How to Sew Women’s Skirt RACHEL: Cotton Canvas & Fren

In this article, we'll look at how to sew an elegant flowing skirt, and I'll also show you how to use French seams.

THE PATTERN FOR WOMEN'S SKIRT RACHEL + SEWING INSTRUCTIONS

The pattern

You can get the pattern for women’s skirt RACHEL here:


Women’s skirt RACHEL (sizes 32–60)


This pattern contains pieces for three skirt-lengths (mini, above the knee, and knee-length). You can use the same procedure to sew all three lengths. The photo below shows three skirts that I sewed according to this pattern. I sewed each of these in a slightly different way and from different materials. As you can see, you can sew many different skirts using just one sewing pattern. Each material behaves differently and changes the shape of the skirt a bit.

HOW TO SEW A SKIRT (VARIOUS MATERIALS & SEWING PROCEDURES)

Recommended material

  • Light and flowing woven fabrics such as:
  • American cotton canvas
  • (I used this one for my blue skirt: Michael Miller - Plume)
  • Cotton poplin
  • Blouse fabrics (airy and flowing)
  • Laces - It is necessary to add lining to lace skirts. I’m generally in favor of using natural materials, so I highly recommend sewing the lining from viscose. Viscose is a bit prone to crumpling, but it is airy and very comfy. (If you use synthetic lace & lining, you may feel uncomfortable and sweaty in summer…)
  • Chiffon - Great for summer skirts. I recommend you try this material at least once. Working with chiffon requires some practice and patience, so I do not recommend this material to beginners. But with a little effort, you can sew incredibly beautiful chiffon pieces. Instructions on how to work with chiffon and other fine fabrics can be found in this article: How to sew fine fabrics


A huge selection of quality materials suitable for this skirt can be found at Dumlatek.cz and Tufka.cz.

Tips

  • Not all cotton canvases are suitable for skirts. Avoid cheap and poor-quality canvases - they are usually too rigid (not flowing), bleed color, and become faded after just a few washing cycles. Fibers of low-quality canvases tend to break during washing, creating permanent creases.
  • Cotton canvases aren’t as flowing as poplin, or blouse fabrics and chiffons. That's why cotton canvas skirts are not so flowing and look a bit bulkier. If you are afraid that your skirt will look "boxy", choose a poplin, blouse fabric, or chiffon.
THE PATTERN FOR WOMEN'S SKIRT RACHEL + SEWING INSTRUCTIONS

Skill level

  • This pattern is suitable for intermediate sewers. Sewing from cotton canvas is not difficult. The only tricky part is sewing the zipper. When sewing a blue skirt, I used French seams and finished the waist with a classic waistband. For these reasons, I recommend this procedure to intermediate sewers. I recommend you go through the sewing instructions below, it will help you find out if you can sew this skirt. :)
  • When sewing, I used only a regular sewing machine. No serger this time.
  • If you need advice on sewing, do not hesitate to visit my sewing forum:
  • Sewing forum: The pattern for women's & children's skirt RACHEL


Sewing instructions

I have prepared a total of three articles with sewing instructions for this pattern. In this article, we will focus on sewing the version with French seams.


You can also check out an article dedicated to a lace skirt with lining: How to sew women’s skirt RACHEL: Version No.2 - Lace skirt with lining


And an article dedicated to the beginner version of the skirt RACHEL: How to sew women’s skirt RACHEL: Version No.3 - Cotton canvas skirt (simple sewing)


Suggestion

If you plan to use cotton material (like me), I recommend washing the fabric before sewing. Cotton tends to shrink quite a bit, and if you don't pre-shrink it, you might get an unpleasant surprise when you wash your skirt for the first time.


Other materials

  • You will need a piece of thin one-sided fusible interfacing to reinforce the waistband (you can use a special waistband reinforcement).
  • Basting thread (Basting will help you achieve better results - I'll tell you when and how to use the basting thread later.) If you want to know more about basting, I recommend reading this article:
  • How to baste fabric (simple & correct technique)
  • Closed bottom zipper (18–20 cm / 7"–8” long)


Pattern layout

Before you start cutting the fabric, please note that the pieces are positioned diagonally (bias - not along the weft or warp). This will make the skirt more “flowing”.


