How to Make Waterfall Ruffle Skirts

Waterfall ruffles can look elegant on just a portion of a dress or skirt.
Waterfall ruffles can look elegant on just a portion of a dress or skirt. (Image: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

The waterfall ruffle skirt is also sometimes called a cascading ruffle skirt. Rather than tiers of ruffles running around the skirt, these ruffles cascade down the length of the skirt like a waterfall. This type of ruffle is also good for camouflaging trouble areas and is more polished and mature than traditional ruffles. To create the visual flow and movement in these ruffles, it's important to use a fabric that is fairly lightweight with a little stretch. With some basic sewing skills, you can turn a couple casual T-shirts into a polished, elegant looking skirt ready to hit the town.

Things You'll Need

  • Short-sleeved T-shirt with a rounded neckline.
  • Ruler
  • Chalk
  • Scissors
  • Additional T-shirts
  • Bowl or plate
  • Straight pins
  • Threaded sewing machine

Making the Skirt

Lay one T-shirt flat on your work surface. Measure up from the bottom edge 5 inches and use the ruler and chalk to draw a straight line from one side of the shirt to the other. This is going to be the waistband of the skirt.

Give old T-shirts a new lease on life.
Give old T-shirts a new lease on life. (Image: Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Draw a modified neckline on the T-shirt with your chalk. Start on one shoulder about 1 inch from the armhole seam, go under the neckline and back up to the opposite shoulder about 1 inch from the other armhole seam.

Cut the shirt apart, through both layers along these lines.

Pin the ends of the sleeves closed and sew shut, using the pressure foot as a guide. Double stitch for durability. These will be the pockets of your skirt. Leave out for now, you'll push the pockets to the inside after sewing on the ruffles.

Pin the waistband onto the modified neckline, right sides together. The waistband will be smaller than the hole. Pinch the fabric together as necessary and pin in place to fit it into the waistband.

Sew the waistband to the skirt using the pressure foot as a guide. Arrange the skirt so the waistband is right side out. Top stitch the waistband to the skirt for extra durability and to help prevent the waistband from flipping over.

Making the Waterfall Ruffles

Measure from where the waistband meets the skirt to the hem. You will be cutting a curved ruffle and this length is the inside of the curved strip.

Find a bowl or plate or other round traceable object that is the same circumference as the length you measured. Lay another T-shirt flat on your work surface and place the bowl or plate upside down on the shirt and trace around it.

Decide how wide you want your waterfall ruffle strips to be. You may decide to cover the entire skirt or just a small area. Amount or ruffles and placement are up to you.

Measure out from the circle the width you want your ruffle to be. Mark around the circle in several spots this distance then connect the dots making a larger circle around the first one.

Cut out the circle on the larger circle line. Cut a straight line in toward the small circle line and cut following that line. You now have a curved fabric strip. Repeat for however many ruffles you want to make.

Adding the Ruffles to the Skirt

Lay the curved ruffle strips on your skirt where you want to sew them down. Since jersey doesn't unravel you don't need to finish the edges of the strips. Just keep in mind the raw edges where you sew the ruffle to the skirt will shown unless you place the ruffles so the cascades overlap slightly.

Pin the inside of the curve of each strip to the skirt. Be sure to only pin through one layer.

Sew each waterfall ruffle to the skirt on the 1/4-inch seam line. Be careful not to catch the one lying next to the one your are sewing in your stitches. Double stitch for durability.

Tuck the sleeves, which are now pockets, to the inside of the skirt and you are done.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use the same color T-shirt for your ruffles if only sewing them onto a portion of the skirt.
  • If covering the entire skirt with ruffles, use a different color for a flirty, sassy look.

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