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Gypsy Skirt & Quandrants

WandaJ | Posted in Feedback on Threads on

Right about now I don’t know whether I am in shock and somewhat dense from seeing the horrible scarring on my leg and ankle after the cast was removed resulting  from severe breakage last February and the need to have something long to wear to a wedding shower on this coming Saturday, or if I just cannot count!

So, the question I have about the 2-Hr Gypsy Skirt, which I plan to make to wear to the shower is how are all of you dividing up the quadrants.  The directions in the magazine did not seem clear.  In that regard, after taking your waist and hip measurement, and then using the largest measurement, how does one know how much to go up or down to get the required fullness in the skirt?  I think I know enough not to go up in width when moving toward the waist, and that I need to add to the width going down toward the hem, as well as, I need to add more depth to the quadrants to get the desired length, but again, in what increments does one add and subtract to get balanced fullness in the skirt?

I’m looking forward to your input and help with my newest sewing dilemma.



  1. Teaf5 | | #1

    I'm glad that I'm not the only one who felt that article seemed to make a simple task a very complicated one! Having made a number of such skirts (and costumes) with tiers of ruffles, maybe I can explain more simply.

    Always start with the top tier, using your waist and hip measurements. A nice gather is about 1.5 times your finished, fitted width. You don't need quite that much on the top tier, as a rectangle the width of your hips is probably already 10 inches or so of gathering at the waist, and gathered skirts are more flattering with slight gathers at the waist but fuller ones near the hem. So maybe your top tier will be about 45 or 50 inches wide.

    Your second, lower, tier will attach to the bottom of the first, so it should be 1.5 times wider than the first to allow a nice gather. The third will be 1.5 times wider than the second, and so on. Although it sounds mathematical, it's not very exact, as different fabrics need more or less gathering to drape nicely, and each person wants more or less fullness in a skirt.

    Sewing is a very visual, not verbal or mathematical, process. Try a scale model with scrap fabric (or even paper towelling!) that starts with a 3" by 15" rectangle (to fit a doll's hip measurement of 10". The second tier would be 3" by 22.5, and the third would be 3" by 33.25". Gather the tops of each tier, sew the tiers together, and you'll be able to see what all the numbers mean to the garment. Then have fun with the full-size one, keeping in mind that this skirt takes significantly more yardage than an A-line and that any "mistakes" aren't likely to show! Hope that helps.

    1. WandaJ | | #2

      Thanks Teaf5, Your explanation makes so much sense. I just don't understand why magazine articles do not give full explanations, and the writer 'assumes' every reader knows what they are referring to.

      I will try your calculations, and I will be sure to let you know how they come out, and of course, the end product, my skirt.

      Another question I have for sewists making this skirt is what kind(s) of fabric is being used?

      Thanks again.


      1. kbalinski | | #5

        As I tend to make a simple project more complicated, I'm doing the skirt in 4 different cotton patterns, same color family.  I fell in love with the fabric used in a sample quilt at my local quilt store, so I did the math (in my non-sewing time, I'm a math teacher) and bought 4 different fabrics in the ivory, rose, tan, and raspberry families.  In pieces, it's beautiful.  We'll see how the final project looks!

        I propose we take photos and share our results.  Any takers?


        1. WandaJ | | #7

          The colors really sound pretty. May I assume the fabric is cotton, medium weight?

        2. Alexandra | | #10

          I have some crinkle cotton (white) that REALLY crinkled up in the prewash and thought this project might be perfect for this skirt.  I was going to cut the tiers and dye each one a darker shade than the last with the lightest at the top.  But I felt the top tier at 6" was too short, so I have been scrutinizing every skirt I see on the street and none are that short on the top tier.  Also, being rather fluffy myself, I want the least fabric to fall further down my hips until it starts to get fuller.  I also like my skirts longer than the pattern provided so some adjustment will have to be figured out.  I would be interested to hear the depth used  for each tier by those who have already made this up.

          Right now this project is only a pipe dream as the garden requires all my attention!

          1. autumn | | #11

            The depth of each tier just depends on the look you want.  I have always taken the measurement of the whole length of skirt from waist to hem, the divide by 3 or 4, or however many tiers you want, add seam and hem allowances, and there you are. It is entirely a personal matter. If you don't want too much gathering around the waist, make it about 1.5 times you waist measurement for the top tier. Then you can increase the width of the next tiers according to how full you want it. I always used my skirts for square dancing, so I made each tier 2 or more times the width of the one above it. Put elastic in the waist, and you don't need to worry about whether the seams are in front, back, or wherever.  You can do whatever you want for fullness. You do not need a pattern. Just do what you want. I've made many of these skirts, starting when I was in high school.

          2. User avater
            Becky-book | | #12

            Dear Alexandra,

            Don't forget to add seam allowances on the tiers, so the 6 inch one is at least 7 inches cut.  I made one out of cheap cloth just to see how it would look on my fluffy body and it came out quite nice.  If you have any strength left from gardening you could do just a little work on your skirt after dark!!  Ha ha!!

            Happy sewing!


          3. AndreaSews | | #13

            I made mine a week ago, and it took about 2 hours.  I used a white dotted swiss, which was very lightweight.  I prefered a fitted top tier, so I borrowed the top 12 inches of a simple skirt pattern that I had and then added half the width for the 2nd tier, and added another half the top tier's width for the third tier.  Since I made the top tier fitted (with zipper), I gave it a full facing for modesty.  I wanted a longer skirt, so I made each tier 10 inches long (plus seam allowances on top and bottom). 

