18" Doll Sewing Patterns • Free Tutorials • Sewing with Kids

Shirred Waist Skirt Tutorial (for doll, too)

Shirred Waist Skirt Tutorial (for doll, too)

Do you have a favorite skirt? I do. I bought it several years ago in the clearance section at Target. It cost $5 or something like that. I bought it without even trying it on. It has become my go-to skirt for many occasion–end of the season team parties, Farmer’s market, summer potlucks in the park, and even on vacation-perfect for out to dinner after all a day at the beach. It dresses up or down nicely and is super comfortable. The best part: it makes me feel good. Maybe that’s because I seem to get compliments whenever I wear it.

Avery Lane Sewing Blog Elastic Smocked Skirt Tutorial

Can’t really get better than all that.  right?

I want a cute skirt to wear to Quilt Market, but have been unable to find something that I love, something that is comfortable and shows my style. I think we look better when we feel good and are true to our unique style. For those who know me, you know I’m pretty casual. I hang out in my pj’s in the morning (longer than most people, I’m sure), and I wear mostly jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, and converse sneakers. When I do dress up, I still love to feel comfortable. So enters my go-to skirt into the mix.

Think about what the skirt has: elastic smocking, drop waist skirt. Very light weight fabric (important for drape and overall look). above knee length.

Avery Lane Sewing Blog Elastic Smocked Skirt Tutorial1

Anyway, I thought I would make a skirt just like this one in fresh spring colors. But it’s hard to find a nice quality fabric suitable for clothes in the town where I live. Until I saw these amazing fabrics by Art Gallery Fabrics at my local quilt shop. This fabric  has a beautiful drape and soft hand, better suited for clothing than most quilting cottons. I’m extremely impressed with these Art Gallery fabrics. They’re light weight enough for this style, AND match my new tangerine Converse 🙂

artgallery fabric

Avery Lane Sewing Blog Shirred Skirt Tutorial

Here’s how I made it (for a doll sized one, see bottom of post for its tutorial).

You’ll need

1- 1 1/4 yards of lightweight fabric (gauze or something similar would be ideal). Note: most quilting cottons will not give as good of results, because it won’t drape  or shirr as well) The lighter weight the fabric, the easier it will be to shirr up.

1 to 1 1/4 yards of very lightweight lining fabric, like batiste

2 to 3 spools of elastic thread (I use Gutermann)

Microtex needle

1 yard or so 3/8″ wide elastic

safety pin

Before you begin: prewash all fabrics.

Make a skirt:

Step 1

Measure how long you want the skirt. Add 1″ to that measurement. Using a rotary cutter and mat, cut 2 pieces of main fabric that length the width of fabric. I wanted my skirt to have a finished length of 17 1/4″, so I cut 2 pieces each 18 1/4″ long.

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Step 2


Square off your fabric, so you will be straight on the grain and your skirt will hang/drape nicely.

Avery Lane Sewing Blog Elastic Smocked Skirt Tutorial3

Cut the selvages off and then cut the 2 pieces to the width you need.

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The width for my skirt pieces was 33″ (I rounded up). If you are petite (size small or extra small), then cut yours 30″ wide by your length measurement.

Since light weight fabric is see through, then you’ll want to line the skirt. I cut 2 lining pieces the same width, but shortened the length by 1″.


Recap: for size medium/large:

cut 2 pieces of main fabric 33″ wide X  18 1/4 inches long

cut 2 lining pieces 33″ wide X 17 1/4″ long

Step 3

Sew side seams, using 3/8″ seam allowance. do this for both the main skirt pieces and the lining. Place fabric pieces right sides together, sew along the sides with straight stitches (or serge) 3/8″ from edge. You will be sewing the length (18 1/4″ sides).

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Step 4

Serge the lower edge of the lining.

Step 5

Hem the skirt with a very narrow hem. If you have a narrow hem foot, you could use that. I like to press the hem up 1/4″, the tuck and fold the raw edge under as I sew. It is extremely helpful to use a 1/4″ presser foot to sew a narrow hem. I find it easier then messing with that rolled narrow hem presser foot, which never seems to play nicely with the side seams as I sew.Avery Lane Sewing Blog Elastic Smocked Skirt Tutorial10

Hem the lining by just folding it over to the wrong side once and stitching it in place. I fold just to the serged part for a narrow hem.

