Sari (or, saree) cloth is perfect for Christmas tree skirts. It can be glittery and sequiny. It can be woven with gold. Yes, sometimes real gold. What’s more festive than that?! You can easily find inexpensive vintage sari fabrics on eBay and Etsy for this DIY project. Saris have many yards (or meters) of fabric so they’re perfect for projects like this that need a good length of fabric.
The sari I used was found at Nalli sari shop in Chennai, India many years ago. When I bought it, I chose it thinking it would look great in our living room. Who would guess what it would become some day? Here it is now:
This is a long post, but this really is an easy DIY, even if you don’t sew much. You’re just going to cut straight lines and sew some straight lines. (*Disclaimer below) Here’s a diagram showing what we’re going to do:
For this project, it’s best to choose a sari that has the same border on both edges. Because the long edges you see in the diagram above will become the outside border of your Christmas tree skirt when it’s done.
The Parts of Sari Cloth
Here’s my sari before I cut it:
Do you see the different pattern on it at the bottom of the photo? That’s called the pallu – it’s the part of the sari that, when worn, goes over the shoulder and cascades down the back.
Sometimes it is decorated more than the rest of the sari. If it is, you can work the pallu into your skirt design, or you can cut it off and save it for another project.
Saris might also come with blouse fabric attached, as mine did. See the square of fabric with my sari, the one with a different design? That’s used to make a blouse to wear under the sari. You can use it for your tree skirt, or save it for something else. I’m going to make a pillow with my blouse fabric.
So now let’s get on to sewing the sari tree skirt …
Cutting the Sari
So, now that you know the parts of the sari, lay it out flat on the floor, as much as you can. It’s very long and you might not have space to unfold the whole sari, but that’s okay. You can unfold the sari as you go along.
Because I used to sew a lot, I have supplies like a rotary cutting board and a rotary cutter:
I like using rotary cutters for projects like this, more than scissors, because it’s fast and easy to make long clean cuts, and the fabric is less likely to shift out of place because there’s no scissor blade lifting it up. But I caution, if you use a rotary cutter for the first time, it’s sharp! Seriously. If you touch your finger with it, you’ll bleed all over. These rotary cutters are so sharp that one seamstress could decapitate an entire army of young buff men in one swoop! I’m only barely exaggerating. So to protect my wood floors, there’s a cutting board under the sari cloth. Protecting fingers involves extreme caution – just keep your hands out of the way of the blade. And whenever you set the blade down, push the protective cover over it – it’s really easy for a child or pet to come along and get cut. I share all these tips because table saws don’t bother me nearly as much as rotary cutters do – it’s super easy to get a bad cut.
So let’s get on to cutting … cloth only, please …
We’re going to cut triangles. To get enough triangles out of your sari to make a complete circle under your tree, I recommend cutting on a slant but not on an exact bias. If you sew you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry about it, just follow these measurements …
For the first cut, lay a yardstick along the bottom of your sari, at the end of the sari. The 0″ mark should be against the end of the sari. At the 24″ mark, lay a long straight object diagonally from the 24″ point to the upper corner of the sari, as shown here:
I found a café curtain rod in a closet and used that. You can use anything that’s long enough and has a straight edge. Now cut along this diagonal line:
You should have a wedge shape. You can move this out of the way.
Now, take your yardstick and go to the opposite border edge of the sari. Lay it against that edge. You want to measure 48″, so you might need two yardsticks, a second one to add another 12″, or a 12″ ruler. Lay your long object you’re using to make the diagonal lines so one end is at the end of the yardstick at 48″, and the other end meets the cut edge of the sari to make a triangle shape:
Cut along this diagonal line. You should have your first triangle shape. You’ll be cutting four to five more of these – however many you can cut from your sari cloth.
So, repeat the above step. Move your yardstick to the opposite border again. At the 48″ mark, line up your diagonal line with the opposite cut edge:
Cut along the diagonal line.
