Create / Enjoy: Long-awaited paper bag waist skirt TUTORIAL!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Long-awaited paper bag waist skirt TUTORIAL!

I mentioned in my twisted hem tutorial that I could put up instructions on how to make a paper bag waist skirt, if you were interested.  There are some others out there, but many of you requested that I do another one--so here goes!I will start this by saying this will be a two-part tutorial.  Today I'm sharing Part 1, with what I think of as a paper bag waist skirt, which is a little more structured and (only slightly) more complicated than what we could do as the super easy elastic waist paper bag-esque skirt.  That tutorial will come tomorrow.

Today, let's look at some of what I'm going for with this first paper bag skirt: a slightly more formal look than a basic gathered or elastic waist, usually involving pleats, also including a belt and belt loops.  Slightly tapered in at the thighs, usually a fairly short length (although you can make it whatever length you want).

Here are some images of the basic idea:
From Urban Outfitters:
By Tulle:
From ModCloth:
Here's a $225 cotton brocade one by Kara Janx:
And there are tons of others out there, too.  They seem to usually be in neutrals, black, grey, tan, etc. and should be made of a fairly sturdy fabric.  I recommend cotton twill, although you could use a lightweight wool suiting if you want to, and I'm using a sturdy linen (which, I know, will wrinkle like crazy, I expect).
So again, here's the tutorial, Part 1: The Classic Paper Bag Waist Skirt!

You'll need, depending on your size and the length you want, 1-2 yards of fabric.  No lining needed (please don't make this of a super thin or lightweight fabric ;) ), but you do need a skirt zipper.  I'm using one I took off of something else, I think a skirt that I turned into a pillow or something.
I also recommend a fabric marker, but you can use a pencil instead.
  • 1. Divide your waist measurement by two.  For example, if your waist is 26", your center back pieces will each be 13" wide from the center back seam at the top.  Your center front piece will be 26", but it's cut on the fold, so will be the same shape as the center back piece but on the fold instead of the selvage.
  • 2. For a modest mini-skirt length, I recommend making your skirt pieces about 23" long, but feel free to do longer.  The fold line for the top edge is 3" down from the top of the pieces, and the waist is another 2.5" below that.
  • 3. You'll taper the piece down to 3" smaller at the hem than at the waist.  Do this gradually and with a curve rather than a straight line, starting a couple inches below the waist. 
    Again using the example of a 26" waist, so 13" pieces (plus 1/2" seam allowance if you cut your back on the selvage), you should juuuust barely be able to fit two 23"-long pieces on one yard of 45" wide fabric, like I did. Cutting it close (literally!)!  You can just barely see the lines...
  • 4. You'll also need to cut a belt piece (I'm using the width of the fabric, but make sure it's close to twice your waist measurement at the very least) and a piece that will become your belt loops.  If you want the belt 2" wide, cut the fabric piece 5"--you'll fold it twice and sew with a 1/2" seam.  If your belt is 2" wide, you'll want your belt loops to be a little taller than that, and they'll be turned under 1/2" at top and bottom, so each belt loop should be just under 3.5" long.  I recommend at least three belt loops, two in front and one in back, but you could also do four.  For three belt loops, cut the piece 3" wide by 10.5" long.
  • 5. Assemble the back (if you cut it on the selvage rather than fold), and sew the right side seam. 
  • 6. Put in the zipper.  Make sure to start it at the fold of the skirt, rather than at the top.  Sew the left side seam.  Press flat, and press under 1/2" at the top few inches above the zipper.
  • 7. Turn under your hem.  Depending how long you want the skirt, give it a small or a large hem by pressing under 1/4-1/2" and then pressing under again, 1/2"-2".  Sew with a straight stitch or with a hem stitch.
Note: Because the skirt is tapered, your hem will not lay flat all the way around.  At the side seams, you may have to snip some stitches to make it align.  (In a professional pattern, the skirt would be cut with a flip-out at the end to compensate for this, but my way works too).
Now, sew your hem down all the way around, with either a straight stitch or a blind hem stitch.
  • 8. Press the top of the skirt down, first 1/2" under then an even 2.5" all the way around.  Pin in place or baste (your row of stitches will be covered by the belt).
  • 9. Fold your pleats in--there can be a science to this, but I just experiment until I get the right size.  Again, if your waist is 26", you'll want to front piece to be 13", so each half to be 6.5".  It's okay if it's a little big, since your belt will cinch it and you want some wearing ease.  Pin the pleats in place, making sure they stay parallel all the way down.
  • 10. Sew pleats in place and sew all around skirt, securing 2.5" fold-down (top "hem").
  • 11. Finish belt loop piece and cut into evenly sized (3.5" if you followed my example in step 4) pieces.  I did mine by turning under 1/2", then again 1/2", and meeting the edges in the center.  Then I top-stitched (I did two rows, to make it look more like jeans belt loops!).
  • 12. Press belt loops under 1/2" at top and bottom and pin in place.  Top-stitch down.
  • 13. Sew long seam of belt and finish ends however you choose (I made a long tube, then tucked both ends under and top-stitched).  Be sure to press well. 
      Just put your belt through the loops, and you're done!
      Yay!
      It's a pretty simple skirt really, but like I said, I think of this as the classic paper bag waist skirt, and tomorrow I'll show a tutorial for a super easy paper bag waist skirt.  So don't fret if the zipper and pleats intimidate you--there's another option coming, just check back tomorrow!

