fold, line up the grain line arrow.  Pin the back in place.   Pin down your skirt facings.  Cut everything out.

Now lay out the rest of the fabric on your quilting mat.   Fold the folded edge to meet the selvage edge so you fabric is folded in fourths lengthwise.   Do this very carefully.  If this isn't straight or if the fabric has small folds in it along the length then your skirt will not be straight.

To figure the length of the skirt piece you need to cut, do this calculation:

Finished skirt length-finished yoke length-4 inches+1 1/8 inches=Skirt length

Basically, you need to subtract the yoke and the band lengths from your finished skirt measurement and then add back in your seam allowances.  (This will only be 1 1/8 inches instead of 1 1/4 because you're going to do a 1/2 seam to attach the band.)

Lay out the folded fabric on your quilting mat. Make sure it is lined up perfectly straight and then square the ends.  Cut two skirt lengths. No matter what size you wear your skirt will be two pieces the full width of the fabric.  On me, that would give me much less of a gather than it did on my daughter (over a triple gather.  Girl is skinny.)   If you are doing this for a little girl, you may be able to work with one width of fabric for the skirt rather than two.   All my measurements and fabric recommendations are for an adult size.
 Now use your cutting mat again to square the ends of the accent fabric and cut it in half so you have two pieces aprox. 9"x45".   
 Sew the yoke and facing exactly like the pattern recommends.  Do your darts and if you have a back seam sew that as well.  You need to leave the left side open for a zipper with this skirt.    Pin the yoke around the person you are sewing for or a dress form and be sure your yoke is straight.   Line up the waist and the yoke.  Trim as necessary to create a level edge around the bottom of the yoke.  This is also a good time to check your darts and seams to be sure it fits properly.
 Sew side seams on the band to create one long loop. Press open the seams. Fold the loop in half lengthwise so you have a 4 1/2" wide band. 
 Sew your skirt sides seams together and press.   Leave 3 inches unsewn at the top edge of the left side.  This is for your zipper.   Now sew the band to the bottom of the skirt using a 1/2" seam allowance. Make sure to match the seams.   Press the seam down toward the hem.   (Yes, there is a way to do this so it looks more finished from the inside.  I am somewhat lazy though and I don't think anyone is going to notice anyway.  If it will bother you, feel free to take the time to do it the other way.)
 Now sew your gathering stitches.  Divide the skirt into eighths and mark with pins by folding the skirt in half and then marking those ends with pins.  Fold again matching the pins in the center and marking the ends again.  Do this until you have divided the skirt into eighths.   Do the same for the yoke.  Match your seams and pins as you gather the skirt. 
 Sew the skirt to the yoke.  Press the seam. Carefully line up the trim along the seam line and sew down.
 Install your zipper according the package directions.   I will not be giving you zipper installation tips because I'm worthless at zippers.  They hate me.  Do not inspect my zipper in the next photo, please.  Thank you. 
Have fun sewing!

handmade projects


  1. Love it! Found you on the Funky Polka Dot Giraffe and have to admit I'm a sucker for gorgeous twirly skirts and love ric rac trims!
    Am off to follow you about now... Come by and say hi and have a browse about my blog if you get a chance
    The Spangler @
    The Quick Unpick

  2. I'm with you. I hate the suckers. They are a necessary evil though. Just think about how short of a zipper you'd have to use for a Kate skirt. That's not that bad, right?

  3. Hi :)

    If my darts are 6" long on my skirt block, but I only want the yoke to be 3.5" long, how can I shorten the darts without messing up the purpose of them? Does that make sense? I hope you can help! Thanks so much!!!

  4. Your darts are there to adjust for the waist to hip difference, so with a shorter yolk you don't need as long of a dart. It transitions right into a full skirt. Go ahead and just make the dart the 3 1/2 inches, but make sure you do a quick fit of the yoke before you sew the skirt on. Pin it on you wrong side out and fit it to your body, making what ever adjustments you need from there. With a gathered skirt, it's fine to adjust the yolk however you need in order to make it fit correctly.

    Have fun with your skirt!