I love skirts. And knowing how to make a skirt pattern has enabled me to make many skirts for myself over the years.
If you’d like to make your own skirts using a basic skirt block, you’re in the right place, as this tutorial will walk you through the steps needed to draft a skirt block and develop it into a skirt pattern.
I also have this page full of pattern making tutorials!
What Is A Basic Skirt?
A basic skirt pattern is made from from two pattern pieces:
- A skirt front, usually cut on the fold
- A skirt back, cut as a pair for a centre back zip or on the fold if side seam opening
There may also be a waistband or waist facing too, for a clean finish.
Tools Needed To Draft A Skirt Block
The tools you’ll need today in order to draft a skirt block are:
- Pattern paper
- Metre ruler
- Pattern master / fashion ruler
- Paper scissors
- Glue stick / masking tape
- Spare paper
- Tape measure
- Calico / toile fabric
- Sewing machine
If you don’t have a clue what any of these are, pop over to the pattern making tools list!
How Do I Make A Basic Skirt Pattern?
To make a basic skirt pattern you’ll first need your measurements. This is the simplest method of drafting a skirt block, inspired by Natalie Bray!
There are four key measurements we need in order to get started drafting your skirt block and these are:
- Hip measurement
- Waist measurement
- Waist to hip measurement
- Desired finished length
If you haven’t yet taken your measurements, pop to this measurements for sewing post to learn how to take measurements.
The finished length is the only length measurement needed when starting to draft your skirt block. This is because things change when we put the toile / muslin on the body, and extra length may need to be added to compensate for a better fit, such as an abdomen that is wider than the hip.
There are further measurements needed, but not until much later in the skirt block drafting process!
Step 1: Decide Your ‘Waist Point’
To start drafting your basic skirt block you first need to decide where you want the waist of the finished skirt to sit on your body. This is a very important consideration, as the overall skirt length is determined from the centre front of this point.
If you chose to use an area that is not your natural waist, you will need to draft a new skirt block incorporating the natural waistline if you decide later on that you wish to create a dress block based on this skirt block. 🙂
For the purpose of this lesson, I will be measuring my waist 18cm above my hip line as this is a nice fit for me in skirts.
Now, keeping the tape measure parallel to the floor, measure around the girth of your body at your chosen point to get your ‘waist’ measurement. Note it down!
Step 2: Waist To Hip Measurement
Step two is to measure from this chosen waistline down to your hip line. This is your waist to hip measurement. Note it down!
Step 3: Hip Measurement
Next, you’ll want to take your hip measurement and add some ease to it, depending on how close you would like the fit at the hips.
My hips measure 110cm and I like a skirt to be quite fitted at the hip for a basic block, with minimal wearing ease, so that I can really modify it for different skirt styles later. I will add 4cm ease to this measurement giving me 114cm.
Note your hip measurement and add the following for guidance: 2cm for tight fit, 4cm for close fit, 6cm for comfortable fit. Try not to add anything more, as this can be added as design ease later on!
Step 4: Finished Length Measurement
Finally, we need your finished length measurement. For the purpose of creating a basic skirt block, I suggest it is no longer than knee length. We can always add more length later, and get creative, but for now, lets get the basic skirt block complete.
My centre front length measures from waist to ideal length: 52cm
Measure the length you would like down your centre front, from your chosen waistline point to your finished hem length.
If you don’t have someone who can help with this measurement you will need to ‘walk’ the tape measure down your centre front for an accurate measurement. Write this measurement down.
Step 5: Drafting The Skirt Pattern
Take a piece of paper that is 15cm / 6” bigger than half your hip measurement – this isn’t as complicated as it sounds! 🙂 – and roughly 5cm longer than your chosen centre front length.
Example: my hip + ease = 114. Divided by 2 = 57cm. Add on 15cm = 72cm. The reason for this is that we will draft the pattern in half only, and I now have enough paper to do so…
Action Step 1: Preparing To Draft The Skirt Pattern
Start by placing the paper in front if you with the paper length closest to you rather than the width.
