Friday, October 24, 2014

Crossover Pleat Circle Skirt Draft Along 3: Math & Measurements


Circle skirts have varying fullness depending on whether we use the full circle for drafting, or only a part (segment) of it.

Most common variations are a full circle skirt, a three-quarter skirt, a half-circle skirt and a quarter-circle skirt, with the last one having the least fullness.

The waistline is defined by the inner circle, and the hem line by the larger outer circle. The distance from the circle center to the circle's edge, or radius, is calculated using a simple mathematic formula
r = C / 2π
r = radius 
C = circle circumference (in our draft-along - the waist circumference) 
π = 3,14 (which, by definition, is a constant number that represents the ratio of the circle circumference to its diameter)

The last formula is used to draw a full circle skirt. But what if we want to draft only a 1/2 circle skirt?
r = C / π  (which is derived from r = 2C / 2π)

A 1/4 circle:
r = 2C / π (from r = 4C / 2π)
As you can see that we need larger radius for less flare.

But what do we do about 3/4 circle?
r = 2C / 3π (from r  = 4C / (3 x 2π)

What we got here is a fraction that represent the part of the circle, which in our formula is turned around.  For quarter circle, for example, we could also write  1/4 r = C / 2 π, which is the same as r = 4C / 2π. Understanding this principle helps you draft a skirt with any amount of flare you want.

Now, our skirt is 3/8 circle

Note that the radii and, accordingly, the circles here will be much larger than the ones for the circle skirt, even though they appear to be are the same size as on the previous illustration
r = 8C / (3 x 2π), or r = 4C / 3π

I apologize for the nerdy language here. If you are fed up with the math this is the only formula we will use for our 3/8 circle skirt:
r = 4C / 3π 


For the master pattern, which can be then used for lining or petticoat as is, we will need the following measurements (I am using mine as an example):
W (waist circumference without ease) = 71 cm 
H (hip circumference) = 105 cm 
Lf (length front) = 58 cm 
Lb (length back) = 59 cm 
Ls (length side) = 60 cm
I am using the waist circumference without the ease (2cm as a rule for other skirt styles) here. The reason is that when handling the fabric we will inevitably end up with slightly wider waistline because most of it is on the bias. Most formulas I have seen in pattern drafting books accommodate for this stretching in some way. In addition, I usually stay the waistline before cutting off the fabric wedges next to the waistline.


We need to calculate the radius for our smaller 'waistline' circle.
r = (4 x 71) / (3 x 3.14) = 284 / 9.42 = 30.1
Please use decimal numbers for accuracy and speed! I am rounding down the final result, keeping only tenths

In the next post, I will show how I draft the 3/8 master pattern, as well as explain the grainline options. Leave a comment with any questions here, or, preferably, in a dedicated thread on the Couture Collective forum. Please, also let me know if you noticed any typos  - I am lacking sleep lately 

P.S. Thanks to Nancy K for a great tip on where to get a cheaper tracing paper: This is a less durable light-weigh sketch paper. She buys 24" wide x 50 yards

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Crossover Pleat Skirt Draft-Along 2: Get your tools ready

I am so excited that we got quite a group for this Draft-Along, and it was great to see my New Yorker and US sewing friends among participants. Being so far away now, I really miss meeting up and taking sewing or drafting classes together. The draft-along feels like an improvised reunion in a way...

As I was reading your comments and questions, I realized that I  need to add some introduction (learning by doing).  So, I am breaking up the posts starting here with the tools you will need for this draft-along. The schedule won't change significantly, I am only adding two more posts to the planned ones this week and the first drafting post will follow later today.

The following list contains some personal preferences of mine. Some of them are pricier, but are worth investing in in a long run. I must add, however, that you can, of course, follow the draft-along with simplest tools available in every household.


Use sturdier paper for your first draft. Alphanumeric type is the most convenient for drafting because it makes easy to draw parallel or squared lines. However, if you are equipped with good rulers you can also use any other paper that is wide enough (so you don’t have to paste too many sheets together). Here in Cyprus, I could not find drafting quality paper for a while, so I even used paper rolls from the IKEA kids department. 

We will be drafting all, lining, petticoat, back and front on one master pattern, and will colour code individual pattern pieces to make it easy for tracing.  

