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Simple self-drafted Summer Separates

Simple self-drafted Summer Separates

Making simple self-drafted separates with the tropical palm trees cotton jersey fabric

When the February Northern Monkey Makes challenge was announced in their group (“I made this, inspired by that”), I started looking for combinations of available fabrics and outfits I wanted to recreate.

I found a ruffled bandeau style maxi dress that made me dream of warm beach holidays, and the tropical sunset cotton jersey fabric was the perfect fit.

I didn’t have an existing sewing pattern that worked, but the dress looked like something I could hack using gathered rectangles. I couldn’t see exactly how the dress was constructed under the top and at the waistline, so I decided to make separates.

Drafting the skirt

 I cut two rectangles of the cotton jersey fabric, in my desired skirt length x by roughly halfway between my waist and hip measurements wide.  In my experience, a gently gathered simple skirt is usually double the waist measurement. This would give me plenty of ease through the hips too.

Whenever i sew something it’s always an opportunity to add pockets! Right? So for pockets, I could have done side-seam pockets, but they have a tendency to pull down, so I went with side slant, as those would be supported at the top by the waistband as well.

This would work well with a waistband from the cotton jersey fabric, but I decided to go with the 38mm Prym soft waistband elastic in a coordinating fuchsia colour.

For my first attempt at gathering, I tried stretching the waistband elastic and sewing the skirt on directly. That led to a very sloppy stitch line and not enough stretch to fully gather, since the skirt was more than double the length of the elastic. On my second try, I made two lines of gathering stitches and gathered the cotton jersey to the width of the elastic.

In this case, I wanted the elastic on top of the right side of the fabric, so I used the lower stitch line as my guide for where to attach the elastic and pinned everything together. I needed a nice tidy stitch since it would be visible, so I took a gamble and used Maraflex thread and a long straight stitch. Miraculously, it has enough stretch to pull on over my hips with no signs of popping!

Drafting the Top

For the big ruffled top, I cut a rectangle that was roughly double my upper bust measurement and 12” high, allowing for seam allowances and hemming. It ended up being very close to full width of fabric for my 30” upper bust, but you could also use two rectangles seamed at the sides. I wanted a fitted underlayer, so I used a 12” length of purple tubular ribbing. The ribbing I bought from Northern Monkey Makes has fantastic stretch & recovery. Again, you could measure and seam at the sides if the tube doesn’t fit or you could use some of northern monkey makes extra wide ribbing if you only want one seam.
I gathered the jersey fabric with stitch lines to the tubular rib and stitched together.

The stitching stretched the edge a bit, so I needed to add elastic to make sure the top stayed up. Solution: the silicone grippy-backed elastic. I cut a length that would feel nice and snug, and attached it onto the inside of the tubular rib lining by stretching. I had to take my time with this bit, smoothing the ruffle layer as I went so it gathered neatly.

Both skirt and top ruffle were hemmed by overlocking the edge and turning under once, then twin needling. A good press with my iron gave it a crisp edge that falls nicely without being too stiff or puffy.

And that’s it! It’s simple, I encourage anyone to try it. 

Matchy matchy? Why not

I accidentally discovered that the bandeau would make a cute gathered miniskirt, in addition to the possibilities with the top and maxi skirt. Seriously, this fabric is so pretty, these simple gathered skirts are gorgeous at any length and there’s enough fabric leftover to make my 6 year old daughter a skirt.

I took more step-by-step photos to make Miss 6’s skirt, also using the Prym waistband elastic.


The skirt is attached by overlocking right sides together (knife blade down!), giving it more poofiness at the top. This method for a simple gathered skirt works equally well for woven fabrics and stretch jersey fabrics by the way! The gathering and elastic waistband provide all the necessary stretch.


 Written by Sarah Jeon 

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