Making a pencil skirt sloper and the resulting skirt

Why design your own pencil skirt sloper pattern?

Have you EVER owned a pencil skirt that fit you properly?  I find the ready to wear either gape in the waist, or are too tight across the hip or thigh or the darts aren’t right.  I guess perhaps my waist to hip ratio does not match the ideal hourglass figure.  Neither is my widest point in the regular hip – I am a true pear with my thighs wider than my hips but with a very square waist to hips too.

So Sew Easy - drawing your own pencil skirt sloper pattern.  It's so easy - spreadsheet provided.

Does your skirt fit like this? You need a custom pattern.

Now that I can sew (a little) I thought it was about time I tried to rectify this with my own pencil skirt.  But buying a pattern would not solve the problems and would require so many alterations and it’s so difficult to fit on myself without any help.  So drafting my own pattern from scratch seemed to be the way to go.  I know you all love free sewing patterns as much as I do, so let’s give this a go.

I’m going to show you how you can make your own custom pattern too.

So Sew Easy - drawing your own pencil skirt sloper pattern.  It's so easy - spreadsheet provided.

Want to make your own perfectly fitting skirt pattern – read on!

How to make a pencil skirt sloper

There are a number of tutorials online and I took inspiration from several to eventually come up with a system that worked for me and I drafted my pattern as follows:

  1. Take measurements at the natural waistline and at the widest part of the body (hips, bottom or thighs if needed).
  2. If you have a tape measure that uses centimeters, I recommend using that for this pattern drafting as it will give a more accurate measurement than using inches.  If you cannot use centimeters, then try to be as accurate as possible with your measurements in inches for the best finished result.  Do not round to the nearest inch.  (If you go to the bottom of the post, you can download a spreadsheet to convert inches to centimeters and vice versa and do all these sloper calculations for you.)
  3. Mark on the body where the measurements were taken, or tie around a piece of string or loose elastic and then measure the vertical distance between your measurements from waist to widest part of the body.So Sew Easy - measuring for your pencil skirt sloper
  4. Measure how long you want your standard skirt length from waist to hemline.
  5. Use large sheets of paper or tape together enough smaller pieces until you make up a piece of paper big enough to draw your pattern.  Many sewists like to use Sewable Swedish Tracing Paper or Medical Pattern Paper for pattern making – it’s strong enough to use again and again and can even be pinned to the body to check for fit.
  6. Make the paper the length of your skirt plus 4 inches, and the width of your widest measurement, divided by two and add back 4 inches.  This will give you some working area and allow for you to write down your measurements and calculations.
  7. Now draw a rectangle in the center of your paper which is the length of your finished skirt measurement from waist to hem, and the 1/2 width of your widest measurement plus sitting ease.  We will need some ‘ease’ in our skirt if it is not to be skin tight and then split when we sit down and our bottom and thighs expand.  So add some ease to your hip measurement - for slimmer bodies allow 1.5cm, for softer bodies allow 2.5cm.  Example – my hip measurement is 99 centimeters, so I divide by two to get 49.5 cm, add on 1.5 cm for ease and make my rectangle 51 cm wide.
  8. Length A to B is the length of the skirt from waist to hemline excluding the width of any waistband.
  9. Length A to C is the hip measurement divided by two, plus your ease of 1.5 or 2.5cm.
  10. Now find the center of the line at the top and bottom and draw a vertical line down the center to make two pattern pieces.  On the right hand side, make this the skirt front and mark that it is to be cut on the fold.  The left hand piece is the skirt back.
  11. Add a hip line D to E across the full width and down from the waistline according to your measurement from waist to hip.  Length A to D is the waist down to hip measurement.
  12. Your basic pattern should look like this so far.  I’m working in miniature so it is easier to photograph!

    So Sew Easy - drawing your own pencil skirt sloper pattern.  It's so easy - spreadsheet provided.

    The basic rectangle of length and hips plus sitting ease.

  13. Our bodies are curved at the waist so we need to curve our pattern.  First mark across on each side for a quarter of the waist measurement plus 4.25cm for the two darts on the back, and quarter waist plus 2.25 cm for the one dart on the front.  Make these points F and G.
  14. Now measure up 1.5cm from F and G and make these points H and I.  Draw lines from H to A and from I to C.  Make these lines slightly curved.
  15. Now to add the darts – let’s do the front first.  The dart should be centered 4 inches from the fold, so measure in 4 inches and make a mark on the waistline.  This is the center of the dart.  Now measure out 1cm on each side of your mark and these are the outsides of your dark.  Mark.  The length of your front dart is 10cm and it should run parallel to the skirt front. Draw up the dart, joining up the points you just marked.
  16. It should look like this.

    So Sew Easy - drawing your own pencil skirt sloper pattern.  It's so easy - spreadsheet provided.

    Showing the curve of the waist at the top of each piece.

