the midcentury traveler + a little dirndl skirt tutorial

vintage may 3 starts today!

Jess and i are excited to kick the festivities off with projects for our little gals.  i’m calling my look “the midcentury traveler.”   my imaginary backstory is that E is getting ready to catch a train to go summering back east with her grandparents in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

and guess what?  she’s taking her best friend with her!

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

JOINT PHOTOSHOOT!  Jess and Sadie came to visit a couple weekends ago and we were definitely not going to let the opportunity to take photos of our two cuties together pass us by, nosirree.  we had both cameras clicking away and it was so fun to see these little buddies together again (remember when we visited them last fall?).

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

they were soooooo adorable together and got plenty of comments from passers by in their full skirted, midcentury-inspired looks.  we took photos at Union Station here in Portland, which was built in 1896 and still retains its vintage charm.   it turned out to be the perfect photoshoot location for us (thanks for the tip, Kelly!), even if the employees there were a bit crabby about our little gymnasts climbing all over the place.  heh.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

these girls are such a crackup together – E loves hamming it up when she has friends around.


okay i’d better get on with it or we’ll never make it through – too many fun photos to share!

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

my look was inspired by the straight-fitting summer tops and full skirts of the Mad Men era.  her adorable ivory kate headband was a gift from a friend, and her top is actually an adapted Geranium Dress!

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

i wanted to make a simple top that buttoned up the back, and the Geranium was perfect.  i cut a size bigger than her normal size for wearing ease, then added 9” to the size 5 bodice to turn it into a top.  i flared the sides out about .5” as well.  the back closes with five buttons rather than the three called for in the pattern.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

the fabric is a great minty swiss dot from Mill End, and I added little flutter sleeves in vintage white eyelet trim from my Grandma’s stash.  it’s lined with white gauze so she can stay cool in the summertime, and i hand stitched the hem, enclosing the lining for a clean look (even though it’s tucked in through most of these photos!).

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

the skirt, in a really soft black and white gingham voile (also from Mill End), was inspired by Gertie’s classic dirndl skirt tutorial,  but mine has an elastic waistband (for kids!) and pockets! i’ve got a tutorial for you today – E loves wearing it, as you can see…

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

here’s the tutorial…



twirly pocket skirt tutorial

  • 1 yard lightweight fabric – shirting, voile, gauze, gingham – it helps to find fabric that’s extra wide for more twirl factor.  i’m sure quilting cotton would work too but it’ll give you less of the floaty look.
  • pocket pattern piece – use a side seam pocket from a pattern in your stash or draft your own – mine is from the playtime dress and tunic
  • fusible interfacing for front waistband – 2.25” x half of child’s waist measurement (mine was about 10.5”)
  • 1/2” elastic (a little more than half of the child’s waist measurement)
  • basic sewing supplies


all seam allowances are 1/2” unless otherwise indicated.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

cut your pieces.  cut a front waistband at 2.5” high x 1/2 your child’s waist measurement plus 1” (for seam allowance) wide (mine was 2.5” x 11” for a 21” waist).  fuse interfacing to this piece.  also cut a back waistband piece at 2.5” x the front piece + 4” or so for gathering/wearing ease (mine was 2.5” x 15”).

cut out four pocket pieces (two sets) and two main skirt pieces, selvedge-to-selvedge at the length of skirt you prefer (remembering hem will take about 1.25” in length).

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

make a mark at the top outer edges of your skirt pieces about 1.5” from the top, then pin all four pocket pieces lining up the top with the marks.  you’ll have one on each side of the front, and one on each side of the back.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

sew all four pocket pieces to the skirt sides and press each away from the skirt body.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

line up your front and back skirt pieces and pin along the edges.  sew side seams, pivoting and sewing around the outer edges of the pockets when you reach them.  finish your seams by zigzagging or serving.  i snip diagonally to the stitching at the top and bottom of the pocket so i can serge in three steps without accidentally trimming into the pocket.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

prepare the waistband.  fold front and back waistband in half, and press.  then open each and iron down 1/2” toward the center crease on each long end.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

pin the short ends and sew together into one continuous loop.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

sew two rows of basting stitches on the top edge of your skirt, 3/8” and 5/8” from the edge.  for fabric this wide it’s helpful to sew separate basting rows for the front skirt and the back skirt so you can gather them separately.  stop your basting stitches at each side seam but remember not to backstitch!

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

gather your skirt to match the waistband – you’ll gather the front more than the back – adding the elastic later will cinch the back up a bit more.  unfold your waistband and pin the long edge to the skirt, right sides together, distributing gathers evenly.  stitch.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

press waistband away from skirt, then fold down the folded edge and press so it just covers your stitches.  topstitch ONLY THE BACK (uninterfaced) waistband with a very narrow hem, backstitching at the side seams.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

prepare your elastic to run through the back casing you just created.  i use a safety pin on one end and a clothespin on the other, so I don’t lose my tail.  thread it through the back casing.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

once you reach the end, pull your pin through and stitch the elastic down at the side seam.  remove clothespin and repeat on the other side seam (be careful and hang onto your elastic tail so you don’t lose it!).  then fold down the front waistband and finish topstitching to complete the top of the skirt.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

fold the hem up 1/2”, another 3/4”, then stitch in place.  you’re done!

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

i love the skinny waistband and flat front of this skirt, but comfortable kid-friendly back elastic waistband.  she loves the pockets and how full and twirly it is!  it’s just so lightweight and pretty.  i want one.

twirly pocket skirt tutorial

i think it’ll will get worn a lot.


if you make a skirt from this tutorial, please add it to my flickr group!

now head over to craftiness is not optional for details on the super cute dress she made for Sadie!  we knew we’d be taking photos of the girls together and decided to stick with a black/white/mint theme, which turned out really fun.  i just love the dress Jess made, the piping is perfection! she has more “behind the scenes” info too.


welcome to vintage may!  check back tomorrow for our first guests.



33 thoughts on “the midcentury traveler + a little dirndl skirt tutorial

  1. Meghan says:

    So awesome! What a great photo shoot. Thank you for the tutorial on the skirt. It is so cute and looks great in the black and white gingham. I also love how you made a shirt out of the geranium dress pattern. Can’t wait to see the rest of the Vintage May line up!

  2. Kristi says:

    What a cute little pair. Love this skirt, my daughter thinks I’ve ruined her day when she has to wear any dress that is “too straight” or “too short”. She will love this one.

  3. Heidi says:

    So beautiful, Kristin! They really are adorable together and the photos are perfect. Thanks for the tip of using a clothespin attached to the elastic…that’s genius!

  4. Cherie says:

    Oh I love this sooooo much!! The girls look absolutely adorable in their coordinating outfits and they look like they are having so much fun! Great way to start the series – can’t wait to see the rest!!

  5. girllikethesea says:

    Your outfit and photo shoot have such a great vibe. I really do feel like I’m looking at travelers in the 50’s. Adorable outfit and girls. So fun!!!!

  6. Andrea says:

    My favorite month on your blog is here! Sadie’s dress is so adorable and E’s outfit is just perfect! Her blouse looks so light and airy- perfect for the summer! I bet Sadie just loves to twirl with that skirt! How fun for her. Can’t wait to see what’s next! 🙂

  7. Mie @ Sewing Like Mad says:

    ABSOLUTELY amazing!!!! The girls looks insanely cute and the photoshot is just perfect. wow

  8. sanae says:

    I wouldn’t expect anything less than fabulousness from you, Kristin, and when you combine it with CINO amazingness, well…I’m just speechless. I love love love everything about this (and you know I’m a diehard midcentury fan!!)

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