Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Patience Pays Off: A Pettiskirt tutorial {UPDATED}

(I received a few emails with questions so I thought I would update the tutorial with them)
Alright, now that you are sufficiently prepared for the work that is ahead I want to go over a few things. What makes these skirts so fluffy is the ruffles and the fact that they have TWO layers of them. Everything I write about doing you will basically have to do twice.
(the second layer of Evie's purple skirt) I decided to cover my seams by topstitching ribbon onto them. This is 100% optional, the purple is actually the only color I have ever done it with.
If you want your pettiskirt crazy HUGE fluffy,

you are going to need more then 3 yards of Nylon Chiffon. My favorite that I have made, was made with 6 yards of red nylon chiffon. I thought my fingers would fall off by the end but my sister in law (who's little girl I was making it for) was awesome and sat next to me chatting the whole time so it was fun and totally worth it. Her little girl looks FABULOUS in all those red ruffles! Stay tuned and read all the way to the end for a funny surprise and a little bit about what to pair a pettiskirt with (it is hard then you think).

Now that you have everything gathered together that I mentioned in the last post we are going to cut our fabric. The skirt is essentially made of three tiers of ruffles. Each tier gets increasingly wider and less ruffley as you get closer to the waist. Start out by folding the fabric so you can get as LONG of strips as possible. If you cut shorter strips thats fine but you will have to sew all of them together to get three super super long strips. The top strip is the widest, mine was 6 inches wide. The middle was 4 inches wide and the bottom wa
s 2.5 inches wide. Now comes the math. You want to have at least double the number of middle pieces as you do the top, and at LEAST double again the number of bottom pieces as you do the middle. I ended up have 3 pieces of 6 inch chiffon to sew together to make one LONG piece. I ended up having 7 middle pieces to sew together and 10 thin strips for the bottom. Again do NOT get stressed about the math or widths, these skirts are soooo forgiving its crazy. They ruffle up so much no one notices anything ha! When you are done cutting you should have three piles:
Now take your widest pile to the sewing machine. Placing right sides together (it doesn't matter which side is right side just make sure each piece is attached on the same side which can be tricky to keep track of) and sew them together.
Continue to do this until all the WIDE strips are sewn together to make one LONGE strip. Put this pile to the side and do the same thing to the medium strips, and then to the thinnest strips. Once you have your 3 sets of LONG strips, we are going to ruffle up the thinnest strip. To do this grab your pile of chiffon and find the end. (I usually toss the rest over my shoulder so it goes smoothly into the sewing machine) Now set your sewing machine so there is lots of tension but making wide stitch's. I know this can be hard and sort of confusing so the other way you can do it is by making the tension yourself! You will be sewing right down the middle of the strip so find the middle and put the end of the fabric under the foot right in the center. Move your thread up to the location your bobbin goes when you are adding thread to it. (keep everything else the same) Now as you sew gently hold the thread so that it adds tensi
ons and automatically ruffles up the chiffon.
Do not hold it to tight or your thread will break. Just enough to get the ruffles you desire. As you sew the ruffles will bunch up on the other side of the sewing machine.
Just move them out of the way as they pile up. It is a gorgeous site to behold. Now do this until you are 80 years old ha! Just kidding. Do it until you come to the end of the strip. This usually takes me a good 20 minutes. You should now have a big pile of thin ruffles. Grab your medium sized strip and lay it next to the thin strip. You may have to do some hand gathering to make sure the thin strip is the same length as your medium (by pulling
one of the threads that comes of the end as gone over before).
Once you know they will line up nicely place the thin ruffle along the bottom edge of the medium strip.
Now topstitch all the way down the ruffle, right down the center where you just gathered. Now you repeat these steps for the middle, gather the top, then attach it to the widest row the exact same way. You should have three tears of ruffles now! Now to make it so there are two layers. Find the middle of your 3 tiered creation and cut it. Now ruffle up the top of both skirts slightly, leave a nice long tail so you can make it more or less ruffled to mat
ch up with the top portion of the skirt you will make next. Okay now the next part I am going to go slowly and do lots of pictures. This for the top portion of the skirt. Take whatever fabric you have chosen and you are going to make a long rectangle. The waist of the skirt is going to be as long as this rectangle is, hence you want it a little under double the length of the person you are making it for (we will thread elastic through and it will bunch nicely). It will be HALF as wide as you cut it so keep that in consideration.
Now you are going to take your interfacing and cut two long strips, long enough to go the length of each edge of your skirt top.
Mine is only about 1.5 inch wide. Now iron them down to each edge so it looks like this the entire length:
Now fold your top in half "hamburger style" so that both ends are right sides together. We want to find the middle so fold it in half and using a pin mark about a half an inch down from the middle:
Now flip it over and do the same thing on the other side so that when you open it up it looks like this:
These pins are just markers and not actually used to hold the fabric. Now we are going to sew up the side, leaving the space in between the pins un sewn (this is where we are going to thread our elastic).
Now you may have to read this a few times but what you are going to do is flip the top so it is right sides out. Now fold it in half so that the space you did not sew is on top and BOTH rows of interfacing are on the bottom:
Once you have done this look at the size of elastic you are going to use. I like to use LARGE elastic but I cannot get it here but small works ok. Say you are using 1 inch elastic, measure down from the top of the now folded skirt 1 inch and a few cm. At this spot you are going to sew ALL the way around the skirt making a little pocket for you to thread your elastic through. Once you have done this go down another chunk to the middle of the folded top and
sew all the way around again. This gives it some much needed definition:
Now open up the bottom of the skirt so it looks at you like this:
You are going to attach ONE of your 3 tiers to each of those interfacing lines. First measure it all to make sure you don't need to make your ruffles tighter or more loose to match up with the top. Once you have it to the correct length take the 3 tiers, and sew up the sides with right sides together so that you now have 2 complete circle skirts. I wish this picture was bett
er but just read carefully. Take ONE of your completed skirt bottoms and place it RIGHT SIDES together with ONE of the interfaced edges.
Now sew all the way around. Once you have finished when you flip it out it should look like this:
You can topstitch it if you like but this is probably the only time I don't ha! Now repeat the steps with the second skirt bottom, attaching it to the other interfaced edge. Woo hoo! All you have to do is thread through your length of elastic and sew the hole closed and TADDAH!!!! The finished product:
(again image by Flora Bella)