      52 comments :

      Leaving a comment is easy, and I love to read them! No annoying word verification required. =)

      1. Love it - you are fabulous for doing this!!

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      2. Love it! I'll be waiting for the 2nd part tomorrow :)

        Maria from:
        http://mycurrenthobby.blogspot.com/

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      3. I love it! love love love it!! Thanks so much for the tutorial...another project to add to my ever growing list - eep!!!

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      4. this is amazing! i've never posted on your blog... but i was really hoping you'd do a tutorial with this. THANK YOU!!! i'm a little nervous to do a zipper though ;-) i'm just a neophyte.

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      5. ooooh. This looks pretty easy. I think I'll try it.

        Ps. I love your blog. It makes me really excited about finishing my own projects:)

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      6. Love this! Found your blog yesterday and saw you are from Portland, me too!

        Anyway, this is going to be the FIRST clothes sewing project I ever try... Luckily I'm not afraid to make mistakes!

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      7. Hi I have never commented on your blog before but wanted to say thanks for posting this tutorial - I was looking up how to make a paper bag skirt last weekend. I have the perfect material and can now give it a go. Looking forward to next post tomorrow!

        Thanks, Charlotte.

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      8. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so much for sharing your tutorial. I have always wanted to try and make this type of skirt. Now I have an idea how to make it. You're awesome!

        Adin B

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      9. Super cute! Your tutorials are so easy to follow. Its fantastic.

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      10. I love this style of skirt---yours looks a lot easier than the one I made. CUTE!

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      11. I looooove these skirts, thank you for taking the time to make this tutorial. :)

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      12. SUPER AWESOME! thanks! (does that make me sound like a dork :] ) question, do you have any pattern suggestions, tips, or ideas for a dress like this:

        tp://www.hervelegerbest.com/images/herveleger/Herve Leger Black Strapless Bandage Dress.jpg

        I want to make something like this...maybe a bit simpler, but definitely the fitted shape, which I have never done. I can't seem to find a pattern for something like this. Thanks a lot.
        s84whitley@hotmail.com

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      13. I loooove this! So cute! I have officially added material for a paper bag skirt to my Goodwill/thrifting list.

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      14. Awesome!!! I've been meaning to make this type of skirt for awhile, but now it will be that much easier with your tutorial. Thanks!

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      15. I am quite a beginner, and I don't have a machine, but I think I should be making this tomorrow - it is that inspiring! (Of course my intentions often fail before ground realities...)

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      16. genius! Thank you for your generosity!

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      17. I love this!! Thanks for the tutorial! I bookmarked it, hopefully I can try it out soon!!

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      18. J t'♥! Thank you so much, my holiday has started, so I think that this could be my lucky day!

        With love, Fleur

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      19. I love the skirt! So chic and wearable!

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      20. I made this skirt in a cotton sateen, and it is lovely! Thanks for the tutorial.

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      21. 3 of my friends and I are getting together tomorrow night to do this skirt! Sew fun!

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      22. I love love love this skirt! thanks for sharing the tutorial... I'm hoping to make this my next project :)

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      23. This is freaking adorable and has me wanting to shove all my UFOs to the side. I hope you don't mind if I share a link & a photo on my blog! I have lots of readers who will love the tutorials! :)

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      24. This was incredible. My husband loves this skirt! I'm going to wear it out to the museum for our anniversary! Thanks a million for the tutorial.

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      25. omg! you're a genius! i was just browsing the internet for some great paper bag waist looks to write about for my website and came across your post. i love it.

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      26. this skirt loooks soooo cute!

        maybe I'm an idiot but I'm trying to do it and am completely lost. very confused :-/

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      27. Thanks for posting this! I'm about to start making this (but I think I'm going to do a button down front instead of a zipper), but I was wondering--if you add pleats in towards the end, then shouldn't you start with a larger piece than you did? Build in the extra inches so you can pleat them in?

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        1. I had the same question because step one says to divide by 2. I was wondering if you had to cut 4 pieces or something.

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        2. Sorry about the confusion--you cut three pieces; the center back pieces are each (in the example above) 13", and the center front piece is 26" but is cut on the fold. So the total circumference before you pleat is twice your waist!

