Making a Summer Skirt from an old pair of jeans

Don’t we just love old jeans! All that fading and distressing; it seems such a waste to turf them out just because they’ve worn through on the knees or thighs. This tutorial shows you how to make a gorgeous summer skirt using the bit that never seems to fall apart – the “body”. (You could make this for a teeny person too, you just need a lot less fabric and narrower tiers)

To make this skirt I used:

  • an old pair of jeans
  • three summer cotton fabrics, 2.3m in total (0.4m for the top, 0.7m for the second and 1.2 for the bottom)
  • ric-rac trim and buttons
  • thread

I cut the legs right off the jeans (saving the useable bits for patching other projects), making sure you don’t cut the front pocket bags! If possible save the back pockets. If not, just cut the bottom of them off like I did. (you’ll have to take my word for that!)

Now fold your jeans sideways so the fly is at one end and the centre back at the other. Line up the two layers of waist band and pin evenly.

jeans pair 1Work out how deep you want the denim basque of your new skirt to be – I made ours 22cm deep. Measure from the waist band to that line and pin every 5cm or so. Then you can cut off any excess carefully through both layers, making sure you don’t cut the front pocket bags again! I did this with pinking shears, but you don’t have to.

When that’s all done, unpick the curved seam at the front below the fly.  jeans pair 2Lap the original outside over the other side flat, then top stitch through all the layers over the original stitching lines.

j11Work out what order you want your fabrics to go in – I liked the yellow Amy Butler print breaking up the more blue based other ones. I cut my tiers: 2 widths x 18cm for the top, 3 widths x 23cm for the middle and 4 widths x 28cm for the bottom one. Increasing the tiers towards the bottom like this makes the skirt balance better visually.

j12Now the trick to sewing the three tiers together is to not “over-gather” the fabric or the skirt grows enormous! To get around this, and to avoid the unspeakable horror of the whole gathering stitches, pulling up and pinning, this is what I do:

  1. Join the strips for each layer together, pressing the seams open, so each is a continuous flat strip. Don’t sew the ends of this strip together. The top tier doesn’t want to be two whole widths around, so cut about 55cm off the end for a size 10-16, less for larger sizes.
  2. Starting with the top and middle tiers, I put them right sides together both at the beginning of the strips with the middle (yellow) tier on the top, and I pleat it straight in under the machine foot. In the photo above I pinned the next pleat to show you how deep I make them but in reality I just form the pleat with my fingers and feed it under the foot. Not too deep and not too close together, that’s the trick. Remember you’re just pleating the fabric on top, not the one underneath.
  3. Just keep pleating until you get to the end of the underneath strip. As you can see in the photo below, I ran out of top tier just after a seam in the middle tier, but it doesn’t matter, no one notices. Just trim the middle tier so it is “flush” with the top tier.j14j15Here’s a pic of the right side showing these two tiers sewn together
  4. Use the same process to join the last tier to the middle tier. Remember not to pleat too close together or too deeply. Cut any overhang at the end of the final tier.
  5. To make the skirt,  bring the two edges of the skirt together, right sides together, line up the tier seams, pin and sew straight through.j17Press the seam open. You may notice that I haven’t neatened any of my raw edges with an overlocker or zig zag. That’s because these kinds of cottons really don’t fray much so there’s no real need to, unless you wish to. To each their own!



I then joined the skirt to the denim basque. In this case, I did use two rows of gathering, and eased it in a little so it just fit, with the one seam down the centre back. Instead of sewing right sides together, I lapped the raw edge of the top of the skirt under the bottom of the basque and sewed them through in two rows. This leaves the raw pinked denim edge on the top layer, which will fluff up with washing like the bottom of cut off jeans.

I confess I haven’t hemmed it yet, because I am not sure who will end up getting it to wear for summer. But I did wash it and put it in the drier to help the fluffing up process. Also, since I took the final photo, I decided to add a row of mustard ric-rac around the join of basque and skirt, and sewed on a wee group of pretty buttons to the basque. If you want to see that you’ll have to pop into the shop! 😉

Cost of project: jeans $5 from an op shop, fabrics $36.80 from our $16m range. Ric-rac was $2m and I used 1m. Buttons were $5, total: $44.80. Not bad!

Leave a Reply