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About a year and a half ago, I came across this pin on Pinterest on making a long prairie skirt using the top of a pair of jeans as a yoke and attaching a big rectangle of fabric. I fell in love at once and decided that I just had to make one for myself. I already had a pair of old jean cut-offs that still fit but I never used anymore and a striped crib sheet that I’d gotten at my local used market for the bottom.
Then I remembered that, as cool as they look, I really don’t like wearing maxi skirts. The fabric gets in the way and I end up hitching up the skirt all the time. (Which is why I’m considering shortening this long skirt I refashioned from an ill-fitting dress.) So in the end I went for a considerably different look, making a knee-length skirt (my favorite length) with box pleats.
What do you say? Do you have old old pair of cut offs or a full length pair of jeans that you don’t ever use? Continue reading this box pleated skirt tutorial to learn how to give them a whole new lease on life!
Cutting the fabric
First cut your jeans above the crotch, so that the bottom is opened up. Make sure to leave at least 1 cm below the back pockets and zipper panel, and pull the front pockets upwards so that you don’t accidentally cut into those. My cut-offs had a hole 1 cm below the bottom of the zipper, so I cut right into that.
Now let’s cut up your sheet (or regular fabric), doing a bit of math to get the right sized pieces. Let’s first consider how wide the pieces must be. Use a tape measure to measure around the bottom of your jeans yoke. (By the way, in case you didn’t know, a yoke is the top of a skirt, which the bottom part attaches to.) Mine was 107 cm. Then decide how many pleats you want. I only put three pleats in the front of the skirt, but in hindsight I wish I’d put them all around. Consider 15 cm of fabric width for each outer panel between pleats. Having three pleats, I had two panels between each pleat. 15 cm x 2 = 30 cm. Subtract that amount from your yoke circumference to get the width of the fabric to continue the rest of the way around the skirt. In my case, 107 cm – 30 cm = 77 cm. So in my skirt with three pleats, I would have two panels 15 cm wide and a much wider panel 77 cm wide. But, as we will be sewing them together, we need to calculate seam allowance. I always use a 1 cm seam allowance, which will be needed on each side, so add 2 cm to each of these measurements. So my panels were 17 cm, 17 cm, and 79 cm wide. Are you with me up til here? Good!
Now we need to know how long to cut these panels. Try on your jean yoke and measure from the bottom of the yoke to where you want the skirt to end. In my case I needed to add 33 cm of length. To that you need to add 2 cm to the top (where it will attach to the yoke) and 2 cm to the bottom (for the hem) so, adding 4 cm, my fabric length ended up 37 cm. So the final dimensions to cut from the fabric designated for the outer part of the skirt were two pieces 17 cm wide and 37 cm long and one piece 79 cm wide and 37 cm long.
Now the pleats. The length must be the same as the other pieces, but you can vary the width depending on how wide you want the pleat to open up at the bottom. I chose 20 cm. You need to cut out the number of pleat inserts for the number of pleats you have. I had calculated three pleats, so I cut out three pieces 22 cm wide and 37 cm long. You can use the same fabric as for the outer part of the skirt or use a contrasting fabric, which is an effect I love. I decided to take advantage of the stripes and the fact that I was using a woven fabric and cut the pleat insert pieces with the stripes running horizontally instead of vertically, as they were for the outer panels.
Start piecing together the panel pieces and inserts. Align the long edges of one pleat insert and one pleat panel, right sides together. Pin them together and sew with a 1 cm seam allowance. Then pin together the other long edge of the pleat panel with a long edge of another pleat insert.
Making the pleated skirt
Continue joining each long edge so that you have a succession of pleat insert – pleat panel – pleat insert – pleat panel – pleat insert. (Don’t pay any attention to my pleat insert piece above being a little shorter compared to the adjacent pleat panels.) Then sew together the longer outer skirt panel to the two outer edges of this pleat panel so that you have a big loop of fabric. Either overlock or zig zag stitch the cut fabric outside the seams so that it won’t fray in the wash. Then turn the loop of fabric right side out and iron the seams flat.
Your pleat inserts will now be 2 cm less wide, so in my case, 18 cm. Measure halfway across each pleat insert piece (in my case, 9 cm) and place a pin at the halfway point.
Pull the seam connecting the pleat insert to the pleat panel to the left over to the halfway point. Flatten the fabric, making sure the the tops of all three layers are aligned on the top, and pin in place.
Do the same with the seam to the right and pin in place. The pleat insert piece will now be covered up by the outer fabric pieces.
Sew down the folded fabric with a seam allowance of less than 1 cm.
Do this with the remaining pleat insert pieces, and your skirt bottom is starting to take shape!
Attaching the skirt to the yoke
Overlock or zig zag the top edge of the skirt bottom and the bottom of the jean yoke to prevent fraying. (Oops, forgot to do that for this photo!) Turn your skirt bottom inside out and pull the jean yoke through the center of it, so that the right sides are facing and the edges you just overlocked or zig zagged are on the same side. Align the center of your center pleat with the center of the jean yoke just below the zipper.
Pin the edges together all the way around the skirt top/yoke bottom. If you measured and calculated correctly, the skirt should fit just perfectly around the yoke. If it’s not absolutely perfect, don’t worry; you can just move the fabric up or down a little to get it to fit properly.
Sew all the way around with a 1 cm seam allowance.
Hem the bottom of the skirt by folding and ironing the fabric edge up 1 cm, then another 1 cm. Pin and sew in place.
Look at those cool pleats you’ve just made! You could be done here, but I felt like the skirt was just begging for a coordinating belt, too.
Making the belt
Measure around the top of the jean yoke. Mine was 86 cm. The easiest thing would be to make a belt that ties, but I don’t love those because I don’t like the bulk of a knot under my shirt. If you want a knotted belt, add about 50 cm to your yoke top circumference, so 136 cm in my case. I chose a snapped belt, and added just 12 cm, making a total of 98 cm. Cut out a piece of fabric as long as needed for the type of belt you’re making and 8 cm wide for a belt 3 cm high. Make sure that this width will fit through your belt loops.
Iron the strip in half lengthwise with right sides together. Sew one short end and the long end, leaving the other short end open. Then clip the two corners.
Turn the strip right side out with a safety pin or with a tube turning tool* and iron it flat. Insert the edges of the open end 1 cm inside the strip, press and stitch down (look where the arrow is pointing). If you want, you could topstitch the whole belt, but I didn’t want to see any topstitching.
Slip the belt through the belt loops. If you made a knotted belt, you’re done! If not, note where the belt ends overlap and attach snaps. I used two of the industrial strength snaps I use for my cloth menstrual pads, but you could use regular sew-on snaps, regular buttons, snap tape or velcro. Remember to keep the short side with the topstitching underneath to hide the stitching.
Now spin around and watch how your pleats flare out!
Like I said before, in hindsight I wish I’d just put pleats all around the skirt because I don’t love how the plain, straight backside falls. But it’s still one of my favorite skirts because it’s just so comfortable, it has pockets and the pleats give my legs plenty of room to move.
This skirt was conceived of as a spring/summer skirt, but you can always make a cold-weather version using thicker fabrics, or you could just layer it with tights or leggings to keep warmer (as you can see in this picture from Me-Made-May 2014.)
And how did I use up most of the scraps left over from this wonderful striped crib sheet? I made some of the coolest pants ever for my little boy with the MADE Kid Shorts pattern (here’s how I used the pattern to make pants instead of shorts), turning the stripes on their side for the pockets, like I did for the pleats of the skirt. Seriously, I wish I had pants like those…
Not sure what to do with the rest of your jean fabric left over from this project? Why not cut them into strips to create a vine and leaf design over stains or rips in your favorite pair of jeans? Take a peek at the tutorial here!
And don’t forget to Pin this great idea here!
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10 thoughts on “Tutorial: Make a box pleated skirt from jeans and sheets”
That jeans/pleated skirt is so cute on you. It would also be great on little ones. Too many memories from wearing Catholic School uniforms for 12 years for me! Thanks for the tutorial and the idea of recycling those jeans.
I love pleats, so you can tell I didn’t go to a Catholic school! 🙂 I agree that this would be cute for little girls and perfect for girls like my daughter who are super thin, which means that pants either fit too wide in the waist but perfect in length or perfect in the waist but too short. Just cutting off the legs would make the perfect waist useful!
Your skirt is fab-u-lous!! Simple.