The Day I Dropped Everything to Make My Daughter A Mermaid Tail

DIY Mermaid Tail

I’m going to be the first to admit here that this blog would be SO MUCH BETTER if I included pictures of my children’s amazing faces, but I just can’t let myself do it, so I apologize in advance for the fact that today’s pictures will not be what they could be. OH, if I could just show you the full effect here. Oh well. Moving on to the tale of a tail:

I was getting the next post ready for the doodle dress sew along (coming out on Wednesday so stay tuned) when my four year old daughter (the doodle) came and sat next to me with her legs inside a pillow case. The following conversation then took place (I’m paraphrasing):

Me: “Um…whatchya doin’ doodle?”

Doodle: “This is my mermaid tail. Mommy, I want a real mermaid tail. Can you make me a real mermaid tail?”

Me: “Well, mermaids are not real, they’re just pretend, but I’ll bet I can make you a pretend tail.”

Apparently what she heard me say was: “Sure, Doodle, I will get right on making that mermaid tail immediately and I will not sleep until it is finished.”

This seemingly simple, harmless conversation was the catalyst for the doodle’s obsession with obtaining a mermaid tail RIGHT NOW AT ALL COSTS.

Now is where I should tell you, or maybe you have been following this blog and already know, that I only just started sewing this year, and up until this year, I have always wanted to be the kind of mom who could whip out a fun costume for her kids when the mood strikes. The problem was, the mood had struck the doodle, not me. I had a million things on my mind that I wanted to accomplish.

No worries, though, I thought, because there is no way for me to even get my hands on the kind of fabric I need for a mermaid tail anytime soon. I’ll do it for her next week, after I have checked a few other projects off my list and I am able to make the long trek to a store that will have more than pre-cut quilting cotton. I pinned a few mermaid tail pics and moved on.

I kid you not that for the next two days straight, the words, “mermaid tail” were uttered, on average, every 3 seconds. I explained that we didn’t have the fabric necessary but she insisted we could just go get some at Walmart. You have to understand, the nearest Walmart is about 30 minutes away and it really doesn’t carry much fabric. Not like the ones you might be used to, this Walmart has one small aisle devoted to sewing which includes some pre-cut fabric, all the notions they stock, and the sewing machines.

So we went to Walmart (we needed a few other things – we didn’t just go for fabric) and I told her we would look (thinking surely we wouldn’t find it) and yet there it was. Sparkly, sequined stretchy polyester blend fabric. And she saw it.

And just like that, my entire day’s plans changed.

Why not just tell her no? Why not use this to teach her patience? Because I would have been doing that for me, not for her sake, and that seemed selfish. There have already been plenty of days when she’s had to wait for something she wants, and plenty more will come. And believe me, she hears “no” quite a bit. But most of all, this was it. My chance had finally come to be that mom. The “mommy-on-the-spot” mom who can whip up a pretend play costume like it’s no big deal.

So without any plans, without a pattern or tutorial, and without worrying about making it perfect, I set to the task of making the tail, and this is when I wish I could show you the smile on her face. Totally worth it.

Again, this whole project and blog post being unplanned, you will see the pictures are not as organized and you’ll get a glimpse into what the sewing table looks like when I am not preparing it for blog photos! There are definitely things I would do differently if I were to make this again, and I’ll tell you what they are, but here are the steps to making the tail you see on this happy doodle:


  1. Stretchy, sparkly fabric (amount will depend on size of the tail you need)
  2. 1 1/2 inch wide elastic fit to the child’s waist (with about an inch overlap)
  3. Some type of harder material for the inside of the fin. I used Pellon 808 Craft Fuse because it is what I had, but honestly, you could use cardboard or some of that foam poster board, I think.
  4. Ball point needle and thread for your sewing machine (because we are sewing with stretchy fabric).
  5. Poster board or paper for making your tail and fin pattern

Step one:

Lay your child on some poster board and trace from the waist above the belly button down both sides of her legs to her ankles (which should be together) to get the pattern piece for the tail. Add about two inches on each side and cut that out and use it to cut two tail pieces from your fabric. My pieces looked like this:

Mermaid Tail Step One

Step Two:

Arrange the two pieces pretty sides together and, using a zigzag stitch, sew down each side. On one side, sew from the very top down to the bottom. On the other, leave about two inches open at the top. Make sure you back stitch. It looks like this:

Mermaid Tail Step One Done

Step three:

Roll the edge of the wide top (the waist) down and sew it (like you are hemming it) then roll it again and sew it so that you have made a casing for your elastic.

