How To Draft A Basic Skirt Pattern

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What is a basic skirt pattern?

The basic skirt pattern (also called the pencil skirt pattern) is one of the most important sewing patterns for dressmaking. You can use it to make just a simple skirt, or change (open and close) the darts to create new designs. This way you can make an A-line skirt, flared skirt or even culotte pants. You may add pleats, folds, flounces or gathers to the whole skirt or just a part of it to make the design more interesting. By sewing the skirt to a bodice, you make a dress. The possibilities for making your wardrobe more interesting with this simple skirt are simply endless. Moreover, you can easily start drafting yourself.

This page includes an easy-to-use basic skirt pattern calculator that will compute the dimensions of the sewing pattern based on your body measurements and the approximate fabric consumption.


Step-by-step instructions how to drat the basic skirt sloper are also included.

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After calculating the basic skirt pattern dimensions, you can download the results as a single PDF document.

This is a sewing pattern I would recommend for all beginners. Start with drawing the pattern and using a woven fabric to try it out. You can either sew the FRONT and BACK pattern piece together or just pin it.

Once you manage to make a basic skirt pattern based on your body measurements, you will be able to make any new design that will fit you.

This page contains:

Basic skirt block on a tailor's dummy. The sewing pattern was drafted using a basic skirt block pattern calculated.
Basic skirt block.

Taking body measurements

To take body measurements for the basic skirt sloper, you will need the following tools:

  • tape measure
  • elastic bands for marking the waist and hips
  • pen and paper (to write down the measurements)
Natural waist measurement for drafting a basic skirt sloper.

1. Waist circumference

Make sure you measure your waist at its most narrow part (the natural waist). This is important for the correct placement of the skirt waist and prevents the skirt from dropping downwards and misplacing the hips of the skirt.

Place an elastic band on your natural waist. It will help you find the most narrow part of your waist and simplify taking further measurements.

Hip measurement for drafting a skirt sloper.

2. Hip circumference

Measure your hip at its widest part. This measurement is necessary for wearing the skirt comfortably.

Place an elastic band on this part of your hips. However, make sure it does not move while you take the next measurement.

Natural waist to hip measurement for drafting a skirt sloper.

3. Waist to hip length

Measure the distance (length) between your natural waist and widest hip. This is when the elastic bands come in handy – you know exactly where you have measured the waist and hips.

4. Skirt length

From you natural waist measure the required skirt length.

A knee-length skirt is ideal for drafting the pattern. It is easy to draw and modify. If you wish to make a full length-skirt design, later on, you can easily prolong the side seams and center FRONT and BACK of the sewing pattern later on.

How to use the basic skirt pattern calculator?

Enter your body measurements you have taken according to the previous steps and click or tap “Calculate”.

A usual 5 cm (2”) ease at the hips is already entered in the calculator below. This is the standard ease for the basic skirt sloper.


On the other hand, there is no ease (0 cm/inch) at the natural waist. This also prevents the skirt from dropping downwards and misplacing the hips of the skirt.

The result will be two patterns for the basic skirt block. The first one has one dart at the FRONT and the BACK. The second one has two darts at the FRONT and BACK pattern pieces. You can also combine these patterns. You can combine the one-darted FRONT and two-darted BACK pattern for example.

Basic skirt block calculator


* The seam and hem allowance is used to calculate fabric consumption.

We do not store, nor share any data you put into the form above.


Sewing pattern dimensions for your basic skirt block


Basic skirt sloper with one dart at the front and back.
Basic skirt sloper with two darts at the front and back.

Approximate fabric consumption


In the image below you can see the approximate fabric consumption for the whole basic skirt sloper. There isn’t any difference between the fabric consumption of a one-darted and two-darted pencil skirt sewing pattern.

The one-darted and two-darted basic skirt patterns have the same fabric consumption.

Approximate consumption of fabric for basic skirt sewing pattern based on personal measurements.

How to make the basic bodice pattern step-by-step

To draw the pattern itself, please prepare all the necessary tools and follow the steps below.

You will need the following:

You will use the French curve ruler or flexible curve ruler to draw the curved side seam between the waistline and hipline.

