Tutorial: Sew a Three Tier Skirt

An easy step-by-step tutorial on how to make a tier skirt with three layers of fabric. Learn techniques in gathering with a basting stitch and installing an elastic waistband. This project is meant to be adaptable to any sized girl or woman.

tutorial sew a three tier skirt

Tutorial: Sew a Three Tier Skirt

Step 1:  Choose three fabrics to work with (at least 1/2 a yard) will make any sized skirt. Arrange the fabrics by layer. For sizing, measure waist, hips and length. Based on total length, (in this case I wanted the skirt to be 22 inches long) I cut the top layer 10″ wide, 2nd layer 8 inches wide, and bottom layer 9 inches wide. Based on waist size, (in this case, a  36 inch waist) I cut the 10 inch wide top layer to be 39 inches long. A bit of wiggle room and space for the hips.  Add 6 inches on the width to the 2nd layer and 6 inches or more of width for the bottom layer. The layers should look like this when laid out next to each other:

tutorial sew a three tiered skirt

Step 2: Because the widths of most fabrics (45″ to 60″) aren’t long enough accommodate the 2nd and 3rd layer to be a single piece, I cut the two longer bottom layers so they’ll have a seam on either side. The top layer is one piece and the seam will be in the center back.

serge the edges

Step 3: You will want to ‘stay’ or finish all of the edges of the three tiers. If you have access to a serger (above) serge all of the edges and each tier so it makes a loop. If you don’t have a serger, you can zip zag stitch around the unfinished edges.

all edges serged

When all edges have been serged or zig zag stitched and the ends connected to make a loop of each layer it should look like the above picture.

making a dart

Step 4: To narrow up the waist of a woman’s skirt, (no need to bother for little girls) add two darts in the back, 6 inches or so out from the center back seam. Make the darts about 1 inch wide and 5 inches long. This will take away some of the need for gathering the waist and will make the elastic waist fit better and look less bunchy.

match the lines and sew

Step 5: With the right sides together, match up the dart lines and sew along your marked line.

darts and center back of skirt

The darts should look like this when finished, about 6 inches out on either side of the center back seam.

turn right side out and press

Turn the fabric right side out and press the darts flat with an iron.

baste top edges of tier 2 and 3

Step 6: With the longest stitch length on your sewing machine you can set, ‘baste’ the top edges of tier 2 and 3. Begin and end in the center back of the layer. Leave the threads a few inches long so gathering will be easier, especially as you begin gathering.

gather the basted edge

Step 7: By pulling the thread on either side (but not both) of the basted stitch, gather the top of the layer, working around the looped layer to make the gathers even all the way around.

Step 8: Place the bottom of the top tier and the top of the 2nd tier layers, right sides together. Placing the center back seam of the top tier and the center back (and where you began your basting stitch) together and pin into place. Adjust gathers so the layer lengths match up and the gathers are distributed evenly all the way around the loop.

sew layers together, gathered edge on top

Step 9: Beginning at the center back and where your basting begins, sew the two layers together. Put the gathered edge on top as you sew so you can keep an eye on the gathers as you sew over them and control the evenness.

turn right side out and press

Turn the seam right side out and press flat. Iron with the seams facing up on the inside so you can top stitch all the inside layers together in a future step.

repeat for the third tier

Step 10:  To connect the 2nd layer the top of the third layer, repeat step 7- 9.

Step 11:  Top stitch around the outside of both layers (above).

measure for the elastic waist

Step 12: Measure the waist of the girl who will be wearing the skirt and cut the elastic 3 inches shorter than waist size.

Step 13: Make the casing for the elastic by ironing over the top tier of fabric the width of the elastic and an extra 1/8 of an inch. (In the picture above, I ironed over twice so the unfinished seam in buried. This is a good idea if you didn’t serge the edge. Otherwise, you can leave the serged edge exposed and only fold the waistband over once when making the casing for the elastic.)

sew a sleeve for elastic

Step 14: Beginning at the center back (mark the center back with ribbon, a label if you like) sew closely to the edge all the way around the waist but stopping about 3 inches from sealing the casing is completely closed.

use a safety pin to guide elastic

Step 15: Take your piece of elastic and using a large, easy to grab safety pin, guide the elastic through the gap you left in the casing until it makes it all the way around and back to the opening.

sew the ends of elastic together

Step 16: Making sure the elastic is not twisted inside the casing, place one end of the elastic on top of the other end, with about 1 inch of overlap and sew the ends of the elastic together with a repeated back and forth stitch.

sew closed the waistband opening

Step 17: Pull the sewn together elastic ends up into the casing and sew the gap closed.

iron the hem into place, double folded

Step 18: For the bottom hem, iron the hem into place (to be the skirt length you desire), double fold (pictured above) or single fold (if your edges are serged) into place and top stitch all the way around.

sew rick rack to a tier of the skirt

Step 19: If desired, sew rick rack, lace or ribbon around layers of the skirt for detail and emphasis.

3 tiered skirt with gathering and rick rack

Well done! You’ve finished the tutorial: sew a three tier skirt.


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