T-shirt Ruffle Skirt Tutorial

Do you have a pile of knit scraps laying around? Cast-off tees? This is the perfect project to use them all up! And I know any little lady is sure to love it ūüôā Becky from the Contributor Team¬†is here today with this darling t-shirt ruffle skirt tutuorial! Take it away Becky ūüôā

T-shirt Ruffle Skirt Tutorial Cover

True confession:¬† I have been terrified for years to work with knits. ¬†¬†I know that it‚Äôs silly, but it‚Äôs something we all do.¬† Shirring, serging, a dreaded zipper (gasp!), and for me ‚Äď KNIT.¬† Ugh!¬† I decided to tackle my fear and jump into a HUGE project‚Ķthe t-shirt quilt.¬† Now, I am knee deep in knit left overs and ¬†half way through a gigantic quilt when it dawned on me that surely there must be something I could do with all the scraps cluttering up my studio.¬† Knit leftovers?¬† This was something new.¬† Turns out, when you create a t-shirt quilt, you typically only use the part of the shirt that has a design on it, leaving the other side of the shirt, the bottom, and the sleeves behind to entertain your toddler and terrorize your vacuum! ¬†The T-shirt Ruffle Skirt Tutorial takes all those leftovers and creates magic!

Oh Рbefore we get started, please remember that this is a recycling project.  If you goof up or something isn’t absolutely perfect, it’s totally ok.  After all, you are essentially rescuing these leftovers from the trash.  Let’s cut ourselves a break and have fun with this one!  Also, the number of shirts you use is dependent on what materials you have on hand.   You will need more shirts if you are working with kids shirts or making a larger skirt, less if you haven’t cut the adult shirts up for a quilt or are making a smaller skirt.

**This tutorial shows the construction of a 4T**


  • 6+ old t-shirts (the leftovers) (Mens/Womens Large or bigger work best)
  • Coordinating thread
  • Scissors
  • Cutting Mat
  • Rotary Cutter
  • Quilting Ruler
  • Fabric Pen
  • Pins
  • Sewing Machine
  • Serger (optional)
  • Fabric Measuring Tape
  • Adele 3 Tier Ruffle Skirt PDF Pattern
  • Printer
  • Tape


First things first, measure that waist.¬† You want to get the part right above the hips where a skirt will comfortably rest.¬† Keep that number ‚Äď it‚Äôs important!¬† For teaching purposes, Stella measured 21 inches/4T.¬†

For the skirt liner and waistband, I used the¬†Adele 3 Tier Ruffle Skirt PDF Pattern.¬† It gives us a starting point based on that measurement you just took.¬† You‚Äôll need to print out ¬†pages 7 and 8 and assemble them according to the pattern instructions. ¬†Find the t-shirt you would like to use as a liner (you can even use the printed part as it won’t be seen) and cut out the liner according to the pattern piece. ¬†Also cut the waistband according to the sizing in the pattern.

Now comes the fun part…gathering up those old t-shirts.


Catch the rest of the tutorial after the jump!

I selected a stack of pink shirts in a variety of colors to create an ombre look.  There are really three parts of the skirt:  the liner, the ruffles, and the waistband.  The amount of t-shirts (and sizes) will determine how many ruffles you can make.

If your shirt is not already filleted  for a t-shirt quilt, be sure to cut your t-shirt open on the sides up to the sleeves.  Cut the bottom of the t-shirts off. 

Cutting the Bottom of the shirt

Cut the fabric into 5 inch strips across the body of the shirt.  Cut the ends off so the strips are nice and square.


Cut all of your ruffle pieces.  Be sure to get as many as you can out of the shirt.


After you cut all your 5 inch strips, organize them into piles by color. ¬†I ended up with 4 strips for the bottom ruffle and 3 for each of the other ruffles for a total of 13 strips that were around 20 inches each. ¬†Now, we need to sew them together to make our loops. ¬†Lay right sides together and using a 1/4 inch seam, serge on the short side (the five inch side). ¬†Don’t worry! ¬†If you don’t have a serger, a regular sewing machine does beautifully with knits. ¬†Plus, knit doesn’t fray so there’s no reason to fret. ¬†You can either sew straight like normal or if you want to clean up the edges a bit just zig zag stitch right over the edge of the fabric. ¬†¬†


You will continue to serge the ends together until you have a long strip.  Then, careful not to twist it, serge the two ends of the strip together to make a loop.


 It should look like this!


¬†Well done! ¬†Now, you only have to do this three more times to your other ruffle pieces! ¬†Now, it’s time to sew your lining. ¬†Right sides together, serge the short sides. ¬†Also, the waistband – right sides together and serge the short end.


