Sunday 24 November 2013

Tutorial - Elephant Skirt with Secret Pockets …Shhhhh!

I found this gorgeous elephant fabric at Spotlight, when I was there to get something else of course … yep I can never ever leave that place without something extra!  Anyway I fell instantly in love with it … like TOTALLY besotted … I might have bought it in 3 different colours … yikes … don't tell Daddy OK!

Anyway, I had some cute boy outfits in mind for the navy blue one for my gorgeous new little nephew.  And this salmon-pink elephant print?  Well I decided to stash it until I had a brain-wave.  Then one day as I was reading a post on one of my favourite sewing Mummy blogs, I saw a post about piping, and how it can change the look of a piece entirely.  My mind went crazy and I decided that piping is EXACTLY what this fabric needed.  And with that inspiration, I came up with this design for the Elephant Skirt for Bethany.  

She needed She wanted … OK, OK, Mummy wanted to make a little tiered skirt with a more fitted-style top tier, so the lower tier poofs out in a feminine, flowy, comfy way … do you know what I mean?  Then part way through the sewing process I thought … why not try out another new technique?  I decided to try my hand at inserting invisible pockets into the side-seams … for collecting secret treasures of course.   What do you think? … You can just see the opening of the pocket in this pic.

Of course, once an idea works … it actually worked!! … I can never stop at just one, so I decided to use some of the navy-blue Elephant fabric to make a matching (but not) skirt for Hannah.  Don't worry, there was plenty left for a cute little outfit for my nephew, as well as a few other things! And don't you just love little girls in Navy and pink!  This is an absolutely timeless colour match to my way of thinking!

As I made Hannah's I snapped some pics so I could share it with all of you … just in case you want Elephant skirts too!

So, here's what you need:
- 1 metre/yard fabric … this is a medium weight woven fabric.
- 1 metre/yard coordinating piping
- 1"-wide elastic … enough to fit round your munchkin's waist, plus 1" for overlapping
- Scissors or Cutting Mat and Rotary Cutter
- Sewing machine and coordinating thread

If you want to make a matching singlet, onsie or T-shirt, you just need:
- A store-bought singlet / onsie / t-shirt
- Some scraps of fabric
- A button-covering kit

How to make it:

1.  Firstly is the math bit, and I promise it's the hardest part … once it's done, the skirt will come together really quickly … just bear with it!
So ...
- Measure your child's waist … Hannah's is 19".  
- Measure the length you want the skirt to be (waist to knee) and add 2".  Hannah's waist to knee is 10", plus 2 = 12". 

- Now for the top tier:  Width = (1/3 x waist) + waist.  So Hannah's was (1/3 x 19") + 19" = 25.3"
                                    Length = A little under half the total skirt length. Hannah's top tier was 5" long

- Now for the bottom tier: Width = 2 x waist.  So Hannah's was 2 x 19" = 38"
                                         Length = A little over half the total skirt length.  Hannah's was 7" long.

2.  Once you've done your calculations, go ahead and cut out your two skirt pieces.  You'll end up with 2 rectangles of fabric.  For Hannah's we had 1 rectangle (top tier)  25.3" x 5", and the other (bottom tier) 38" x 7".

Then, so that you've got side-seams to insert your pockets into, fold each of the rectangles in half long ways, and cut them along the fold so you end up with 4 pieces like this …
3.  Grab your bottom tier pieces (the bigger ones!). Set your sewing machine's stitch length to the longest stitch (mine is Number 6), and stitch a gathering row of stitching 1/4" from the edge of the top edge of each piece.  It will start to gather a little as you sew it, and that's fine!  Remember not to back stitch at the beginning and end!

4. Line up this gathered edge along the bottom edge of your top tier pieces.  Pull EITHER the top or bottom thread from your gathering stitches until the gathered edge is the same width as the top tier piece, then move the gathers along to even them out.

5. Place the gathered edge and the bottom edge of the top tier piece right sides together.  Grab your piping, and sandwich it between the 2 pieces, with the piping raw edge (the edge without the rope in it) matching with your fabric edges…like so….  Pin it well to hold all the layers in place.

6.  Put your sewing machine stitch back to normal length … I usually have mine on 3 … then sew carefully to join the 3 layers.  Do your best to sew right next to the piping "bump".  You can use a zipper foot to help you get closer if you want to, but to be honest, I'm a bit lazy for that, and just try to get as close as I can with my regular foot.  Then finish the raw edges with an overlocker (serger) or by doing a zig-zag stitch along the edge.

Then repeat steps 4-6 with the other top and bottom tier pieces. It's a good idea to iron them at this point.

7.  Now you have a skirt front and back.  This is where I decided to add the pockets.  If you don't want pockets simply place your skirt pieces right sides together, and sew down the side-seams, and finish off the raw edges, then skip to Step 13.  

If you're brave enough to give the pockets a go, grab a piece of tracing paper … I used some brown paper I had lying around.  Draw free-hand a shape like this.  You want it to be big enough for your munchkin to get their hand in at the straight edge.  You can see here that for this 18month size, I made the opening 3 1/2".  In hindsight, I probably could have made it a little larger, so go at least 4", and even a bit larger if you're making this for a bigger munchkin.

8.  Place this pattern on to your fabric and cut 2 pieces, then flip your pattern over to the wrong side, and cut two more pieces.  Match up each piece with it's mirror image.

