Recreating a skirt

There are just some items that you love but can’t seem to find another of, or it used to fit but doesn’t anymore and you still like the style. When this happens, and with some sewing magic, you can actually recreate the item!

In this case, it is a skirt for a child. It has a high-low (hi-lo) hem, elastic casing waistband, and a lining.

Original skirt and new fabric
Original skirt and new fabric

Evaluating the Original

Looking at the construction, this is essentially several rectangles with some gathers (either by gathering or with elastic). There is a sheer narrow hem and a serged rolled hem on the top of the ruffle, and the lining is attached at the waistband (which is a separate piece).

Planning the New Pieces

There are several main pieces we need:

  1. Front main (outer)
  2. Back main (outer)
  3. Ruffle
  4. Lining front and back
  5. Waistband

However, I am going to omit the waistband as a separate piece and instead include that in the front and back pieces, using a fold-over technique instead of attaching a waistband. The construction will be very similar for either method.

I am planning with a 1/2″ seam allowance (SA) for all seams.

Pattern Pieces
Pattern creation for duplicating the skirt


Now on to the construction. Generally the inserted, detailed shaping happens first (darts, pleats, tucks), then major construction lines (side seams), then fitting pieces together. In this case:

  1. Stitch main Front and Back pieces together at side seams, right sides (RS) together. Stitch ruffle short edges together at short sides, RS together. Stitch lining front and back pieces at side seams RS together.
  2. Hem the ruffle using a narrow hem method for sheers.
    1. One option is to use a narrow rolled hem foot. I will not be using that option here today, but there are plenty of tutorials online on how to use one.
    2. Another option is to stitch 2x (twice) the depth of the hem, press it up at that stitching, trim the excess SA by half, fold up along that cut line (to do a double-turned hem), and the stitch it down.

    Narrow Hem Technique Sheers
    Narrow Hem Technique Sheers
  3. For the top of the ruffle, I did a narrow rolled hem on my serger. This is the end that will be attached to the bottom of the skirt.
  4. Finish the raw edges of the seams and top and bottom of all pieces that are not already finished: side seams, top of main and top of lining. Finish the bottom of the main, and hem the bottom of the lining. I used a serger/overlocker for the finishing, and cover hem for my finishes and hems, but you can also achieve comparable results using a zig-zag stitch or overcast stitch on your sewing machine and a twin needle or other knit hem method on your regular sewing machine.
  5. Gather top of the ruffle at 1/2″ from the rolled hem edge (long edge. I used a technique where you baste front and back separately, and this allows for finer gathering without having to scoot the fabric along the entire length and instead can focus on one side or the other for precision. Gather the basting threads so the length now matches the front and back bottom edges.
  6. Pin the gathers along the basting line 1/2″ from the bottom of the front and back main pieces. Stitch in place. Remove basting stitches.
  7. With wrong sides (WS) together, overlap the top of the lining 1/2″ with the top of the main skirt 1/2″, making a really long tube. Match at side seams and halfway marks. In this case, the lining is slightly smaller than the main piece but is a stretchy knit, so I am stretching the fabric as I stitch, similar to attaching elastic:
    1. Pin the lining and main pieces together at their respective side seams and halfway points.
    2. Start stitching about 1/2″ with backstitching to secure.
    3. Pulling the pin at the next point, align the lining and main pieces along the stitching line. You want to pull the stretchy lining just enough that it now matches the length of the longer/wider main piece.

    Duplicating Skirt - Attaching Lining
    Duplicating Skirt – Attaching Lining
  8. Flip the waistband end down, press a 1″ waistband into the top of the main piece. Stitch at the 1/4″ from the finished (serged or zig-zagged) edge to create a casing. Remember to leave an opening 1 1/2″ to 2″ to insert the elastic! Insert the elastic by using a safety pin on one end and “scooting” it through until it comes out the other side. I like to use a safety pin on the other end so it doesn’t slip in while I’m scooting. Stitch the ends of the elastic together with a 1″ overlap. I used two zig-zag stitches.

    Lining and Elastic Attachment
    Lining and Elastic Attachment
  9. Flip the skirt lining back down, and close up the hole! I like to use a zipper foot since it allows me to get really close to the elastic, which creates a higher area than the main piece. Once it’s closed up, scoot the elastic around a bit to even the gathers, and you are done!

For a comparison, here are the two skirts side-by-side:

Original and new skirt
Original and new skirt

Final thoughts and what I learned

  • First of all, I used about 1/2 yard of the main fabric total. I folded it cut-end to cut-end, rather than the usual selvage-to-selvage. This was to optimize the length of the fabric, and the width of the cut and size of the skirt meant I could fit the front, back, and ruffle pieces into the same length. I was also able to do this because the main fabric had no visible directionality, nap, or bias attributes.
  • I sized the lining pieces a bit too long. You can see in the final picture that the lining peeks out. This is because I was assuming a full waistband length for the lining as for the main, but when I was constructing it I only used the 1/2″ overlap. If this is a problem it can be easily fixed by re-hemming to the correct length, and adjusting the pattern.
  • Both fabrics were stretchy: the lining was a standard white knit, and the main fabric felt similar to a thicker sheer. I had to stretch the main fabric when using my regular sewing machine for any straight stitches, like the waistband, lower hem, and side seams. When I wasn’t stretching it, it would end up puckered quite a bit.
  • I used a serger/overlocker to finish the inside seams, using a narrow 3-thread overlock (not rolled hem except for top of the ruffle). I finished them together and pressed them to the back, instead of finishing them separately and pressing them out from each other. This was a choice for expediency, and doesn’t appear to have affected quality. I still pressed everything quite well, as every project should get!
  • The main back piece was a rectangle, with a smooth curve going from the sides (matching length to the front piece) to the centre. Being cut on the fold or doing it for each side will work, as long as it’s a smooth curve and symmetric (unless you’re looking for asymmetric!). You can use a french curve or curved design ruler to achieve this.


And that’s it! If you have any questions, comment below or reach out on Twitter 

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