Monday, October 1, 2012

From Granny Dress to Sweet Skirt

Let us start out by saying this project is SO EASY. Really. We spent maybe two hours total on this. That's one hour per skirt! Half the time it takes that long to shop for a good skirt, so why not design your own?

Here is what our dresses looked like before:

Super hot date night outfits, right?

And here is what they looked like when we were done!

Now that's better!

Seriously, guys. Easiest skirt ever. And here's the best part: YOU decide how it looks! You get to pick the fabric it will be made of, you get to pick where on your waist you want it to hit, and you get to pick how long or short you want it to be. We chose to do something slightly above the knee so that it would be long enough to wear to class and work but short enough to fit our ages.

Let's get started.

First of all, you want to pick a dress that's about three or four sizes too big for you. For example, Kaitlin usually wears a six, so her Goodwill shopping was done in the size twelve to fourteen section. It's also helpful if your dress is a little on the long side--that will allow you more wiggle room with choosing your hem length.

Got it? Great! Now head over to your local craft or fabric shop and pick up about a yard of 2 inch wide elastic. We decided to use black because the white kind usually gets dirty fast, and it's really summery, which doesn't really work with our fall and winter clothes. You'll also want to grab some thread that matches your fabric from your thrifted dress. One spool is more than enough.

Now that you have your supplies, it's time to start cutting! This is the scary part. Don't feel bad about cutting up your dress. It will probably be glad for the makeover in the long run!

Start cutting straight across the garment at the hips. Cutting here ensures you have enough fabric to create the gathers at the waist when you start sewing. If you cut at the waist of the dress, you won't be able to stretch your elastic while you sew, which means when the skirt is done you probably won't be able to get into it.

Go slow! Cutting accurately is important, so take your time!

Throw the top half of your dress into your scrap bucket. Don't have a scrap bucket? Start one! There are a million things you can do with your scrap stash. Tip Nut has some great stash busters listed here.

Now you're going to take your elastic and wrap it around your waist at the point where you want your skirt to hit. We put ours pretty high up--a higher waist means slimmer looking hips!

Don't stretch the elastic when you wrap it around. You want enough room left to stitch the ends together.

All wrapped up? Good. Now cut the elastic about half an inch beyond where the two ends meet. This leaves you a little room for the quick and dirty seam we're going to create in the next step.

Time to create that waistband! Take the two ends of your elastic, line them up, and using a small straight stitch, sew the ends together leaving about a quarter inch of elastic to the side of the seam. Back stitch a couple of times at each end of the seam to make sure it holds.

If you want to know how much a quarter inch is, just keep the end of the elastic lined up with the inner edge of your presser foot.

Perfect! Now cut the ends of your thread as close to the elastic as you can. You don't want to wear a skirt with little threads hanging out everywhere!

Now you want to fold each side of that seam over, making the seam look like an open book. Stitch each side down, back stitching at either end again. This will make the seam much more comfortable. Trust us, you won't even feel it.

Easy peasy waistband!

Next, we are going to assemble the skirt. Get excited!

Take the skirt you cut off your dress and pin it to your elastic. As you do this, make sure that the seam you just sewed is facing out, towards you, as is the fabric. This is called putting your fabric "right sides together" and is how most garments are assembled. Right sides together creates invisible seams.

It helps to stretch your elastic as wide as you can to get the whole thing pinned. Your skirt will be much wider than your waistband, but when you are sewing you'll be stretching the elastic to match it's width. Might as well go ahead and pin it that way too!

It may help to have a friend for this step. On Elizabeth's skirt, Kaitlin pinned while Elizabeth stretched and it went a lot faster.

This next step is the hardest one. Once you get going, though, it's not bad. Sew the elastic and skirt together at the top of the elastic, using a straight stitch and stretching the elastic out as you go. If you have elastic thread, you can use it on your bobbin and not have to stretch while you go. Our fabric store was out of elastic thread, but stretching ultimately has the same effect.

Stretch it real good!

You should have something that looks like this right about now:

Pretty cute, no? Don't worry, we're getting to the length next.

If you like it this long, you're finished! Kaitlin loves maxi skirts, but this one is just a little bit of an awkward length so she decided to go shorter.

Take a fabric pencil (a white colored pencil can work too as long as you are working on dark fabric) and draw a line where you want your hemline to be. Make sure that you're following the same curve as the hem of your original dress or else you'll end up with a weird, uneven hem.

 Don't worry about how thick the line is. It just needs to be enough for you to see.

Now take a pair of pinking shears (or regular scissors if you don't have shears--using shears just helps the fabric avoid fraying as it ages and gets washed/worn) and cut along the line you just drew.
Put that excess fabric in your stash box! It can be used later for more projects.

Guess what? We're almost done!

Take your hem and fold it over once, about a half inch wide fold. Iron this fold down so it stays put.

Trust us--ironing might be a pain but it saves SO much trouble later.

Fold that hem over one more time, and iron it down again. This process is making what is called a "rolled hem" which is great for keeping fabric from fraying. Even when a pattern doesn't suggest a rolled hem, Kaitlin uses it because it's so much sturdier.

 See why it's called a rolled hem? The fabric gets rolled right up!

Last step!

Head back to your sewing machine, align your needle to the left side of the presser foot, and stitch that hem as close to the rolled edge as possible. This will place your seam a little less than half an inch above the bottom of your skirt. Back stitch at the beginning and end of your seam to make it sturdy.
Be careful--it's easy to accidentally get out of line here, but if you do just use your seam ripper to undo those few stitches and start over.


Go forth and model! Your skirt is done. What an easy, adorable way to recycle those dresses nobody really wants! Everyone can wear this style, no matter what your body type. Easy, comfy, cute--the trifecta of fashion perfection!

Wait until you see what's coming next! You're going to love it.


  1. Loved the tutorial! I want to make one! The only thing I would note is that the font color is a bit hard to read.

  2. Thank you for the feedback! We've adjusted our font colors so it should be easier for you. If you have any projects you'd like to see us do, please feel free to contact us!

  3. I think this would be so fun for my daughter! She always says she wants to sew, but doesn't stick with the entire process, just get's frustrated and wanders off half way through. By refashioning, we can hopefully make it through before she ditches the whole process. Thanks for the idea!


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