9.  Grab your skirt pieces and measure half way down the top tier on each piece, then pin a pocket piece in at that point, right sides together, along the straight side.  You want to make sure you picked a piece that sits in the correct direction … see pic below!  Repeat with each pocket piece on each side of each skirt piece.  Tip: Make sure you measure down accurately each time otherwise your pockets won't match up properly when you go to sew them together later.  

10. Stitch down the straight edge of each pocket piece using a 1/4" seam to attach them to the skirt pieces, then finish just that part of the side-seam with your overlocker (serger) or zig-zag stitch. 

11.  Flip your pockets out, then place back and front skirt pieces right sides together.  Pin down the side seam to the pocket, then around the pocket, then down the rest of the side-seam, like this.

12.  Sew along your pinned lines.  When you get to the beginning and end of the pockets, stop sewing, lower the needle manually, then lift the foot and pivot the fabric around to make a nice clean corner.  Put the foot back down and continue sewing.  Then finish the edges with overlocker (serger) or zig zag.  it can be a little tricky with the overlocker on the corners, but just do the best you can by taking it slowly around the corners.

13.  Turn the skirt right-side-out, and admire your work for a second …. or two!  Ok, now finish the top raw edge and the bottom raw edge with your overlocker (serger) or zigzag.

14.  Turn the top waistband down 1 1/4" and iron, then pin in place.  Sew around, making sure you leave a gap of at least 1" in the back to thread your elastic.  I usually mark my opening with pins so I don't accidentally sew right on through!

15. Cut your elastic to your munchkin's waist measurement + 1 inch for overlapping.  So Hannah's was 19"+1= 20".  Using a safety pin, thread your elastic through the waistband, then over-lap the edges about 1/2" and sew them together using a zig-zag stitch.

16.  Insert your tag into the gap you left in the waistband if you're using one, or maybe a piece of ribbon so your munchkin knows which is the back (not that it really matters 'cause in this design the back and front are identical, but it is a nice touch), then sew it closed.

17.  Next turn your bottom hem up 1/2" and iron, then pin in place.  Sew around to finish the hem.

Ta-Daa!  You're done, and ready for some balancing on a piece of string … Do you remember that kid's song … "3 grey elephants balancing, step by step on a piece of string" … and so on … wow that song it totally stuck in my head now!  Oh well!!

 Now, for the singlet … I simply used a store-bought singlet, used a button-covering kit to cover some 3/4" buttons with the fabric scraps (trying to line it up so an elephant was on the front of each button), ironed a small circle-shaped piece of iron-on interfacing to the back side of the singlet as a reinforcement, then hand-sewed the buttons on.  For Hannah's I did just one button, but for Bethany's slightly larger singlet, I did a cluster of 3.  Looks cute I think!

 Hope you and your munchkins enjoy this little skirt as much as we do!  I'd love to see any pics if you make one … just drop me an email anytime!

Make It and Love It


  1. ok....those little sweeties are just simply STUNNING!!
    my 4 years old Sofia really need/want ( hehehe ) one of them!!!!
    I will definitely make one:):)
    Thank you:):)

    1. Thank you Evie. I think she definitely NEEDS one … and maybe Mummy needs a sewing fix too! I'd love to see when it's done if you want flick over a pic.

  2. Wow! I have been wanting to make a little skirt just like this for weeks, but was unsure of where to start. Then BAM! This shows up on craft gossip today. Thanks so much for this, I will be sewing up a storm this weekend! Ps love the fabric...and the buttons!!! Thank you!

  3. Me encantó la pollerita para hacerle a mi hijita!!!! Hace poco me compré una máquina de coser, para hacerle muchas ropa linda a ella. Gracias por el tutorial. Kiss from Argentina♥

  4. Very cute pattern! I'll have to remember to make one of these for my little girl once she starts walking! :)

    1. Thanks Amanda ... skirts are just so much fun when they start walking!

  5. I love the idea of secret pockets! Thanks for sharing the tutorial!

  6. Yeah, those pockets are fun ... I've also made this skirt without pockets too, and it's just as cute!

  7. Replies
    1. Thanks, I like it too ... just makes a relatively simple skirt a little bit more special, hey!

  8. Very cute! I love the piping detail. Thanks for sharing the tutorial.

    1. Thanks Dora. This was the first real time I'd used piping ... I might be a little addicted now!

  9. They are so cute! The addition of piping looks really nice. Love the last sweet!

    1. Thanks Annie. I know, right .... That last pic is a heart-melter for this Mummy!

  10. I love the look of piping. It makes such a difference! Two lovely little skirts, Wen. And yes, when I go into Spotlight, I never come out with just the one thing I went in for.

    1. Hi Wen, I've featured your skirts today...

  11. so cute and simple. I will try once. tks a lot.

  12. Hi Wen, I've featured your fab tutorial again today...

    1. Thanks Pam! I think I need to make a few more of these for this coming summer!

  13. I made two of these adorable skirts a few years ago and they turned out GREAT! A word of warning though... I STRONGLY suggest that you do your measurements and calculations *before* purchasing your fabric! I'm in the process of making two more skirts for Easter but suddenly realized that the suggested "1 yard" or "1 metre" of fabric will no longer suffice for my rapidly growing girls. LOL! These skirts will be a little less "poofy" but just as adorable. :-)