Individual pattern pieces will be transferred onto a tracing paper, which we will then use for cutting.  Here, I often use thinner paper I often find in packaging, or you can purchase tracing paper on a roll  from Amazon, where you can find cheaper options than in retail. 


I use at least one longer ruler (about 60cm or more), and one shorter one. One favorite ruler of mine is Fiskars 6x24inch Acrylic Quilting Ruler.  It’s perfect for drawing right angles, parallel lines, and it also has 30, 45 and 60 degree guides making it easy to draw precise angles. In addition, I use it a lot for graining fabric.

French curve is very convenient for drawing curved lines. You can find a set of French Curves in every school or craft supply store.


Drafting circle skirts you will require a compass for larger circles.

A BOSTITCH Fiberglass compass  is great for drawing inner circles up to 16” diameter, which makes it a great tool for drafting circle skirt, peplums and so on. It also quite affordable at $7.98 on Amazon.

Beam Compass by Rotape is the one that I use for drawing large circles. The best part is that it is not only long enough, but it also rolls up and is very compact.

However, with some effort, you can also get on without these tools.  Use a ruler to make points equally distant from the center point. The bigger the circle (or circle segment) the more points you will need for precision. Then connect the dots using short curved strokes, or rotate the paper for smoother results. This takes longer time of course, but it also saves money for tools.


You will need simple graphite pencil, preferably a softer one (2B, for example) since it is darker and offers more contrast. The master pattern (which we will use for the lining and the petticoat pattern) will be drafted in graphite pencil.

For the pleats and seamlines of the back and front pieces, we will use coloured pencils. Here, I also prefer softer pencils for contrast. Prismacolor is my favourite brand. It is pricey, but if you draft every now and then, it’s worth investing in it. Besides, you really need only a smaller pack – the one with 24 colors is probably the smallest you can get. If you go for Prismacolor I’d also recommend purchasing a sharpener from the same brand, as a regular school supplies sharpener often breaks the soft lead.

Again, Prismacolor is just my personal preference, and you can draft the skirt using any brand you got at home. 

Add paper scissors for cutting final traced pieces and this is all you will need.

The next post will cover general principles on drafting circle skirts, measurements and calculations for our master pattern. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review & Giveaway: Molly Makes Embroidery

I was very enthusiastic about reviewing the book despite the fact that, as a couture blogger, embroidery has been of interest for me only when related to garment embellishment. Yes, the book is cute, very cute. Just as anything that appears in Molly Makes magazine if you are familiar with it. But this cannot be the only reason I'd recommend it. So, what makes this new publication by Molly Makes team so noteworthy?

(A), the timing is perfect. Like many of you, I love to make a few handmade gifts before Christmas, and there are quite a few memorable gift ideas!

(B), not having an extensive embroidery library, just a few technique-based books really, I thought this particular one was a great learning resource if you want to try different techniques before investing into something that focuses on one type of embroidery only. 

(C), I like that all fifteen projects come from international designers, each with a distinct signature style. Website links for each designer profile help find inspiration for more projects using the same technique. 

The concept of the book is simple: the projects are followed by detailed step-by-step instructions, the designer and the embroidery story blurb, and a very well illustrated 70-page techniques chapter. All the projects have are suitable for complete beginners as well as seasoned embroiderers.

Here are my favourite projects:

Freestyle embroidery

The first project featured in the book is strongly influenced by the artist's graphic design background. Embroidered using only backstitches, The Cabin in the Woods hoop picture is not only suitable for an absolute beginner but is also very memorable. And, there are quite a few more practical projects I can think of using this design for. 

CLOUD SHAPED PILLOW  by Nicole Vos Van Avezathe (
Freestyle embroidery

This umbrella flying kitty and a bear are simply adorable, on a pillow or a pajama bag (my plan). The project is lined up as a Christmas present for my girls.

FOLK ART THROW by Clare Youngs (
Freestyle embroidery

Although I could not place this project anywhere on my wish list I still like it a lot.  Claire Youngs is strongly inspired by Scandinavian embroidery and if you like the style, it is worth checking out her books and projects from Scandinavian Needlecraft series. I loved her felted wool slippers, or embroidered mittens. Step-by-step instructions in the book provide you with skills necessary to make quite a few different projects inspired by her work.


