Tomorrow was a long time coming, or, How to make a pretty gathered skirt for a toddler-to-5yo, even if you’ve never sewn a wearable garment before. Part 1.

First of all, I’m assuming you know how to thread a needle and can do a running stitch and a back stitch, or know how to sew a reasonably straight seam with a straight stitch on your own or someone else’s sewing machine, even if you have to ask someone else to thread it up for you.. Those are the only  assumptions I am making.

If you don’t have access to a sewing machine,  or if you are afraid of them (I TOTALLY understand this btw – more another time) don’t worry, you can absolutely do this by hand, perhaps while watching TV in the evening, or even sitting on the beach on holiday. You don’t have to have a sewing machine. Think about it – all those lovely Regency clothes of Jane Austen’s heroines, the stunning gowns of Elizabeth I;  Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine, every single participant in the Battle of Waterloo – no sewing machines for them!. So what’s a toddler’s skirt in the greater scheme of things?  A couple of relaxing evenings?                                                

Right, lets get started.

All you need to start with is a tape-measure. I’m sure you can borrow one if you don’t already have one, but it must be a flexible tape measure, not one of those metal ones! Everything else you either already have, or will buy at the same time you buy your fabric.

Measure around your child’s waist with a tape-measure, somewhere around her middle where you expect the skirt to ‘sit’, and over the t-shirt, knickers etc she usually wears. Don’t pull the tape-measure tight, just have it comfortably snug against her vest and knickers/tights/whatever, and look at the reading where the beginning end meets the rest of the tape-measure. Her waist will probably be somewhere around the 50cm/20 inches mark, give or take 5 cm/a couple of inches either way. Write this measurement down somewhere. If her waist measurement seems unfeasibly large, just check that you haven’t got the tape-measure round her backwards – we’ve all done it at times!  

You can then measure the length you want the skirt to be with the tape measure, too, from where you took the waist measurement to the desired length on her leg, or measure the length of a skirt she already has and which fits..Write this measurement down, too.

Subtract 2.5cm/1 inch from your child’s waist measurement, and write down the result on a bit of paper with a big letter W beside it.

Add about 5-10cm/2 – 4 inches to the desired length of the skirt and write this number down on the same bit of paper with a big letter L beside it. Also write down the desired length you measured, and put brackets round it, or a light X through it. Keep this bit of paper safe, because you’re going to need it when you’re shopping for supplies and equipment.

First, EQUIPMENT in the order you’ll be using it. I’m sure you already have a lot of it..

  1. Tape measure.(you’ve already got this if you’ve measured the child for the skirt – but if it was a borrowed one, you’ll want to get your own)

  2. Iron and ironing board. They are, perhaps unfortunately, a very important part of the sewing process.

  3. Sharp scissors – no, your kitchen shears will not do! 

  4. Sewing needle or sewing machine – with a new needle, please. A new needle costs pennies.

  5. Safety pins.

SUPPLIES: (also in the order you’ll be using them – you’ll need to go shopping for these)

  1. Fabric –  in a print the little girl adores. Puppies?  Pink hearts? Dinosaurs? Tractors?

  2. Sewing thread – in a colour to match the fabric.

  3. Elastic –  2.5cm/1 inch wide is best. 

  4. Might be nice to have – buttons, ribbon, lace, other pretty trimmings.

Now you’re ready to go shopping – tomorrow! 

Do bear in mind that these instructions were originally written for a couple of beginner sewers in my village, and so I was able to tell them exactly what to ask for, and where they could get their supplies at different price points in different named shops. I can’t do that for you, obviously, but in my next post I’ll make sourcing suggestions that should be helpful for UK readers.


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