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Category: patternmaking

the straight skirt: butterick 5466

I buy fabrics for two reasons: because I have a project in mind and I’m looking for something specific, or because I am such a sucker for pretty textiles that I see something I have no project for and think to myself, “That is gorgeous! I must have it! I’ll figure out what to do with it later . . . ” The fabric I used to make this skirt falls into the second category. It’s also one of those situations where, because it was a little on the pricey side, I only had a yard and a half to work with so my options were limited. Normally I order 4- or 5-yard cuts of fabric, which gives me enough material for a couple of projects. I found this fabric at Textile Fabrics in Nashville last May, and it’s a Nanette Lepore cotton print. I’m totally smitten with this fabric, and it was just the thing to get me excited to leave winter behind and start working on spring projects.

With only a yard and a half to work with, I thought the best thing for me to do was a straight skirt. This isn’t my go-to kind of skirt (I love fit and flare so, so much), but it was nice to change things up a bit. I’ve always had a hard time finding straight skirts that fit properly, because I have substantial curves and a small waist, so most things are too snug around my hips and enormous around the waist. I haven’t invested the time into drafting a pattern for myself because fitting yourself is kind of a pain, and I was happy to work on other projects to worry about it too much. When I finally decided to do a straight skirt with this fabric, I thought I’d star by searching for a basic skirt pattern from one of the big companies and make fitting adjustments from there. I got Butterick 5466 and cut out my size based on my measurements. I don’t know how I lucked into this, but I didn’t have to make but one fitting adjustment to the pattern, and it was barely an adjustment. If memory serves me, I spent about $60 on the fabric, and I had the lining, thread, and zipper in my stash. Not bad!

This particular pattern sits about 1.5″ above the natural waist, so it’s already better for my body type than something that sits below the waist. I whipped up a quick muslin and saw that I only needed to take it in a tiny bit in the center back. So, instead of 5/8″ seam allowance, I went with 3/4″, and it worked like a charm. Because this skirt sits above the natural waist, I wanted to add to the length, which would make my legs look longer. I actually wanted it a bit longer, but my fabric wasn’t cut evenly so I had to shorten the length so that I could fit the pattern pieces on my fabric.

how to: draft a half circle skirt pattern

I can think of no better way to officially kick off a new year of posts than to spotlight something I consider a major building block for anyone who sews apparel: the half circle skirt. Half circle skirts are wonderful for a lot of reasons, but I love them for their potential; mostly, I use them as foundation patterns to which I add pleats or gathers or whatever I want. Because I prefer fuller skirts, starting with a half circle pattern gives me a little flare right off the bat. Plus, it’s less time consuming and easier to draft than working with my basic skirt sloper. Once you know how to draft this skirt, you can adjust it to fit any bodice. For example, if you have a commercial pattern and you love the bodice but you want to change up the skirt a bit, you’ll have the know-how to make it happen.

One of my favorite designs–and something that always generates lots of comments and questions–is this skirt, which is a half circle with inverted box pleats and side seam pockets. To create the stripes, the pattern is split into six even sections. I’ll show you how to make this one soon.

Here are a few more examples of design elements added to a half circle pattern: a gathered skirt with lace trim around the hem, a skirt with side pleats and slanted side pockets, and a skirt with inverted box pleats and a contrast hem band. The options are endless!

So, let’s get started. Drafting a half circle pattern is super easy. There’s a little math involved, but it’s not complicated at all, and I can share a tip with you to double check your work. For this project you will need pattern paper, paper scissors, pencil, ruler, flexible curve, a marker, and tape. For more information on these supplies, see this post.

how to: hem facings

I designed a skirt a few years ago, a skirt some of you may remember. It was long and sequined and ladylike and magnificent. I always sold the samples in a big sample sale, but I’ve always wanted one. Last month, I decided that with two tulle skirts in my closet and plenty of new dresses finished and ready to wear it was time to make this skirt for myself. I can’t wait to show you the finished product soon, but what connects my new sparkly skirt and this post is the fact that I put a hem facing in it. Hem facings are one of my favorite things, and I realized that I do them quite frequently, and for various reasons.

Hem facings are just another way to finish a hem. They are simple and easy to do, and they give the garment a very professional and clean finish. Think of hem facings just like you would any other facing–it’s simply a copy of the hem in a width of your choosing. Let’s go through some examples, starting with a garment with a shaped hem. You can sew a narrow hem on a shaped hem, but depending on your fabric they can roll or stretch and look a little blah. For a shaped hem like this, a hem facing is a nice detail that looks neat, and it’s also easier to sew.

This is a dress I made over the summer, and the fabric is a washed linen I got in Amsterdam last March. Linen makes a wonderful hem facing because it’s so easy to work with and because it presses so well. This hem facing is about 3″ wide, and I included 1/4″ to turn under and stitch in place. If you look closely you can see the row of stitching on the right side of the garment.

This is what my pattern pieces looked like. All I did was trace the bottom of the hem about 3″.