Okay so I know it was a LONG process but easy right? Phew, I have been kinda dreading this post because it isn't a "Kelly Original" and I really like posting original things here in No Mans Land. But I had to let the cat out of the bag on this one! Now if you are worried about what in the world to put on top of your fluffy darling I think you can go 1 of two ways. You need to either go super simple, tank top, only angle wings or if it is a baby nothing at all. OR go completely over the top, maybe a tunic with a sweater or coat, crocheted hat, Baby Legs, a bright pair of Leggings from We Love Colors or boots. I think both have their places and can look equally fun! So go have some fun. Put the kiddos to bed and get the hubby a good book, grab some great tunes and sew uninterrupted and it will go a lot faster! If you have any questions please don't hesitate to email me, I am sure I botched something up or left something out. Now it is back to more original stuff and I have some fantastic news, while in Jakarta I was able to purchase and send home a sewing mannequin!!!! I am so excited I can barely contain it. I have soooo many sketches of awesome mommy dresses that I am just dying to make with it.
PS Oh so the shocking thing at the beginning I was talking about? I totally don't have anywhere near enough nylon chiffon to make a pettiskirt (3 of my now 13 yards are NOT nylon chiffon ha!) so this tutorial was made with less then one yard. I know! Cameras can do great tricks. Hence having to use Evie's already made skirt and other photographers pictures (which I really avoid doing) but with her having 13 stitches in her forehead she was in no mood for a photoshoot.


  1. You know: I think that you made a fantastic tutorial BUT, I was exhausted in the end!
    I admire your patiente!!

  2. Thank you so much or this tutorial! I'm planning out when I'm gonna do it! Oh and I totally want to make one for myself!

    Anyway I'm mostly excited for the mommy dresses to come!

  3. Thanks for this!! I have another project that calls for nylon chiffon, so now I can justify the shipping by buying a ton!
    In the first photo of the lavender petticoat, what is that down the center? Is it ribbon on the seam?
    And could you post a photo of the finished petticoat (not just the second layer)? I want to be sure I understand it correctly: The top part...that is fabric that sort of holds the chiffon so that the chiffon starts to poof out at about the hips??
    (Sorry, I just have boys so I'm not too smart about these things!!

  4. I just love the fluffiness. the pictures are fabulous. once again I wish I had a girl
    Hammer & Thread

  5. Wonderful tutorial! I just purchased one from a local baby boutique for $80! Crazy, right?! I am beyond excited for the mommy dresses. I look more and more forward to reading your blog with each post. Thank you!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Would it be too much trouble for you to post a picture of Evie (standing) wearing the purple skirt? I'd love to see how the tiers and layers come together! I know the little lamb has a painful forehead, so maybe a shot from the chest down? Thanks so much for the tutorial!! I look forward to reading your blog every day!

  8. This is so gorgeous! Add me to the list of people who want to make one for themselves. I really think I might. =) I'll be linking also!

  9. I have had the material sitting here for nearly a year to make a hot pink and light pink pettiskirt. I can't bring myself to cut it. It just looks too intimidating! Glad to have found your blog. What a wonderful thing you are doing with the orphans!

  10. what size is this for? and how could I size it? just measure her waist? sorry im a beginner.

  11. Kelly I know you mentioned somewhere on this blog where you could buy inexpensive tulle on rolls I think in the US. You mentioned the shipping was high but worth it? I need to get some here in New Zealand and can't for the life of me remember!Thanks!

  12. In love with these pettiskirts! I found your blog doing a search for a pattern for one. Thank you so much! Every little girl we know will be getting one for their birthday, including both of my daughters(they won't have to wait for their bdays though!) The website you mentioned sells the nylon chiffon pre-cut! All the cutting was what was intimidating to me, now it's a non-issue and i have 2 almost done already.

  13. Wonderful pictures! And tutorials! Thank you for the inspiation!!!! Betty

  14. Awesome tutorial! I have just a couple questions... Did u take ur ruffling stitch out when you where done?
    To make sure I understand correctly... When your attaching the thinnest layer to them medium the thinnest is ruffled but the medium is not?
    Did you sew a ribbon over the one seam?
    Do u think I could do this with tulle?
    Thanks so much!


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