          4. User avater
            Becky-book | | #14

            Wonderful!!  sounds lovely!  My friend Cindy asked for help and showed me a pattern she bought for a skirt very like yours. Thats our project for next week!


          5. WandaJ | | #15

            This sounds very pretty. I like the detail you gave about customizing your skirt. Now, that I've revisited this discussion, this may be a good start after coming off granddaughter sewing.  WandaJ

          6. Fruzzle | | #16

            I made this skirt up in patchwork with various leftover projects. I used four tiers -- the top two are 6 inches in depth and the bottom two are ten (that's finished depth, so I cut strips of 7" & 11" respectively). I also used inch wide strips of lace between the tiers, and added a ruffle at the bottom which I recycled from an old valance. The finished length of the skirt is 41 inches -- I should probably mention at this point that I'm 6'1", so this length is not for everyone!

            I also subbed in a zipper and a waistband instead of the elastic, and just eyeballed some darts to make it fit.  And the back part is a sort of bustle-like contraption, where tier 3 & 4 are fused together.

          7. Fruzzle | | #17

            Okay, I realized I needed pictures.

            Front: View Image Back:View Image

          8. Alexandra | | #18

            Too kewl!  I especially like the bustle bit. I worked on mine over the weekend.  Dyed 4 tiers each a darker than the next in turquoise.  I have almost got the last tier attached and am deciding about adding lace on the bottom.  Mine is looking kind of baggy, I'm using crinkle fabric and the crinkle has really relaxed.  On the last tier I also gathered in the bottom edge of the previous tier to try to bring in some of the bagginess.  I will probably have to broomstick it get back some crinkle - which won't be condusive to having lace on the bottom.

          9. WandaJ | | #19

            Your skirt is just too cute :-}!  It is so inspirational to see the blocking design that you came up with, and then made into this skirt. Great job. WandaJ

          10. mem | | #21

            well done fruzzle it looks great what are you wearing with it??

          11. autumn | | #22

            My daughter would love a skirt like this. She is always giving me a pair of pants, or a skirt or dress, made of really nice fabric that she doesn't wear any more, and wants me to make something from it. This would be the perfect thing. We live in a town where this kind of skirt would not be out of place no matter where you go.

  2. Tess | | #3

    This is not about making the skirt, but I broke my ankle in early April in Spain, returned to the U.S. and had surgery in mid April. Not a good vacation. The whole thing has been traumatic. I just got a walker boot and thought that would be great, but the injury still has a lot more healing to go. At any rate, I found this site a few days ago. It may be of interest to you as well: http://bohnsack.com/2003/05/15/broken-ankle-progress/#comments


    1. dotty | | #4

      I mentioned this in another thread about the gypsy skirt, but I'll try to put it more clearly here. I was also puzzled about how to make sure the height of the tiers looked ok in proportion to each other, since I had changed the length of the skirt. I drew several options out on graph paper using one square to represnt each inch of skirt length. I eyeballed the width and drew in a few gather marks at the top of each tier. It was instantly obvious which one had the nicest proportions. I used the article's formula for the top and subsequent tiers. I am very happy with my skirt.

    2. WandaJ | | #6

      Tess, I have not gone to the website you referenced me too yet, but I appreciate you responding to the 'broken ankle' dilemmna!  It has been traumatic and more so since the cast came off yesterday, as I feel I am in more pain now than when it was on. I too have to have a boot and wear it for six more weeks!

      I broke my ankle (cause not yet determined as it was not from a fall) the end of Feb. I passed out and that's what I woke up with.

      The first surgery had to be cancelled whle in the hospital as the break was so bad surgery, at that time, could not be performed. Since then, I have had two surgeries. I had 'high hopes' that it would be 'over' when the cast came off. The scarring is terrible and the subsequent peeling that is going on, as the skin was so badly swollen from the initial injury that there was fear it would burst!  This too shall pass.  WandaJ

      P.S. The spell checker is down so I apologize for any incorrect spellings contained herein.

      1. Tess | | #8

        I am very sorry to hear about your injury. I fell backwards down 7 steps and managed not to go all 3 flights to the bottom. Hit various knees, elbows and head (7stitches). I also just got the walking boot yesterday! I thought the boot would be close to the end, but... Apparently, a broken ankle is a very difficult injury and takes a long time to recover. I did not know this at the beginning. I thought the WALKER-boot would get me to a place close to recovery. I don't have pain, except sore places where the staples and surgery were and still the general swelling. The site I told you about might make you feel less alone. I only discovered it recently. It might make you (as it does for me) understand how long this whole thing will take and make us feel bad. My dr. did not really say how difficult this would be when I started. I have not posted there, but hearing about other people going through this might be helpful. I'm not sure. I wanted to recover much faster. But I (you) am not the only one. and apparently, there is an end to the disability.tess

      2. Tess | | #9

        I forgot to mention: with the boot, you can take it off. Have a shower and not worry about the cast. Take the opportunity to soak your foot in warm water and treat it with some nice lotion. Just to feel the air is nice! I do, however, feel that the boot is less nice than the cast...tess

  3. sewsew | | #20

    The smallest piece of the skirt would be at the waist and the longest at the hemline, any other graduated length inbetween would be added for gradual widening of the skirt.  Divide each section in quarters and attach to the next section that is also divided into quarters.  Gather the lower section to fit the section above it.  Continue until all sections are complete and you are at the hem.  Good luck with your skirt.  They are really very easy and fun to embellish.

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