How to make a simple elastic waistband skirt with pleated plisse fabric

A quick and easy make for the festive season!

When I posted my plans to use some of our pleated plisse fabric and new Atelier Brunette glittery elastics a week or so ago, there was a resounding yes to share a tutorial of how to make it!

You can find out the steps I took to work with the beautiful fabric in the latest Youtube video below!

The fabric and elastic

I have to start off by saying unfortunately the exact fabric I used has sold out now I'm afraid, but we do have another colour way left that is also gorgeous! (I used the powder colourway of elastic to match my fabric).

It's also worth noting that if you are making this project you will need thread that matching your elastic and one that matches your main fabric due to the way it is sewn together and hemmed.

Simple construction steps

Find the full instructions in my video lined above for how to sew this together but to re-cap the key steps are

  • Cut two rectangles of fabric while the fabric is relaxed and the pleats are not stretched out.
  • To calculate the width of the rectangle take your hip measurement (or waist measurement if this is larger) and multiply it by 1.5. This will give the full circumference of your finished skirt.
  • Divide that number by 2 (so one panel for the front, one for the back)
  • Then add on 2cm seam allowance (1cm for each side).
  • If the fabric you are using is wide (mine was 150cm) and you don't want a maxi length, then you might be able to just half the width of the fabric to get the length of skirt you wish
  • Sew the side seams, with the pleats as flat as possible. Finish off the raw edges if you fabric is fraying (not all plisse fabric will fray so if yours does not, don't finish off the seam allowances)
  • Sew two rows of gathering stitches around the top of the skirt - two for front, two for back with a long 4.5mm-5mm stitch length.
  • Place a pin to mark the centre front and centre back of the skirt panels.
  • Put the elastic around your waist to work out length, it should be taught but still comfortable. Leave enough for a 1.5cm seam allowance
  • Sew the elastic into a loop with right sides facing. Open out seam allowances and stitch them down with a straight stitch
  • This point will be the centre back. Use it as a starting point to divide the elastic loop into quarter sections marked with pins.
  • Match up the side seams and centre front and back of the skirt panel with the quarter points of the elastic.
  • Then draw on the gathering stitches to gather the fabric and pin into place on the inside of the elastic, positioning the top edge of the fabric approx 2cm down from the top edge of the elastic.
  • Pin in place well with pins at 90 degrees to the elastic.
  • Sew together with two lines of stitching, using the gold stripe as a guide if your elastic has that, otherwise do one line 1cm above the bottom edge and one right on the bottom edge.
  • Use a stretch stitch set to 2mm length and keep the elastic relaxed as you sew.

Hemming the pleated plisse

This will depend on how your particular plisse fabric and whether it frays or not. I've worked with a few different types, one which didn't fray at all and therefore did not need hemmed and then the one in this tutorial - it did fray no does need hemming.

Through various experiments, I found the best way to do this was by doing a rolled hem on the overlocker. If you have an overlocker this is not difficult to set up! Check out your manual, it will tell you exactly what settings to use. I have a Janome 6234XL overlocker and this was the settings I used.

I used three threads so I removed the left hand needle. To make sure I had thread that matched my fabric I wound some of my thread onto some spare bobbins. I just about had enough thread from one spool but I'd probably recommend getting two reels of thread for each looper and then having some would onto a bobbin for the thread that goes through the needle!

The thread dials were set to 4 for the right hand needle and 3 for both the loopers.

The stitch length was set to 'R' for rolled hem.

The switch on the front was set to R.H. for rolled hem.

The cutting blade was lowered and the switch at the front when you open up the side section was set to R.

When you come to sew you need to make sure that you have trimmed away any bits that have frayed so far as remember there is no blade to cut them away on the machine with this set up!

Have a practise before you start to check it's all working ok and that you know where to line it up correctly. You can reduce the stitch length more if you want the stitching to be even more dense.

I experimented with two ways to sew the hem, one with the pleats flat and in place and one where the pleats were stretched out.

In this example, the pleats have been sewn flat. This is more tricky to do as you have to sort of push the pleats in towards the machine as you sew and constantly stop, lift the foot of the machine up and make sure they are flat. As the machine feeds the fabric it will tend to flatten and stretch the pleats out.

In this example, the pleats have been sewn stretched out. So as the fabric as gone through the machine, the fabric has been fed without the folds of the pleats in place. This is easier and quicker to do but as you can see it gives a fluted edge to the fabric.

So what way is correct? That is a matter for personal preference!

I found that when the hem was sewn with the folds of the pleats in place it restricted the movement of the skirt and held the bottom circumference smaller than the rest of the skirt as you move and swish around. When standing still it does make it hand straighter though.

When you sew the hem with the folds of the pleats stretched out and you get the fluted edge, it allows the skirt to move and swish around more and I personally prefer that. I think it gives the skirt more balance and life really.

So it's up to you and what you prefer the look of!

I hope those tips help and inspire you to sew a lovely swishy skirt for the festive season and take some of the experimentation out of the project! If you can find plisse fabric that does no fray then its an even quicker and easier project as you won't have to hem it - yay!

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