Do Not Make This Tiered Skirt

Folks, I finally finished making my first tiered skirt! It was a royal pain in the ass. I am never doing it again.

The final product looks pretty rad, though, so for you intrepid souls who don't mind gathering things for hours on end, here's a quick walkthrough of what I did. 

First, a little math to figure out how many yards go into each tier.

I like the way the gathers look when my gathered skirts are about three times my waist measurement, so I based my calculations on that. The first tier (A) is three times the waist measurement, the second tier (B) is three times the first tier, and the bottom tier (C) is three times the second tier.

See that bottom tier? If you start with a 28" waist measurement, you end up with 756 inches on your bottom tier, which is 21 yards. That is a whole lot of gathering! CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED.

The next thing I had to figure out was how wide to make each tier.

I like my skirts to be about 24" long, and since there are three tiers, that means each tier is 8 inches wide.

I also like a lot of room for gathering stitches, so I added a 1" seam allowance on each side. This meant that the pieces I cut for my tiers were 10" wide.

How does this map onto a piece of fabric?

The fabric I had earmarked for this dress was a 60" gingham. The first tier of the skirt needed to be 10" wide and 84" long, so clearly I was going to have to do some piecing. Since my fabric was 60" wide, I decided to cut the gingham into strips that were 10" wide and 60" long, like this:

Then I figured I would sew all of the strips together into one long strip, and then cut that into the appropriate lengths for each layer. Sounds simple, right?

Yeah. Let's do a little math.

If I add the length of all of the tiers together, I get 

84 + 252 + 756 = 1,092 inches

Um, have you ever tried to wrangle 1,092 inches of fabric? It's like fighting with a giant sheet snake. This really is what I did. it was annoying. Again, consider yourself warned.

At this point, you might be wondering: hey, how much fabric do I need for this skirt, anyway?

Well, if each strip is 60" long, that means you'll need

1,092 inches / 60 inches per strip = 18.2 strips

Ok. 18.2 strips. Let's say 19, just to be safe. And if each strip is 10" wide, that means you'll need

10" per strip x 19 strips = 190" of fabric

190" of 60" wide fabric. 190" is just under 5 1/3 yards. 5 1/3 yards of fabric for this skirt. That is a lot of fabric.

If you're using 44" wide fabric, just sub in 44" anywhere the above calculations say 60" and you'll get to the right yardage. (I get close to 7 yards, but make sure you do these calcs with your own measurements!)

Making the dang thing

Cut out all of the 10" wide strips. Sew their short ends together. I stitched and then serged them, but you can finish them however you want. If you're a real glutton for punishment, do French seams! If you want to be super fifties, pink them. You do you.

Cut the long sheet snake into three pieces, one for each tier. Use your calculations for reference. Keep in mind that you'll be gathering the tiers, so it doesn't have to be perfect.

Sew three lines of basting stitches into the top edge of the bottom tier. I like to do mine 1/4" apart, so one at 1/4" from the edge, one at 1/2", and one at 3/4". Keep in mind that you're gathering a zillion yards of fabric in this bottom layer. Your thread will break. You will be angry. Three lines of stitches will save you some of this heartache. So will using a ridiculously long stitch length. You can also try breaking the basting stitches into sections, or maybe using this nifty gathering method that Tasha talks about on By Gum, By Golly

However you do it, gather the bottom tier first.

Attach the gathered bottom tier to the middle tier using a 1" seam allowance. I serged this seam allowance. Use whatever finish you like.

Gather the top of the second tier, and then attach it to the bottom of the first tier. You're almost there!  

You'll notice that I applied ribbon to the seams between tiers... that's because I wasn't paying attention and accidentally cut some holes in the skirt with my serger. Pay attention. Don't be me.

Gather the top of the first tier and attach it to the waistband of your dress or skirt or whatever you're making. I put this sucker on a Gathered Bust dress, but you could totally put it on the Sweetheart Dress or any pattern with a waist seam.

From here, follow your pattern's directions for inserting a zipper.

For the hem: I included 1" for the skirt hem, so you can totally be lazy by serging the bottom edge, folding it up an inch, and stitching it in place (which is what I did.) Or, you know. Press it up 1/2", then press up 1/2" again and stitch in place. Again, you do you. Check out my sexy finishing (hah):

By now, it's probably been about two weeks since you first embarked on this horrible project. Put that dress on and go dance, for god's sake. You deserve it!


I know you can't tell, but I am very psyched about this skirt. Especially that it's done. It's done! And it spins SO WELL!

Anyway. Happy sewing! 



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