How to Draft and Sew a Skirt

How to Sew a Skirt - how to draft a pattern for yourself and sew any kind of skirt

Today I’m rounding up everything you need to know to design and sew a skirt. One that fits perfectly and lets you adapt it to any variation you want.

Speaking of skirts, have y’all heard about Skirt Week at Crafterhours? It’s a sewing contest, with judging and PRIZES going on now through June 7. So this tutorial is just in time.

So, we’re going to take it to the next level and draft our own patterns based on our measurements! That’s right – starting from scratch.

But never fear, skirts are the easiest thing to start patternmaking with. So grab your drafting tools (though you can skip the cardboard and straight pins unless you’re rubbing a pattern off a skirt you already own).

Tools for the perfect pajama pattern

You’ll also need some muslin (or fabric from your stash),  we’re going to be drafting and fitting a basic fitted skirt. Then I’ll show you how to take that basic skirt pattern and turn it into all of these skirts:

skirt variations by Melly Sews skirts by Melly Sews

So hike up your skirts (sorry, couldn’t resist) and get ready to draft and sew!

To start with, you need three measurements: your waist, your hips, and your waist to hip length. Let’s discuss more.

Waist: This can be your actual waist, or where you want your skirt to sit. I prefer my skirts to sit above my hips, but lower than my actual waist. When you measure, make sure to hold the measuring tape snugly, but your shouldn’t be sucking in, unless you plan to suck in the entire time you’re wearing your skirt. Which would get uncomfortable.

Hips: Measure around the fullest part of your hip, preferably while wearing underwear or a slip, not over other clothing.

Waist-to-Hip: You may want to put a sticker on yourself level with the tape while holding the measuring tape for the waist and hip measurements, so that you can easily measure the distance between your waist and hip. Alternately, you can tie yarn around yourself at both levels and measure that way. This is a vertical measurement.

OK, we’re ready to draft. Get out some kraft paper, or tape a bunch of printer paper together. Wrapping paper works too. Grab your ruler (see through is helpful) We’re going to draw 1/4 of the skirt for the pattern, so you’ll need to do a tiny bit of math. Calculator (or more likely, phone) at the ready! Also make sure you have a pencil, and some muslin (or scrap fabric – enough to cut out your skirt) and pins. When it comes time to fit the muslin, you’re also going to need a friend or a spouse, and a fabric marker or chalk.

Draft a skirt and easy pattern making

But wait Melissa, I’m not a rectangle! Of course you’re not. This is just our starting place. Now we’ll work on the waist.

Draft a Skirt 1

Easy Skirt Drafting

A bendy ruler works well to draw this curve, as does a French curve. Or a dinner plate. Just make sure the majority of the curve is in the top 3″ or so, because that’s where the body curves the most.

Draft a skirt | Easy skirt pattern TheSewingLoft.com

Add seam allowances to the  side and waist, then retrace the pattern and add the center back seam allowance, and you have your muslin patterns.  Cut out the front piece on the fold, and two back pieces out of muslin. IMPORTANT: you’re going to want to mark your hip line on the muslins.

Pin up your center back seam, and one side seam. Then put the skirt on yourself, inside out. Pin up the remaining side seam. You may need assistance from your spouse or friend (frouse? spiend?).

Starting in the front, smooth your hands together from the center and side seam to pin the front darts. Pin the excess fabric at the waist. Repeat on the other side. This isn’t too hard to do yourself.

skirtdrafting16

But then you’re going to need your spouse/friend/spiend/frouse  or whatever to help you in the back. Because trying to pin back darts on yourself results in getting stuck with pins. And other bad stuff. So as you did on the front, have your friend smooth the fabric in the back and pin the darts in the waist.

If the muslin is tight around your rear, let out the pins in center back seam first, not the side seams.

Next we need to determine where those darts will be positioned. It’s easier to start in back with this, and it involves some looking at your rear (Omigod Becky, look at her…just try not singing “I Like Big Butts” while you do this). With the fabric marker or chalk, you’ll want your friend to mark the point where your buttocks start to curve toward your back (mark 1) and where they start to curve out toward the hip (mark 2).

skirtdrafting14

In the front, you’ll need to do the same thing, except the curve will be your tummy instead of your butt. Of if you’re a flat ab workout queen, you may not need front darts. And many women might secretly hate you. Kidding. Sort of. And let me assure you I’m sucking in big time for this next picture. Because I’ve had two kids and I have the extra skin and tummy to prove it.

Now, check out your side seams. Make sure they’re going straight down your sides. If they’re not, unpin and adjust until they are.

skirtdrafting17

Now use your marker or chalk to mark where the pins are on the side seams and back seam.  Then unpin yourself  down one side and take off your muslin. Excuse your friend/spouse and thank them for their help, you’re on your own from here on out.