Fold your (washed and ironed) fabric diagonally and place the skirt pieces on the fold. Pin them and cut the pieces.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Prepare:


  • 1x back piece (cut on the diagonal fold)
  • 1x back piece (cut on the diagonal fold)
  • 1x waistband piece (cut it along the warp - the lengthwise grain) If you want your skirt to have a somewhat elastic waist, you can cut the waistband on the bias as well - it should be able to stretch a bit (about 1 cm / 0.4") and the skirt will be very comfortable to wear.
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Recommended width of seam & hem allowances:


  • Bottom hem allowances - 1 cm / 0.4"
  • Side seams - 1.5 cm / 5/8"
  • Zipper underlap (back piece) - 3.5 cm / 1 3/8"
  • Zipper overlap (front piece) - 4.5 cm / 1 3/4"
  • Waistband (all sides) - 1 cm / 0.4"


Zipper underlap/overlap is only on one side of the skirt. There are different rules for placing a zipper. I like to respect laterality. So if you are right-handed, place the zipper on the left side so that you can easily reach it with your right hand. If you are left-handed, place the zipper on the right side. This is how I do it, but you can place the zipper according to your preferences. I'm right-handed, so I'll have the zipper on the left side. So if I place the front and back piece in front of me (face sides up), I will have the underlap (on the back piece) on the left side and the overlap (on the front piece) on the right side...


Let's sew...

Reinforce the waistband with one-sided fusible interfacing (or special waistband reinforcement). Fold the waistband in half (lengthwise, the wrong side in) and iron it. The waistband modified in this way will be easier to sew to the skirt later.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Reinforce the zipper underlap & overlap as follows:


  • Underlap (back piece) - place the strip 3 cm / 1.18” from the cutting edge.
  • Overlap (front piece) - place the strip 4 cm / 1 5/8” from the cutting edge.
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Side seam - French seam

We will use the French seam for the side seam.


  • Place the back & front pieces on top of each other (wrong side to the wrong side). Pin the side on which there will be a zipper - in my case, it's the left side of the skirt.
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
  • Draw a line 1.5 cm / 5/8" from the cutting edge.
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Sew along this line and connect both pieces. You can use a contrasting thread, it looks very nice on monochromatic clothes, but you have to be precise because the contrasting thread will highlight every little mistake.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Trim the seam allowance of the back piece to about 0.75 cm / 0.3” (cut it in half). Press seam allowances of both pieces towards the back piece.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Fold the seam allowance of the front piece over the seam allowance of the back piece.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Then fold both seam allowances one more time (towards the back piece).


(During the photoshoot, I had the skirt folded so that you can see what I'm doing, but you should keep your skirt spread).

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Baste your French seam. It should be 0.75 cm / 0.3" wide along the entire length (half of the original width of the seam allowance).

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Iron the seam.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Zipper

Spread the skirt on your table (face side up). Fold the zipper overlap under the front piece and iron it.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Cut the underlap near the upper end of the side seam a bit to make it lie flat on the table.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

This is what it looks like from the other side:

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Fold the zipper underlap under the back piece and iron it. The underlap should be about 3.25 cm / 3 1/4” wide.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Put the zipper (face side down) on top of the underlap and align its teeth with the fold of the underlap.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Baste the zipper to the underlap...

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

...and overlap.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Check the face side of the skirt for creases and bumps. It should look like this:

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Zipper overlap - Front piece of the skirt

If everything seems to be okay, you can continue (if you find any flaws, pull out the basting thread and fix them).


Seam allowances of the underlap & overlap should be the same width (about 1.5–2 cm / 5/8"–3/4"), if they are not the same width, trim the wider one.


Now fold the edges of the overlap to the edge of the zipper tape...

