Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tutorial: Lazy Bubble Skirt

Skirts were the very first thing I ever sewed for Rylee, mostly because toddler skirts are about the easiest things in the world to sew. There was a period where she didn't wear them because they got in the way of playing, stooping and crawling. Now that her legs are much longer she can wear them again without interfering with all the glorious rampaging and mess making that compose her days. But A-lines and twirly skirts started to bore me so I decided to try a bubble skirt. I searched around and found a number of tutorials that, while good, seemed needlessly complicated. At the rate she's growing I want a minimum investment for maximum cute.

Thus, I give you: the lazy bubble skirt. I hesitate to say *easy* since one step is a little tricky but it's the laziest possible way I can think of to construct a cute, poofy skirt for a little girl from about 12m - 5T or so.

You will need:
* Approx 1/2 yard of shell (main) fabric
* Approx 1/2 yard of lining fabric
* 1/2 yard of VERY soft and stretchy 1/4" elastic. I like knit elastic for this. For a stiffer elastic you might want to allow a little more.
* Approx 1/2 yard (waist measurement) of 3/4" elastic
* Waist measurement and skirt length measurement of the child to be clad

NOTE: Because I really, truly mean it when I say I wanted this to be a lazy undertaking I give myself a lot of "slop" in the yardage so I don't have to do things like iron 1/8" hems. Because who wants to do that? So if you have a piece of fabric that you are just DYING to use but it's a little bit short you can get by with less if you use narrower elastic in the waist and narrower seam allowances.

Step 1: Measure child from waist to the desired skirt length. I love to have these hit around the knee. I made the one in the tutorial a little longer because I want it to last. For Rylee this was 12".

Step 2: Cut your main fabric four inches longer than your desired skirt length. E.g. for this skirt I cut the main fabric 16" long. One full fabric width (usually about 44") should be right for 12month - 5T. At the outside edges of that range you might have to play around with cutting it narrower or sewing a few extra inches on the edge.

Step 3: Cut your lining fabric two inches longer than your desired skirt length (or put another way, two inches shorter than your main fabric). For Rylee's dress that was 14". Trim the fabric if necessary to make the lining and the main fabric the same width. I also trimmed the selvage here to avoid a huge seam allowance on the fashion fabric.

Step 4: Right sides together sew the short edge (marked with a red line in the photo above) on the main fabric. Repeat for the lining fabric. You should have two tubes (i.e. you are not yet sewing these together). Make sure to use the same seam allowance to keep the tubes the same size. Press the seam allowance open.

Step 5: With right sides together, aligning seams, slip the lining tube into the main fabric tube, aligning the bottom edges. NOTE: Very important that you align the BOTTOM edges, especially if you have a directional print. I had to check with my video game geek husband AND the internet to make sure I had my invaders going the right way. In the photo below I am pinching the BOTTOM edges of the fabric.

Step 6: Divide the bottom edge into quarters. One mark will be the pressed seams. Mark the opposite edge with a pin (show above), pinning fabric and lining together. Mark the points midway between the pin/seam by either folding the tubes in half again or measuring. Your fabric should now be pinned together in three places.

Step 7: Cut 18" of your soft, 1/4" elastic. This will be stretching around the entire circumference of your skirt (approx. 44"). This is also the part that will be around the little knees and you want to make sure there is still room to run. If your elastic won't stretch that far then cut a slightly larger piece.  Divide the elastic into quarters by folding or measuring, marking with pins.

Step 8: The only tricky step in the whole process. The one place where speed and slapdashery are  NOT your friend. Go slowly in this step and you will be amply rewarded because it is really 2-3 steps in one. You are going to attach the elastic AND seam the shell/lining together in a single step. I use a triple zizag for this to make sure it's nice and stretchy. If your machine doesn't have a triple zigzag then double should be fine. Starting at the pressed seam(s) lay the elastic down just inside the aligned edges of the shell and lining. I like to line the fabric edges up with my presser foot and have the elastic just slightly inside that. You might need to mess around with the stitch width to make sure you are catching the elastic. Hand crank a few stitches and stop with your needle down in the fabric. Now stretch the elastic until you align the first pin in the elastic with the first pin in the fabric as shown below. S-L-O-W-L-Y sew the elastic to the first pins.

Step 9: Repeat for each quarter section of fabric and elastic ending back at the pressed seams. The last section won't have aligned pins, you'll just be finishing up the last piece aligning it with your starting point.

Step 10: Check and make sure you seamed all the way around. If your elastic doesn't quite reach it's ok. Just make sure you complete your seam all the way back to the beginning and do a few reverse stitches to secure. At the very end of my seam here the elastic snapped away and I couldn't quite make it reach. It doesn't matter as long as the fabrics are joined all the way around.

Step 11: You now have a gathered "bag" of your fabrics.

Step 12: Turn the skirt so that the wrong sides are together and your lining fabric is to the outside. Line up the top edges of the fabrics.

Step 13: To make the waistband first turn under about 1/2" on the top. If you are short on fabric you can serge the edges together here, but I like a neater look. You can also make this first turn a little narrower, but it's hard to turn both much narrower than this and an extra 1/2" of fabric is worth it to me to be lazy.

Step 14: Turn again about an inch to an inch and half. A little less if your waistband elastic is narrower than 3/4". Again, lazy wins the day for me here and I make a very generous band. Sew around the lower edge leaving a 2" opening to insert your elastic.

Step 15: Cut your waistband elastic about 1" shorter than child's waist measurement. I sometimes do a little bigger if the elastic is stiff and I want to make sure it doesn't pinch. Bonus tip: Use tailor's chalk, pen or marker to mark once side of the elastic so you can check to see if it twisted while you pulled it.  This happens to me all the time and I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out.

Step 16: Using a safety pin or bodkin, pull elastic through the waistband, secure it and then sew the seam shut. Done!

Side note: I'd love to say that this was all part of sewing things up to match Rylee's orphan garments, but the plain truth is that I bought the fabric because I was coveting. BUT, I did just buy the shirt at a Just Between Friends sale and both it and the baby legs *were* orphans. And I really dig the demure plaid collar with the over-the-top geeky fabric. So we'll call it a win.


KID, MD said...

She's crazy cute. And this is a great tutorial!

Kitschy Coo said...

I never would of thought to do it that way, how interesting :) Makes a lot of sense! She's a cutie and you know how I feel about that fabric...

Sister said...

Too cute!!!

Sew Scrumptious said...

Hello! Thanks so much re the pillowcase dresses. Thats fab! Love the tutorial too. I've just bought some of that fabric from Kitschy Coo!! Now following your lovely blog. Louise x