DIY Knife-Pleated Skirt

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Hey guys, what up? We’re back with another little “skirts for dummies” tutorial! Hope you’re not sick of them yet. This time around, we’re looking at a slightly different technique to achieve that “schoolgirl chic” look with a knife-pleated (or side-pleated) skirt. I’m using a woven tartan here, but you can use whatever material you prefer for yours, so long as the fabric is thick and sturdy enough to be pressed (so obviously no chiffon, satin, or velvet–you know what I mean).

You will need:

  • Sewing Machine
  • General Sewing Kit–Scissors, needle, seam ripper, tape measure, regular pins and safety pins
  • Something to draw on your fabric with (chalk, pencil, pen, etc)
  • Fabric (we’ll get to how much in a bit)
  • Matching Thread
  • Regular zip (At least 15cm long)

First thing you want to do is make sure you’ve bought enough fabric! There are two types of knife-pleated skirts you can make, one with deep pleats and one with shallow pleats. I think deep pleats look slightly nicer on woven fabric like tartan but if you are short on fabric and you’re using a cotton broadcloth or something similar, shallow pleats are just fine.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

This is your algorithm:

Knife-Pleated Skirt Pattern

Belt loops, pockets, and lining are optional–for this tutorial, we will cover none of those but if you want to review methods on how to make them, just refer to my box-pleated skirt tutorial.

For deep pleats, you want five times your waist measurement (5A), if you want shallow pleats, the total width will be 3A (plus seam allowances). You can split this up into two panels if you’re making a miniskirt and you don’t want to buy double the amount of fabric, but it depends on your fabric’s dimensions and if you have enough room on your fabric vertically. For the waistband, go to your cupboard and pick out the size of a waistband on a skirt you think looks best on you (-super thick? -super thin? -somewhere in the middle?), and supplement that measurement for the X in the diagram.

I wanted a waistband that was a little over an inch thick and since I was sewing a mini skirt and had piece of fabric that was 180cm x 120cm, I split my fabric into two panels of 2.5A+2C with a strip left over for a waistband later on.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

I wanted my skirt to be 40cm long, a pretty decent length for a miniskirt without being too tarty. I left a good 10cm of seam allowance on the bottom because I wanted the flexibility of being able to let it out a bit later on, I dunno.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Snip, snip, snip. If you’re using tartan fabric like me, the pattern makes pretty good guidelines!

It is at this stage that if you’re using two rectangles of fabric for your skirt instead of just one long one, you have to straight stitch them together at one end to create one long strip, so that the total length equals either 3A or 5A, depending on whether you’re going for shallow or deep pleats (plus generous seam allowances of course). Ignore this step if you just have one continuous length of fabric for the body of the skirt.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Inch-wide pleats are pretty cool and easy to keep track of, but adjust for taste – you can make them doubly thick for half as much work, or half as thin if you’re a masochist with psychopathic tendencies.

Remember that for each pleat’s width, there’s 5x the amount of fabric behind it, and you want to pick a number that is easily divisible by your waist measurement, so all your pleats are evenly-sized and you’re not left with one giant or mini pleat at the back next to your zipper. Not cool!

My skirt has 26 inch-wide pleats, so roughly 130 inches of fabric went into the skirt. Yep, that’s about 3.3m of fabric! Mark off your pleats along the prospective waistband of the skirt because it’s going to be covered by a waistband later on.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Now begin folding your pleats, using the pattern in the fabric as a guide (if your fabric is patterned).  You can also mark the bottom of the fabric, if you’re using a plain cloth and you’re having trouble aligning the pleats.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

For shallow knife-pleats, the pattern is 1, 2, 1, 2. For deep pleats, the pattern is 2, 3, 2, 3. See the diagram above for reference, although the difference is pretty easy. I’m sure you could even make deeper pleats with 7x per each pleat but that would be a crazy amount of fabric for not much gain. Double pleats turn out pretty nice on woven fabric.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Pin your pleats into place at the waistband. For those going for deep pleats, check both the front and the back to see if the appearance is uniform.. I had to redo a whole section because I accidentally made a shallow pleat halfway through. Ugh!

