Goth Sewing School, Skirts 101: Gathered Skirt Tutorial

Image of a a black skirt with a gathered waistband on a gray dressform. The dressform is next to a table with three potted plants on it.
The Easiest Skirt EVER

Summer vacation is over, folks. It is time to wash the sand off your feet, hang your shorts to dry, and get ready to learn! To celebrate back-to-school time, we will spend the month of September learning to sew skirts that are easy and work as great building blocks for more elaborate garments. Welcome to Goth Sewing School, y’all!

Goth Sewing School Curriculum

Graphic for the curriculum section of the blog post

We are starting with a gathered skirt—the easiest garment you will ever sew. Though simple, this skirt is full of possibilities. Make it short, midi, or full length. Use quilting cotton for a structured look, linen for a practical piece, or rayon for a flowy vibe. You can sew your gathered skirt in any color under the sun (but let’s be honest, I’ll probably sew a bunch of black ones). This gathered skirt tutorial is a perfect first project as well as a great palate cleanser for more experienced sewists.

From this two-pattern-piece gathered skirt, we will up the difficulty level by sewing a skirt with a separate elasticated waistband and lining. We will then add pockets to our skirt—because what is life without pockets? Finally, we will sew a skirt with multiple panels for maximum goth appeal.

Let’s get started!

Gathered Skirt Tutorial

What You Will Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Woven fabric such as cotton, linen, or rayon
  • 1-inch wide elastic
  • Polyester thread is the same color as your fabric
  • Pins
  • Universal needle 80/10
  • Sewing machine

The super cute cotton with the fun prints is usually 40-44” wide. Linen and rayon are usually 50-60” wide. Once we get to measuring your waist and decide on how much gathering you want, we will determine how much fabric you will need.

Skills You Will Learn

  • Straight seams
  • Seam allowance
  • Hemming straight hems


Taking Your Measurements

This “pattern” is great because you only need two measurements: waist and length. 

Note: You may need your hip measurement if you want the minimum amount of waist gathering.


  1. This skirt is meant to stay at the waist.
  2. Make sure you are wearing the same undergarments you will when you wear your skirt. 
  3. Take the measuring tape and wrap it around the narrowest part of your torso. 
  4. Record this number.


  1. You can make this skirt any length you’d like.
  2. Place the tip of the measuring tape where you measured your waist.
  3. Hold the tip and let the tape fall. 
  4. Determine how long you want the skirt to be.
  5. Record this number.

Hips (Just in case):

  1. Find the widest part of your hips.
  2. Make sure you are wearing the same undergarments you will when you wear your skirt. 
  3. Take the measuring tape and wrap it around the widest part of your hips.. 
  4. Record this number.

Vocab Time!!!!

Ease: Extra width added to measurements so that you are able to breathe and move. It varies. When you are sewing woven garments, you will need at least 2” for the bust, 1” for the waist, and 1.5” for the hips.

Seam Allowance: The area between the edge of the fabric and the line of stitching. It varies, but most commercial patterns have a ⅝” of an inch allowance.

Doing Some Math

Because we want the waist of your skirt to be gathered, we will have to add some width to your waist measurement. The more width you add, the more gathered (=puffy) your waist will be.

The final measurement comes to personal preference. If you want the minimum amount of gathering possible, you have to use your hip measurement as your waist measurement plus some ease plus seam allowance.

I like my waistbands with the least amount of gathering, but I also like to move and breathe, so I am going to use my hip measurement + 2” of ease (so I know I will be able to move) + ⅝” of seam allowance (x4 because I have four seams, two on each side).

42 + 2 + 2 ½ = 46 ½”

I will divide this number by 2 since I will have two panels.

Then, I need to determine the length of my skirt and make sure to add extra for the waistband and the hem. I like skirts to hit below the knee; That length for me is 20 inches. For the waistband, I will add 1” for the width of the elastic, ¼-½” as wiggle room for when I am inserting the elastic, and ½” for the enclosed hem of the waistband. For the hem, I am going to do a double folded hem. The first fold will be ½” and the second 1”.

20 + 1+ ¼ + ¼ +1 + ¼=  22 ¾”

My skirt will have two panels with a width of  23 ¼” and length of 22 ¾”. 

More Gathers, Please

The Math of It All

If you want a puffier look to your waist, simply add more width to your panels. For softer gathers, multiply your waist measurement by 2. For even more volume, multiple that measurement by 3. 

Final Formulas (Oh, no, more Math!!!!)

Here are your formulas:

For the Width of the Panels (These measurements are for the two-panel skirt. If you are working with just one panel, you will only need two seam allowances, so ⅝” x 2)

Minimum Gathers

hip measurement + ease (2-3”)+ (seam allowance (½-⅝”) x 4) / 2

Soft Gathers

(waist measurement x 2) + (seam allowance (½-⅝”) x 4) / 2

Puffy Gathers

(waist measurement x 3) + (seam allowance (½-⅝”) x 4) / 2

For the Length of the Panels

desired length + elastic width + elastic wiggle room (¼-½”) + 1/4” folded hem raw edge + hem (1-2″)


Use your waist measurement minus 1-2 inches. 

Don’t wanna do Math? You can use this nifty calculator RIGHT HERE!!!

One- or Two-Panel Skirt?

Image of a piece of paper with waist and hip measurements and drawing for a one-panel skirt pattern and a two-panel skirt pattern.
One or Two Panels

Depending on the width of your waist and how much gathering you want, you might be able to make a skirt out of just one panel of fabric if your fabric is wide enough. 

For example, your waist measures 30 inches, you want soft gathers, and your fabric is 60” wide, you can simply cut one panel with your disputed length and end up with just one seam. 

