Spoonflower crew member Jamie is back again with another sporty summer garment sewing tutorial. This time she’ll teach you how to draft your own tennis skirt pattern and sew it up in a sporty knit fabric, like our new Performance Piqué!
Jamie: Just like my DIY Yoga Top, this tutorial will walk you through creating your own custom fitted garment pattern for a faux wrap tennis skirt. The great thing about making your own skirt pattern is that once you have the waist and hips fitted the way you like, you can create a million variations with ease — short skirts, long skirts, full skirts, pencil skirts…the possibilities are endless! Let’s get started!
Taking Your Measurements
The first step is to decide where you want the skirt to fit – will it fit high at your natural waistline, or lower below your belly button? Where you want the waistband to sit will be our “waistline measurement.”
Now decide how long you want the skirt to be — starting where you want the top to fit, measure how long you want the skirt to fall. An easy way to do this if you don’t have an assistant is to stand in front of the mirror and let the measuring tape fall, noting where you’d like the hemline of your skirt to be (I actually ended up adding a couple of inches to my length measurement because it sounded short and I knew it would be easier to make my project shorter at the end than it would be to make it longer!).
Now measure your widest point around your lower hips (basically measuring around the fullest part of your butt) so you know how wide the widest point of the skirt should be for a flattering fit.
Here’s what I came up with:
Let’s draw this pattern!
For simplicity, the front and back panels of this skirt will be the same pattern piece. We’re going to draw the full front/ back pattern piece along a center fold line, so it’s like we’re drawing out half of the panel, which will be an easy way to achieve symmetry and make sure the pattern is even. Then we’ll use the front/ back pattern piece to draw out a modified panel that will be the overlapping front panel. Finally, the waistband will be a long rectangle that will be doubled and sewn in at the top. This skirt is a faux wrap because it has a fixed waistband, and just gives the illusion of a wrap skirt.
Front and Back Skirt Panels
Draw a line that will become your center fold line that equals the overall length you decided upon, plus seam allowance for your top and bottom hems.
Next, draw a line perpendicular to your center fold line, out from the top, that is one fourth of your waist measurement.
I can up with 33.5/4 = 8.375 for mine. This math is based on ½ of your waistline since the front and back panels are mirror images, and then half of that again since we are only drawing out half of the full panel for this piece. Do not add seam allowance to this measurement– we are using a stretch fabric so to get a nice snug fit, leaving out your seam allowance on this measurement will allow for the stretch of the fabric.
Draw another line perpendicular to your center fold line that is one fourth of your lower hips measurement. This line should be about half way down the length of your skirt. To be precise, you can measure the distance on yourself from the waistband of your skirt to the fullest measurement you took around your lower hips. This is the distance down from the top that you should make your second line.
So far, your pattern should look like a big capital F. Now we’re going to connect the dots to draw the side seam. Lay your ruler on your paper so that it meets the ends of your waistline and lower hips line, and draw a line connecting these two points, all the way down to your bottom hem line. Complete your back panel piece by drawing in the bottom hem line across the bottom. Lines A and B in the drawing show two different style lines you could follow for your skirt flare, depending on how full or fitted you’d like it to be – be adventurous and see how different shapes and lengths effect this basic pattern!
Here’s the easy part, we’re just going to copy the front/ back panel piece we already made! Lay out your completed pattern piece over blank paper, trace around all the edges. Then flip your pattern piece over along the center fold line and trace around the top, bottom, and side seams of the mirror image, creating a full front or back panel piece.
Now we’re going to trim 2” off the side of the full front panel piece to create the wrap illusion piece. This will show just a little bit of your front panel piece and make it look more like a wrap skirt. Alternatively, you can also add any kind of shape or style line to the overlapping piece that you like, such as the curved edge I drew on my panel.
Decide how wide you want your waistband to be, mine is only 2 inches wide but you can make it really wide if you want it to fold over at the top. Double the width you want your finished waistband to be, because we will fold it in half along it’s length to have a folded finished edge at the top. The length of your waistband piece will be the same as your waistline measurement (you can subtract ½” to 1” if you want the waistband to fit tighter, remember this is a pretty stretchy fabric!) I drew my waistband on a center fold line because I was running out of paper.
Now the pattern is complete and it’s time to put your skirt together! Cut out a front and back panel piece (with the fabric folded along the pattern center fold line), as well as an overlapping panel piece, and a waistband piece. If you want a liner, cut a corresponding layer for each piece except the waistband.
If you’re using piping and sewing in a liner like my example, follow the next couple of steps. Otherwise, you can just press under your edges and topstitch or even just serge around your edges. To join your top, liner, and piping layers, line up your corresponding fabric and liner pieces on top of each other, right sides facing each other with the piping along the inside edge of your fabric layers. The seam side of the piping edge should be facing toward the outer edge of the fabric layers. Pin all three layers together.
For the front and back panel pieces, you’ll only need to add piping to the bottom hem. For the overlapping front panel piece, you’ll edge the overlapping side seam down along the bottom hem. Sew the layers as close to the piping edge as you can get — I used a zipper presser foot to get close to the piping edge. It was a bit tedious, but I think the result was worth it!
Now to join the side seams. Lay out the front panel piece with finished hem, right side facing up. On top of that, line up the overlapping front panel piece, also with the right side facing up. I found it helpful to pin these two layers together across the top to keep everything in place.
Finally, lay your back panel piece on top of the previous two layers — this layer with right side facing down — and line up side seams on all three layers. Pin together your layers, carefully lining up side seams on all layers.
Note that where all the piping layers meet at the bottom hem your fabric may be quite thick. I found it helpful to baste these layers together at the bottom hem before sewing on the machine to keep the hemline layers lined up neatly. I used a serger for my side seams, but you can also just use a zig-zag stitch on a regular machine to give your seams a bit of stretch.
To add the waistband, first sew the short side of your waistband so that you have a closed loop. Next, fold your waistband in half widthwise, right side out, and pin along the top edge of your skirt with right sides facing each other. The raw edges of your waistband should be lined up with the top edge of your skirt. Again, serge or zig zag around the top edge of your waistband to join the waistband to the skirt. Once this seam is done, flip your waistband up, and ta da! You’ve got a finished faux wrap tennis skirt!
I like the weight that the liner gave to this skirt, and the added detail of the piping really made a big impact by picking up the bright accent color.
Thank you to Spoonflower’s very own Operations Director Holly Anderson for modeling this awesome skirt for us!
Have fun trying out your own skirt variations with your new pattern making skills, and please share your projects with us and the Spoonflower community with the hashtag #Spoonflowered!
In addition to being part of the Spoonflower team, Jamie designs a clothing line, Seven Sages, that produces limited edition runs of women’s clothing with a mission to deliver high quality garments with low environmental impact. When she’s not busy working at Spoonflower and sewing, Jamie enjoys being a thrift store addict, a dog lover, and a pretty good cook.