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Raven Three-Tiered Skirt

Create a beautiful and charming skirt. The fabric used here is a patchwork print but you could have lots of fun using a different fabric for each tier for a really dramatic effect.

Sewing for Children with African Wax Print Fabric



Fabric—see step 1 for amount required

Matching sewing thread

24in (61cm) of 1in (2.5cm) wide elastic

Safety pin

Sewing kit


All seam allowances are ⅜in (1cm) unless otherwise stated.


1. This is a no-pattern project. Simply measure the child’s waist circumference, decide how long you would like the skirt to be, and plot those measurements into the calculations below to work out how much fabric you will need. The width of each tier ranges from 1.5 times to 2 times the waist measurement, to create the gathered effect. Tier 1 is longer than the other two tiers because this tier includes the waistband.

To calculate the length and width of each tier:

Tier 1:

Width = 1.5 x Waist measurement

Length = ⅓ Skirt length + 2½in (6.5cm) (for the waistband) + ¾in (2cm) (for the seam allowance)

Tier 2:

Width = 1.75 x Waist measurement

Length = ⅓ Skirt length + ¾in (2cm)

Tier 3:

Width = 2 x Waist measurement

Length = ⅓ skirt length + ¾in (2cm)

Once you have calculated the total amount of fabric you need, pre-wash and “press” your fabric before cutting the piece for each tier.


2. Fold the top tier in half with the right sides together, lining up the short sides. Stitch the short sides together. Press the seam open and finish using zigzag stitch or an overlocker. Repeat with the other two tiers.

3. Sew gathering stitches at the top edge of tier 3:

  • Leaving long thread ends, work two parallel rows of gathering stitches ¼in (6mm) apart within the seam allowance along your fabric edge, with the outer row of stitching a thread’s width from the seamline. Do not stitch over seams—stitch between any seams where necessary.

4. Turn tier 2 to the right side and place it inside tier 3, so that the right sides are together and the bottom edge of tier 2 is aligned with the top edge of tier 3. Gather the top edge of tier 3 into the bottom edge of tier 2 and then stitch together:

  • Divide the stitched edge and the edge to which it will be attached into four or more equal sections and mark them with a pin. With right sides together, pin the stitched edge to the other edge, matching marker pins. Match any corresponding pattern markings and seams.
  • At one end, secure the bobbin threads by twisting them around a pin in a figure eight. At the other end, pull both bobbin threads together and gently ease the gathers along the threads. When the gathered edge fits the other piece, secure the thread ends around another pin, as before. On long edges, gather the fabric from each end toward the centre, rather than trying to gather across the entire piece all at once.
  • Unwind the thread ends from around each end pin, and knot each pair together to secure them; trim the ends to about 1in (2.5cm). With the gathered side on top, baste the two layers together between the two rows of stitching, using short stitches. Remove the pins.
  • Return your machine stitch length and tension to the appropriate setting. With the gathered side on top, machine stitch the gathered edge to the corresponding edge, reverse stitching to start and finish. As you sew, hold the fabric on either side of the machine foot to prevent the gathers from being pushed and stitched into pleats. Remove the basting.
  • Diagonally trim crossed seam allowances as shown to reduce bulk. Using the tip of the iron, press the seam allowances flat as they were stitched, but do not press the gathers. Finish the seam allowances together. Open the sections out and press the seam toward the flat section. Press the gathers by sliding the point of the iron into the gathers toward the seam.

Finish the seam and press tier 2 and its seam it away from tier 3.


5. Repeat step 4, this time gathering the top of tier 2 into the bottom edge of tier 1 and stitching them together. Press tier 1 and its seam away from tier 2.


6. Turn the skirt upper edge to the wrong side by ¼in (6mm) and then again by 1½in (4cm) to the wrong side. Pin in place and press. Stitch in place, 1¼in (3cm) away from the top folded edge, leaving a 2in (5cm) gap. Cut the piece of 1in (2.5cm) wide elastic so that it measures the circumference of the child’s waist minus 2in (5cm). Pin a safety pin onto one end of your elastic. Insert the elastic into the gap, gathering as you do so, until the safety pin comes out through the other side of the gap. Stitch the ends of elastic together to secure, using several rows of zigzag stitches. Stitch the gap in the waistband closed.


7. Hem the skirt by turning the bottom edge under to the wrong side by ½in (1.3cm) and then by ½in (1.3cm) again. Topstitch the hem ⅜in (1cm) away from the lower folded edge.


This project is from Sewing for Children with African Wax Print Fabric by Adaku Parker. To get more blog posts like this one - direct to your inbox - be sure to sign up to our mailing list here.

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