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How to Make a Batty Gathered Tulle Circle Skirt – Halloween Sewing Tutorial

Velcome, my crafty friends, to another WhatTheCraft BOOtorial!

Today’s project is this bewitching bat skirt. I love how the layers of tulle give the impression of the bats fluttering in midair.

And this skirt style can go way beyond Halloween! You could do a red skirt with little hearts all over it. Or a white skirt with snowflakes. Flowers. Smiley faces. You know what I always say. Get wacky!

But that’s enough chitchat. Let’s get it on!

Check out the video or follow along with the text/photo instructions below.

Trouble with the video player? 
Click here to watch the video on Youtube.

Before you start, don’t forget to download the free circle skirt template and free bat template!

The things you’ll need for this skirt are:

  • lining fabric – I’m using tricot, which is basically your garden variety spandex. I think it works especially great for this skirt because it’s heavy enough to resist any of the static-cling issues that are common with tulle, and it doesn’t have to be hemmed! Whatever you choose, I’d suggest a knit fabric so you don’t have to hem, and also because having some stretch will make it easier to get on and off.
  • tulle – and lots of it.
  • waistband elastic – I’m using 2″ elastic. You’ll need your natural waist measurement to determine the length needed.
  • glitter felt – I ended up using 1 and a quarter sheets that measured 12 x 19 inches each for my bats. If you can’t find glitter felt, you could look for glitter craft foam. You can also use plain felt.
  • plain felt in a color that matches your cutouts.
  • hot glue gun.
  • safety pins.
  • my circle skirt template and the bat template.
free circle skirt template

OK! let’s figure out how much lining fabric we’ll need.

There are three measurements you’ll want to take before you start: your natural waist measurement, your hip measurement, and the length you want the skirt to be.

I’ll use myself as an example. My hip measurement is 42″. That’s the measurement I’ll use for the circumference of my lining.

Next, take your skirt length measurement and subtract the width of your elastic. I’m aiming for a skirt that’s 26″ long, so I subtract 2″ and get 24″.

Now we’re going to calculate what I call the “cutting length” which is a term I totally made up for this tutorial, but it’s going to help determine how much fabric you’ll need, so hang in there with me.

We’re going to add the RADIUS of the hip circumference to the length (minus the waistband width). And I know that sounds scary because GEOMETRY!!!! But it’s really simple, actually.

You can either use the circle skirt template and measure from the corner of the template to your hip circumference number to get the radius OR you can do math. And it’s really simple math. Take your hip measurement and divide it by 6.28. Boom. Done.

So for me, that’s 6.7″ plus 24″, and that gives me 30.7″ and I’ll just round up to 31″ to make things easier.

So now we have our cutting length! Write this number down somewhere, because we’ll need it later.

Take the “cutting length” and multiply it by 2. If that number is less than or equal to the width of your fabric, you can cut your fabric in one piece. Yay! No seams!

Divide your “cutting length times 2” number by 36 to get the yardage. It probably won’t be a whole number, so round up to the next half yard.

OK. If you’re like me, and your fabric isn’t quite wide enough to cut in one piece, then we have to cut our lining in two pieces. BOO! HISS!

Take your cutting length and multiply it by 4. Then divide that number by 36 to get the yardage.

In my case, I take 31″ times 4, which gives me 124″. To convert that to yards I divide it by 36 and get 3.4. So I’ll need about 3 and a half yards of lining fabric.

Now the measurements for our tulle are going to be a little bit different, and that’s because in addition to cutting the tulle into a circle skirt, we’re also going to make a larger circle so we can gather it for MOAR VOLUME.

Take your natural waist measurement and multiply it by two. That’s going to be the circumference for the tulle portion of the skirt.

In my case, my waist is 30″ so my circumference is 60″.

To get the cutting length, measure the appropriate length on the circle skirt template OR divide your circumference by 6.28.

Add this to your tulle length – which is the length of your skirt minus ONE inch (remember for the lining we subtracted 2 inches, but we want to ensure the tulle will be longer than the lining).

So in my case, we get 9.5″ plus 25″ which results in a total cutting length of 34.5″

Again, write this number down for when it comes time to actually cut.

You can probably guess what we do next…

If you guessed that we multiply the cutting length times 2 and then compare that to our tulle width, DING! DING! DING! We have a winner!

If your number is less than or equal to the width of your tulle, you can cut your tulle in one piece. WEE!

