Thursday, February 7, 2013

PMPS Draft Along #9: Straight Skirt Front

Readers, I must admit, I have never written such a detailed tutorial on pattern drafting. I've checked it several times for possible inaccuracies and should you still find some, please let me know as soon as possible!

In this tutorial I tried to explain every step where needed, such as placement of darts, making adjustments at the hem, etc. I used several resources as a guidance (some mentioned below), but I have adjusted the method trying to make it as accurate and as close to custom fit as possible. So far, it worked for my body. I hope the results will be worth it for you too.  

In this post I am covering the straight skirt front, and here are the drafting steps:
  1. Waist shaping
  2. Side seam 
  3. Waist dart
Note: To make the process easy to follow I am using letters in the alphabetical order to mark the step sequence on the pattern. If the Step 1 is A, for example, Step 2 will be B, Step 3 – C, and so on. This will ensure that you won’t skip steps, and can easily refer to instructions at any given step.

Let's check the points / lines on our skirt outline:

  • AD is the waist level
  • EF is the mid-hip level
  • GH is the low hip level
  • BC is the hem
Color coding in drafting: As an example, I use a blue or green pencils for the initial drafting; for adjustments, a red or orange; for the final adjustments I make after fitting the muslin, I use purple.

Before we start, please print out the linked PDF for drafting reference. You final pattern may look slightly different, but the drafting steps will be the same.

Step 1: WAIST SHAPING (point I)

Remember we measured the skirt length on the side, as well the lengths on the sides, center front and center back. We are going to use this measurements now to shape the waist. The reason we shape the waist is that having a straight line at the waist would result in excess fabric and cause wrinkling in that area. 

If you got two different measurements for your left side to floor and right side to floor, use the longer side measurement for the following calculation. Final adjustments for the asymmetrical sides can be made during the fitting. 

1. AI (waist shaping) = (skirt length at the (longer) side) - (skirt length at center front)

For a figure with flat stomach and/or curvy hips, point I will be under point A. If you have a protruding stomach and/or only slight hip curves, you may get a zero or negative value. In this case point I will be over or above point A.

Draft a waistline curve from point I to point D

Step 1: SIDE SEAM (points J to L)

To draft the side seam we will measure out waist, mid-hip and low hip circumferences from the center front.

2. AJ (waist line) = (front waist line calculation) + (front dart calculation)

3. EK (mid-hip line) = mid hip calculation. 

Note: In most cases you won't need any adjustments for the point K. Only if you have a longer dart in the front, which extends below mid hip level, you may need to accommodate the dart intake when making final adjustments. 

4. GH (low-hip line) = low hip calculation

5. (optional) BL (hem line) = BC + 1.9cm (3/4") 

Just to explain how this step affects the look of your skirt. On our initial outline the width at the hem equals the width at the hip. If you leave it like that, your skirt will look slightly tapered at the hem when you wear it. So, it is really your personal decision.  1,9 cm. (or 3/4") are suggested by Kenneth D. King as a reasonable amount to add to create an illusion of a straight skirt. 

6. Connect points J, K, H and L (or C, if you skipped step 5) to draft your side seam.

Possible adjustments at this point: In his Skirts book, Kenneth points out that for some people (for example, for those with a wider waist measurement) the side seamline may make a dent-in at point J. In this case you can smooth out the curve at point J by adding out 0,3 to 0,6 cm (1/8" - 1/4") towards the side seam line DC.

7. True the hip curve length. 

Using a ruler, measure your low-hip length from the hip line (point H)  to point J on shaped waistline. If necessary, adjust the low-hip length. Sometimes, making the hip curve shallower or fuller helps reduce or, accordingly, increase the length of the curve. If the difference is significant you may need to reposition point J, but this will happen only in very specific cases.

Step 3: FRONT WAIST DART (points M to P)

Note: Two darts should be used if the difference between the waist and the hip circumference is over 10". Details will be explained in a separate post. 

8. JM (dart distance) = 6 to 8cm (2 3/8" to 3 1/4")

Example: my waist is 70cm  (27 1/2") and I am using the dart distance of 7cm (2 3/4"). It's really a judgement call, but generally I would use 7cm (2 3/4") for the waist range of 68 to 76cm (27" to  30"), and 6cm and 8cm for smaller and larger waist measurements respectively.

Please note that point M is the dart center, not the nearest dart leg!

