***edited to say that I have no idea why two of my pics are sideways. It is correct in photobucket...***
Lots and lots of fabric scraps. I find pieces that are at least 4 inches from top to bottom are the most useful, but smaller scraps can be sewn into bigger pieces. 100% cotton is my fabric of choice, but this project would work with a variety of fabrics. If you plan to wash your skirt / dress, make sure all fabrics are washable and have been pre-washed.
Elastic for the skirt waistband if making skirt
A Tee-shirt that coordinates with your fabric scraps if making the dress. Basic colors such as black, white, gray or navy coordinate with many colors and are your best bet if you have a wide variety of colors in your scrap pile.
The usual suspects: tape measure, thread (gray goes with pretty much everything), scissors. Additionally, a rotary cutter and accessories could be useful, but are not mandatory.
I use my serger for most of the work for this project because it makes fast work of sewing the scraps neatly together. Of course, it is possible to do the whole thing on the regular sewing machine. If you go this route, I suggest using French seams to keep the underside of the skirt looking neat.
Okay, here we go!
1. Measure the waist of whomever you are sewing for. Multiply by 1.5. This is how long the first tier needs to be. (if sewing for an adult, use hip measurement instead of waist.) For the second tier, multiply the length of the first by 1.5. For the third, multiply the first tier by 2, for the 4th (if you do more than 3) multiply by 2.5 and so on. So, if the first skirt tier is 30 inches, the second will be 45, and the third will be 60. Honestly, I eyeball it and try to make the third tier twice as long as the first and the second somewhere between the first and third.
2. Sort your scraps. You can organize the skirt by color values (so, a tier of blues, a tier of reds, and a tier of yellows), you can alternate colors (a blue/red tier, a black/yellow tier, etc), you can go for a totally random look, the sky is the limit.
3. Cut the scraps into somewhat uniform rectangles. In this case, having a consistent measure from top to bottom is more important that a consistent width. Actually, a variety of widths adds interest and charm to the skirt. If you wind up with some scraps that don't quite make the height measure, you can combine two or three stacked to equal the height of one regular scrap. To figure out how high your scraps need to be, figure out how long you want the skirt and divide by how many tiers you want the skirt to have. For my 3 year old, I generally make 3 tiers that are around 4 inches high each.
Here are my scraps sorted and cut up:
4. Sew the scraps together, lining up the top of each scrap. It doesn't matter so much if the bottom is mis-matched. Do this for each tier of the skirt.
5. If you are using a serger, serge the long ends of each tier. If using a sewing machine, cut the mis-matched side of each tier to make it neat and even.
6. Working with the longest tier first, lengthen the stitch length on your sewing machine to 5 or 6. Sew along the top edge of the longest tier.
7. Gather the bottom tier to match up with the next biggest tier. Pin it in many places, right sides together. Either sew or serge the tiers together.
**Because we are gathering and sewing in a straight line and will sew up the side seam later, it is VERY important to make sure that your tier is the same height on both ends AND to keep the SAME seam allowance while serging or sewing the tiers together. If you vary the seam allowance the tiers may not line up when you sew the side seam.**
8. Working with the newly sewn two tiers of fabric, gather the fabric and sew to the next biggest tier.
9. Repeat the gathering and sewing until all tiers are attached.
10. Sew or serge up the side seam.
11. If making a skirt, go to #12. If making a tee-shirt dress, go to #13
12. turn the top and make a casing for an elastic waistband. Insert elastic, sew elastic ends together, and sew casing shut. Go to #17.
13. If your teeshirt is long, cut it off to the desired length.
14. Gather the top tier of the skirt.
15. Pin the skirt to the tee-shirt. ****Pay attention to where that side seam is! It doesn't have to be on a side, you just want to avoid having it run down the front of the dress!!!****
16. Set the serger or sewing machine to stretch knit. Sew the skirt to the dress, wrong sides together.
17. Hem the skirt / dress.
Here are some variations that I've done in the past:
WG's Easter dress which used long strips for tiers instead of patches:
The 20 minute Valentine's Day skirt (two long strips with patches in the middle)
The Rocket Dress. I used scraps at the bottom to make it longer because WG is a tall drink of water.