I like two seams because I believe seams help shape a garment. I opted for two side seams, but you can decide on one seam as a back seam. 

Sewing the Skirt

Time to Cut Your Pieces

You have two options here:

1. Use the measurements to cut a pattern out of paper 


2. Use a marking tool to draw the measurements directly to your fabric.

Having the paper pattern might be useful if you don’t have any sewing experience. You can use it again and again, and it fosters good sewing practices. It is also helpful if you don’t feel confident enough to just go straight to the fabric. You do you, though.

Cutting Your Panels

BEFORE you cut your fabric, make sure to WASH it and then IRON it. Fabric shrinks once it is washed, and some fibers like rayon can shrink considerably. Pre-washing is a great sewing practice and habit.

Place your fabric on your cutting table (which could be your dining table of the floor), folded widthwise. I usually have right sides together—so when I cut, I am looking at the wrong side of the fabric.

What’s this “right and wrong side of the fabric” talk? The right side is the pretty side or the side that will be outside, the visible side. The wrong side is the not-so-pretty side of the inside of the fabric.

From the folded center, measure out the width of your panel. Mark it with a marking tool or pin. Bring your ruler down by a few inches and mark a second point. Repeat this process a couple more times. Place your ruler parallel to the fold where all your markings are. Draw a line combining all these points. 

Using this perpendicular line, place the top of the ruler on the raw edge and mark the desired length. From the top of the fabric, move the ruler towards the folded center by a few inches and mark the desired length. Repeat this process a couple more times. Place your ruler perpendicular to the fold where all your markings are. Draw a line combining all these points. 

By now, you have a rectangle drawn on your fabric. Using very sharp scissors that you promise you will only use for fabric, cut on the lines. Your first panel is done!

Repeat the same process for the second panel, and you have your skirt pieces ready to sew!

Sewing Your Panels

Open each fabric panel, right sides up. Put one panel on top of the other, right sides facing each other. Make sure to align all edges properly. Use pins to keep the two panels together. 

The default setting for your machine should be a straight stitch, but it is worth checking to make sure. Use a universal needle size 80/12 for quilting cotton and linen or 70/10 for rayon, batiste, or voile.

Line your raw edge with the line that reads ⅝”. You can use a piece of tape to make the line more obvious, or you can buy a magnetic seam guide—I have one and would be lost without it.

Parallel or Perpendicular Pinning?

Image of a hand holding a skirt, side seams pinned with a row of pins parallel to the selvage.
Pin so that you can easily remove the pins as you sew

Much like many decisions in life, you get to choose if you will place your pins parallel to the selvage or perpendicular to it. The most important thing is that you are able to remove the pins before you get to them. Do not sew over your pins.

You will sew a row of straight stitches ⅝” away from the raw edge on each side. If you take a close look at the sewing machine plate, you will notice that they are lines that mark different measurements. 

Pressing Your Seams Open

Image of a seam pressed open on a ironing board
Press all seams open

To set the stitches in place and to prepare for the waistband and hem, you are going to press both seams open. Pressing is not ironing: Instead of gliding the iron back and forth, you will move it up and down, applying gentle pressure when you have the iron on the fabric. 

Making the Waistband

How to Make the Waistband

Right now, you have a tube of fabric. Pick one opening to be the waistband and the other for the hem. Press ¼” from one of the openings to the wrong side of the skirt. This will give your waistband a nice finish. If ¼” is too narrow to handle, go for ½”. It is just ¼” difference, and it might make things easier.

Once you have this “baby” waistband, you will press the real waistband by folding one inch to the wrong side of the skirt and pressing. Use pins to keep the waistband in place, but make sure to leave a 5” opening to insert the elastic. 

Take your skirt to the sewing machine. With the right side of the skirt on the machine and waistband facing up, sew as close to the fold as you can. Don’t forget to  leave a 5” opening to insert the elastic!

Press the waistband. Take your elastic and insert a safety pin on one end. The pin will be your guide as you thread the elastic through the waistband casing. Go slow and make sure to keep the elastic flat so it does not twist inside of the waistband.

Once you reach the opening, overlap the ends of the elastic by one inch and pin them together. Set your machine to a zigzag stitch. Sew a Z on the overlapped section of the elastic—I do this by sewing two parallel rows aligned with ends of the elastic, then I sew a diagonal to create the Z. Get the elastic into the casing and sew the opening close.


Image of female hands holding a seam gauge as the woman measures and presses a hem

You are one hem away from a finished skirt! You are going to follow the exact same process we used for the waistband. First, fold and press a “baby” hem that is ¼” deep. Then, fold and press a 1” hem. Pin it in place and go to the sewing machine. Sew with the wrong side of the skirt facing up, very closed to the fold. Press.

Time to Wear Your Skirt

Look at you, budding sewist! Your skirt is ready!!!! You can make many more. Try different fabrics, fun prints, and varying lengths. This is an easy sewing project that can help you develop essential skills. 

Practice sewing while you fill your closet with lots and lots of skirts. The more you practice, the better you will get. You will be able to build on the skills you learned with this skirt once we move on to a more challenging project.


  1. Donna
    September 14, 2023 / 4:07 am

    I am confused. Wouldn’t you need four times the seam allowance if you are using two panels. Each panel has a seam allowance on both sides so it seems like you would need 4 times.

    • SewGoth
      September 14, 2023 / 8:52 am

      Hi, Donna,

      You are absolutely correct! I forgot to account for all four seam allowances. I’m gonna go ahead an fix it.

      Math was never my strongest subject.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *