The Kate Skirt Tutorial


So here is it as long, long last!  A tutorial for how to make your very own Kate Skirt.  I hope that I can through pictures and text communicate with you how to put this skirt together.  If you have questions, feel free to contact me at and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Just a warning, this post is REALLY long.

Things You’ll Need:

1. 1.5-2.5 yards fabric(cotton or cotton duck.  You want the fabric to have some weight to it, otherwise the pleats won’t be as crisp)

2. Matching thread

3. 7″ zipper*(maybe longer, read through to see why)

4. Interfacing(if you want the waistband to be more structured)

5. Sewing accoutrements: sewing machine, ironing board, scissors, pens, needle, fabric marking pencil or pen, dressmakers tape

6. Fabric for pockets(can be same fabric as the skirt or a coordinating fabric).

7. A pattern for the pockets.  I used a pocket pattern from a dress, but you can download a printable pocket pattern from The Owls are Not What They Seem

First things first, you need to figure out how much fabric you’re going to need.  Depending on your pattern and the size of your fabric(45″ vs 60″ in wide) you will need at least 1.5-2 yards.  To do this, you’re going to need to do a few measurements and a few calculations.

1. Measure where you want the waistband to sit.  I wanted this to be a rather high-waisted skirt, so my measurement was 28″.

2. Figure out how long you want your skirt to be.  I want mine just at/past my knees which is about 24.5″.  I make the skirt portion of my skirts 25″ long, so that I have plenty of room for errors(the waistband will add 2 inches, so you will have plenty of left over material for the hem).

3. Figure out how wide you want the bottom of your skirt to be.  Take your waist measurement and divide it by 2.  I am now at 14″.  Add in a 0.5″ seam allowance on both sides(total of 1″). Now we are at 15″.  You’ll be making four pleats, and they should be anywhere from 4-6″ wide. Take the number of pleats multiplied by the width of each pleat and add it to your waist measurement.  I did 6″ pleats, so my front panel piece was 39″ wide by 25″ long.

Front Panel Width=[1/2(waist measurement)+1] + 4(Pleat Width)

For the back panels, you’ll want the overall width to be 39 inches once they are sewn together and each panel will have 2 pleats. Again, I did 6 inch pleats so each of my back panels was 20″ wide by 25″long

Each Back Panel Width=Front Panel Width+1/2

**If this is confusing you, just email me your waist measurement and the length you want it, and I”ll do the math and send you back the measurements for you panels)**

I drew up a visual “pattern” to help me out.  These are the panels labeled with my measurements.

*Obviously not to scale.

If you are doing stripes and/or your fabric is only 45″ wide, you’ll have to cut your pieces up side by side like I have in my picture above(but closer together obviously).  Add up your widths and divide by 36 to determine how many yards you’ll need. For me, I’d need fabric a cut of fabric that is 39″+20″+20″=79″/36″=2.19 yards.  They sell fabric by the 0.25 yard, so I’d probably get 2.5 yards just to be safe.

If your fabric is 60″ wide and you don’t have to match a pattern, you can cut one panel out right above the other one and would need a lot less fabric.

The waistband is a little easier. You’ll be making them 6 inches wide(and folding over)

Front waistband Length=1/2(Waist)+1

For me this meant my front piece was 15″ long by 6″ wide

Back waistband Length=1/4(Waist)+2  …..(make two)!!

I make my back waistband pieces longer so that there is overlap at the zipper.  So each back piece was 9″ long by 6″ wide.  **If you want a more structured waistband, cut three matching pieces from your interfacing material**

Here’s the drawing I used as a reference when I cut my pieces out.

Now that you’ve done the math and figured out your pattern, it’s time to get cutting! I just measured out my squares using my dressmakers tape and marking pen using the edge of the fabric and the selvage as my guide.

