Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tiered Ruffled Skirt (1860s, over hoop)

So much fabric it boggles the mind (10+ yards)
more safety pins than you'll ever need again
tailor's chalk
a large, open space of floor

Waist to floor, over hoop

I can't really tell you how much fabric you'll need because I honestly don't know. I made a skirt with a single ruffle at the hem, and that took up 10 yards of fabric. This is a simple skirt to make, but it's absurdly time consuming and not exactly easy on the budget.

Start by making a circle skirt to fit over your hoop, stopped before you gather the waist of the skirt into the waistband. Leave the centre back seam open.
That was the easy part.
Measure the length of your skirt from waistband to hem. Divide this by the number of tiers you want on the skirt. Add 6" for the overlap.
I'll just be typing this out for a three-tiered skirt, but the same concept applies for any number of tiers.

Lay your skirt out completely flat. Use your measuring tape and mark out where you want each tier to be. This is tedious and time consuming, but it's worth it in the end. Leave the skirt where it is.
For the tiers, I suggest working bottom to top. If you start at the top, you end up having to wrestle with the other ties of fabric, and believe me, it isn't fun.
Measure the circumference of your skirt at the mark where the lowest tier will be. Multiply by 3. Using this measurement, cut out a strip of fabric the length of circumference-x-3, and as wide as your tier measurement. Do not include the extra 6" for the bottom tier, there won't be another ruffle to overlap, so you won't need it. Cut this out and finish off the top and bottom edges. (It's easiest to cut a bunch of strips of fabric that add up to the length that you need, but it's perfectly fine if you want to cut it all as one piece.) Run a gathering stitch across the top edge and gather it to fit onto the mark on your skirt.
Now the fun begins. Pin the ruffle in place. Don't be afraid to overuse your pins. You'll be dealing with an unruly beast of a ruffle, and it will want to do all sorts of things you don't want it to do. When you are finished, your ruffle should fall from the mark you made to the hem of the skirt.
Once you are satisfied with the way the ruffle is on the skirt, go ahead and stitch it on, leaving four inches open on either side of the centre back. (You should probably use a smaller stitch to keep it in place.) Be careful of the pins.

Lay the skirt out flat again. Measure the circumference of the skirt at the next mark, multiply by 3. This time, cut out a strip, circumference-x-3 long by tier+6". (You'll be using the tier+6" width for the remainder of the ruffles.) Hem, gather, and pin into place.
When pinning this tier, the ruffle should overlap the bottom tier by a few inches. (This is why you added 6 inches onto the width.) Pin heavily, sew carefully. Again, leave four inches on either side of the centre back free.

Lather, rinse, repeat for as many ruffles as you wish to add.

For the final (top) ruffle,measure the circumference of your skirt waist. Do not use your actual waist measurment, as the final ruffle will not come out to the right length. Multiply your skirt waist measurement by 3, and repeat the cutting, hemming, pinning process as usual, except that this time you don't need to hem the top edge of the ruffle since it'll be going into the waistband. Stitch the ruffle to the skirt waist.

You now have an unfinished skirt with three tiers of ruffles on it. Unfortunately, finishing it off is a bit more complicated than just running a stitch straight up the back, but don't give up, you're almost finished!

Fold the ends of the ruffles away from the centre back and pin them down to keep them from flapping. Now, stitch closed the centre back seam, careful not to catch any of the ruffles. Leave the seam open 6-7 inches from the top.
Unpin the ends of the ruffles. With right sides together, stitch them closed at the ends. Once you've done that, pin the loose bits back onto the skirt and stitch them down.
There is one slight alteration to make for the uppermost ruffle. When stitching the ends of the ruffle closed, leave 6-7 inches open at the top, corresponding to the 6-7 inches you left open on the centre back seam. Now, treating the opening in the skirt and the opening in the ruffle as once piece (you may want to pin the skirt and ruffle together around the opening), finish off the raw edges and turn them under. Now you can add a zipper, hooks and eyes, or buttons with loops to close it up. (You could even add grommets and lace it closed!)
Complete the skirt by putting on a waistband. Now try on the skirt, prance around in front of the mirror, twirl about in your living room! It was allot of work, so enjoy the fruits of your labour!


  1. I told myself I wasn't going to buy any more fabric until I had sewn up some of what I already have.
    But now I need to make a giant ruffle skirt!

    Thank you for the tutorial, it was very well written. I understood it perfectly even though there were no diagrams, which is unusual for me.

    1. I'm glad! I'll eventually have pics to go along with this tut, but I haven't had the need to make an over-hoop skirt in a while. ^^; I'm so glad you found it useful, and I would love to see your results! :)