Action Step 2: The Length Line
Take up your ruler and pencil, and mark in a straight line along the bottom edge of the paper, running the entire length. Make a mark at the start of this line, and a second mark however long you want your skirt to be. Mine (below) is 52cm.
Action Step 3: Right Angles
Create a second line – at 90º angle to the first, coming up from the far left of the page. Make sure the line is at 90º!!!
Action Step 4: Basic Rectangle
We now create a rectangle using the same lines. PLEASE make sure that all four corners are a 90º angle. To do this you can use your fashion ruler / pattern master / protractor and ruler combo.
Action Step 5: Finding The Yoke Line
This is our basic skirt pattern. Just kidding! 😉
We now need to add in the waist to hip measurement and a ‘yoke’ measurement. This is where our darts will reach to later on!
Now, my chosen waist to hip was 18cm. To draw it in, you need to mark a point on the skirt length line that is your ‘waist to hip’ length away from the far left line.
Do the same for your ‘waist to yoke’ measurement. The yoke line should be a standard 15cm down from the natural waistline but as I chose to lower my waistline by 4cm for an 18cm waist to hip measurement, I will also lessen the yoke position by 4cm.
Action Step 6: Paper Division
Your next step is to divide the paper in four lengthways. This helps us create a basic skirt block to develop further. The paper will need to be divided equally into four parts.
As my half hip width plus ease is 54cm, I know that each section will be:
54 ÷ 4 = 13.5cm
Action Step 7: Cutting To But Not Through
Now, fold along these lines so that we can see exactly where they are. Take your paper scissors and cut along the three folds. We are cutting from the hem up towards the hipline. DO NOT CUT FURTHER!
Next you need to cut from the waistline down to the hipline along the same lines. IT IS SUPER IMPORTANT THAT YOU CUT TOO, BUT NOT THROUGH!
The paper should not be completely separated, we want a hinge!
Action Step 8: Pivoting The Panels
Your next job is to pivot the smaller rectangles inwards at the waist using the hip hinge as the pivot point. That is the yellow dotted line in the image above.
You will need to glue or tape the overlapping waist sections. Aim to open up the hem by no more than 2cm as this is ample for a basic skirt block.
Use this guide for help:
You can see in the image below how this works:
- On the right hand side there are small yellow lines (2cm) which I used as a guide at the hem.
- On the left hand side there are now elongated triangles where the waist has been overlapped a little. The overlapping is creating waist shaping through to the hips.
Carefully fill in the empty space from the hip down with paper so that we have a nice flat pattern.
Action Step 9: Additional Measurements
Additional measurements you’ll need for the next stage of drafting the skirt block are:
- Back waist
- Front waist
- Back hips
- Front hips
Each of these measurements should be taken from the side seam to the side seam for consistency, because we all have different sized body sections.
Make a note of these measurements on the edge of your pattern paper!
Action Step 10: Extending The Centre Back
Your skirt pattern should have a gentle curve from pivoting at the hip hinge.
Raise the centre back waistline by 1cm, and gently curve this line towards the centre of the skirt pattern – which is in fact your side seam.
Doing this allows a little extra length in the pattern to go over your bottom.
At this point, the skirt should in theory fit your hips perfectly, and be slightly closer to fitting your waist as well.
Waist Shaping For Your Skirt Pattern
We now need to determine where your side seam will sit, and add in some waist shaping.
Now, traditionally we would simply fold the pattern created into half, and use the folded line as the side seam. Nowadays though, we do have additional things to consider as we have more lumps and bumps which greatly affect the waist shaping options.
Some people have a waist measurement that is larger than their hip measurement, and we will need to modify the pattern accordingly.
If we don’t open up the waist to accommodate the rounder size, the skirt will not fit around the waist. Which would be frustrating right?