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      28. @C. Marcia, this pattern allows for pleating in twice as much fabric as the waist. If your waist is 30", you'll be pleating in from 60" in the beginning. And the bottom, around your legs, will have a 30" diameter because you taper the sideseams down.

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      29. can you make it without a sewing machine?

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      30. @Anonymous, of course you could do all the seams by hand, but because it's a a skirt and will bear strain, you'd have to do very strong, small backstitches.

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      31. This is perfect! I can't do zippers quite as well as you have here, but I do have a nice skirt, my first project sans pattern. Thank you for the tutorial.

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      32. Hey thanks for the great tutorial. will be trying this one out very soon. Just a quick question, the zipper is at centerback? and there are pleats at the front as well as the back? also what length of zipper did you use? thanks so much!

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      33. How does this account for hips? I'm confused.

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      34. @jeongyunsgirl, the zipper has to go at the sideseam where there's a natural opening! Yes, there are pleats at the back and front. All you'll need is a 7-9" zipper.

        @Rie, you make such large pleats that there's a lot of fabric pleated into the waist, making it smaller--and the circumference of the hips is much larger than your actual hips.

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      35. I'm confused too! I thought you just had one fold in your fabric. I thought we could (before having cut anything) either decide to use the fold or the raw edge. Thus, if I only have 1 fold to start with and 1/2 my waist circumference (plus and inch or so to allow for seams), I will only have my total waist circumference when sewn together, but you were saying above that we should have double our waist circumference to allow for pleats, but per your instructions, i don't have that; I only have my original circumerference, not allowing for any pleats to be added.

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      36. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial! It was just the perfect project to get back into sewing and I found it wonderfully easy to complete. I'm rather chuffed with how my skirt turned out!

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      37. I just started my own fashion blog and decided to discuss my lust over the "paper bag" trend in today's post. I went searching on google for a good picture to include in my post and found your tutorial! I hope you don't mind, but I linked this blog post in mine! I love it :) If I could ever tackle how to use a sewing machine I will definitely be revisiting this tutorial.

        Thanks! <3

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      38. Just started sewing two weeks ago. Am in love with this skirt and tried to start making it tonight and am so confused!!! I think I'm overthinking but was going to make a pattern and just don't understand the measurements. 3 pieces right? Back, front left, front right. I get that for a 26 waist, front pieces should end up 6.5 and back piece should be 13, but how much more do you add to account for pleats?? Do you double it (so that back piece cut on fold would be a total of 26 and the two front pieces a total of 13 each before you start making pleats?). And 4 pleats for back, 4 pleats for front? Help!!! I am so in love with this skirt and want to make it. Thank you!

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        1. Sorry I confused you! I just went back and edited the text so hopefully it's more clear now. Sorry about the confusion--you cut three pieces; the center back pieces are each (in the example above) 13", and the center front piece is 26" but is cut on the fold. So the total circumference before you pleat is twice your waist!

          I would do four pleats in front, four pleats in back, (both facing away from center front and center back) but you can do however many you like!

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        2. Oh, thank you so much! I can't wait to start making this tonight. Love, love, love your blog!!!

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      39. I love your tutorial! I made my teen daughter a skirt...I had trouble with the zipper, but I figured it out eventually. I put the zipper on the side, because I sewed the back together too fast :) I put a picture on my blog and linked back to your site, thank you again for your help in making a super cute skirt! http://www.locustfarms.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Petuniapaperbagskirt.jpg is a picture :) It was my first time with pleats, but I loved it and felt totally accomplished. My daughter just needs to get a shirt that she likes and she will wear it somewhere. A friend asked if she could buy a skirt from me if I make her one, is that OK, if I use your pattern help to sell a skirt or two (my daughter's friend wanted on too)? Thanks again for your help!

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        1. Hi, Lais! Looks great! A side zipper works just as well as a back zipper. =) Thanks so much for linking, and for checking with me--feel free to use this tutorial to make a skirt that you sell! Have fun!

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      40. Thanks for this! I really love how it looks!!=)
        I have this too long and too big coral skirt that's in a "tweed-looking" material (there's no tag so I don't know what it is) which I want to make into a paperbag skirt. However since it's in skirt-form, are there any tips you can give me to go about doing it? Or do you think I should just pick the skirt apart into 2 pieces and follow your tutorial? (I'ts just a simple skirt with no detailing whatsoever but with a zipper at the back. However, it does have lining which I want to keep. Would I just sew the lining into place as well?

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        1. Hi there! Yes, I would definitely just take the whole thing apart and reuse it. I even have a tutorial about doing that! http://www.adventuresindressmaking.com/2010/07/mumu-dress-how-to-take-apart-and-reuse.html. The paper bag skirt doesn't have a lining, but with wool it will be much nicer if you do line it. I would sew the lining to the top edge (right sides together) while it's still a big loose tube, then treat the lining and outer fabric as one and do the rest of this project as shown. Pin them together to keep them flat!

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