DIY Box Pleated Skirt

A few months ago, just before the world turned on it's head, I received some happy mail in the form of fabric from New Craft House. Whilst I may own a fabric shop, I still make the odd purchase from time to time. Firstly, I am a big believer that if you want to keep your favourite indie brands going, then show some love in the form of a purchase every now and then - trust me, every little really does help! Secondly, New Craft House specialise in ex-designer deadstock, and their fabric is great for stand out pieces, which is exactly what I was after.

I had purchased this foam backed cotton in a red gingham, with the dream of making a show-stopping pleated skirt. Having never worked with this fabric before, I was a little concerned that it may not work out - however the end result did not disappoint! The foam gives the skirt a wonderful structure, without weighing it down. The skirt feels light, girly and oh so comfortable. It was also an incredibly simple and quick garment to make, which would be perfect if you are a confident beginner. I have had quite a few requests about how I made this gingham beauty, so please see below for your very own how-to guide.

STEP 1 - Calculate the pleats

I am going to be honest here and just let you know now that I did not calculate my pleats, I just made it up as I went along, checking that they were all even and that it fit my waist measurement, before committing to any sewing. The correct method, however, is to calculate the pleats and check that you have the required amount of fabric. To do this, a little maths is required (great for some #isewlation home schooling!). You can find the (very simple) two-step formula below:

1. Your waist measurement divided by total number of box pleats desired = each total pleat measurement

2. Your waist measurement x 3 = total amount of fabric needed for the width excluding seam allowances (you times by 3, as a box pleat takes 3x it's width in fabric).

You will now have the total amount of fabric needed, and the size of each pleat.  

For example, if your waist measurement was 96cm and you wanted 4 pleats on the front and 4 on the back (so 8 pleats in total), your formula would look like this:

96 / 8 = 12cm per pleat

96 x 3 = 288cm of fabric needed, plus seam allowance.

This formula is for a skirt with one seam, and you would just add seam allowance to each end. If, like me you would like side seams, then divide the amount of fabric needed in half and add seam allowance for both pieces, on both sides.

I wanted my skirt to have side seams, as it would allow me to put an invisible zip up one side. As my fabric was 150cm wide, I was therefore able to use the width of the fabric for the width of my skirt front and backs. I had ordered 2m in length, which was more than enough to cut my desired length for each piece and still have enough left over for the waistband.

STEP 2 - A little more prep...

Once you have calculated your pleats and fabric requirements, you need to cut out your fabric and mark on your pleats. You need to make three markings per pleat - where you are going to pleat from and to. I would find the middle and use this as your starting point, as it ensures that the pleats look symmetrical. The diagram below shows how a 12cm box pleat is formed (4+4+4), and how you would mark the notches on your fabric. Just adjust the notches to fit your calculated pleat size.

To calculate your waistband, measure around your waist, then add seam allowance to each end. This is your waistband length. The width can be whatever you like, the method I used requires you to double the desired width, then add seam allowance. So, for example, if your waist measurement was 96cm and you wanted a depth of 5cm, your waistband would measure 99cm (96cm + 1.5cm seam allowance each side) by 13cm (5cm x 2 + 1.5cm seam allowance each side). Cut this out, and add interfacing.

STEP 3 - Let's sew!

We would always suggest that you pin and baste your pleats in place, then check the sizing again and adjust as necessary. You can baste by hand, or use your machine and just change the thread colour, as this makes it easier to take the basting stitch out later on.

If you are adding side seams, like me, then once you have stitched your pleats in place, put the skirt front and back right sides together, and stitch down the right side seam. Due to the nature of my fabric, I didn't need to finish my seams, but if you do need to, then overlock or overcast the sewn side seam, then do the same on the open side seam.

You are now ready to add your waistband. There are a number of ways to add a waistband, however we suggest that you head over to the By Hand London blog, where the lovely Elizalex explains a variety of methods perfectly. So pick your favourite method and then head back over here for the final steps!

Once your waistband is on, you are ready to add your zip and sew up the remainder of the side seam. I opted for an invisible zip, that went into my waistband, eliminating the need for a hook and eye at the top. I also made the decision to add embroidery stitches to my waistband, as I am lucky enough to have a brilliant Husqvarna Viking Opal 690q machine, which has an endless amount of pretty and decorative stitches.

I am usually a 'let's get this garment made ASAP' kind of sewer, but it was nice to take my time for once, and add this sweet little detail.

The final step is to hem the skirt - I opted to eliminate this step, as I liked how the cut edge showed the unusual foam interior of the fabric, however I wouldn't suggest skipping this step usually!

Voilà - you're done!

This is such a simple and quick make, which gives you a timeless and chic silhouette. Still thinking about fabric? This skirt will work in pretty much anything! If you opted for a thicker fabric, such as our Stonewashed Linens or our Starry Night Denim, you would get a skirt with more structure and shape. It would also look beautiful in a viscose or our Lady McElroy Tencel Lawn, as these fabrics have great drape and will therefore give you a swishy, floaty skirt with a summery vibe.

L-R: Lady McElroy Lorellie Amber; Starry Night Denim; Lavender Stonewashed Linen; Life Gives You Lemons Cotton Poplin; Lady McElroy Lovehearts Tencel Lawn; Hot Coral Linen Mix

If you are a confident beginner, or you just love this timeless classic, then give this make a go - it's the perfect project for an afternoon of sewing.

We'd love to see your pleated skirts, so make sure you tag us in any makes!

Stay Safe & Happy Sewing, Kate & the Sew Creative Team x

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