Cut out all your pieces and your interfacing(if using).  For the polka dot skirt, I used a light cotton fabric that I thought was going to be too flimsy, so I ironed on interfacing not only to the waistband but also the panels.  I did 3 layers of interfacing on the waistband!  BTW, I don’t recommend doing interfacing on the panels….they’re a little too stiff now and it made it much harder to work with.

Front and Back Panels
Waistband Panels

I wanted to have a really finished look and didn’t want my fabric to unravel, so I serged around each piece of fabric.  If you don’t have a serger, you can cut our your pieces with pinking shears or sew a zig-zag stitch around the edges.

You’ll also need to cut out your pockets.  I used a coordinating navy/white stripe fabric that I had leftover from making a skirt for my sister.

Now that you have all your fabric cut out and the edges taken care of, you’ll want to pin the two sides of your back panels together(right sides together).

Make a mark 5″ from the top.  This is for your zipper(or if you are using a longer zipper, mark Length of Zipper-2″{that’s for your waistband} from the top of your fabric)

Starting at the bottom, sew your back panels together with a 1/2″ seam and a straight stitch, stopping at your mark. Make sure to back-stitch!  Your back panel should now be the same width as you front panel.  I like to baste together that remaining 5 inches that’s for the zipper together so that it’s not flopping around while I’m working.  By using a very long, loose stitch it’s easy to remove later.

Press you seams open.

Now it’s time to make your pleats.  Take your front panel and find the middle.  Mark 6″(or your pleat width) away on each side.

My front piece ended up actually being 40″ wide and therefore I need to take care of that extra inch, so I made the two center pleats 6.5″. so that’s why you see the middle at 20″ and the pleat marks 6.5″ away

Make the same marks at the bottom of the skirt too.

Now fold your outer pin/mark towards your middle pin/mark(all the way from top to bottom). The easiest way to do this is pinch the fabric at your marked spots then fold it towards the middle.

Pinch at marks
Fold towards center mark

I like to iron the pleat down and then pin both the top and bottom of the pleat(you don’t have to pin the bottom, but trust me, it makes working with the skirt a LOT easier).

Pin the bottom too

Now do the same for the other center pleat.

Now, you’ll be making one more pleat on each side.  Find the center of the remaining fabric and mark 1/2 your pleat size on each side.

Then fold the out side of your pleat towards the inner side.

Repeat for the other side.  Now, measure across the top of your now smaller panel.  You want to make sure that it’s the proper width(1/2 waist+1).  You may have to fool with the pleats a bit to get it the proper width(I did).

It’s going to look way too small at this point because the bottom is pinned. Don’t worry, because you’ll be taking those pins out later.  My husband asked me at least twice if I was making a pencil skirt.

Repeat this exact same process for the back.

Sew along the top of each panel with a 1/4″ seam allowance or less(you don’t want this seam to show after you insert the waistband). For the back panel you can go right across the zipper allowance, it’ll be picked out later, but the waistband will re-enforce the pleats so it’s not a big deal.

You can feel free to remove the pins holding the pleats at the top of you panels(but leave the bottom ones in for now…trust me on this one)

Time for pockets!!

Mark 1.5″ down from the top edge of your skirt panel.  This is where the top of your pocket will start.  With like sides together lay your pocket down, matching the straight edge of the pocket to the edge of the skirt.  Repeat on the other side.

With a straight stitch, sew your pocket to your skirt along the straight edge(making sure your seam allowance is greater than your serged edge).

Press your pockets out away from the body of the skirt.

Repeat on the back panel.  With like sides together, lay your front panel on top of your back panel, making sure to match up the top and bottom, sides and pockets.

Sew up the sides with a 1/2″ seam allowance  going around the outer edge of the pocket.  Here’s a visual attempt to show you wear to sew(the red line is where you should be sewing)

Set the skirt aside for now; it’s time to work on the waistband.

With right sides together, pin one back waistband piece to the front.  Sew together with a 0.5″ seam allowance.

