In episode 22 of The Sew Much More Podcast: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech (air date August 28, 2019), Ceil DiGuglielmo and Susan Woodcock discuss how to sew custom bed skirts.
You can listen to this episode here: Custom Bed Skirts Bed skirts, dust skirts, dust ruffles or bed valances... whatever you call them, only workrooms know how much work goes into custom bedding.
They can be gathered, flat or pleated.
Unlined, lined or lined and interlined.
It’s important to know the bed. Before you start...
Is it a mattress and box spring on a basic bed frame?
Does it have a headboard and footboard?
Will the skirt fall in front of, or behind the side rails?
Are there any obstructions that will block the skirt?
Measuring the Bed
Measure the length from the headboard, or top of the box spring, to the other end at the foot of the bed.
Measure the width of the box spring.
Measure the “drop” or length from the top of the box spring to the floor. If there are side rails, be sure to measure over the rails to the floor, or behind the rails if that’s how it’s going to be installed. Sometimes the side skirts go over the rails and the skirt on the foot goes behind the footboard. The measurements are not always the same.
Measure at the corner for the gusset. "For most of the bed skirts I make, there is a gusset at the corner like you would see on a chair skirt". Susan said. "This is known as split-and-gusset”. See the video below for a measuring how-to:
The finished length can vary, just like with drapery styles. A bed skirt can clear the floor, our touch the floor a little, or a lot. Susan recommends making the skirt to touch the floor so that there is room to adjust when it’s installed. "It’s better to be too long, than too short". Ask your client what they wish. Some people love a romantic, puddled bed skirt. If your client has pets, or want to easily vacuum under the bed then a skirt that clears the floor is ideal.
Pictured below is a gathered, king size bed skirt made with silk face fabric, lining and interlining. The bottom edge has micro welt cord.
Fabricated by Susan Woodcock for The Red Door, Charlottesville, VA.
Gathered Bed Skirt
To figure the amount of yardage for a gathered bed skirt, plan on 2.5 x fullness. You may use more fullness for a ball-gown, frilly silk and netting bed skirt, but for most gathered bed skirts you will not exceed 2.5 x fullness.
Susan shared that with her experience, she figures yardage based on a standard amount of widths or cuts.
Twin bed = 9 cuts (3.5, 3.5 and 2)
Double bed = 10 cuts (3.5, 3.5 and 3)
Queen bed = 11 cuts (4, 4 and 3)
King bed = 12 cuts (4, 4 and 4)
The number of cuts is multiplied by the cut length.
The cut length is the finished drop, plus seam allowance, plus hems and tabling allowance.
You will also need to add extra fabric for bands.
You can make bed skirts on a foundation, or deck that made out of drapery lining. Bands are sewn on each side as a facing, so that the lining doesn't show.
Another approach is to make the skirts with a banding at the top, sewn in separate pieces. It is easy to install, and a great technique. You do need to add more fabric because the banding pieces are cut larger.
If the fabric is solid color without a nap, or a non-directional print then plan to railroad the cuts.
Susan recommends to railroad the lining cuts whether the face fabric is railroaded or not.
Gathered Bed Skirt Fabrication
The cut pieces are sewn together, matching patterns if needed. The bottom edges are evened off and straightened (that’s why you add a tabling allowance).
The lining is sewn to the face fabric using a wrapped hem. To make a wrapped hem, sew the seam at the size you want the hem to be, and when you turn and press the fabric it wraps from the front to the back, creating a lovely, clean, doubled hem. Susan uses a 1 to 2 inch doubled hem, depending on the length of the skirts. See the video below for a demonstration of a wrapped hem.
"One of the workroom rhymes that my Mom and I memorized was ...if you sew your dust ruffle with the lining on top, when you go to iron it – it won’t be a flop. Sew with the lining on top. Trust me", Susan said.
After the lining is sewn, turn, press and pin, or use a fabric stapler to hold together the fabric at the top, cut edges.
If there are gussets, they can be cut off the side pieces, or off the foot depending on the size of the bed and the fullness. Gussets are cut 9 inches wide, by the length needed based on the bed measurement. Sew the hem, and sides of the gussets as shown for the skirts.
The individual pieces are ready to be marked for the length and then sewn to bands, or sewn to a foundation.
Gathered Serge-and-Flip Bed Skirt on a Foundation
For this method, the edges are all serged, and the skirt pieces are sewn face down to the foundation piece and flipped over.
Sewing the drops:
1) Mark the length using the following allowances:
Allow for a ½” seam allowance, plus 1/4- inch to 3/8-inch extra for take up when the skirt is sewn and flipped.