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

...and then once more - over the edge of the zipper tape. Baste the overlap (& zipper tape) in this position.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Baste along the fold which is closest to the zipper teeth. (You will be able to tell exactly where the fold is even if you look at the skirt from the face side.) Pull out the basting thread that originally attached the zipper to the overlap.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

I like to fold the corner of the overlap over the bottom edge of the zipper as shown below. When sewing a zipper, I also sew through this corner, which prevents the fabric from fraying. You can also leave the edge of the overlap as is and later cover the entire bottom edge of the zipper with a small piece of fabric that does not fray easily.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

You should see your basting thread (the edge of the overlap) from the face side of the skirt.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Use a pin (or basting tread) and mark the point that is about 2 mm / 0.08” below the zipper stop.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Sew through the zipper overlap. I recommend using a zipper foot for this step.


You can topstitch the overlap or sew through it from the inside of the skirt. Topstitching provides more control over the final look of the seam, but some machines may have trouble feeding the fabric because the seam runs very close to the zipper, so you may need to sew from the inside of the skirt.


Test it and see what works for you, but be careful not to accidentally sew through the underlap or other parts of the skirt. I recommend unzipping the zipper before sewing.


Topstitch the overlap about 1 mm / 0.04” from the basting thread (so you can pull it out later).

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

If you are sewing from inside the skirt, sew close to the edge of the folded seam allowance.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

When you get to the end of the zipper, leave the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot and carefully close the zipper. Then continue about 2 mm / 0.08" below the zipper stop and backstitch. If you decided to topstitch the overlap, end the seam in the place you marked earlier.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Pull out your basting thread and iron the seam.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

The end of the seam is right here - just below the zipper stop:

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Zipper underlap - Back piece of the skirt

Sew the zipper underlap similarly as the overlap. Fold the edge of the underlap to the edge of the zipper tape...

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

...and then once more - over the edge of the zipper tape - and baste it in this position.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Baste near the edge and fold the bottom edge of the underlap as shown below.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Pull out the basting thread that originally attached the zipper to the underlap.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Be careful not to accidentally stitch through the overlap - you can pin it to the front part of the skirt to keep it out of the way.


This is what the face side should look like:

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

When you pull out the pins and place the overlap over the zipper, the basting thread on the other side should not be visible.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

When you pull the pins and place the overlap over the zipper, it should cover the basting thread on the other side of the zipper. As before, you can topstitch the underlap or sew through it from the inside of the skirt.


First, unzip the zipper to make things easier.


Topstitch about 1 mm / 0.04” from the basting thread...

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

...and if you are sewing from inside the skirt, sew close to the edge of the folded seam allowance.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

When you get to the end of the zipper, leave the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot and carefully close the zipper. Make sure the overlap is out of the way...

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

End the seam as before - about 2 mm / 0.08" below the zipper stop.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

This is what it should look like from the face side: If everything seems to be in order, iron all seams.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

French seam - Topstitching

Unzip the zipper and topstitch the edge of the zipper overlap (sew about 2 mm / 0.08” from the fold).

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

When you get to the end of the zipper, be careful not to accidentally sew through other parts of the skirt.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Stop topstitching about 1 cm / 0.4” below the end of the first seam.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Spread the skirt on your table and topstitch the French seam. Start at the bottom edge of the skirt and topstitch about 1 mm / 0.04" from the edge (fold) of the "seam".

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

When you reach the bottom end of the overlap topstitching, continue sewing for a bit and then turn the fabric 90 degrees and topstitch across the overlap towards the end of the original seam (which attaches the zipper to the skirt).

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Then extend the French seam up to the topstitching seam that runs across the overlap.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

The bottom part of the zipper - Finishing touches

The bottom part of the zipper should look similar to the image below. Sew the loose parts of the underlap & overlap near the zipper and small triangles at the bottom to the skirt by hand (you can use a hidden mattress stitch).

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Second side seam - French seam

The left side of the skirt is ready, so we can start working on the right side. Place the back & front pieces on top of each other (wrong side to the wrong side).


