Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Pattern drafting - the skirt block

I took a pattern drafting course at a local education college last year-ish and despite a promising start, it ended up being a huge disappointment. With my hunger for knowledge left unsatisfied, I decided to sign up to four 'intensive' lessons at the School of Sewing, the first of which I attended last Saturday. It was six hours long, we worked really hard and I now have high hopes for the next three lessons.

Working with Winifred Aldrich's Metric pattern cutting for women's wear - which is available for just £9.99 at The Works by the way - we plotted our skirt blocks, sewed them up in muslin, made  any necessary adjustments, copied them onto cardboard for longevity and then repeated for the facing.


We also spent a good portion of the afternoon practising drafting different skirt designs, using quarter scale versions of our block. This involved a lot of tracing, cutting out and glueing...just like being back at school!


The sessions are spread across four months to give us the opportunity to practice what we learn. So our homework is to draft and make a skirt to wear to the next lesson. In theory this sounds brilliant, but my big problem is that I don't really get on well with skirts. I hardly ever wear them and with the exception of my Tilly picnic skirt, I can honestly say I've not made a single one that I'm truly happy with.

The honest reason for this is my body shape. I'm not being self-deprecating here, the simple fact is this:

Although I have a relatively small waist, I also have muffin tops.

Why is this a problem? The muffin tops make it impossible to wear skirts on my high hip, because they simply ride up to my smaller waist and gape. So I have to make high-waisted skirts, which would be fine if I didn't have a short-ish waist and a big bust. I genuinely don't know how to get around this issue, so I just stay clear of skirts, but I'm quite happy living in dresses and jeans.

I didn't want to be a spoilsport in terms of the lessons though, so I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. Although these are the kind of skirts I'd love to a) be able to carry off and b) have the occasion to wear...

(Image sources: 1 / 2 / 3)

...I think I'd feel more comfortable in these more casual styles.
(Image sources: 4 / 5 / 6)

But nothing's set in stone, I'm still pondering and hoping that I'll actually end up with a skirt that I love wearing!

What about you, are you a skirt person? Are there any designs or patterns that you'd recommend? 

63 comments:

  1. That brings back memories! what a good price for that book I payed double the price that but it was a few years ago. It looks likes your going to have a brilliant time on your course, I wish our home work had been as fun as yours we couldn't make anything for ourselves :(
    I'm not a massive fan of skirts to tell the truth but I am mellowing to them as I get older! If I do wear one/make one it tends to be a pencil skirt not necessarily a tight fitting one but usually tapered in towards the hem.
    You could always try elastic in the back of the skirt to see if that stops if from ridding up?

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    1. Oh no, shame you didn't get to make anything for yourselves! Not sure I like the idea of elastic, but if it does the trick then I'd be a convert for sure ;o)

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  2. That class sounds very interesting. Maybe a skirt based on your new block won't ride up? Or you can make a dress and use the skirt block for it? I like skirts, especially long ones. They make me feel feminine and are more comfortable when working at a desk than jeans. For short ones I'm a bit self conscious, they're in my wardrobe as dresses but I hardly wear them, or I wear jeans under them. I like them on others though, maybe I should just give them a go.

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    1. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE skirts...just not on me :o(

      We'll be doing bodices, dresses and trousers in the course too...so this month it does need to be a skirt I'm afraid!

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  3. That's the book I use! £9.99 at The Works?! What a bargain!
    I loved playing with 1/4 and 1/2 scales at college. Our tutor even had a 1/2 scale mannequin so we could try out drafts in muslin.
    I'm the same as you with skirts. I really like them but rarely feel "right" in them. I too have a short waist and big bust.
    I like a dirndle skirt and Grainline has a cute slightly A Line mini that might suit your frame. (I think Tilly's just blogged about starting one. I find a slightly wider waistband more comfy but the super wide/high ones (as in image 5 for instance) simply fold over during wear. So I'd be cautious of those.
    You don't mention whether you did a toile of your block pattern before committing it to card? If you have, and it's tweaked to the exact curvature of your waist to hip, you should find that your previous problems with skirts have been rectified. After all, that's the pay off we should get for drafting a custom block, right?!
    If you haven't toile'd it yet though, I definately would before embarking on any drafting from it. In my experience, measurements alone don't give you the full story! Each block that I have drafted following instructions in Aldrich, have required tweaks after I tested them in muslin/calico.
    Px

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    1. We did do a toile...how on earth did I manage not to mention that! Haha! And yes, I needed to tweak the pattern after trying on the toile, but only a little bit. I do agree that the reason we sew is so that we can perfect fit and so on, but I just don't know if I have the body for skirts. Let's hope I can pull it off. I have wondered about the Grainline skirt...would love to give it a go one day as it's so cute! Thanks for all the advice, I'll take it all on board as you have mad drafting skills lady!