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Step 6

With both the lining and main skirt inside out, place the skirt inside the lining, matching the top edges and side seams together. The wrong side of the main skirt will be facing the right side of the lining.  Serge the lining and main skirt together along the top edge.


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Step 7

Fold the top edge over  1/2″ toward the wrong side and press it with a  hot iron. Sew the casing, leaving a 3 inch opening  for inserting the elastic.

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Step 8

Wind a bobbin with elastic thread. See this post for more help. The main things to remember are to: wind it by hand, stretch the thread as you wind it, and use a long stitch length.   I stretch it pretty good as I wind the bobbin (though not as much as it will stretch). If you don’t stretch it enough, the fabric won’t shirr enough to fit your hips. At least this is how I do it.

Thread your machine with regular thread in the top.

You can draw stitching rows, about 3/8″ apart. I like to use the side of my presser foot to guide me along the precious row sewn.  Overlap your sewing by sewing 1 to 2″ past where you started sewing. Leave the threads long.

Avery Lane Sewing Blog Elastic Smocked Skirt Tutorial11

As you sew, keep those long threads over, out of the way of the row you are sewing. And gently pull the fabric to un-scrunch the part that your sewing. You don’t want to sew tucks and folds into the yoke.

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Sew rows of elastic thread for a drop waist of about 4″. I made 12 rows, about 3/8″ apart.


Step 9

Pull needle thread to the inside and tie threads together. Trim extra threads. To pull those top threads to the back, just pull on the elastic thread (one at a time) until you see a loop of the top thread. pull on the loop until the thread is all the way on the inside.

Do this for all your threads.

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Step 10

Insert elastic into the casing along the waist. Measure your waist or just below-wherever you like your skirt to be. Subtract about 4 inches or so from that measurement, and that’s how long your elastic should be. Use a safety pin to insert the elastic into the casing. Once the elastic comes out the other side of the opening, sew the ends together.

Sew the opening closed. Trim any threads and your skirt is done.

I didn’t add the pockets. I’m not sure I want them yet. I will post about adding pockets if I decide to do pockets.

For children, start even more narrow. If I make one for my 12 year old, then I may update this tutorial later. If you make one for a child using this tutorial, feel free to leave a comment and share what width you cut for others.

 Bonus Tutorial: for dolls

After making this I thought it would look fabulous on an American doll. Plus it would be so easy for little ones to put on and off during dolly playtime.

Here’s what you need:

elastic thread

microtex needle (if using finer, light weight fabric)

fabric: piece 24″ wide X 7 1/4″ long (18″ doll); 24″ wide X 6″ long for Bitty Twin or Baby (15″ dolls)

10 inches of 1/4″ wide elastic

safety pin

1/4″ presser foot (optional, but helpful when sewing doll clothes)

Avery Lane Sewing Blog Doll Elastic Smocked Skirt Tutorial2

Here’s how:

 Step 1

Serge the top and bottom edges of fabric piece. Fold the fabric right sides together and sew the short side. Your fabric will now be in a loop.

Avery Lane Sewing Blog Doll Elastic Smocked Skirt Tutorial

Step 2

With a hot iron,  press the bottom edge 1/2 inch toward the wrong side of the fabric(hem), and press the top edge over 1/2″ toward the wrong side of the fabric (casing).

Avery Lane Sewing Blog Doll Elastic Smocked Skirt Tutorial1
Sew all around the bottom edge with straight stitches to hem the skirt. Use a 1/4″ presser foot to sew the hem. Sew around the top edge for the  casing, leaving 2″ unsewn for inserting the elastic later.

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Step 3

Wind elastic thread onto bobbin and sew rows of  shirring along the upper part of the skirt. See above for help, or see this post. I made 8 rows, about 1/4″ apart.


Step 4

Insert the  elastic into the casing, and once all the way around and out the other side of the opening, sew the ends together.

10″ of 1/4″ wide elastic for an American Girl Doll (18″ doll), or 12″ of 1/4″ wide elastic for Bitty Twin or Bitty Baby dolls (15″ doll).

Sew the opening in the casing closed. Trim all threads.

AG Doll Skirt tutorial
How fun and quick is that? This style also looks cute for a summer top or dress 🙂

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I hope you enjoy these tutorials and make some fun and comfortable skirt for summer!


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