In the instructions below, some of the lines are grey and some are black. I recommend drawing the grey lines with a pencil. These lines are mainly guidelines that will help you position individual points and parts of the pattern. The black lines are the ones of the pattern itself. Use a sharpie to draw them.


If necessary, iron the tissue paper before drawing the pattern. Never use creased or crumpled paper for drawing patterns.


Feel free to use the basic skirt block calculator above to gain exact dimensions and specific instructions for drafting the pattern.


You can also calculate the individual dimensions by yourself according to the formulas below.


How to draft the basic skirt pattern step-by-step


In the steps below you will find, how to draw a one-darted pencil skirt pattern. If you’d like to draw a two-darted pattern, draw the corresponding markings at waist based on the calculator results above.


1. First, draw a rectangle based on the calculated values. The bottom of the rectangle is the hem of the skirt pattern. The top will be the skirt waist and the rectangle height will be the skirt length. Also, draw markings that indicate the future side seams and hip line (see the image below).


a = skirt length

b = waist to hip length

c = (hip circumference + ease at hip)/4

d = (hip circumference + ease at hip)/4

Drawing a rectangle based on personal body measurements that is a base of a basic skirt sloper.
a
b
c
d

2. Draw a vertical line passing the marking at the bottom. This line is the future side seams of the skirt. Also draw a horizontal line passing the marking on the left side of the rectangle. This line indicates the hip line (see the image below).

Drawing a horizontal line that is a hip line and vertical line that is the side seams of the pencil skirt.

3. Label the individual parts of the pattern: centre FRONT, centre BACK, hip, waist, hem and side seams (see the image below).

Describing individual parts of the skirt sewing pattern: centre FRONT, centre BACK, hip, waist, hem and side seams.

4. Draw markings on the waist FRONT and BACK according to the calculator results. These markings indicate the placement of the darts and the side seam at the waist (see the image below).

FRONT

a = 2,5 cm (1”)

b = (waist circumference + ease at waist)/8

c = (waist circumference + ease at waist)/8

BACK

d = 2,5 cm (1”)

e = (waist circumference + ease at waist)/8

f = (waist circumference + ease at waist)/8

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A 0 cm (0”) ease at waist is recommended for this type of skirt.

Drawing markings on the waist of the skirt pattern draft.
b
c
a
e
f
d

5. Draw the centre fold lines of the darts at the FRONT and BACK. Also, draw vertical lines at the waist that start at the hip line. These lines end above the drawn waist line so that the skirt can easily accommodate the hips. (see the image below).

a = 10 cm (4”)

b = waist to hip length + 1,2 cm (waist to hip length + 1/2”)

c = waist to hip length + 1,2 cm (waist to hip length + 1/2”)

d = 13 cm (5”)

Drawing centres of the darts at the skirt waist.
a
c
d
b

6. Draw the legs of both darts (see the image below).

Drawing legs of the darts on the FRONT and BACK pattern piece.

7. Using a French curve or flexible ruler, draw the curved part of the side seams above the hip line. Draw a straight side seam of the basic skirt below the hip line (see the image below).

Drawing the curved part at the hips (side seam) using a French curve or flexible ruler.

8. Using a French curve or flexible ruler, draw the curved part of the waist (see the image below).

Drawing the curved part of the waist using a French curve or flexible ruler.

9. Your basic pattern is ready (see the image below). You can now transfer the pattern to selected fabric and sew a muslin.

Drawing the curved part of the waist using a French curve or flexible ruler.

Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowances before cutting the pattern pieces.

How to develop a basic skirt waistband

When it comes to waistbands, there are multiple alternatives, you can choose from:

Cotton basic skirt without a waistband and with a facing.
Illustration of a basic skirt without a waistband and with a facing.

a) facing without a waistband

Cotton pencil skirt with a straight waistband.
Illustration of a pencil skirt with a straight waistband.

b) straight waistband

Cotton pencil skirt with a shaped waistband.
Illustration of a pencil skirt with a shaped waistband.

c) shaped waistband

Read on, to learn more about drafting waistbands for the basic skirt pattern.

a) Facing without a waistband

You can design your basic skirt without a waistband. In this case, the darts of the skirt will end directly at your waist. All you have to do is to develop a facing for the waistline. To do so, follow the steps below:

1. Trace the pattern waistline and a line that is 5 – 7 cm (2 – 3”) below it. Moreover part of the side seams and centre FRONT and BACK (see the image below).