Divide the number by 36″ to get your yardage FOR ONE LAYER! That’s important, because I’m going to suggest AT LEAST 2 layers of tulle. I’m using four layers. You can do more or less, as you see fit, but again, I suggest using at least 2 layers of tulle.

So, remember to multiply the single-layer yardage by the number of layers you want.

Using my numbers as an example: I multiply my cutting length by 2 and that gives me 69″. Divide that by 36 to get 1.9 yards.

If I want 2 layers of tulle, I multiply that by two and get 3.8 yards.
If I want 4 layers of tulle, I multiply it by four and get 7.6 yards.

7 plus yards probably sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that tulle is usually very cheap. Like $1 a yard or less. I got a 40 yard bolt on etsy for $12. That’s like 30 cents a yard, my dudes.

Alright, if you’re a poor sap like me, and your tulle isn’t wide enough to cut in one piece… proceed to the next step.

Just like we did last time, we’re going to take our cutting length and multply it by FOUR. For me, that’s 138″. Divided by 36″ that’s 3.8 yards.

Again, this is the yardage for a SINGLE LAYER. So multiply that yardage by the number of layers you want.

I’m doing four layers which means I need 15.2 yards of tulle. But now that we know how cheap tulle is, we’re not even freaking out, right? Right.

And with that, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, because we are officially done with the math stuff. Ahhh.

  1. If you’re using the circle skirt template, it’s pretty self-explanatory.
1.

2. Just find your measurement and cut!

2.

3. I’m going to start by cutting and assembling my lining first. Here’s my lining fabric, folded in half to a width of 31″.

3.

(I’m trying to do this on my cutting table, which is kind of a pain because my fabric is too wide and keeps wanting to slip off the edge. So if you have a nice big open space on the floor somewhere, you can cut there and make your life easier.)

I’m going to use some pattern weights to hold my fabric in place once I do get it folded and all laying nice and flat.

4. Place the circle skirt template so that one side is aligned with the fold in your fabric. Since I have to cut my skirt in two pieces, I will leave a gap on the other side for the seam allowance.

4.

Tip: Black fabric is kind of a pain to mark. Try a Chaco liner! As you roll it over the fabric, it spits out a tiny bit of chalk dust. The dust comes out super easily, too.

5. Now it’s time to mark our length. For that, we’ll use our cutting length number again. Measure out the cutting length from the corner of the template (not the corner of the fabric, since the seam allowance would throw things off).

5.

6. Make a series of marks from the selvedge to the fold, adjusting the angle of the measuring tape as you go.

6.

7. Now I have a connect-the-dots version of the length measured out and marked.

7.

8. Time to connect the dots!

8.

9. Now, to keep my fabric from slippin’ n slidin’ while I cut, I’m going to pin along the selvedge and around the waistline marks. When I finish cutting, I’m going to carefully fold this up and set it aside, and then I’ll use it as a template for the other half of the skirt. That way I won’t have to measure out the length a second time.

9.

10. Time to cut!

10.

11. With our first half cut, it’s time to do that whole thing again! Here’s my fabric, folded in half again.

11.

12. And here’s the skirt half I just cut out, laid out on top.

12.

13. Now we just trace around the hem of the first half. Viola!

13.

14. Time to cut! Wee!

14.

15. Now you might have noticed that I haven’t traced the waist marking. and that’s because the paper template is probably more accurate, so I’m going to pop that on here and trace around it again.

15.

16. Now we have two lining pieces ready to pin and sew together.

16.

17. Slap those babies right sides together.

17.

18. And pin along the seam allowances.

18.

19. If you happen to end up with one edge that’s a little longer than the other side, like I’ve got right here, just even it up with your scissors or my favorite – the rotary cutter.

19.

20. Once you have both edges pinned together, it’s time to sew!

20.

Here we are, all sewed up! I’ve used some white thread so you can actually see the stitching, but you’ll obviously want to use a thread color that matches your fabric a bit better.

21. Now we can trim up those seam allowances, and if you’d like, you can press the seams as well. But I’m not going to and you can’t make me!

21.

22. With our lining stitched up, we can move on to the tulle!

22.

Before we start cutting and sewing, let’s talk about working with tulle, as it can be a bit tricky compared to other fabrics.

Tulle Tip #1: Tulle can be a bit static-y and has a tendency to kind of stick to itself. The answer? Dryer sheets!

Keep a dryer sheet handy and give the layers of tulle a quick rub down if you start having static issues.