My 5-year old daughter insists I make her these owls. We visited Michella Galetta’s website and found even more cute embroidered dolls and kits.  Another Christmas gift candidate.

KITTY CATS TEA COZY by Samantha Stas (
Free-motion machine embroidery

A tea cozy is needed to keep a tea pot warm in my sewing workshop, and these designs are a guarantee for a good-mood working session. You can find even more inspiring projects in Samantha Stas’s Etsy shop, all made using free-motion machine embroidery: wall hangings, Christmas tree decorations, scarves and more. 


A beautiful example of stumpwork where stitches are worked over padding. Wisteria flowers and the ladybug come alive on the needlebook and the pincushion. As a sewer, I cannot have enough pincushions and needle books, and what would make a better gift for a fellow sewist. 

Crewel embroidery

I am a big fan of crewelwork. A clutch? Maybe. I must admit I loved the crewelwork embroidered hoody Karin Holmberg is wearing on the photograph in the book. Clutch is a good project to get acquainted with the technique. More fearless stitchers may try taking on more complex projects, such as embellishing a dress, a blouse or even a jacket.

Bargello embroidery

Bargello embroidery is a special treat in the book, and this cuff bracelet is another great project for a beginner. I’d pair it with long-sleeve navy blue shirt or blouse, and would go for two bracelets to make them look like cuffs.  Slightly more elaborate bracelets are offered for over USD 700 in the designer’s store, but, then, according to the designer, it took her 40 hours to complete her first cuff. In any case, it is worth making it yourself if you really love the look and don’t mind investing so much time. Another project that I can see making using bargello is a belt, or a clutch.

Overall, I think the book is great for both, relative beginners as well as more seasoned stitchers. You get a diverse and carefully curated selection of designs and techniques here. And the substantial techniques section is very well illustrated and organised, providing essential skills to complete stunning projects using wide range of techniques: main embroidery stitches, crewelwork embroidery, silk ribbon embroidery, counted cross stitch, canvaswork, bargello and free-motion machine embroidery

And now that you reached the end of this post, here is the best part: the publisher is offering a free copy to the US-based readers of this blog. All you need to do is leave a comment here by Sunday, October 26. I would  love to read a few words about your embroidery experience and what you might consider making from this book. The winner will be chosen in a random drawing and will be announced the following Monday. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

A NEW DRAFT-ALONG: Crossover Pleat Skirt

When I featured this pattern find on my blog about a year ago, it seems to have kindled your interest.

This is a 1959 pattern by Vogue Patterns. The envelope describes the style as ...

... a flared skirt in two length, which has deep front and back box pleats. Front pleats cross over at waist line. Wide shaped and narrow straight waistband. Four gored petticoat also in two lengths...

Fabric suggestions: 
Cotton satin - Gingham - Pique - Cotton Broadcloth - Barathea - Satin - Faille - Shantung - Wool Crepe - Lightweight Woolen

At that time I also stumbled upon a very similar skirt by Vivienne Westwood in Liberty floral print at whopping $500 ( I find Vivienne Westwood’s patternmaking is very inspiring, but the price can hardly be justified if you can sew.

Finding a very similar vintage pattern was really a lucky strike. Unfortunately, the pattern sizing is on a teenager side, and grading a pattern like this is more time consuming than drafting one from scratch, while having instruction sheet and the pattern pieces at hand gives wonderful guidance. I thought, I will just re-draft the pattern with slight modifications and post step-by-step instructions so you can follow along if you are interested.


At first sight, the skirt looks like a simple 3/8 circle skirt with angled crossover pleats. Theoretically you can integrate pleats as circle segments (not as straight rectangle inserts) from the beginning of the drafting process. However, this pattern has five front and three back pattern pieces.

It all made sense when I put together a somewhat accurate miniature paper mock up of the skirt by tracing pattern pieces from the instruction sheet to tracing paper. The mock up is now successfully hidden away out of reach of my curious daughters, hidden so well that I cannot find it ). Back to the ten skirt pieces:  I think the reason behind the number of pattern pieces seems to be the grainline placement and stability of the fabric. The angled pleats panels (7) as well as other pattern pieces are cut more or less on grain, possibly to avoid fabric distortion, especially for the pleats. Clever.