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Some people say that this next step is easier if you press the pleats beforehand, but I personally didn’t have much trouble with unpressed pleats (my pinning game was pretty on-point – get it?) and I hate ironing with all my being, so I didn’t bother.

Before you sew, check that you have enough pleats to go the full circle around your waist. I always err on the side of sewing a couple extra.. you can always use a seam-ripper to undo the surplus pleats afterwards, anyways. Just sew a straight line across all your pleats, doesn’t matter how messy it looks because you’ll be covering it up with the waistband eventually.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Here’s a complimentary picture of the dog to encourage you while you’re sewing along.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Now we get to your hemline! Fold over the edge to the desired length..

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

And sew it up. I did it at this stage, but personally, if it works for you, I would recommend hemming be the absolute very last thing that you do. My fabric was really thick and I don’t have a walking foot so throughout the project, I noticed that the fabric was getting warped and twisted in places as I sewed due to the machine dragging the bottom layer more than the top layer, so I elected to do this step at this stage because I knew I was never going to have a perfect hemline.

It’s pretty easy to disguise a straight stitch among the pattern, but I’ll make sure to cover invisible stitching for you guys in a future tutorial sometime.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

It looks a bit lumpy at this stage because the hemline is so thick, but that’s nothing a bit of ironing won’t fix.

DIY

Now my least favourite part, and you can see this fact reflected in my face above.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Waistbands! You either hate them, or you hate them. I think they’re an important element to make a skirt look polished, so you will never see me skip this step. Lay the fabric for the waistband faces-together on your skirt and align it with the top of the skirt like pictured above. Figure out how thick you want your waistband to be–in my case, it was about an inch or so, and sew the skirt and waistband together.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Then flip the skirt over, roll the waistband over, press flat, and pin down that side. Sew from the front of the skirt right where the pleats start under your waistband so you can make that stitch super invisible, but make sure you’re catching the inside of the waistband with your stitches too, haha. Leave the ends out for now. I’m never good at explaining how to do the ends, sigh..

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Now my other most-hated part, the zip! Unpick any paranoia-induced pleats that you added on as extras–just make sure to hold it around your waist for reference. Then sew your skirt together at the loose ends, excluding the waistband area.

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

You’ll want to sew both ends of the skirt together at very specific spot.. You can go all fancy with the zip if you have experience with this and make an invisible zip, blah, blah, but my preferred method is to hide the zip deep between a pleat as shown above. It’s really easy, and when you button or hook up the skirt, the zip will virtually be invisible!

Easy Zipper Installation

For installing a zip, turn the skirt inside out, and press open your newly-created seam. Lay the zipper face-down so that the teeth are aligned with the seam, pin into place, and then using a zipper foot, stitch around the zip from the right side of the skirt to make sure that the zip stays dead-centre on that seam, removing pins as you go. When you’ve sewn it into place, just unpick the centre seam to the bottom of the zip, thus revealing the zip, and hey presto!

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

This is what your zip will look like when you’ve installed it. At this stage, I like to corner off the edges of the waistband. The one on the bottom ends where the zip does, and the one overlapping it ends about an inch out. Just go over the ends with a straight stitch once you’ve tucked in your corners. I was going to install a button-hole but I was running out of time for a costume party, so I just used a strong hook-and-bar closure, which worked out okay. If you’re feeling brave, go on and try a buttonhole instead.

Now that you’re finally done, there’s one more step and that’s ironing. Pin down your pleats again and bust out your iron, using the pattern as a guide, if there is one. Crisp pleats make this look, so don’t forget this step!

You can now turn that frustrated frown upside down because you’ve finished your masterpiece!

