Learn how to make a gathered skirt pattern to fit any size. Gathered skirt patterns are so easy! With just 3 rectangles, you can have a lovely skirt in an hour or so made from your favorite cotton fabric. I love bright and pretty prints and fabrics with a bit of volume, like cotton sateen. These skirts can be made in any length, from mini to maxi, and include an invisible zipper at the side.
Gathered Skirt Pattern Tutorial
In this tutorial, I will show you how to make a gathered skirt pattern to your measurements. Custom-made gathered skirts will fit and flatter all shapes.
Here is what you need to learn how to sew a gathered skirt:
- FABRIC - The best fabrics to make your gathered skirt from are woven and light to medium weight. Look for quilting cotton and cotton blends. Stiffer fabrics will give more body to your skirt and soft fabrics will drape nicely. I especially like how quilting cotton sits for a knee-length skirt.
- INVISIBLE ZIPPER - 8 inches (20cm) long. Slightly longer is fine too if that is what you have.
- ZIPPER PRESSER FOOT - This is needed to sew the invisible zipper.
- BASIC SEWING SUPPLIES - Sewing machine, universal needles, matching thread, pins.
How Much Fabric Do I Need for a Gathered Skirt?
The amount of fabric you need for a gathered skirt depends on the size of your waist, the length, and how tightly gathered you want it to be. Most skirts will need around 2 to 2 ½ yards. You may need more for a longer skirt. Do your calculations from the section below before you go to the fabric store. Don't forget to take into account the width of the fabric.
Measurements Needed to Sew a Gathered Skirt
All you need to make your gathered skirt pattern is a couple of measurements, including your waist and length.
WAIST - Measure your waist where you want the skirt to start. This may be right on your waist or slightly below.
LENGTH - Measure the length you wish your skirt to be. This may be from the waist to the knee, calf, or even to your ankles. Think about what will flatter your shape and what you feel comfortable wearing. There is no right or wrong - just what makes you happy. I tend to like skirts that end just on or below my knee. Maxi skirts can look elegant for evening wear, especially when made in a fabric with a bit of shine.
Gathered Skirt Pattern - Cutting Instructions
Here is how to make your gathered skirt pattern and what size rectangles to cut out of your fabric. You will be cutting one waistband and 2 pieces for the main front and back of the skirt.
Step 1 -The Gathered Skirt Waistband
Cut a rectangle that is 5 inches wide in height and your waist (or where you want to wear the waistband) plus 2 inches (5cm) long. This gives you 1 inch for seam allowance and 1 inch for ease. If you like a looser skirt at the waist you can add a little more to the length.
Step 2 - Optional Interfacing
For thin fabrics, you will need fusible interfacing for the waistband. Cut a thin to medium weight interfacing, the length of your waist plus 1 inch (2.5cm) and 2.5 inches (4cm) in height.
Step 3 - Cutting The Skirt
You will be cutting 2 rectangles. One for the skirt front and one for the skirt back.
- WIDTH = half your waist x gathering ratio
- see below for more information on what is a gathering ratio.
- LENGTH = desired length + 1.5 inches
- This allows for a ½ inch seam allowance at the waist and a 1-inch hem allowance. You may want to add more for wider hems. Wider hems give more volume to the hem of the skirt.
- Conversions: 1.5 inches = 4cm
How to Calculate Gathers for a Skirt
I have multiplied the width of my waist by a gathering ratio of 2 to get a decent amount of fullness and gathers. If you don't want quite as full a skirt, you can multiply by 1.5, and if you want a really full skirt, multiple by 3. For full skirts, you may have to sew a couple of panels together as your fabric may not be wide enough to cut it in all one piece.
Here is an example of the amount of gathering in the different ratios. These ratios do not need to be exact. You may, for example, use the width of the fabric, and that comes just under or over an exact ratio.
What is the gathering ratio for skirts?
- Full skirt - multiply the waist by 3
- Medium skirt - multiply the waist by 2
- Narrow skirt - multiply the waist by 1.5
Gathered Skirt Pattern - Sewing Instructions
Step 1 - Gather the Front and Back
With the right sides together, sew one of the side seams with a ½ inch (12mm) allowance. Finish the seam with either a serger or zig-zag stitch. (We will sew the other side later when we put the zipper in).
