The Great British Sewing Bee TV series was a good inspiration for reviewing/ developing sewing skills.
The first episode of GBSB started with an a-line skirt (McCall’s 3341).
But an a-line style is not my best choice. I prefer the way the straight of grain falls in a gored skirt.
In an a-line skirt, all the fullness falls at the side seams.
In a six gore skirt it’s distributed around 6 seams, so the drape is less strongly localised.
This flared skirt has a wider hem than the 6-gore one, but you can see the general idea – the flared skirt seam is much more on the bias.
This difference doesn’t really show on a thigh-length skirt, but I like low calf length skirts, where the difference in drape and movement is quite pronounced.
I looked at a commercial 6-gore skirt pattern, and realised it would be more trouble to adapt that to my own shape than to make a pattern from my own skirt block.
So what about making a 6-gore skirt pattern ?
Look on the web and there are many tutorials for making a very basic pattern using 6 pieces with the same shape, and elastic waist.
But, if you have a skirt base pattern, it’s not much more difficult to make a ‘proper’ 6-gore skirt pattern – fitted over hips, with different pattern pieces for front, back and sides.
This pattern has a zip in centre back seam, so it actually has 7 fabric pieces.
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What you need to make the pattern
Skirt base pattern
Either a personal skirt block. Or a commercial skirt pattern preferably with 1-dart front and back.
Easier to start from a straight skirt pattern. With a flared skirt pattern, you don’t know if it has been altered in the hip area as part of the design.
Pattern paper – anything, even newsprint.
Easier if you use something you can trace through.
I use swedish tracing paper, which is very convenient as you can sew it to make a first muslin.
Or ordinary tracing paper.
Drawing tool. Pattern making books insist you use a well sharpened 4H pencil. Well, I’m sure that’s important for professionals. But I use a wide tipped felt pen. My body alters by more than the width of that line every time I breathe. . . I know 1/8 in./ 5 mm is important in some fit issues, but those I check on a muslin. I don’t try to get them right on the first version of the pattern.
Pattern makers drawing aids (optional). Not essential for something as easy as a skirt pattern, but they do make drawing smooth lines so much easier.
Curve. I love my battered transparent French curve, marked with 5/8 in. round the curve and also an 1/8 in grid.
But there are astonishing numbers of different types of dressmakers curves. Do a search for ‘french curve’ at Amazon to see if there’s one you like the look of.
Long straight edge. The famous ‘yardstick’, but any long firm edge will do. A 12in./ 30 cm ruler isn’t long enough for many pattern making purposes.
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Making the skirt pattern
1. Extend or shorten the skirt pattern to the length you want (red lines).
2. Mark a line down from the main dart, the same distance from CF/ CB all the way down.
Mark the grain line straight down all sections.
Mark that centre front is placed on fold of fabric.
3. Cut apart the pattern on the line, so you have 4 parts :
front centre and side
back centre and side.
Label the pieces as they’re all quite similar.
If you started from a one-dart pattern, you now have a pattern with no darts. The dart shaping is incorporated in the shape of the added seams.
4. Trace these 4 shapes on pattern paper with space around them.
(If you’re using tracing paper, you could trace the 4 shapes direct, without cutting the original pattern apart.)
5. Add flare to the seams (green lines)
- to side seam of centre front
- to both sides of the front side section.
- to both sides of the back side section.
- centre back – add to side seam (centre back too if you want more fullness).
(I found it much easier and quicker to make the real pattern than to learn new software to make these drawings :D)
The amount you add is a design decision.
Adding 1 inch/ 2.5 cm at the hem level of each seam makes the hem 12 in./ 30 cm. wider than the hips.
Add 2 in./ 5 cm widens hem by 24 in./ 60 cm.
Add 3 in./ 7.5 cm widens hem by 36 in./ 90 cm.
No need to measure this with a ruler – just mark the amount you want on the edge of a piece of paper, and use that to get the flares consistent in size.
Use a long straight edge to draw the flare down from the hip curve to the hem level.
Or you can curve the flare outwards from about knee level, to make a trumpet skirt.
As a variant of the straight flare – Lori Knowles in Practical Guide to Pattern Making page 214 suggests using different amounts of flare at different seams.
On a long skirt, she adds 3 in./ 7.5 cm to the side front seams, 4 in./ 10 cm to the side seams, and 5 in./12.5 cm to the side back seams.
Which adds a total of 48 in./ 120 cm to the hem.
A lovely idea for a dancing skirt which swirls more at the back than the front !
I did this on a smaller scale for a slimmer effect – added 1 in. to side front seams, 2 in. to side seams, and 3 in. to side back seams.
This adds a total of 24 in./ 60 cm to the hem.
With my hips, that makes a hem width of nearly 2 yards which, even at lower calf length, makes for easy walking without needing a slit.
6. Add seam allowances on all the new seam lines, and hem allowance on the bottom edges (if you like to have them on your patterns).
I don’t always have seam allowances on my patterns, so I make a note on the pattern about whether they’re there.
Add reminder pattern markings, to put centre front on a fold of fabric.
And a mark to show the bottom of the zip on the centre back seam.
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A starting pattern with more darts
If your body shape is like mine, large high hips make it essential to have more darts in a fitted skirt.
Here’s my ‘hip template’. Learned to make a template for the waist-hip area from the late Shannon Gifford, in her pattern classes at Pattern Review
(back is on left, front right)
Note these templates don’t include seam allowances – much easier for pattern altering, and for tracing round. But don’t worry if you’re starting from a pattern with seam allowances. The method for simple skirts is the same.
So when I make a 6-gored skirt pattern starting from these templates, I still have 2 darts in the side back pattern piece.
I could of course divide the skirt back pattern into 4 parts, not 2, and have fun making all sorts of different flare shapes at the side back !
This hip template can be used as the starting point for both skirts and pants.
Several pattern making books use this for the upper part of a pants pattern, rather than drafting the whole thing from scratch.
And how about using the same pattern making alterations to add princess seams and flares to your basic pant pattern
Alter all the seams by the same amount, so you don’t alter the ‘balance’ of the pants, how they hang from the waist.
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Length = waist length + 2 in./ 5 cm for overlap
width = 2 x finished width
Plus seam allowances added all around.
Or mark the size directly on the fabric with chalk, instead of making a pattern.
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It’s a good idea to label all the fabric pieces after you cut them out before taking the pattern off, as they’re all quite similar.
Assembly instructions for sewing your own pattern ?
For a gored skirt, slightly adapt the instructions for a pencil or a-line skirt.
Here are links to some free sewalongs.
It you know how to sew :
- darts (if needed),
- any type of zip,
you won’t have much difficulty without instructions.
So Good Luck with making your own skirt using your own pattern and your own sewing knowledge
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Patterns and links available June 2013
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