 You should now have a glorious stack of fabric.   Time to map out our ruffles!  Set aside the ruffle pieces and flip the liner so the right sides are facing out.  Grab your quilting ruler and the fabric pen.  Line up the bottom of the liner on your cutting mat and mark with your pen every 1.5 inches (starting from the bottom).

DSC_9671 DSC_9674

Flip the liner over and mark the other side in the same fashion.  When you line up your seams, everything should come together like so.


Next, find the middle of your liner front and mark it vertically.  Do the same on the back.


 Mark the center of the liner on the inside as well.


¬†Set aside your liner. ¬†Let’s get to gathering those ruffles.

¬†If you know how to gather, go ahead and gather all your ruffles and move ahead four spaces to the¬†Star! ¬†ūüôā¬†


Now, there are many schools of thought on gathering. ¬†I happen to make a gazillion ruffles and have found a way that works effortlessly for me. ¬†It’s not the way my mama taught me, but it has worked for me. ¬†The key is the thread. ¬†If you use cheap thread, this method will. not. work. period. ¬†A good strong thread that can withstand a little tugging will do amazing things for your ruffles I promise. ¬†I happen to use Gutermann cotton thread for gathering. ¬†One other thing. ¬†My machine has a gathering stitch. ¬†Your’s may not. ¬†It’s ok. ¬†You will just push your stitch length to the farthest your machine will allow. ¬†My machine has a 20mm stitch length for the gathering stitch.


¬†The next part takes some practice and patience. ¬†Once you get this technique down, you’ll be ruffling everything! ¬†Get your bottom ruffle and adjust your sewing machine to the longest stitch it will let you make. ¬†Mine is set at 20mm. ¬†


Sew 1/4 inch from the edge of your fabric all the way around your loop.  You want to overlap your ends by a couple inches.  When you get to the end pull about six more inches of thread from your top thread and the bobbin and then cut it.  These will be your tails that will help you hang on to the thread.

See that tail on the right? ¬†You’ll have one on the top and one on the bottom – the top thread and bobbin thread. ¬†That tail is your lifeline when gathering. ¬†If you let it go, you will have to start over. ¬†


Hold onto the tails on the left side of the overlap. ¬†Gently pull the top tail on the right side of the overlap. ¬†You will see your fabric begin to gather. ¬†ūüôā ¬†Don’t pull too hard. ¬†(This is where good thread comes into play). ¬†Cheap thread and yanking will snap that little tail right off (ouch!)


Continue pulling that tail until it is gathered as far as it will go on the right side.  Then, grab the left tail and pull gently.  It will gather the left side.


Your loop should look like this! ¬†If it doesn’t pull the threads and move the fabric down the thread a little at a time until you have a gathered loop.


Now do this three more times to your other fabric loops. ¬† You are a rockstar! ¬†ūüôā



Gather your ruffle loop until it is a little smaller that the bottom of the liner.


This bottom ruffle has a hidden seam so you will put right sides together.  Sandwich your liner in the ruffle loop.


Match up one seam from your ruffle to the side seam of the liner and pin in place. ¬†Do the same thing to the other side. ¬†(See right sides together?) ¬†You want half the loop on the front of the skirt and half the loop on the back of the skirt…that way your ruffles will be even.


Now, match up the seams with the center marks you made on the liner and pin in place.


You should now have four pins holding your loop to the liner.  This method allows you to know exactly how far you have to stretch or scrunch up your ruffles, making them even and pretty!


Stretch out that ruffle.


Pin it in place.  If at any time the ruffle becomes too stretched out, just grab that tail and gently pull it to scrunch it up again.


Whew! ¬†Your skirt should look like this so far. ¬†Just because I’m a spaz and a mom of four crazies, I often goof up (ha!) I like to flip my skirt right sides out to double check my placement. ¬†You are looking for your skirt to have all the right sides out. ¬†If you see seams, something went wrong. ¬†It is way better to realize this now and redo a little pinning that serge it all and have to pick out that mess. ¬†Trust me!

DSC_9706 DSC_9708

Now that you have double checked and everything looks good, you are ready to sew that puppy down. ¬†You can use coordinating thread here if you like. ¬†I chose purple so you could see it. ¬†ūüôā ¬†You might have to change your stitch length back to normal if you haven’t since gathering. ¬†With a 1/2 inch seam allowance, sew your ruffle loop to the lining. ¬†Here is where all those beautiful gathers you made will start to walk toward you. ¬†Take your pins out at the last second and use your left hand to really hold those gathers into place. ¬†Stop to stretch them back to where you want them to be if you have to. ¬†Slow and steady wins this race. ¬†Also – be sure to keep the lining from bunching up. ¬†Continue to pull it flat on the left.


