a better gathered skirt

i like gathered skirts as much as anyone, but i tend to find the gathered rectangle variety a bit annoying. unless you are using a super thin fabric, they can get very bulky, very quickly. so, if you ever want a nice full gathered skirt with less waistline bulk, here’s how…

your typical full gathered skirt will have a hemline about twice that of your waist measurement. here i’m using a measurement of 30″

i’m drafting one quarter of the skirt, since most likely you will be cutting it on the fold.

step 1: divide your waist measurement by 4. this will be your quarter waist measurement


step 2: take your quarter waist measurement and multiply by 2


step 3: take your quarter waist measurement and multiply by 1.5


step 4: subtract the 1.5 measurement from the 2 times measurement


on your drafting or tracing paper, start by drawing a rectangle as wide as your 2 times measurement (15″) by however long you prefer. don’t bother with SA’s or hem allowances at this point.

with a straightedge, make about five evenly spaced vertical lines. cut along these lines, leaving a tiny bit connected at the bottom for a hinge.

overlap the slashed pieces until you have reduced the top measurement by the amount you figured in step 4 (3.75″–since i made 5 slashes, i will overlap about 0.75″ at each section). this doesn’t have to be absolutely precise, just keep it all as evenly distributed as possible, then tape the sections in place. since this piece is now a bit of a mess, trace the shape onto another piece of paper, rounding off the edges.

once you have retraced, add your side SA, waist SA, hem allowance, and fold markings at CF/CB. if your back piece needs a seam for a closure, just remember to add SA when cutting your fabric, or trace off another pattern piece with a CB SA.

once you have this drafted, you can add it to your favorite waistband and make a skirt or use it for the skirt portion of any dress.

photo 1

here i made a skirt for my daughter out of chambray. i added yoke front pockets, an elastic waist and belt loops. and sometimes i make my daughter clothes that i really wish i had made for myself…

–lisa g.

10 thoughts on “a better gathered skirt

  1. Sharon says:

    Thanks so much. As a newbie sewist, I started making simple gathered skirts for my daughter, but ran into the problem of bulk a the top. I’m looking forward to using this method on my next run, but got kind of lost at the the end, of you’re post. I’m assuming “SA” is seam allowance, but can you translate “CB/CF” for me. Thanks. Sorry for the total newbie question…

    • lisa g says:

      yes! SA= seam allowance, CB= center back, CF= center front. hope this helps you out, let me know if you have any other questions and i’ll do my best to get back with you!

  2. Sarah Jo says:

    How am I just discovering your blog and IG account? I’m as mad about sewing as you and only a fraction as prolific! Well, I’m prolific in the kiddos department, which might be why my sewing isn’t such. Anyway, love perusing your makes and amazed that you do it with such reasonably priced fabric. I’m inspired!

  3. Lynette Caulkins says:

    Whoop! Whoop! Thanks so much for posting this tutorial. I tried it out on an Italian Renaissance pattern that had a tremendous amount of gathering at the empire waist (empire waist GOOD for chubby and high-waisted figure; super-gathers HORRID for protruding belly). I reduced the empire-line gathering by a third using your method, and it came out PERFECTLY! Enough gathering left to show the effect very nicely and not leave my belly pulling on the fabric at all, but no Russian-Circus-Tent effect over that tubbiness. I’m a very happy woman. 😀

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