2) After the pieces are marked, serge across the top - cutting away the excess. This is a big time saver because you don’t have to “scissor cut” across the top. If you use staples, staple away from the cut line and then you will not have to remove pins.
3) Fold over and finish the side hems on each piece.
Sewing the Foundation with Bands:
1) Make the foundation using lining to match the lining on the bed skirt. The top edge is hemmed. The foundation is cut to the size of the box spring plus a ½” seam allowance on all three sides. (1 inch total added to the width, ½” added to the length).
2) Bands of matching fabric are added so that there is not a peek of lining fabric where the skirts are connected. Cut the bands 6 inches x enough pieces for the width and length on each side.
3) Press under a ½” on one side of the banding and glue baste to the foundation, along the edges. Machine sew by top stitching the folded under edge. Miter the corners, cutting away where the fabric is doubled up.
4) Curve the corners so that it’s rounded off like the box spring, and then serge around all three sides. The foundation piece is ready for the skirts.
In the video below from The Workroom Channel, you will see how the facing strips are added to the foundation piece.
Gathering and Attaching the Skirt Pieces:
Note: A Johnson Ruffler is a machine used for gathering fabrics. It's not a common machine in small workrooms. A domestic machine with a ruffling attachment can be used but it will not tightly gather thicker home decor fabrics. Some sergers can be adapted for gathering fabrics. Susan hand-gathers the fabric. See the instructions below.
1) To hand gather the skirts, mark the side pieces in fourths, and mark the foundation sides in fourths.
2) Pin at the skirt pieces to the foundation (face down to the top of the foundation) at the marks and gather between the pins. Gather up the fabric by hand, pinching and squishing up the fabric, and sewing all at the same time.
3) The gussets are pinned face down at the corners, on the back of the skirts.
After the skirts and gusset are sewn, flip over the skirts!
For more detailed instructions, see Susan's article Gathered Dust Ruffle Fabrication in the September/October 2006 issue of The Custom Home Furnishings Magazine. Back issues can be accessed on at The Curtains & Soft Furnishings Resource Library.
Fabricating without a Foundation
You can also make bed skirts without the foundation, by sewing the skirts to bands only.
To do this, cut the banding pieces twice what you want them to be finished, plus 1-inch for seam allowances. Sew to the top of the gathered skirt pieces; turn over and press; fold under the cut edge; and top stitch.
For bed skirts on a foundation, remove the mattress and place the finished skirt over the box spring. Adjust the length if needed, and use screw pins to keep it from shifting when the mattress is put back in place. You can also used a tag gun.
The same for skirts on bands. The benefit of making them this way is that you can prop up the mattress to install, instead of taking it off the bed. Be sure to take along wood blocks, or something sturdy to hold up the sides of the mattress.
Another option is to install with Velcro. Susan mentioned that she has stapled hook strip behind the side rails and footboard, and then sewn loop strip to the front of the skirts and installed. "It’s not a fun job to staple the hook strip under the bed. It’s kind of like being a car mechanic without a lift"!
Making a skirt on bands with Velcro is a super idea. You will sew the loop strip to the bands, and attach hook strip to the box springs with a tag gun. The foundation piece can have hook strip sewn on, too. My friend Nicole Kemer, The Impeccable Nest LLC, has shared the method of sewing hook strip to a fitted sheet which is then put on the box spring. I love that idea" Susan said. In a follow up with Nicole, she shared this tip for using a fitted sheet... "I ask the customer buy a fitted sheet, prewash it and have it on the box spring. When I go to measure I can pin the Velcro in place, and take it with me".
More Bed Skirt Styles
A tailored bed skirt will have center pleats, and pleats at the corners. That style uses less fabric, too. A similar style has clusters of gathers at the corners, and sometimes centered on the side.
The "not simple – a ton of work style" is a box pleated bed skirt! It’s the same as making a box pleated valance. Check out the podcast about making box pleated valances for tips. See Episode 9: Box Pleated Valances
A lot of work goes into making a bed skirt. It is very time consuming. "What is surprising is that some workrooms will price a window valance... the same size as a bed skirt for more than they would a bed skirt. Why? Is the bed skirt easier? There is a tradition of price here that’s not equal. But I am happy to say that workrooms are making adjustments for this", Susan said.
If the price is not affordable for the client, then a change in style would make a huge difference. A tailored bed skirt, for example.
There's a lot more information to share. Look for bedding topics on future podcasts. This was a good start!