Repeat for the other back piece, then press your seams open.

Fold your waistband in half wrong sides together and iron along the fold.

Grab your skirt because we’re going to insert the waistband!

Open your waistband back up, and with right sides together, lay it so the edge of the waistband lines up with the top edge of the skirt.

Make sure the side seams of the waistband line up with the side seams of the skirt.  Pin the waistband to the skirt all the way to the back seams where you’ll have some overlap.

This is what it’ll look like looking down at the top of the skirt:

This is what it will look like in the back where you’ll have overlapping waistband(because we made it longer than necessary so we’d have something to work with when inserting the zipper).  Just leave the overlap alone

Sew waistband to skirt with a 1/2″ seam allowance, starting and stopping at the back seam(i.e., don’t cross over where your extra waistband is)

Waistband sewed on front
Sewed Waistband Back

Now fold the waistband up and iron along the seam on the right side.

Now fold your waistband in along the fold you made several steps earlier with the iron.

It’ll look like this:

Turn the skirt inside out and sew the loose inner flap of you waistband to the seam allowance you made when you sewed the outer part to the skirt.

Sew close to the edge(less than a 0.5″ so that this stitching doesn’t show through) making sure you are getting the edge of the waistband flap and the seam allowance from the skirt.

It helps to push the skirt through the waist opening to get it out of the way(the skirt is now no longer inside out). Basically, you can turn the waistband down towards the skirt and sew it from there.

Open the waistband back up away from the skirt and press the seam again both on the outside of the skirt as well as the inside.  The inside should look like this:

If you want to cover up those edges you can sew on some double fold bias tape in a coordinating or matching color(I did not do this)

Now you can take your bottom pins out and look at your skirt, which is looking pretty legit at this point.

Time to finish off the loose back edges of the waistband so you can insert the zipper. Turn the skirt inside out and fold it so that the back seam is along the edge.  Draw a line along your waistband that is a continuation of the back seam.  Baste alone this line then press the seam open.

Draw where seam will need to continue

Insert your zipper.  I basically used This Tutorial from Make it and Love It. My zipper goes all the way up to my waistband edge.

Once the zipper is in place, fold down the extra edges of your waistband(I did it twice to cover up the serged edge) and hand-sew it into place.

Now try your skirt on!!

All that’s left to do now is to hem it.  If you are lucky(and I definitely wasn’t), the bottom of your skirt will be even and you’ll be able to just fold the fabric up however many inches you need to make it the length you want and sew it into place.  My bottom was a little uneven, so what I did was to measure 24.5″ from the top of the skirt(including the waistband) in multiple places along the skirt and pinned up the hem that way.  Don’t ask me why, even doing it this way my hem is still not perfectly even. There’s about a 1/2″ difference between the front/back.  I fooled around with it for at least 1.5 hours and couldn’t get it to do right so I finally gave up and just said, screw it!

The hubby says you really can’t tell that the hem isn’t perfectly even.

If you wanted the skirt to be really full, you could definitely wear a petticoat to add some oomph.  Though, I probably wouldn’t wear that to work, maybe a Mad Men Party or something!  Hubby said I looked like I would be one of Betty Draper’s friends in this outfit.

Lots of fullness!

I hope you like this tutorial and find it useable.  Again, if you have any questions feel free to email me at

If you make your own skirt, email me pictures because I’d love to see them and post them on the blog!



7 thoughts on “The Kate Skirt Tutorial

  1. Wendy Robertson says:

    I made this skirt for my daughter yesterday. She is going off to college and wanted some fun new skirts and dresses.

    • guitargrl325 says:

      that is really awesome!! I tried to see the picture but it says it’s not there anymore? I may have to try making a maxi version of this skirt. I just saw a designer version of a maxi pleated skirt(I believe it was carolyn herrera) and it was GORGEOUS. Sorry it took so long to reply, I’m in the last few weeks before I deliver this baby fog!

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