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  4. Wow! The all the reasons why you never wear skirts are exactly the reasons why I never wear skirts so I'm excited to see how you solve this!

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    1. Don't hold your breath Annabel...I will try and solve it, but it's going to be tricky!

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  5. How brave of you to try drafting up all these skirts, and thanks for the book rec .... maybe some day I'll get there.

    I also have trouble wearing skirts at the high hip due to waist/butt differential -- like you say, they just ride on up to my smallest part. There's a lot of distance between my waist and butt, so while wearing waistbands at my waist is flattering to that part, it makes my butt look droopy! I have a lot better luck with skirts that sit right on top of my hip-bone, with a more fitted top to give me some shape. I hope you find your comfortable skirt shape!

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    1. Thanks Andrea, I hope so too! It never ceases to amaze me how we all look similar in theory, but how in practice our bodies can be sooo different! Anyway, I love all the beautiful skirts you've been making lately and you look incredible in them!

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  6. Your class sounds wicked. I agree with one of the previous comments - if the block has been perfected to suit and fit you, you shouldn't have the riding up issue anymore. My sewing class teacher also says something similar - and that once you find your the shape that suits you best, you day just tweak it for variations to make different looking skirts.

    I spend most of my time in trousers too - I'm determined to make more skirts this year (especially ones with pockets!) So far, I've made the Kelly skirt and New Look 6843, both of which I think will be my go to basic patterns. Good luck with the rest of your classes!

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    1. Thanks Sabs! I have the Kelly skirt too and can't wait to give it a go!

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  7. Hi i will be interested to see how you feel about this course when you have finished it, because i have been thinking about doing a pattern drafting course for some time now and a Saturday school would be perfect for me. I have just borrowed the book from the libary and will look out for it at 'The Works' Love the blog by the way.

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    1. Thanks zozo and yes, I'll let you all know how I get on and my overall thoughts when I finish!

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  8. Skirts can be so lovely on a hot summer day... and no matter your body shape, you can find one that works! I use "Girl with Curves" for inspiration... see some example skirt outfits here. (And I'm not associated with her in any way other than being a blog fan!!)

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    1. Thanks so much for the link! She's got a lovely blog and some seriously cute skirts!

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  9. The book has now sold out online! Boo! That's the one my teacher used, but I never got around to buying one yet... Will pootle around the local shops to see if they have one. It's a bargain.
    I have a small waist and big bust too, and for my first draft I made something very similar to skirt 2 from your choices above, was pretty simple to draft but with the seaming it doesn't look too plain. Maybe colour block your top with the skirt? Perhaps you can also cut the pattern long (below knee), then play with the length to see what you feel balances out your body best? I'll look forward to seeing it!

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    1. Thanks for all your brilliant suggestions! Shame the book's sold out online, hope you find it in-store instead!

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    2. It's back in stock and one is now on its way to me!! Thanks for the heads-up :)

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  10. What about a very thin waistband, I like to finish a waist band with baid binding or grosgrain ribbon which finishes it well but doesnt' add any height.

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    1. Yep, I think this could definitely work!

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  11. I'm sure you'll figure the proper skirt for your body type. The circle skirt varieties you've made during previous projects all look wonderful on you.

    This class you're taking sounds really exciting. I would love to learn more about drafting and modifying patterns. I'm going to have to check out the book you've recommended.

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    1. Aaaw thanks Michelle, I guess the circle skirts are pretty cute to be honest! The book is definitely a great place to start with drafting!

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  12. Wow, what a fun class! I'm excited to see how you like it! I hope you can find a skirt style that you're comfortable with.

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  13. I feel similarly about skirts and have ended up with a bunch of circle skirts as a result, but I'd still like to try my hand at a new pencil skirt draft if I could keep it from riding up. lol oh well.