Mermaid tail step two done start step three

Step four:

As in the above picture, insert the elastic into the casing and pull it all the way through to the other side. An easy way to do this is to attach a safety pin to the elastic. You can feel the safety pin through the fabric and inch it along. Make sure you don’t pull it so far that you lose the elastic on the side you started with by the time you get to the other end. Once all the way through you can sew the elastic into place at the point where the two ends meet and overlap a bit. After the elastic is in, it looks like this:

Mermaid Tail Step Three Done

Step five:

Trace out the shape of a fin (a little bigger than the size you actually want it) and cut two from your fabric. Cut one from your harder material (cardboard or pellon craft fuse or whatever works – it should be hard enough to hold its shape but soft enough to bend through a smaller opening). Here are my fin pieces. I did some trimming to get the shape more to my liking after this picture was taken but you get the idea:

Mermaid Tail Step fourStep six:

Pretty sides together, sew the two fabric pieces together along the edges and bottom, but not the smaller top opening. Turn them right side out and insert your harder fin piece, which you will need to fold a bit to get in there and then you can adjust it until it opens back up and fits the way you want it to. Mine looked like this:

Mermaid tail step four doneStep seven:

This part was a little tricky. Hem the bottom of the tail. Sew the fin to the tail by putting it pretty side under the hemmed tail bottom. I had to get all that tail from the waist to that point over on the right side of the needle since the tail bottom was already sewn shut. Looking back, I may have actually just made the tail and fin one piece. I think you could just insert the hard fin insert in through the waist area all the way to the bottom and adjust it. Feel free to give that a try. This worked out fine and the doodle had no complaints!

Mermaid tail step five done

Here she is getting ready to go for a swim! The ruffles at the top are part of her bathing suit (but that would be awesome if you added those)!


I hope you enjoyed my tale of a tail! If you did, don’t forget to share with your friends and if you haven’t yet – subscribe for my weekly newsletter! Next up is post #2 of the doodle dress sew along so meet me back here on Wednesday, coffee in hand!


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21 Comments on The Day I Dropped Everything to Make My Daughter A Mermaid Tail

  1. Elizabeth
    June 29, 2015 at 11:08 AM (2 years ago)

    Congratulations! You are THAT mom! You did it and did it well and it is ADORABLE! And you managed a good tutorial in the process. YAY!!!!!!!!!

    • notimefordiy
      June 29, 2015 at 5:05 PM (2 years ago)

      Thank you! We are now back to our regularly scheduled nonsense but the mermaid tail was fun. I’m so glad she loves it! Problem: She has mentioned she wants to go swimming in it. Um…no doodle. I have also had to tell her she cannot wear it to the store or to church.

  2. Courtney
    June 29, 2015 at 10:11 PM (2 years ago)

    If our daughters ever meet and talk about this, I’m toast :)

    Nice work! You should sell those on Etsy!
    Courtney recently posted…This Week in the CSA BoxMy Profile

    • notimefordiy
      June 30, 2015 at 6:55 AM (2 years ago)

      LOL! Courtney, there have been a few times my daughter has seen me searching Pinterest for something and then decided she wants something she sees on there (who doesn’t?) and I secretly curse whatever mom pinned her ridiculous project – so I guess I have become THAT mom, too! And you would be surprised how many mermaid tails are for sale on Etsy! I thought about it and, having previously worked in liability insurance, thought to myself: with my luck someone will buy one and try to swim in it and that would not go well so I’ll hold off for now! Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  3. Summer
    June 30, 2015 at 1:06 PM (2 years ago)