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

If you like the tutorial, give it a thumbs-up, share it on Pinterest, Tweet it to a friend–if you so wish. It was because of the massive support I received from the previous tutorial that I continue to make these–I love knowing that someone out there is using this guide, and I’m more than happy to post more!

Currently I’m on a bit of a skirts bender, so you’ll be seeing a couple more skirt tutorials before this blog is through, but I’m hoping to move onto tops and dresses soon.. anything I can do to make sewing more accessible to the everyday amateur (like me!). I’ve picked up a few vintage patterns from eBay recently and I’m trying to figure out how to deconstruct them so I can explain them through here, so stay tuned.

Thank you for reading/sharing and keep in mind that if you complete any of these projects, I’d love, love, love to see them! Either via Facebook or the comments section or even the contact form if you’re shy.

(But that being said, don’t be shy, be proud that you could follow my ridiculous instructions.)

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

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Comments

  1. Madeline says:

    Thank you so much for this!! I work in a bookstore and I’m going to dress up as Luna for the new Harry Potter book release party we are throwing and I wanted to make a grey skirt for the uniform (sounded way more fun than buying one and probably less expensive). Thanks again!!! :)

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  3. Tessa says:

    Thats such a pretty skirt ! I wish I could make it , I can’t really understand patterns tho! All them numbers! Yesterday I make my first skirt without a tape measure and it’s too big lol! Ok so now making this skirt is one of my goals ! Thanks so much for the tutorial you are so beautiful inside and out!

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  5. Faith Corrinne says:

    I made this skirt with deep pleats and the waist measurement is correct, but when I put it on it flares out completely at my hips! My waist is exactly 24 inches but my hips are 33.5 inches. I top stitched the pleats about 4 inches down, and it feels snug at my hipbones and flares out really badly to the point where the pleats flatten out. I really love the look of top stitched pleats, but do you think the top stitches are the problem? I worked so hard on it :(

    • Demi says:

      Top stitching is a funny thing – it won’t help unless you top stitch down in a very certain way. It will likely be how your pleats are ironed, but it’s hard to tell without a picture! :( Feel free to tweet or email me a photo and I’ll see if I can suggest anything.

  6. Suzanne Sheppard says:

    Love the tutorial, I want to make a tiny one for a Celtic doll I am working on.

  7. Pearl says:

    This is so easy to understand! I am about to make a skirt for a cosplay I am about to do and this tutorial will make it a lot easier for me to make my very first costume.
    I just started a blog and will certainly link this site when I share about my costume making.

    Thank you!

    • Demi says:

      Aww, thank you! I’m glad this tutorial is of use to you :) I can’t wait to see your skirt!

  8. Dayah says:

    This is wonderful!! Am gona try and brave this tutorial to make me a skirt for my Back-to-School Dinner & Dance!!!!! Hope it works out!!!! Cheerios.

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  11. M says:

    Hello!! I really want to make this skirt and your tutorial makes it look simple enough for someone like me…who has never sewn before. Eek, I know. I just have one concern that maybe you could help me with. I’m rather short at 5’1″, with a 30″ waist and 39 1/2″ hips…Which translates to a big butt lol. If I make the skirt long enough to cover my butt well, it seems that it’ll be too long in the front, which isn’t flattering since I’m so short. (I would like a mid-thigh length) Is there any way to adjust for this? I would like the hemline to be even but also account for the butt. I haven’t made the skirt yet, but according to the math I think it’ll be too short in the back if I don’t adjust somehow. I have found some tutorials on how to adjust a pencil skirt, but this one has pleats so I’m lost. Any help or steering in the right direction would be appreciated! Thank you :)

    • Demi says:

      Hey M! Normally I wouldn’t advise making this kind of skirt in the case of an extreme butt to waist ratio, but yours doesn’t sound that extreme to me. I have a similar ratio (couple of inches smaller than yours) and it didn’t look unusual (and as you see I made it a mini skirt).

