The total beginner’s guide to sewing a DIY skirt | adding pleats and a waistband

The total beginner's guide to making a DIY skirt. A totally easy tutorial showing you how to add pleats and a simple ribbon waistband | Randomly Happy

This post I’ll be showing you how to add pleats to a skirt andย ย how to add a rather fetching ribbon waistband.

How to sew a simple DIY ribbon waistband
How to sew a simple DIY ribbon waistband

And a few pictures from me working away in the sun, just for funsies.

Keen to flex your skills? Check out all the posts in the Total Beginner's 
Guide to Sewing a DIY Skirt series:

The pattern
Cutting your fabric
Easy pockets
Sewing up
Adding pleats and a simple waistbandPerfect zipper in 8 steps
The easy 3 step hem

Adding pleats and a waistband to a DIY skirt

Creating simple pleats

The total beginner's guide to making a DIY skirt. A totally easy tutorial showing you how to add pleats and a simple ribbon waistband | Randomly Happy


You will need:

Your skirt
A little bit of patience (this bit is a bit fussy)
Sewing machine

1. Spread your skirt out (and no, you didn’t make a mistake the skirt’s massive at this stage). To get this skirt down to size we’re going to create pleats to gather in the excess material.

2. To make pleats gather a section of fabric by pinching the excess fabric between your fingers. Make sure you grab only one layer of fabric.

3. Fold this pinched section of fabric to one side. I find it’s easier to make pleats bigger, so I usually start with smaller pleat sections at this stage.

4. Pin in place.

5. Now move over 1 – 2 inches. Gather roughly the same amount of fabric you did in step 2.

6. Fold this pinched section of fabric in the opposite direction from the folded fabric from before. Pin in place. Congratulations, you’ve just made a box pleat. Check you out.

7. Create pleats all the way around your skirt until you’ve gathered up all the fabric. ideally, your pleats should be roughly the same size and distance apart, but life is too short to get obsessive. After you’ve done pleating you’ll want to try it on to check it fits. Adjust the pleats a few times to get the fit right.

8. Sew around the top, about 1/2 inch from the top of the waistband, to keep everything in place. Unpin, ready for the next step…


Adding a waistband


You will need:

Your (now pleated) skirt
Petersham ribbon (you might want to iron it to take out any kinks)
Sewing machine

1. Start at the back where the zipper opening is. Place your ribbon over the top of the waistband so that the top of the skirt and the top of the ribbon are roughly aligned (with the skirt top just a tad below the ribbon top). Leave 1 inch of fabric extra from the edge of the skirt (this will be folded to become a tab later). Pin.
2. Repeat this all along the waistband, matching the top of the ribbon to the top of the skirt and pinning in place, until you get to the other side of the zipper opening. When you get to the end you can either cut off your ribbon with 1 inch extra of overhang and go on to step 4, or:
3. If you have enough ribbon, it’s quite nice to continue pinning the ribbon over on the other side of the skirt. This sandwiches your skirt between two sides of ribbon, hiding all the wonky stitches and the gathers, and generally finishes it all off rather nicely. When you get to the end leave 1 inch of extra ribbon and cut.
4. With your two extra 1 inch of ribbon, fold them under by 1/2 inch (so the fold faces the inside of your skirt) and pin in place. You should now have two tabs that overlap the zipper slightly.
5. Take your skirt to the sewing machine. Start in one corner of the ribbon and sew all around the top, sides, and bottom of the ribbon. Sew as close to the ends of the fabric as you can.
6. And bam! You’re 90% of the way to a finished skirt! Well done you!

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  • I'm a knitter, my mother was the dressmaker, and an exceptionally good one. When it comes to dressmaking I follow the instructions to the letter, this can be interesting if I miss a line out or skip a page. But I get there in the end, well sort of ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I was wondering, in terms of fabric, would a print work on this skirt or should I stick with a solid?

    I'm hoping to get to this project in a few weeks. YAY!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Great question Erica. A solid pattern's always going to be easiest. With print (especially large print) you'll need to match up the pattern on either side of the back centre seam so it doesn't look wonky. That said, if the print's small, or you don't care if the two back panels match (and sometimes life's too short, right?) go for print!

      x Elena