As I have mentioned in my dart post, I like to position front darts closer to the side seam, as recommended by the German Muller & Sohn pattern drafting system. Darts positioned closer to the seam line tend to look more flattering on the body. This is especially true if you don't have a flat stomach. Unless you make your garment in a very lightweight fabric, you darts will create some bulk. Moving the dart with its bulk closer to the side seam will make the stomach appear flatter, and it will also make the waist appear wider. If your waist is much narrower than your hips, you may want to decrease this difference by placing the darts closer to the seam. You may as well want to do the opposite to create the illusion of a smaller waist by placing the darts closer to the center, but make sure you are not accentuating your tummy. Just consider all the variables before you go for any of the dart options.

So, if you decide to use a placement closer to the center, use the Suzy Furrer chart, in my case, each dart would be 1cm closer to the center.

Fine, enough lyrical deviation on the dart theme. Let's move forward!

9. OM=MN= 0.5 x dart width

ON is the final dart width that we calculated in the previous post.

10. MP = dart length

If you have a (relatively) flat stomach, the line MP is squared down from the waist line IJ.  ( For protruding stomach, the dart point should be shifted toward the side seam ) Use the value calculated in the previous post.

Example: my dart intake is 3 cm (1 1/8") corresponding to the dart length of 10,5 cm (4 1/8").

Connect the points to draft the legs. NP is a straight line, and OP is slightly curved inward.

True the legs of the dart by adding to the shorter leg and correcting the curve.

To correct the curve,
(1) place the dart point over a corner of the table, with the dart on the table surface; (you will need a small cardboard sheet or cutting mat underneath to protect the table)
(2) crease the dart leg closer to the center with your fingers by pinching the paper;
(3) fold this line over to match the other dart leg, pivoting the folded paper portion from the dart point;
(4) temporarily tape the matched dart legs to close the dart.
(5) using a french curve, or a curved ruler, redraw the curve with a tracing wheel, making sure it perforates all the layers of the folded out dart.
(6) open the dart
(7) redraw the waist curve with a pencil, following the perforated line.

11. If your dart crosses the mid-hip line (EK), measure out the dart intake on the mid-hip line from K toward point F to find point K'. Redraw the seam line J-K'-H-L.


Your final skirt front pattern follows the points I-N-O-J-K-H-L-B-G-E

If you went for a slightly tapered look and didn't add width at the hem (point L), your pattern follows the points I-N-O-J-K-H-C-B-G-E

Please, copy your final pattern following the points above (including point C) to a new pattern paper. It will help make final alterations for the muslin. Make sure your pattern paper can accomodate the back pattern piece as well.


Please do leave comments and ask questions even if you haven't started drafting yet. I would love to hear how you are doing. Also, post on our Flickr group with or without pictures, it would be interesting to follow specific cases. 


  1. Wow! This is amazing, Marina! Thank you sooo much!

  2. Awesome, thank you!!! I've been drafting along and was eagerly awaiting this part; i can't wait to make my muslin!! - it's been a really cool experience seeing my own skirt block come to life! ^__^

  3. When you say "The line MP is squared down from the waist line LJ" do you mean that MP should be parallel to LJ? That point P should be the same distance away from the side as point M? That's what I think you mean and it gives me a dart that leans. Is that correct?

  4. Sorry, Clio! There was a typo in my post, and I fixed it :((. The dart should be squared down from IJ, which is the waist line. The dart won't be parallel to the center front and will look somewhat slanted on the flat pattern, but this is the goal as long as it is perpendicular to the waistline.

  5. Thanks Marina, this is great. I have all my points worked out and drafted onto thick paper. Will post a photo on the Flickr site soon.

  6. Thanks you so much for sharing such great information here.
    Actually, I am looking forward to such a info from long time. Again thanks to you dude.
    I think you have lots of good ideas. This is really a great stuff. Hope to see such a informative stuff in future!!

  7. Thank you marina for all the explanations. Now I guess I am a little bit late and I have some work to do on my front skirt. Hope to do it this week. Bye.

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  9. Thank you for this incredible tutorial! drafted my first skirt pattern and sewn my first skirt! Thank you, thank you for your invaluable help! I have a question. I saw another site that said when you redraw the waist curve once darts are placed, to ensure that you redraw the hem curving it so that the length stays consistent with the 3/8" added at the waist. I don't see that in your tutorial. Is it necessary? Can't wait to see your other tutorials!



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