    It came out beautiful. Sometimes, spontaneous can be a good thing! Thanks for visiting my blog. ♥♥♥♥

    Summer recently posted…Garden Fete GiveawayMy Profile

    • notimefordiy
      June 30, 2015 at 5:34 PM (2 years ago)

      It’s true, Summer! Planning is definitely good but I don’t think I could live a life without a little flexibility and I am so glad my daughter liked the way it turned out! Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  4. Hannah
    June 30, 2015 at 3:22 PM (2 years ago)

    I can’t see to save my life but I’m book marking this to show my sewing queen mother because Midge will love it! I’ve just had to buy a mermaid costume for a school play but this would be so good maybe for Christmas?! X #twinklytuesday
    Hannah recently posted…Guest Post By Mia Lane: My Amazing Sister Needs Your HelpMy Profile

    • notimefordiy
      June 30, 2015 at 5:20 PM (2 years ago)

      Thanks, Hannah. My daughter is also wanting me to make a shirt to go with it out of the same fabric so we’ll see how that goes! It seems there are lots of little girls around who want to be mermaids! I am going to try to get my daughter to use it as her Halloween costume. She’ll probably be way over by then, though! Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    • notimefordiy
      July 2, 2015 at 1:36 PM (2 years ago)

      Thank you, Amanda! I can’t say that I am perfect in that regard all the time, but happy to have done what I did this time around! Thanks for visiting and commenting. Looking forward to hosting the party with you!

    • notimefordiy
      July 2, 2015 at 1:37 PM (2 years ago)

      Come to think of it, I think I really would have liked one of these, too. I used to love to watch “The Little Mermaid” all the time! Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  5. Sheena
    July 2, 2015 at 1:32 PM (2 years ago)

    My youngest daughter would LOVE a mermaid tail!!! I may have to just make her one someday. {{Probably next summer}} =)
    Sheena recently posted…From Baby Crib to BenchMy Profile

    • notimefordiy
      July 2, 2015 at 1:38 PM (2 years ago)

      It’s funny I really don’t think I know a little girl who wouldn’t love a mermaid tail! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Sheena!

  6. Alayna @AlaynasCreations
    July 3, 2015 at 10:11 AM (2 years ago)

    Competely adorable! Has she taken it off since? (I wouldn’t! ;)) And look at that – you ARE the “fun mom.” We can’t do things like that ALL the time, but we can do it once in a while and those are the times that the little ones will remember.
    I’m excited to be co-hosting with you this month #HomeMattersParty

    • notimefordiy
      July 3, 2015 at 10:32 AM (2 years ago)

      She has just in the last day or two finally gone without wearing it whenever she was in the house. She still asks for it but doesn’t wear it all day now. Part of that is because she can’t walk in it. And I tried to tell her it would be better if I left openings for her feet but she was insistent that her feet be totally covered. I have to say, watching her hop around in that thing was fun…and made me tired even just watching. You’re so right that these things have to be balanced or we risk teaching our kids that our commitments and responsibilities aren’t important. Not a road I want to travel down. Thanks for visiting and commenting! Great to be co-hosting the party with you!

  7. Jane
    July 3, 2015 at 9:02 PM (2 years ago)

    This is so cute. My kids constantly squeeze both legs into one leg of their pajama pants to be “Ariel”. They would love these tails. I may just need to drop everything tomorrow and go for it! Thank you for sharing and we are happy to be co-hosting the #HomeMattersParty with you!
    Jane recently posted…Friday Five: Creative Ways to Recycle MapsMy Profile

  8. Lisa (mummascribbles)
    July 6, 2015 at 2:48 AM (2 years ago)

    Wow, how clever are you?! This looks fantastic and how wonderful that you could whip it up at your daughters request :) Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    • notimefordiy
      July 7, 2015 at 4:37 PM (2 years ago)

      Thanks, Lisa! I was so glad to be able to do it for her. Thanks for hosting the #TwinklyTuesday party!

    • notimefordiy
      July 7, 2015 at 4:35 PM (2 years ago)

      Thank you, Melissa! It’s great co-hosting with you!


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