If you don’t, this will happen. ¬†Boo! ¬†But, you just pick the mess and stitch that down again. ¬†No worries!


Once you stitch the gathers into place, you can pull out your gathering stitch. ¬†It’s pretty easy to just pull and it will snap. ¬†You find the end, pull again, and snap. ¬†You can test the strength of your thread this way. ¬†Good thread will require a good tug.


To finish seams, use a 1/4 inch seam allowance on your serger.


Again, be sure to hold that liner to the left so you don’t sew it/cut it with the serger incorrectly.


Your first ruffle is complete!  Sit back and admire your work.  Way to go!


Pull the tails of the next ruffle loop. ¬†You will be using the same concept as the bottom ruffle except now your seams will be on the top and hidden by the next ruffle row. ¬†Use the guides we drew on the liner. ¬†Your second ruffle should fall between the bottom and the first line. ¬†Aim for the middle and pin down your ruffle. ¬†Pro Tip: ¬†Your layers may have different seams depending on how you pieced your ruffles. ¬†Seams don’t matter except when they are directly down the center of your skirt. ¬†Off centered seams are much less noticeable. ¬†Keep this in mind as you pin. ¬†ūüôā



Using a 1/4 inch seam, stitch your second ruffle layer down.


Remember that ruffle that had a bit of writing on it?


Repeat to add the third ruffle loop.

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Your fourth ruffle will be in between the top line and the top of the skirt.  It should look like this.


Doesn’t it just look like cupcake frosting??? ¬†Yummm!


Now on to the waistband.  It is super comfy, which is a huge plus in my house.  Grab that waistband you serged at the beginning.


Using a fabric pen, mark the center on the right side of the fabric (both top and bottom).  This will help line up the ruched sides.


Lay your waistband on top of your skirt like so.


Put your hand through the waistband and grab the skirt.  Make sure right sides are together!  We are making a burrito.  Ole!


Scoot the skirt down until the top of the waistband and the top of the top ruffle meet. ¬†We are going to sandwich the seam from that top ruffle in the waistband to give a finished look. ¬†Be sure to be pulling the ruffles down. ¬†We don’t want any to accidentally get sewn into the waistband.


Match your side seams with the sides of the skirt.  Use the pen mark to match.



The waistband is stretchy.  Pin like you did the ruffles and break the band into quadrants.  As you stretch the band, be careful not to stretch the skirt.  There should be no gathers in the waistband when done properly.  Pin all the way around until your skirt looks like a burrito.


Now we will sew the waistband to the skirt.  This seam allowance will be different for everyone (based on the size of your skirt).  We want to encase the stitches that are holding down your top ruffle row.  Sew 1/4 inch below that stitched line and you will surely catch the top of the ruffle we want to hide. Mine was a good inch and a quarter.


This is what you are looking for.


Flip everything right side out to check your waistband. ¬†Check to see that it didn’t bunch up anywhere.


Now flip it back to a burrito and serge the ends to clean them up.

Serging Close Up

One last step!!!

To ruche the sides of the skirt think about the fans that you folded out of paper as a kid. ¬†Same concept, but now with fabric. ¬†Little itty bitty folding. ¬†With your hand inside of the skirt pull little folds of the waistband down at the seam marks you made. ¬†I had to do this a couple of times to get it to look how I wanted. ¬†It’s ok. ¬†You seriously cannot mess this part up. ¬†The look is kind of messy on purpose! ¬†ūüôā


This is what you are looking for.


Now carefully transfer this folding to the sewing machine and start stitching over those folds all the way down to the place where the waistband meets the ruffle.  DSC_9767




Now do it again so you have two sewing lines on each side of the skirt to hold the ruching together.  On the side with the seam, just sew on either side of the seam.


Now shake out that skirt and trim all stray thread.  Congratulations!  You have completed the T-shirt Ruffle Skirt and it rocks!


I would love to see your sweeties in their skirts!  Post your pics!



6 Responses

  1. Adorable skirt and fantastic tutorial, Becky! Lots (!) of work went into your step by step tutorial and I greatly appreciate it. It will help so much when I make the skirt. Just got the pattern today and can’t wait to try it out!

    1. Dorothy I am so glad you like it. It was a lot of work, but I wanted something that a new sewist could follow too. I would love to see a photo of your finished skirt! ūüôā

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