Mark the pins that are holding the darts, on each side of the dart. Then you can remove those pins.

skirtdrafting20

We’re going to figure out where the darts go. Measure over on your lines that marked the curve breaks on your body; where they intersect is the bottom of your dart. Transfer these measurements to your paper pattern, and mark the bottom of the dart. Repeat with the front dart on the front pattern piece.

skirtdrafting19

skirtdrafting14

Now measure the width of your darts on your muslin.

skirtdrafting21

Make a straight line up through your dart point, perpendicular to the hip line on your pattern.

skirtdrafting15

Repeat this dart creation for the front piece, Finally mark off your side seams and adjust the seam allowances. You now have a skirt pattern!

Now, it’s a good idea to make another muslin and test this pattern before you cut into the good fabric, but any adjustments should be minor.

Ok, time to show you how to take the pattern we drafted and turn it into other variations.

Let’s start with adding facings – the facings and sewing a zipper into the center back seam are the only things I added to make this fitted skirt.

How to make skirt variations | TheSewingLoft

skirtvariations1

You’ll cut your facings on the fold, just like your skirt. Since your skirt already has seam allowances, so will your facings – no need to add them.
Steps to sew this skirt:

  1. Sew back darts
  2. Sew back center seam and put in on seam zipper (see this tutorial)
  3. Sew front darts
  4. Sew side seams on both skirt and facings
  5. Sew facings on to skirt (pin facing to waistline, right sides of fabric together, stitch around, then turn facing to inside of skirt and press. Topstitch if desired)
  6. Hem

A-Line skirt variations | TheSewingLoft

This A-Line skirt I made is fully lined, so no facings. This is a super simple skirt variation.

skirtvariations2

Steps to sew this skirt:

  1. Sew back darts
  2. Sew back center seam and put in on seam zipper (see this tutorial)
  3. Sew front darts
  4. Sew side seams on skirt
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 with lining
  6. Sew lining to skirt (pin lining to waistline, right sides of fabric together, stitch around, then turn lining to inside of skirt and press. Topstitch if desired)
  7. Hem both lining and skirt

If you think about how you make facings and how you make an A-Line skirt, the next variation is really easy to grasp too.

Easy A-Line skirt variations

skirtvariations3

For the A-Line above I also off-centered some ribbon trim, and I finished the waist with the same ribbon. Steps to sew this skirt:

  1. Sew decoration onto front.
  2. Sew back center seam and put in on seam zipper (see this tutorial)
  3. Sew side seams
  4. Bind waistband with bias tape or grosgrain ribbon (see this tutorial)
  5. Hem

What if you want to add a yoke?

Simple skirt variations easy pattern making | TheSewingLoft

First you’ll create an A-line shape with no darts, then you’ll just cut the pattern where you want the yoke to be,  and add seam allowances.

skirtvariations4

Steps to sew this skirt:

  1. Sew yoke together at side seams.
  2. Sew skirt side seams
  3. Sew back center seam and put in on seam zipper (see this tutorial)
  4. Sew facing or lining to waistband, turn to inside
  5. Hem

And finally, how to add a flounce.

skirtvariations6

skirtvariations5

Steps to sew this skirt:

  1. Sew side seams of flounce.
  2. Sew skirt side seams
  3. Sew back center seam and put in on seam zipper (see this tutorial)
  4. Sew flounce to bottom of skirt
  5. Sew facing or lining to waistband, turn to inside
  6. Hem

This concept also works if you want the bottom part of a yoked skirt to be fuller than the top part, but without having gathers. In that case, you’d measure the bottom of the yoke, and that would be the top of your curve, and then you’d curve out the bottom – more curve=more fullness.

I hope you find this helpful. To explore more skirts, hover over the Sewing button in the menu and look through the pictures under Sewing for Me.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for this tutorial Melissa! I’ve made all these types in the past, but it’s great seeing how they all relate. I’m definitely pinning this for reference.

  2. Anne says

    You didn’t mention that there would be no zipper on the knit one! I would like to use a strong knit for the yoke but a cotton on the bottom. Any suggestions?

  3. Melissa says

    This tutorial is incredible. Thank you. I’m trying to work up the courage to give it a try. You lost me on the facing though. “Rotate pieces togethere on either side of dart retracing angles to curves,” may as well be written in Greek. I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

    Which sides of the pieces get adjoined? Retrace what angles? To which curves?

  4. Cindi says

    Awesome! My daughter got a job that is business casual. She loves skirts. But has a hard time finding ones she likes that I don’t have to alter! So I will try making a couple for her and see how it goes!

    Thank you!

  5. June says

    Hi Melly

    I just found yr lovely blog. Thanks for the clearly written and thorough tutorial! Now I am brave enough to sew
    one or two for myself with all the materials I brought yeara ago but never have the confident to
    sew.
    Merry Christmas to your lovely family.

  6. Lady Violet says

    Great stuff. I’ll be trying this shortly. Terribly fond of skirts but live in a place where they are no-go. Can’t buy anything to suit.
    Thanks for sharing : )

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