    I'm curious at how well you liked the book. (It looks like several commenters before me have also used it?) I was looking into maybe buying the Metric pattern cutting for Menswear (trying to branch out a little) but hadn't really heard any helpful reviews of it.

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    1. I'm just not keen on pencil skirts for me...I think I'd feel uncomfortable and I also think they might be a bit too dressy for me!?! The book I mention is one that many use when dabbling in pattern drafting...it's a good place to start, but there are also many others on the market too!

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  14. I have the same problem with skirts! And everything, really: small torso, waist, and hips, large chest, and a bit of muffin top instead of curvy hips! I have a skirt a bit like #2 up above, and the ruching tends to disguise my insecurities well. Maybe it could work for you too :)

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    1. Thanks so much for chipping in...I may have to look into that if it works for you!

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  15. I generally do not wear skirts because of my thighs. They are fairly large and rub up against each other, so unless I am wearing stockings, skirts are uncomfortable.

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    1. I'm so glad you said this! My thighs rub too, so if I wear skirts in the summer I have to make sure I'm not walking far or else it gets very uncomfortable!

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  16. I got this book from the works too. Drafting is so much fun, don't let the skirt issue put u off. You will find a flattering shape and never look back x

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    1. Thanks Rachel, that's very encouraging!

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  17. Mayhaps with your rad skirt block you can give oa pencil skirt a go again and see how everything sits as it would be tailored to your measurements? Otherwise give in the the awesome of gathered skirts- they are super rad!

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    1. I should probably try, but I've never been a fan of the pencil skirt for myself...they seem too 'smart'...

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  18. I have also used the Winifred Aldrich book and successfully made a skirt, bodice and trouser blocks. Having always had difficulty getting well-fitting skirts and trousers, it is wonderful to, at last, have a pattern that fits!! I'm curious about the half/quarter scale examples you worked on. This may seem a daft question, but does that simply mean dividing all the measurements on a block by 2 or 4?
    Judy

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    1. Wow, it sounds like you've had great success with this book and drafting...very encouraging indeed! Yes, I think 1/4 scale versions are basically miniature versions of your pattern pieces. I'm not sure if they are divided by 4, but I guess they must be as the name suggest that!

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  19. I like skirts! All types, I think! May be only midi is not my skirt%)

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  20. Hello! Just discovered your blog today so, yay for that!

    I'm not sure if you've already seen it but there is instructions for drafting your own gathered skirt on Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing: http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/2009/08/sew-full-gathered-skirt-part-one-make.html. I've made this a bunch of time in different fabrics and I think it's awesome.

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    1. Hi, thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, I am familiar with Gertie's wonderful tutorial and have used a variation of it before...it's excellent isn't it?

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  21. I also don't own a single skirt that I honestly feel comfortable in. And God knows I've made countless skirts! I still haven't figured out why it doesn't work for my figure, but, like you, I keep trying in the hope that I will finally find one that I like/feel comfortable in! I'm working on a peplum skirt right now... maybe this one is going to be the one?

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    1. Oooh, I hope so Adrienne!!! It's funny you should say that though, as I've loved you in every one of your skirts you've blogged about!

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  22. I don't really get on with skirts either. Although I will say I had more success with self-drafted ones so hopefully your skirt will work! The class sounds brilliant.

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    1. Thanks Catherine...time will tell ;o)

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  23. I wish there had been a class like that around here! I found a similar book in Swedish and learned by reading and just trying. However, that came with both printed blocks + instructions on how to alter them, and with instructions for how to draft from scratch. I take it the book you uses don't come with printed blocks?

    I love skirts and basically live in them! I also think we have very similar body types - I have quite a lot of hips, generous padding for sitting down ;), small waist and a full bust. I also sport a tiny back, making my hips look huge from behind =)
    Pencil skirts ride up, even well-fitting one's are uncomfortable to sit down in. Gathered or very pleated skirts looks... very, very fluffy (can work with a tight jersey top, though). A-lines or half-circle (at my natural waist) works the best for me.

    Good luck, I hope you'll find a skirtstyle you feel comfortable in!

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    1. Hi Erika! You're right, this book I'm using doesn't come with any printed blocks...you just draft everything from scratch. I'm with you, I think A-line and circle skirts look best on me...but again, the waistline always sits too high due to my body shape...

