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Reflections on the extraordinary moments of an ordinary Mother.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Jelly Roll Twirl Skirt

This tutorial is for a straightforward, easy to sew twirl skirt. Be prepared for ultimate twirl!


1 jelly roll for sizes 5-6 and up, 1 honey bun for anything smaller
elastic of your choice

You need a sewing machine or a serger with a ruffle foot and a sewing machine for topstiching.  It’s helpful if you know the striaght to ruffle ratio of your foot, but it’s not necessary (I’ll show you how to do that in another tutorial).  I will also show you how to do an adjustable waistband with buttonhole elastic.

Before you start you’ll need an idea of the length you want the finished skirt.  This is a very forgiving project.  I sew the way a chef eyeballs ingredients, by what looks and feels right instead of by strict measurements.  It’s easier to sew from the bottom up because you’ll be working with two flat pieces, but you’ll need a good idea of your ruffle ratio and plan your layout ahead of time.  Sewing from the top down makes it easy to add length and fluff as you go.  For this tutorial the directions are given from the bottom up.

Begin by laying out your strips to get a good variation of color and print.  You need at least double your child's waist measurement along the top row.  Every two rows you’ll need to add additional strips to account for ruffling.  My machine sews an approximate 2:1 ruffle ratio, so for every two yards of flat fabric I’ll get one yard ruffled so I need to increase strips twice with each increase.  It’s better to have more length than not enough, so don’t try to skimp here.

Sew or serge the first row of strips together end to end with a regular flat overlock stitch.  Now you have one very long strip.

Cut the first print of the second row in half then sew the second row together end to end.  This will give you a “subway tile” look when you sew it to the row above.  

Sew the first and second rows together.  If you are working with a directional print, take care to keep the print direction correct.  Press the seam up and topstitch it.

Double the number of strips in your third and fourth rows and sew them together in the same way.  Press your seam up and topstitch.  I’m using monofilament thread so it is not readily visible over the print.

Double the amount of strips you did in the third/fourth row sets for the fifth/sixth row and sew them together in the same way.  By this point you are working with very, very, very long rows!

You may wish to do a final single increased row along the bottom for extra fluffiness.

Serge the bottom of the last row, press under and topstitch.  It’s much better to do this now when it’s flat, trust me :)

Get your machine set up for ruffling and don’t forget to adjust the feed dogs so it pushs the ruffled fabric together as much as possible.

Ruffle the bottom row to the ones right above it.  The bottom (longest) row will be the ruffled fabric, the shorter strip will be flat.

Press the seam up

Topstitch the seam.  This is key, don’t skip this step!

Follow the same steps adding onto the next set of rows above, always pressing the seams up and topstitching them as you go.

Serge or overlock the top of the upper most row.  Press the row down in half horizontally.  This is going to be your casing for your elastic.

Serge a curved notch out of the top half of the waist casing on both sides.

Serge the sides of the skirt together taking care to chain off at the bottom of the curved notch.

Topstitch the casing down all the way around.  The notched edges will remain open for elastic and to allow for future elastic adjustments.

Fold one end of your buttonhole elastic under and stitch to prevent fraying.

Run your elastic through your casing with a safety pin.

Making sure to leave ample elastic length for your child’s growth, fold the remaining side of the elastic under and attach the appropriate size button.

Now you can button it to the current waist width, and have easy access to adjust the elastic as you may need in the future.

Guess what??  You’re done!!!  One little girls dream twirly skirt complete with layers of lovely ruffles.

A few final notes.  This tutorial is written for a ruffle foot.  You can make it old school style by running a long basting stitch and pulling the ruffles together by hand.  It is time consuming but can be done.

You can also get an even fuller, more petticoat style skirt by ruffling every single row.  Take care to do your math to be sure you’ll have enough strips for the length you desire.

Please consider sharing your Twirl Skirt pictures on our Flicker group here.


  1. Love this Shanna! I may just have to try it for my girls! Now to carve out the time!

  2. If you have the ruffle foot for your serger it really is a pretty quick sew! You know me, it has to go together in a short afternoon or less or it will never get finished.

  3. Upsized this for me!! Works really well and a great way to use up your fabric oddments. Thanks

  4. beautiful skirt, great tutorial. thank you very much!

  5. Love the skirt, but don't you mean for every two yard of flat material, you'll get one yard of ruffled?

  6. Do you usually start the first row with 2 full strips from your jelly roll? The waist circumference of the child is 20 inches.