Tulle Tip #2: Also, because of the staticy-nesssss… store your tulle in a bag or a container or something that is away from dust and lint and stray threads. It attracts that stuff like velcro! And that’s especially a no-no with black.

Tulle Tip #3: When tulle comes straight off the bolt, it often has some wrinkles and crinkles. I’ve heard people say you can’t iron tulle, but that’s just not true. Tulle is generally made from nylon. So all you have to do is keep your iron the nylon setting!

Keep it on that setting and you should be good to go. You can also use a press cloth (a wash cloth in my case) if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of putting your hot iron directly on the tulle, though I assure you, if your iron is on the correct temperature setting, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Alternately, if you have a garment steamer, that works quite well to straighten out tulle. I’ve even heard it suggested that you hang your tulle skirt in the bathroom while you take a hot shower and the steam from that should relax any wrinkles.

Tulle Tip #4: Because it’s so thin and mesh-like, it can sometimes get sucked down into your machine. There are a few things you can do to prevent this. One is to use a jersey or stretch needle.

The ballpoint end of the needle is more blunt than a needle for woven fabrics and should slip more easily into those mesh holes versus snagging on the fibers themselves.

The other thing you can do is start an inch or so down the seam line versus right at the edge of the fabric. Then you can backstitch to the edge before continuing on down the seam.

Tulle Tip #5: The other issue you might come across when seaming your tulle is that it has a tendency to pucker. It will almost gather itself while you sew. This can make it so your side seams end up several inches shorter than the rest of your skirt. We don’t want that.

I think what’s happening here is that the mesh of the tulle is getting snagged and pulled by the feed dogs which leads to the puckering. Here’s how to prevent this.

First, check your sewing machine manual to see if you can change the amount of presser foot tension. Mine has a little doohickey on top of the machine here that I can release all the away for minimum tension or push all the way down for maximum tension, or put it somewhere in between. I found that the minimum tension works best for tulle. Some machines might have a screw on top instead of a button like this. If you have a fancy digital machine, my guess is there’s a way to control this as well.

Another thing we can do is use a smaller stitch length.

The other thing that really helps is to keep tension on the seam while you sew by gently stretching the fabric, which should prevent the tulle from bunching up.

Tulle Tip #6: If you try all of these things, and they don’t help (or especially if your machine won’t let you control the presser foot tension), you can lay a piece of tissue paper or tear-away stabilizer underneath the tulle while you sew. This will keep the feed dogs away from the tulle altogether and you should have zero puckering.

When you’re done sewing, just gently tear away the paper.

Tulle Tip #7: Pins don’t work so well on tulle, they have a tendency to fall out and get snagged in the mesh. So I’m using Wonderclips! A safety pin would work just as well.

Now we’re ready to tackle the tulle!

23. Since my tulle came on a bolt, it’s folded in half the wrong way, which means I’m going to have to cut off the length I need before I can start.

23.

24. Going back to my tulle cutting length number from when we did all that math before, I’ll measure out 34.5″. Then I’ll place another marker 34.5″ from that. So I’ve measured out a total of 69″.

24.

25. Now I’ll use my rotary cutter and my cutting mat to cut a straight line all the way up the tulle.

25.

26. Once I have my length of tulle cut out, I have unfold it… and then fold it back the right way!

26.

27. Here I’ve taped my template back together so I can reuse it. I’m using double my waist measurement, which is 60″. So I find 60″ on the template and cut.

27.

28. Here we are, all folded up. And now we place our template just like before, snugged up against the fold on one side, but leaving a gap for the seam allowance on the selvedge side.

28.

29. Marking tulle is a major pain. So instead of marking, I’m going to cut it as I go. If you prefer, you could mark the tulle with small pieces of mask tape or safety pins before cutting. But I’m just goin’ for it.

I’ll clip the template in place and then clip my measuring tape to the corner at the correct length.

29.

30. And just like we did with the lining, we’ll measure and cut the 34.5″ length all the way around.

30.

31. Once the length is cut, it’s time to cut out the waist. Easy peasy!

31.

Now, if you want to try to use this piece of tulle as a guide the way we did the lining, go for it. But tulle is such a sticky, static-y pain in the ass, I’m not going to bother. I’m going to cut out each piece of tulle the old fashioned way.

And since I’m doing four layers, that means I need eight of these… one down, seven to go! I’ll see you in one week.

Har har, just kidding. Anyway let’s skip ahead.

32. Take two of your tulle layers and slap them together. My tulle doesn’t really have a right side and wrong side so anything goes.

32.