Gather the top of the skirt to the length of the waistband. For greatest control, use 3 rows of a long gathering stitch. Your stitch length should be at least 4.0.
If you are new to gathering, read my article on how to gather.
Step 2 - Sew the Waistband
Press the waistband in half lengthwise. Press up the bottom edge of the waistband by ½ inch (12mm). Notice how the top edge is left un-pressed.
OPTIONAL - If your fabric is thin, you may need to add a strip of interfacing. Press the fusible interfacing on the wrong side, up to the crease. The interfacing should be centered so there is a gap at either end and on the side without the pressed edge.
Put the waistband and the gathered skirt edge right sides together and stitch across with a ½ inch (12mm) seam allowance. You will be stitching along the raw edge of the waistband (not the pressed edge.)
Fold the waistband along the center crease, so it is brought to the back of the skirt. The pressed edge should just cover the seam stitching.
Stitch the waistband down either with a hand slip stitch at the back or by machine.
For machine stitching, it is best to ditch stitch. This means you will stitch from the front of the skirt, right in the seam. That way, the stitches are not visible on the outside of the waistband.
When using this technique, it is especially important that the folded edge of the waistband at the back is at least ⅛ inch (3mm) over the stitching at the back. I usually hand baste first to make sure I will be catching in the edge of the waistband on the inside.
See how the stitching in the ditch is almost invisible. It is important to use a matching color thread, of course.
Finish the raw edges of the remaining side seams from bottom to the top of the waistband.
Step 3 - Add The Zipper
Now it is time to sew an invisible zipper in the side seam. See my full tutorial on how to sew an invisible zipper. After the zipper is inserted, complete the side seam.
To summarize, the steps to putting in an invisible zipper are:
- Prepare the zipper by opening it and uncurling the teeth. Using a warm iron, press open the zipper teeth. This will allow you to get closer to the edge of the zipper.
- Open the zipper and put it right sides together with the first seam. The top of the zipper teeth should end at the edge of the waistband top. This means some of the zipper tape will extend past the fabric.
- Stitch the zipper using a zipper foot. Do not go all the way to the end of the tape at either the top or the bottom. Your stitching should end in line with the teeth.
- Put the zipper with the right sides together on the other side of the skirt. It is important to make sure the waistband edge is matched well on both sides.
- Pull out the ends of the zipper bottom and stitch the rest of the side seam to the bottom of the hem.
- Tuck the top ends of the zipper tape under the seam allowance and stitch them down with a hand stitch.
Step 4 - Hem the Gathered Skirt
Hem the skirt with a double fold hem. Press the hem up ¼ inch (6mm), then ¾ inch (3cm), and stitch across.
Gathered Skirt Pattern - In Conclusion
Now you can make a gathered skirt pattern in any size or length! This really is one of the easiest clothing projects you can make and is flattering to all body shapes.
More Skirt Tutorials
I hope you enjoyed my gathered skirt pattern tutorial. Here are some more skirts you can sew.
- Types of Skirts – 21 types of skirts with examples and descriptions
- Baby Skirt Pattern – Make a baby skirt any size with this easy tutorial
- Skirt Lengths – Learn what all the skirt lengths are called
- How to Make a Tutu Skirt – Free pattern for a tulle tutu skirt for girls
- Girls Skirt Pattern – Get this free pattern for a girl’s skirt with a rabbit applique
- Slip Skirt Pattern - Make a slip any size
- Simple Skirt Pattern - Make simple elastic waist skirts in any size
- T-shirt to Skirt - Learn how to convert a t-shirt into a skirt
- With right sides together sew ONE of the side seams with a ½ inch (12mm) allowance. Finish the seam with either a serger or zig-zag stitch. Gather the top of the skirt to the length of the waistband.
- Press the waistband in half lengthwise. Press up the bottom edge of the waistband by ½ inch (12mm). Put the waistband and the gathered skirt edge right sides together and stitch across with a ½ inch (12mm) seam allowance.
- Fold the waistband along the center crease so it is brought to the back of the skirt. The pressed edge should just cover the seam stitching. Stitch the waistband down either with a hand slip stitch at the back, or by machine.
- Finish the raw edges of the remaining side seams from bottom to the top of the waistband.
- Insert an invisible zipper in the side seam. Hem the bottom of the skirt with a double fold hem.