      I personally wouldn’t worry but if you are unconvinced, try making the skirt a few inches longer and then measure evenly from the ground up to the hemline length you are aiming for. Measuring from the floor up is a legit way to do this to circle and pencil skirts as well. You just have to mark off and finish your hemline a little bit further down the process when your skirt is almost done (as the last step, for example).

  12. shannon says:

    what if we want an elastic waistband? that’s also possible right?

    • Demi says:

      I would advise that even if it was possible, it’s probably not a good idea, because you have to figure out a way to keep the structural integrity of the pleats while also allowing them to accordion out as needed. Just a bad idea in general, this skirt really calls for a solid waistband, but you can make an elastic waistband with a gathered skirt or a circle skirt. Pleats just require too much structure unfortunately. :(

  13. Esz says:

    Woohoo your skirt is super cute! Love these kinds of self drafted ones that are just a bunch of rectangles – they are so easy.

    A trick with waistbands: Sew your waistband piece onto the WRONG side first, then flip over and turn the seam under on the RIGHT side. Edge stitch that and bam, you dont have to worry about catching anything on the other side.
    I find this heaps quicker than dicking around with trying to stitch in the ditch and then probably missing bits underneath.

    • Demi says:

      Thanks, Esz! With the waistbands, I sew it specifically like that because I don’t like visible stitches on the outside of the waistband :( I’ve combated the problem with bias binding so now instead of folding it over again, I just make sure that it’s long enough to be comfortably caught. Works much better like that!

  14. Fern says:

    Hello!

    I just made this, but I was wondering if the pleats will stay through the wash.

    Thanks,

    Fern

    • Demi says:

      Oooooh, pictures, pretty please? :D You can hard press the pleats, which will help, but otherwise you will always have to re-iron the pleats after a wash. Try not to over-wash it though, skirts and jeans are the sorts of clothes that can go whole seasons without being washed (unless actually visibly dirty or otherwise detected by your nose).

  15. Rose says:

    I really like the way your skirt turned out and I really want to use this tutorial but the beginning/pattern was just too darn confusing. Ive been staring at it for 20 minutes and read over everything like 3 times but I can’t figure out when you use the lining (and if you mean extra fabric or interfacing or what?) and how much fabric to get. Also I don’t see you actually sew the 2 pieces together??

    • Demi says:

      Hey Rose, I’m sorry for being confusing! I didn’t use a lining in this skirt, so I probably shouldn’t have included a diagram with a lining.. That’s probably just made you confused. It’s from my box pleated skirt tutorial and that one did include a lining so that’s why it’s in the diagram!

      You sew the two panels of the skirt together right after you’ve finished cutting your pieces out, if you have two pieces of fabric – and not just one continuous piece. At the end of the day you just have to have a very long rectangle, whether it’s combined from 1, 2, or 7 pieces of fabric, so long as it’s stitched together into a long rectangle when you begin, it’s all good. If you have any other questions, feel free to respond, or shoot me a tweet or whatever you need and I’ll help you out!

  16. Meghann says:

    This is so awesome! I’ve been looking for a tutorial exactly like this for so long!!! Thank you :)
    Just one question, do you think this same technique would work for making a tennis skirt (like the american apparel style) if I just sewed the pleats down in a a-line shape?
    Thank you once again :)

    • Demi says:

      You’re welcome, I loved making it!

      I was actually going to topstitch the pleats but I ran out of time. I don’t see a reason why you couldn’t pull it off, although make sure you avoid ironing until the end!

      Just finish the skirt as you would above and then at the very last step before ironing, put the skirt on, and start pinning to where the topstitches will end and sew them like that so you can compensate for the flaring of your hips from your waist.

  17. Kirsten says:

    Well, shit. I do not think I have the skills or patience required for this. BUT THIS IS A FRIGGIN GOOD TUTORIAL. I will allow you to make a pleated skirt for me.

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