The two angled pleats at the front are made using a separate pattern piece each (7). These pleat pieces are then inserted between the center front pattern (8) and the side front (6) pieces.

The back also has two 'normal' box pleats, which are not angled and almost meet at the center back.

The Vivienne Westwood skirt, with its asymmetric pleat placement, is more improvisational, but the cutting principle is very similar. I think once you understand pleat drafting and grainline placement you can improvise endlessly.

So, here is the plan:

Tue, 21 Oct

I will start with drafting a basic ⅜ circle skirt, which can then be also used as a pattern for the petticoat or lining. It makes sense to start with the easiest piece first, and I will use this opportunity to go over some basic steps for those of you who don’t have experience drafting circle skirts.

Fri, 24 October

Next, I’ll draft the back with two not-angled pleats, and I’ll also look into seam and grainline placement in the pattern. This part offers a good overview of how the pleats are drafted in a circle skirt.

Tue, 28 October

Finally, the front with the angled pleats will be drafted, completing the draft along.

At the moment, I haven’t yet planned a sew-along for this skirt. Maybe after drafting is completed. For now, it would be great if you'd join me and draft your own skirts. It's just much more fun to do it as a group. If you are joining please leave a comment. Additionally, I have also set up another draft-along thread on the Couture Collective forum, so we can interact and post pictures.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blog Hop-On Hop-Off

Hello to Dublin, where the lovely Inna decided to pass on the blog hopping baton to me. You have to check out her blog - not only she shares the love for couture, but also has a great eye for prints.

Now, the questions...


to connect to the sewing community, share... Of course! But blogging for me is also an educational process, when, after researching and making, you sit down and document all some bits and pieces of the process. Putting what you learned down on 'paper' helps you remember crucial techniques and, sometimes, improve them. Images are a great help too, even the least noticeable mistake becomes prominent. Having your feedback is a reward for this work. 

I am also inspired by the success of those prolific bloggers and designers who were able to turn blogging into living. It is working out for me in some ways, and now, that my life is getting back to normal after the move last year, I hope I'll be able to offer you more. Which brings me to the next question...


That's the toughest one ) All the plans and patterns, and the need to focus... An IKEA Expedit shelf full of fabrics is a major point of distraction - I need to hang some neutral textile over it!

Ok, right now I am working on a couple of new patterns. One is the skirt inspired by a very young Russian designer Eugenia Kim (image), and another (in further future) is a culottes, inspired by this Dries Van Noten piece. 

There is also one simple circle skirt in making, in navy blue silk faille that I initially purchased for a dress ) 

... I keep changing my plans actually. I am determined to focus on those three!

What I am really working on: a tailored dress for my mother (we just had a great first fitting) and another dress for a good friend of mine. I hope I can feature those two soon. 

And, finally, I am in dire need of another 'smart casual' garment for a reception this Friday... I should get on to the next question before I come up with more plans!


I got tons a few drafts saved on my blogger dashboard. But usually it starts with notes, on my iPhone or in my hardcopy Moleskin agenda (I've become addicted to soft cover Moleskin agendas), where I make notes about my measurements, paste inspiration images from magazines, or articles, sketch. I used to keep those things as paper scraps all over the place, and could never find anything when I needed it, but now it's all in one place. 

I also carry around a regular notebook, and pull it out whenever I get a few spare minutes. Then, I draft a rough outline for a future post and a few details. 

I got more ideas than I could possibly turn over, but it is probably better this way than having nothing to write about. Time is limited and, so far, I can manage a post or two a week.

In the near future, besides posting finished garments, I would like to focus more on techniques and tutorials and write more reviews. These are labour intensive posts, but they are the most rewarding ones!


I'd love to hear more from a fellow couture addict, Leisa from A Challenging Sew. We share the same mentor, Susan Khalje, and love for the hand-made wardrobe. 

Question to you, readers! Does your fabric stash distract you from focusing on projects? That's my main issue, I wish I had one or two fabrics only in my stash. On the other hand, a friend recently told me she might take/buy some of my fabrics 'cause I got too many... Oh, my precious!!! Am I turning into a Gollum?.. 


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