Draw a line 1.5 cm / 5/8" from the cutting edge. Pin the side seam and sew along your line.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Trim the seam allowance of the back piece to about 0.75 cm / 0.3” (cut it in half) and press both seam allowances towards the back piece.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Fold the seam allowance of the front piece over the seam allowance of the back piece.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Press both seam allowances towards the back piece.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Baste the French seam and check that it is the same width along its entire length. Iron the seam.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Topstitch the seam - sew about 1 mm / 0.04" from the edge (fold).

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Waistband

Transfer the marks from the pattern to the waistband. You can use chalk, notches, or pins.


Marks (from the left):


  • Left side seam
  • Center of the front piece
  • Right side seam
  • Center of the back piece
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

You can also find the marks indicating the centers of pieces on the two main skirt pieces.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

First, pin the waistband to the center of the front piece (align corresponding marks).

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Then pin the edge of the waistband to the zipper overlap (the waistband should extend about 1 cm / 0.4” beyond the overlap).

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Because the two main skirt pieces are cut on the bias (unlike waistband), the skirt tends to loosen and be a bit larger than the waistband.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Use more pins to connect the pieces evenly.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Then pin the waistband to the right side seam.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

The last place marked on the waistband should be pinned to the seam that attaches the zipper. The waistband should protrude approx. 3 cm / 1.18" beyond the zipper.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Check that the waistband is pinned evenly. If there are places where the waistband is too tight (or too loose), adjust the position of your pins.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Remember - the waistband should extend 1 cm beyond the edge of the front piece and 3 cm beyond the edge of the back piece - these are not mistakes.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Fitting test

Now I recommend you perform a fitting test. Baste the waistband to the skirt and try to put it on. Focus on the waistline - the skirt should not be too loose or too tight.


If you find shortcomings in this area, adjust the waistband. If it’s too loose, you must baste the waistband so that the skirt pieces are always a few millimeters “larger” and pull on the waistband piece when sewing it to the skirt.


If the skirt is too tight, stretch the skirt pieces while sewing the waistband.


Also, make sure that the length of the skirt suits you. When it is finished, it will be 1 cm / 0.4" shorter than now.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

If everything seems to be okay, sew the waistband to the skirt and press the seam allowances towards the waistband.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Fold the edge of the waistband near the edge of the front piece of the skirt like this:

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Fold the waistband in half (lengthwise, face side in). If you ironed the waistband at the beginning as I recommended, it should be easy to do.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Fold the seam allowance of the long side of the waistband (1 cm / 0.4") up.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Pin the waistband in this position. Draw a vertical line on the waistband. Place your line 1 mm / 0.04" from the edge of the overlap.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Sew through the waistband along this line. Cut the corner of the waistband as shown below.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Turn the waistband face side out and form the corner into a nice shape.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Fold the other side of the waistband (near the edge of the back piece) in half. Leave the seam allowances as they are.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Sew through the waistband about 1 cm / 0.4" from the cutting edge. Start at the top and then turn towards the seam that connects the waistband to the skirt. Cut both corners of the waistband as shown below.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Turn the waistband face side out as before.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Now fold the entire waistband to the inside of the skirt. Fold the seam allowance 1 cm / 0.4" under the waistband and baste it along the original seam. (You can hide the original seam under this side of the waistband.)

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

This is what it should look like from the face side:

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Topstitch the waistband - sew about 2 mm / 0.08” above the original seam.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Now all that remains is to choose (and sew) a suitable fastener. You can use a button, an iron hook & eye fastener, or a snap button.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN
HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Bottom hem

Now we just have to finish the bottom hem. If you were satisfied with the length of the skirt during the first fitting test, no adjustments should be needed. Nevertheless, I recommend trying the skirt once more.


Fold the bottom edge of the skirt 0.5 cm / 0.2" to the reverse side...

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

...and then once more.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Baste the entire bottom hem.

HOW TO SEW A WOMEN'S SKIRT + SEWING PATTERN

Topstitch the bottom hem and pull out the basting thread. And that's it - now just iron the skirt and it will be finished!


The pattern

You can get the pattern for women’s skirt RACHEL here:


Women’s skirt RACHEL (sizes 32–60)


Have a nice day!


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