33. Just line up the edges and use clips or safety pins to keep things together.

33.

34. Again, if you have any uneven hems, just even those up before sewing.

34.

35. Using the tips from earlier, stitch together your two tulle halves. Here’s mine. And again I will note that I’ve only used white thread so you can see the stitching. Always match your thread to your fabric!

35.

Repeat for each layer of tulle.

36. When you’ve got your tulle pieces all stitched up, it’s time to bring our lining back out. As you can see, I’ve quarter-marked the waist, which just means I’ve divided it into four equal parts.

36.

37. Now we’ll do the same with one of our tulle layers.

37.

38. Remember I said we’ll be gathering our tulle, so run a quick line of basting stitches about 1/4″ from the edge of the waist.

38.

39. Leave one end of the stitching open, only backstitching at the other end.

39.

Grab the thread tails from the open end and give a little tug, which should start forming gathers.

40. Now we’ll line this tulle layer up with our lining layer. I’m laying the WRONG side of the tulle (that’s the side with the seams) on the RIGHT side of the lining.

40.

Line up the quarter marks of each layer, and then adjust the gathers as necessary so that the waist hole on the tulle layer matches the waist hole on the lining layer.

41. Once everything is laying nicely and the gathers are evenly distributed, we can pin the tulle to the lining.

41.

42. And once that first layer of tulle is pinned down, we can do the same thing with the second layer of tulle.

42.

Repeat these steps for all of your tulle layers.

You might be wondering right now why I didn’t just baste my four tulle layers together and gather them all at once. And I COULD do that. But doing it one layer at a time will yield a fuller skirt, because we’ll have the gathers of each layer fluffing the layers above it. And I think that extra fullness is worth it. That’s the whole point of a tulle skirt after all!

43. Now that I’ve got all 4 layers of tulle pinned in place, it’s time to baste them all together. You actually could baste these one at a time, if you wanted. But I’m being LAZY!

43.

44. Here are all of my layers basted together. Notice I still have the waist quarter marked. You can take them out while you baste, but you’ll want to put them back for the next step.

44.

45. Once you’ve got the skirt basted together, we’ll move over to our waistband elastic.

My waist is 30″, so I’ve cut my elastic at 29″. With a half inch seam allowance, that will make the end result 28″, which is two inches smaller than my waist.

I’d suggest you pin your elastic around your waist to find the right snugness. Not all elastic is created equal, and if you have a stretchier elastic, you might find you want it cinched a little tighter.

45.

46. Pin the elastic right sides together and stitch.

46.

47. I like to start with a straight stitch.

47.

48. Then I press the seam open with my fingers (an iron isn’t really necessary).

48.

49. I like to do a zig-zag stitch down the middle of the seam and also down each raw edge, and that’ll make sure everything stays right where it should.

And yours will look so much better because you used thread that matches your elastic!

49.

50. Time to quarter mark our elastic!

50.

51. Then we’ll match that up to the quarter marks on our skirt.

51.

52. Make sure the seam on the elastic gets lined up with the back of the skirt and the sides with the side seams… you get the drill.

And this time around, we’re attaching the skirt and the elastic RIGHT sides together.

52.

53. Remember that our skirt waist is cut to our hip measurement (so we can actually get the skirt on) and the elastic is cut to our waist measurement. So there’s probably a bit of extra skirt hanging out between those quarter marks. That’s fine! By stretching the elastic, we’ll fit all that extra fabric in there, no problem.

53.

54. Working a section at a time, pin the skirt to the elastic, doing your best to evenly distribute the “extra fabric” between each pin.

54.

55. And now we’re ready to sew! You’ll want to use a zig-zag stitch for this so the seam will have some stretch to it.

55.

The trick to sewing the larger skirt waistband to the smaller elastic is to stretch the elastic as you sew. This is difficult to photograph, so I suggest watching the video if you’re new to this technique.

56. Sew all the way around the skirt this way, backstitching when you get to where you started. I’ve stitched pretty close to the edge of the elastic here… maybe 1/4″ from the edge. Since we have soooo many froofy tulle layers, I like to stitch another row, more like 1/2″ from the edge, just to make sure I’ve got all those layers secure.

56.

The second row of stitching is done the same way as the first, stretching the elastic as you go.

57. When you’re done sewing, you should have a nicely gathered tulle skirt. Woo! The skirt portion is almost done!

57.