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  24. I'm very jealous you're going to pattern drafting classes! BUT I had bought the 9.99 pattern drafting book, having spied it on amazon. Cool eh?!?
    I think drafting your own will unlock sooooo many new possibilities !!

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    1. Good on ya Winnie, I think you'll find it really useful as an experienced stitcher ;o)

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  25. I say... DO IT! And make a skirt like something you've never made (and might never make again) while you've got an expert on hand to answer questions. When you're a famous designer you'll be so happy you made a pencil skirt! ;)

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    1. You are so darned wise! Although I may not go for a traditional pencil skirt, I have decided to take your advice and make a style I wouldn't usually! If it all goes wrong, I'm blaming you ;o)

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  26. That class sounds great - can't wait to see the skirt you draft for the next lesson!

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  27. Up until I started sewing I never wore skirts, but since they're like the easiest to make I had a change of heart. It started out with looser fitting, circle and pleated skirts up until I drafted my own pencil skirt pattern when I realised I could make a fitted skirt that would actually fit. Hopefully you'll find the same when you make up yours! Also thanks for the heads up on the Winifred Aldrich book, I've been looking to get it for ages but wasn't sure it was worth the investment!

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    1. Thanks Hazel, it's great to know that you're now wearing skirts you didn't think you could!

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  28. I have the same problem drafting room for my "pouch" in pants or a skirt. If you just divide the waist circumference by 4 like they tell you, then the amount is the same in the front and the back and doesn't help the front pouchy area and creates bags in the butt. I think I've finally got a solution. I leave the back alone and on the front pattern piece, make a horizontal cut and pivot to make a pie slice it wherever the pouch is (for me, it is 3 inches down from the waist). Only slice down to the sewing seam line, not the cut line. This way, you can keep the integrity of the waistline, but make room for the pouch. I also have a wider waist, so my patterns always look like an upside down bell. It used to bother me because no pattern does this but the clothes fit so well!! Don't be afraid to experiment!!!

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    1. Thanks so much, I think experimenting is definitely the way forward!

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  29. Yes! Thanks Marie, I have just ordered a copy of this book too. I'd like to experiment a bit more with my own pattern drafting this year. I don't wear skirts for the same reason as you - muffin top! So I'll be really interested to see how you get on with drafting one of your own x

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    1. Gosh, I feel a lot of eyes are on me regarding the skirt fit...hope it works! Haha! Also, wish I was getting commission for all these book sales ;o) I salute you muffin top lady...wish we could just saw them off...hehe!

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  30. That's so cool that you're taking a drafting class. I can't wait to see your finished product! As much as I try to be, I'm not much of a skirt person either. I've found that a-line skirts look the best on my hippy, pear-shaped figure. Skirts that are more structured, like princess seamed and gored skirts, are ideal. Full skirts are generally a big no-no, and pencil skirts just seem inappropriate with my big tush. Good luck on finding a fit that works for you!

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    1. Thank you Becca! I have exactly the same issues as you...I think dresses are the way forward ;o)

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  31. I have the same issue with skirts being short waisted and having a large bust. I make skirts with no waistband - just a facing and wear them below my waistline so they sit just above my hips. This gives me some length in the body.
    The skirt pattern will come into play when drafting dress patterns so not a waste unless you don't like wearing dresses either. The course you are doing sounds like a good investment. I was very disappointed with the course I did at the school of sewing - the 2 day Chanel Jacket course.
    My problem is that having done a pattern drafting course and making my blocks I have put on a stone in weight!

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    1. Oh no, sorry to hear about the Chanel Jacket course! May I ask why you were disappointed...did it just not live up to your expectations or was there something more specific wrong?

      I love dresses, so fingers crossed the course will definitely be of use!

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  32. I have the same issue with thighs which makes both bought trousers and skirts quite a problem. In fact it was this that drove me to pattern cutting classes in the first place. Whatever our "figure faults" there is a style and colour that is just right and if it fits rather than pulls or rides up we can draw attention to the more beautiful parts of our bodies. For our figure type I find an A line skirt with the darts closed and the skirt spread, or a neat yoke and very gentle gathers into it (I copied a 1960 Jaeger suit), works out well. I know A line can look fuddy duddy, but for me if it is relatively short (say 4 to six inches above the knee) and worn with dark tights it makes your legs look longer and balances you out. Anyway looking forward to seeing what you choose to make. Good luck.

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