Keep repeating these steps until you have five triangles.
Now take a look at how much is left of your sari. This is what I had:
You can see I’m getting close to the pallu. You can include the pallu in your skirt, but I didn’t want to. I was able to squeeze out one more triangle, for a total of six triangles which is ideal because it will make a full circle. If you cannot cut a sixth triangle, you will still have a skirt around the tree, it will just be a little less full.
For the last cut, set your yardstick along the border. At the 24″ mark, don’t lay a diagonal line, instead lay a straight line like this:
Cut along the straight line.
You should now have a pile of triangles and two wedges like this:
If you have a pallu and blouse fabric left over, set those aside, we won’t be using them.
Sewing the Tree Skirt
Now we’re going to start sewing the triangles and wedges together.
First, hold two triangles with the longest edges with the “wrong sides” or “back sides” of the fabric together. You want the right side of the fabric facing the outside. Pin along this edge, like this:
Now you might be thinking, wait a minute! But won’t the messy seam show on the outside? Yes it will. But only for a moment. Not forever. It’s not time to panic yet. This is not a mistake. If you’re an experienced sewer, you know where I’m going with this – we’re going to make French seams. If you don’t sew much, just follow the steps in the video below – you will end up with a tree skirt that looks nice and clean on both sides, instead of having raw edges on the bottom.
Because you’re sewing on a diagonal, be careful to not stretch or pull the fabric. It can get pulled out of shape pretty easily and then it will pucker and that will be hard to iron out. Just handle the edges carefully, and don’t pull the fabric through the machine with your hands, just let the machine pull the fabric.
This video shows how to sew a French seam. I reviewed a lot of French seam videos and many use terms that assume you’re an experienced seamstress. If you’re experienced, you probably already know how to do this. So I chose this video because it explains how to do this seam in a way everyone can follow:
A Note About Pressing (Ironing)
In the video, she talks about “pressing.” This is ironing. When she tells you to press, you will iron the seams. You can iron the seams open so they lay flat:
Or iron them to one side, whatever is easier for you to do:
You might not love ironing. But it’s really important to get a nice finish. Often in sewing, ironing can take more time than the sewing but ironing should never be skipped! When you iron, you are making these seams into nice crisp edges. It’s the difference between something that looks like it was purchased in a store, or like it was “made by loving hands at home.”
Okay, Back to Sewing
Sew all edges together with these French seams, except two edges. Leave two edges unsewn for a moment. Because you will need an opening to get your skirt around the tree trunk.
Once you’ve sewn all edges together except two, you should have a skirt with an opening, like this:
Now let’s finish the two edges that will make the opening in your skirt. To finish these edges, you can fold the fabric under by a 1/4″ or 1/2″ and then fold again. Pin to keep the fabric in place, and sew a straight stitch:
If you’re an experience sewer, you can finish these edges in many creative ways, even with nice ties or bound with contrast fabric. I’ll be hiding these seams behind the back of my tree so I’m not going to get creative with them.
Cleaning Up the Triangle Tips
You’ve probably noticed you have a real mess at the “tips” of the triangles, like this:
Not a problem. Just trim them back in a curved shape, fold under twice like you just did for the last edges above, pin and sew. Just make a curved shape like this, this is the part that will be around your tree trunk:
Every time I set the fabric down, this little guy was on it! He was so enjoying watching the whole project from start to finish, I don’t have the heart to crop him out.
I hope you stuck through these steps, because if you did, you now have a sari Christmas tree skirt!
* Disclaimer: Geez, after all this sewing work, I can hear you saying “Seriously Deb? ‘You’re just going to cut straight lines and sew some straight lines.’?! Yeah right!” I would be surprised if anyone does this after all the no-sew Christmas tree skirt DIYs out there! And, LOL, after all this I think you could probably just take the sari as-is and drape it under the tree! In two minutes. No sewing at all. Anyway. Some of like to do things the hard way, like a whole weekend afternoon …