But first we’re going to need to address the hem. Circle skirt hems stretch out over time, it’s just what they do. So if you have the time, you’ll want to hang your skirt for a few days. The tulle probably won’t move much because it’s so light, but the lining almost definitely will.

58. Here’s my skirt on a dressform, and you can see we’ve got some sections that look OK but also some areas near the sides of the skirt that are very clearly longer than the tulle, even though we cut the lining shorter than the tulle! That’s pretty much what I expected.

58.

59. So I’m going to take some pins and mark a line around the lining that is approximately 1 inch shorter than the tulle.

59.

I mentioned before that I’m not going to hem my lining. I’m just going to leave the edge raw since this fabric doesn’t fray. If you’re a hemming nut and are dead set on hemming your lining, mark it 1/2″ shorter than the tulle instead of 1 inch so you have a bit of hem allowance to work with.

And if you don’t have a dressform you can either put the skirt on someone or put it on a hanger to do this.

60. Once you’ve got a good number of pins marking the correct hem length, you can lay it out, pushing all the tulle layers up toward the waistband so we have just the lining exposed.

60.

Here you can see we’ve got another connect the dots type situation with my pins. I’m just going to take my handy Chaco liner and mark where the pins are. Once I take them out, it’s just a matter of connecting the dots!

61. I really love a rotary cutter for this because I can get a perfectly smooth line with none of those jagged edges you sometimes get with scissors.

61.

62. And here you can see how some sections I had to take off maybe an inch, and other sections I had to take off almost three inches. So don’t be alarmed if it seems like some areas of your hem need a bigger haircut than others.

62.

63. Now, in trimming the hem, you probably also trimmed off the backstitching at the very end of your lining seams and the last thing we want is for the lining to start coming unstitched! So all we have to do is put a quick bar tack at the bottom of each side seams. And a bartack is nothing more than a very small bit of backstitching. You could also use a stationary zig-zag stitch.

63.

Are you guys ready for this? It’s bat time!

64. Here’s my bat template all cut out (I’m using the smallest of the 3 sizes on the template).

64.

65. I’m going to trace this onto the back of the felt. I’m worried about the Chaco liner getting smudged and just not working well on the felt, so I’m going to use a white gel pen. Yep, just a plain old gel pen. This should only be used in places that won’t be visible. Like the back side of this felt… Because I have no idea if it washes out.

65.

66. Once you’ve traced the bat, cut it out! Pretty simple. Except that now we need, oh… about 50 of these. I actually ended up using 55 bats.

66.

67. You might need more or less depending on your size and your placement.

68.

69. To give you some idea of how many bats you’ll need, hang up your skirt and use safety pins or clips to mark where you want your bats to go. I’m going for fairly even placement across and down the skirt. Almost like polka dots, if you will. But you could do different patterns. Maybe you just want a row of bats going around the hem. You do you, my dude.

69.

Try to pin or clip just the top layer of tulle when you do this.

70. While my glue gun heats up, I’m going to use a hair tie to wrangle all the layers of my skirt together, except the top layer of tulle. This will make my life much easier in the next step! If you don’t have a hair tie, you can tie a piece of ribbon or elastic around it instead.

70.

71. OK, here’s my top layer of tulle all separated out.

71.

72. For every bat cutout, you also need one small square of plain felt. Put a dab of hot glue on this wee square.

72.

73. Now I’ll find one of my markers. That spot goes over the dab of glue.

73.

74. And finally, one of my bats goes on top! We’re basically sandwiching the tulle between the two pieces of felt.

74.

Press this into place and let it cool before moving on to the next marker.

If you find any of those webby glue strings after it’s cooled, go ahead and take those off now. It’s easier to do now rather than later.

75. Here’s the glued bat from the back.

75.

Now, I know hot glue has somewhat of a reputation for being kind of a cheat. If you’d much prefer to not use hot glue, you can sew the bats to the skirt.

76. Here’s a sample I did with some scraps of my felt in vaguely bat-like shapes. Just backstitch back and forth a few times, and he’s not going anywhere. And if you use black thread, it’ll be pretty much invisible.

76.

But hot glue is faster so that’s what I’m going with! Make sure that while you’re working, you don’t touch that metal nozzle of the glue gun to the tulle anywhere… it might be hot enough to melt the nylon.

Now it’s just a matter of gluing about 50 bats to this skirt!

Until finally… I’m done!

Holy batballs!

We did it. We’re done… like actually DONE. And now we have this bat-tastic Halloween skirt.

Leave a comment below and let me know how your project turned out… and Happy Halloween!

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