TUTORIAL: Flat Gathered Elastic Skirt


I’ve been meaning to post this tutorial for some time, I figure late is better than never. Nearly 3 years ago, I refashioned a muu muu into an elastic waist skirt. I liked it just fine, but I felt like it poufed out at the waist a little too much for me. I never wore it and eventually donated it to DI; from whence it came. I figure I’m not the only one who’s picky about the volume in clothing around my midsection. I don’t like feeling 3 times larger than I am. Do you?

Since that refashion failure, I’ve figured out my own little method that I have yet to share with you. I used it with my 2-second ruffle skirt, my housedress refashion and the skirt I made for Alt (which I still need to share) with great success. A few people have asked what my technique is, so I’m here to share it with you.

Again, I’m tooting a tutorial horn that’s been tooted MANY, MANY times before in many different ways. Check out the end of the tutorial for a list of my favorites. The reason why I’m posting my own version is to share my techniques for sewing the skirt and attaching the waistband. The way I attach my skirt reduces a lot of the mid-section bulk that you get with a typical handmade gathered skirt. I do hope you enjoy. Check out the tutorial after the jump.

• Flat Gathered Skirt Tutorial •

SUPPLIES: Sewing machine, 1 1/2 yard fabric, elastic, elastic cording, thread, pins, iron

I would strongly suggest getting yourself some awesome elastic. I prefer the elastic from rufflefabric.com (this is in no way sponsored, btw). It’s soft, it’s comfortable, comes in many colors and it looks professional. I can’t recommend this enough!! This tutorial would be perfect for a drapey jersey, but nothing thicker than a cotton voile. Thin, drapey material would be best.

  1. Cut out your fabric. Cut four sections to 3/4 of your waist measurement at the desired length, plus 1-3 inches. Trim in top side side to 1/2 your waist measurement. like a trapezoid. Cut 4 pocket pieces (Susan has a great pattern in her tutorial).
  2. Take one pocket piece, measure about 3 inches from top and pin. Sew right sides together. Each panel will have a pocket.Turn right sides over and press.
  3. Match up the pockets and panels right sides together. Sew along the straight edge on both pairs. Open up and press seams flat
  4. Match up the two sides together and sew along the perimeter. This will create the space for the pockets. Turn right side out. Press. Hem skirt as desired. No need to hem if you’re doing this out of jersey.

Measure the elastic around your waist and zig-zag stitch the elastic together. When measuring around my waist with elastic, I don’t stretch the elastic. This allows for the least amount of bulk and a comfortable fit.

Turn your skirt inside out and zig-zag stitch about 1/4 inch from the top, encasing  elastic cording in the stitch. This allows for a more uniform gather and for a little fudge room if you gather too much or not enough.

Turn your elastic inside out. Pin the gathered inside-out skirt 1/2 inch up from the bottom of the elastic. Pin the entire skirt and stitch the skirt to the elastic using a semi-short zig-zag stitch.

Turn the skirt right side out. Iron gathers into place and wear.

See how little this skirt poufs out?

Here are some other great gathered skirt tutorials: Mama Elastic Waist SkirtCovered Elastic Waist Skirt • Lined Elastic Waist Skirt • Elastic Paperbag Skirt • Elastic Circle Skirt

Outfit Details:

  • cardigan: old boutique in college
  • bracelet: handmade
  • top: Ruche
  • skirt: handmade
  • tights: H&M
  • shoes: thrifted

Click the button below to download the printable tutorial.

This tutorial/freebie is free for personal use and should not be distributed/republished without the express consent of Melissa Esplin. I love getting shout outs from around the web, but please, link with love. Do not copy this post, publish more than 2 photos or outright steal this idea for commercial publications. If you would like to use this tutorial for commercial purposes, please email me. Thanks!

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    1. Emily says:

      Great outfit and I like the a line shape. My favorite non bulk adding skirts are circle skirts. :)

    2. phil says:

      cool !!
      i also really like the out-of-focus-moving photo :-)

    3. Jenn says:

      I am totally making this : ) Thanks Melissa!

    4. […] TUTORIAL: Flat Gathered Elastic Skirt – 2 freebie(s) […]

    5. ira lee says:

      thats a great solution! i dont like lots of extra around my midsection. thanks!!!!!

    6. Joy says:

      I LOVE it!!!! I’ll definitely have to try this (esp. since it has pockets! bonus!). Love the fabric too!

    7. Ruche says:

      This is such a creative idea, we love it! We certainly don’t like adding extra “poof” to our midsections either :)


    8. […] used the flat gathered technique to attache the skirt to the waistband. I sewed the selvaged edges together on about a yard and a […]

    9. marissa says:

      you always make me wish i could sew. now to just find time to learn to use a machine! :)

    10. Monica says:

      I love how this came out! I am new to sewing, and have made some elastic waste skirts, but I have never heard of using elastic cording. Is it the cording that helps it lay flat, or just the way you drafted the measurements? Does the elastic cording also help it stretch on over hips when trying it on? I find that sometimes when I make a skirt it fits my waste, but I can’t stretch it over my hips, and I’m too new to sewing to quite figure this out. ha. Anyone who reads this and feels like they can help me out, feel free to help me out :)

    11. Melissa says:

      The elastic cording is to help uniformly gather the skirt material. You can do a traditional gather with regular thread underneath, but you’ll have to pick it out after you finish constructing the skirt. Using elastic cording will gather, but also expand as needed.

      Sewing garments can be so intimidating for a beginner! When I first started, altering clothing was a great way to jump into making my own from scratch. You can focus on little bits until you feel comfortable to attack all the little details of an entire garment.

      Hope that helps!

      • Laura says:

        Love this skirt idea! Thanks! Did you cut the elastic cording to your waist measurement? .did you sew over it or put it around the bobbin?

    12. Dee says:

      Melissa imabeginner and this will be my first adult sewing ever. I have question silly as it may sound , are u attaching 4 panels together to make a gathered skirt or are 2 are used for lining ,thanks Aton for the tutorial

    13. Meggish says:

      Is the idea that the fabric is sewn closer to the top of the elastic (when flipped right-side out again) so that it is held flat against you by the elastic waistband, instead of being sewn closer to the bottom (like in Susan’s tut) and then jutting out a little as it comes out from underneath the waistband? A shot of the inside of the skirt, once sewn would be really helpful!

      • Melissa says:

        The idea is that there’s a 1/2-5/8 inch overlap, the elastic overlapping the fabric so the fabric doesn’t have to “turn” a corner to drape downwards. Hopefully that makes sense? I wish I could snap a pic, but I gave that skirt to a friend.

    14. Meggish says:

      Does your skirt have a seam up the front and back?

    15. Claire says:

      Can you use knit fabric for this sort of project or is that too thick? I’m an amateur at sewing so I wouldn’t really know.

    16. nia says:

      hi! I’m not really experienced in sewing clothes for myself but I have this really nice light chambray fabric at home and I really wish I could use it to sew myself a basic skirt with pockets like yours. Since I’m no english native speaker I have a question: Do you sew the zig zag stitch for gathering the skirt with an elastic thread? Or do you fiddle an elastic cording (I have a rather thick elastic thread I could use) through your zig zag stitch that you sewed using regular thread? I hope you get my weird question and can help me out. Thanks in advance, Nia

      • Melissa says:

        If you do a zig zag stitch for the gathering method, you’ll place the elastic cording on top of the fabric so the stitches go to either side of the cording. Pull the cording to create the gathers.

    17. Glenda says:


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