Also, in this situation, the waistline of the skirt may potentially need to be raised further than you planned in order to keep the skirt up, otherwise, it could fall off the tummy, and down to the floor with no hips to keep it in place.
Action Step 11: Side Seam Maths
Start by writing down your back hip measurement. Mine is 60cm.
Then, write down your front hip measurement. Mine is 50cm.
My total hip measurement is 110cm
- 60cm (back) + 50cm (front) = 110cm
- 114cm – 110cm = 4cm ease
Do the above working out for your hip measurement ease please! (I know you already know the ease amount but bear with me!)
Action Step 12: Side Seam Placement
Ok, now this is where it can get a little confusing, so read, reread and then put into action!
- Take your back hip measurement plus half the ease amount, divide this number by two and mark it on the hip line of your pattern, measuring from the centre back line. Mine was: 60cm + 2cm (ease) ÷ 2 = 31cm
- Take your front hip measurement plus half the ease amount, divide it by two and mark it on the hip line of your pattern, measuring from centre front. Mine was: 50cm + 2cm (ease) ÷ 2 = 26cm
The two marks you make should be in the same place.
This is where mine sits:
You can see that the yellow line is the mark, and that I need my side seam to sit further to the front of the skirt to accommodate my big bum. 🙂
Action Step 13: Drawing In The Side Seam
You now need to square a line at this point up to the waistline and down to the hemline.You can see the blue line, and the yellow square depicting that it is indeed a 90º angle.
Getting the angles right at this point is essential for overall balance of the pattern.
You will only know for sure once it has been made up in toile / muslin form, but by working these elements now, we can potentially lessen multiple fittings! 🙂
Action Step 14: Waist Shaping
To find out how much ease is in the waistline of the pattern, you will now take your total waist measurement, and halve it.
Mine is 100cm, so smaller than my hips, and halved it becomes 50cm.
My skirt pattern now measures 53.5cm along the waistline. To find the amount of ease in the pattern through the waistband I do the following:
- 53.5cm – 50cm = 3.5cm
This means across the waistline of the skirt I have 3.5cm ease to move into darts on the half pattern, 7cm ease in total.
Deciding where to place this ease depends on the shape of your body. I don’t have much difference between my front and back waists – back waist is 52cm, front waist is 48cm – so I am going to pop most of the ease in the back and the side seams.
Action Step 15: Dividing The Ease
Divide the ease amount on the half pattern in half and apply this to your side seam.
3.5cm ÷ 2 = 1.75cm for me
This is how much I will shape my side seam by – 0.875cm either side of the side seam.
The shape of the curve you create will need to reflect the shape of your hips. If they are quite curvy, the side seam should be too. If it is more of a gentle curve, again, this should be evident in your side seam curve. 🙂
Divide the remaining amount into darts on the front and back of the skirt, using the original overlapped sections as guides.
I only have 1.75cm remaining, and as my back waist is smaller, I will apply it there, but I will create two gentle darts rather than one bigger one.
- Dart A: 1cm ÷ 2 = 0.5cm either side of the line.
- Dart B: 0.75cm ÷ 2 = 0.375cm either side of the line.
These darts should only taken as far as the yoke line we put in at the start.
I have placed Dart A 8cm away from the centre back, and Dart B is 6cm further along. Both are parallel to the Centre back line.
Making A Skirt Pattern
Your skirt block draft is complete and it is now time to trace off the front and back sections onto separate paper to create an actual skirt pattern.
Add your chosen amount of seam allowance around the pattern edges that are no cut on the fold. This is what your pattern pieces should look like.
You can see from the final skirt pattern I have created that the overall shape is slightly A-Line. This is a fantastic block to get started with, and I can now get super creative on developing design ideas.
Once you have finished making your skirt block pattern using the above instructions, you’ll want to test the fit.
To do this, cut the pattern out in your calico / chosen fabric and sew it up. Don’t forget to press seams, and leave an opening for you to try it on.
Try it on, modify the fit if needed, and take a photo to share with me on Instagram!
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.