Drawing the curved part of the waist using a French curve or flexible ruler.

2. Cut the traced pattern pieces. Get rid of the darts and connect the FRONT pieces and the BACK pieces and label the pattern. You should have one half o the FRONT facing and one half of the BACK facing. (see the image below).

Describing individual parts of the skirt sewing pattern: centre FRONT, centre BACK, hip, waist, hem and side seams.

3. Using a French curve or a flexible ruler, smooth the pattern pieces to make them nice and curvy. (see the image below).

Describing individual parts of the skirt sewing pattern: centre FRONT, centre BACK, hip, waist, hem and side seams.

4.

Describing individual parts of the skirt sewing pattern: centre FRONT, centre BACK, hip, waist, hem and side seams.

b) Straight waistband

Use the straight waistband, if you want the skirt to sit directly on your natural waist and if the waistline of the basic skirt is not too curvy. To draft it, follow these instructions:

1. Pick your basic skirt pattern. Measure the waist on the FRONT and BACK pattern piece. Do not include the darts in the measurements. Add the FRONT and BACK measurement and multiply the result by 2 (see the image below).


2. Using a long ruler, draw a long line on a piece of tracing paper. Also, mark point A – the beginning of the waistband (see the image below).


3. On the horizontal line you have just drawn, mark points B and C. The AB measurement is the extension of the waistband. The BC measurement is the complete length of the skirt’s waist (see the image below).


4. With a pencil, draw two perpendicular lines from points A and C. (see the image below).


5.


6.


7.


c) Curved waistband

Go for the curved waistband (also called the shaped waistband), if the waist of the skirt is quite curvy, or you prefer more shaping around the waist.

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2.

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8.

9.

10.


Half-size basic skirt pattens for practising pattern alternations

You can download printable half-size basic skirt patterns (A4 format) and practise pattern alternations like: moving darts, adding darts or adjusting their shape. Further adding pleats, gathers, flounces or other decoration. The darts of these patterns are a little different from the ones at the instructions above. They were made to fit my half-size dummy.

Working with the basic skirt sloper

If you are just beginning with making your own dress patterns, you might find the following publication by Adele P. Margolis useful. It will teach you how to alternate basic blocks (like the basic skirt sloper in this tutorial to make a different skirt type) to make your own designs (click here to read my review). 

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9 thoughts on “How To Draft A Basic Skirt Pattern

  1. I have to day thank you sooo much for sharing this wealth of information. I used your circle skirt calculator and it was very easy. I love and appreciate your attention to detail. Take care!!!!

  2. Amazing. Thank you very much. Would you do it also for a basic bodice block? That would really be awesome!!

    1. Hi, I’m happy to read your comment :). I’m definitely planning to make a calculator (dimensions, fabric consumption, etc.) for the basic bodice block and sleeve too. However, it will take me some time as I have finished some of the features on this page (like downloading calculated results as PDF documents) only recently.

    2. Hi Fanny,

      I have done some work and made the basic bodice block drafting tutorial. It also includes a calculator for individual parts of the basic bodice pattern (all downloadable as pdf document).
      I will have to make some minor adjustments (clarifying how to connect the bodice and skirt). However it is a solid base you can use to draft the pattern and make your own designs.

      Here is the link: https://anicka.design/how-to-draft-a-basic-bodice-block-pattern/

  3. I can’t thank you enough for your hard work and providing to all of us these wonderful information. You made the sewing tutorials much easier. Thanks a million

  4. Hi, and thank you so much for all of your hard work in putting together these tutorials!
    For the skirt, what kind of waist band would you recommend?

    1. Hi, thank you very much for your comment.
      Draft a standard (not elastic) waistband – either a straight or a curved one.
      A striaght one is easier to explain in text. It is actually a long rectangle that accomodates the skirt waist circumference + overlap for the button. (The darts at the waist are not part of the circumference). The width of the waistband depends on your personal preference.
      Btw: thank you very much for your excellent question. I will include drafring waistbands into the tutorial :)!

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