  17. Procedures are the same for the two back darts.  We will space them evenly so divide your quarter waist measurement into 3 for the spacing.  My quarter waist is 20cm, so the first dart is at 6.7cm and the second at 13.3cm.  Dart lengths are 14cm for the one on the far left, and 12.5cm for the one on the right.  Each will be 2cm wide and run parallel to the side.  It should look something like this when finished, although yours may be neater because I am working in miniature.
    So Sew Easy - drawing your own pencil skirt sloper pattern.  It's so easy - spreadsheet provided.

    Showing the front and back darts added

    So Sew Easy - drawing your own pencil skirt sloper pattern.  It's so easy - spreadsheet provided.

    Your pattern so far

     

  18. Now marks F and G need to be smoothly curved from the waist to the hip line.  Yours may be more exaggerated than mine because I am rather square.  Your body is curved so draw a smooth curve rather than a straight line between waist and hip.  A drafting curve can help and will come in useful if you plan to draft or alter patterns yourself.

    So Sew Easy - drawing your own pencil skirt sloper pattern.  It's so easy - spreadsheet provided.

    Curve from waist to hip

  19. Now your basic sloper is ready.  However you do need to add seam allowances.

    So Sew Easy - drawing your own pencil skirt sloper pattern.  It's so easy - spreadsheet provided.

    The finished pattern – now add seam allowances

  20. Cut out your pattern pieces separately and then stick them down on a large sheet of paper and draw in your seam allowances around the outside. 5/8th of an inch is standard, you may want to add 2 inches for the bottom hemline.  Do not add a seam allowance to the front center as this is cut on the fold.

Testing your sloper pattern

Now, not all bodies are the same, and some of us like a skirt to fit differently to others.  So before you go cutting into any special or expensive fabric, do try out your new pattern on some muslin, cheapy remnant or old sheet to check the fit.  Then if any adjustment is needed, do remember to alter your sloper for next time.

Making a waistband for your skirt sloper

You can sew the skirt without an added waistband, just with facings and a zipper right up to the top.  Or you can add a simple straight waistband.  For the waistband:

  1. Draw a rectangle 6cm wide by the length of your waist measurement plus 4cm.  This extra is for the center back overlap for any button or closure.
  2. Add a 5/8th inch seam allowance around the entire outside and once folded in half, this will form a simple one piece waistband for the skirt.

Making a skirt from your sloper pattern

Well, all this looks good in theory but will it actually work out in practice?  Let’s see.   I had a piece of quite thick shiny satin in a navy blue from the remnant bin this week that was perfect for a trial piece.

So Sew Easy - draw your own pencil skirt sloper - it's so easy!

YAY – it works!  I made up this skirt directly from my sloper without any adjustment or fitting needed at all.  I sewed it, I put it on, it fitted!  And I have to say this is the best fitting pencil skirt I have EVER owned.  You can see from the following pictures how I am so square that its no wonder I’ve never got a RTW skirt that fits me properly.

So Sew Easy - draw your own pencil skirt sloper - it's so easy!I am really surprised how the skirt actually appears to make me look slimmer. I think this must just be down to the fact that it fits my body properly so there are no lumps and bumps showing, no places where the fabric is stretched making horizontal lines across my hips and no gaping waist.  Sadly the dark color doesn’t show up the fit in these photos as well as I would like – should have gone for a lighter color.

So Sew Easy - draw your own pencil skirt sloper - it's so easy!I am DELIGHTED with the results of this sloper.  Now that I have this basic pattern I can quickly run it up in any fabric knowing that it is going to fit me perfectly.  And it’s a great basis for starting to think about some kind of styling to the skirt – a yoke perhaps?  Pockets?  Color blocking, vertical seaming, or a contrast band at the bottom?  Or I could reduce the width at the bottom and make it longer and narrower for a retro fit.  The possibilities are now endless.

Do give this a try – its not too difficult and I’ll be happy to give any further explanation or help below.  Get stuck anywhere – drop me a note in the comments and I’ll do my best to help you out.

BONUS – I’ve even made up a spreadsheet that you can download and enter in your own measurements and it will work out all of the numbers for you to enter into the pattern sloper just in case you are worried about the maths.  You can enter your measurements in inches or centimeters and everything will be worked out for you in both centimeters and inches for you to draw up the pattern.  You can download it from my DropBox account -

 Pencil Skirt Pattern Sloper Calculations Spreadsheet

 

(Direct link – https://www.dropbox.com/s/xdpvmgpiioujm88/Pencil%20Skirt%20Sloper%20-%20calc%20spreadsheet%20-%20so-sew-easy.com.xlsx )

Enjoy – and if you make a skirt I’d love to see it.  Do post a link below.

UPDATE JUNE 2013 – this skirt is now the basis for our Sew A Skirt beginners tutorial series.  You can following along and draft and sew this skirt over the course of 13 different tutorial posts.  Covering choosing and preparing fabric, more about the drafting and seam allowances, marking and sewing darts, matching patterns, inserting a zipper, lining the skirt, hem finishes and more.  Join us for the Sew A Skirt series – click the button below to go to the first post.

How to Sew A Skirt. Beginners tutorial series covers fabric, patterns, cutting out, darts, zipper, lining, hems and more. You can totally learn to sew from this set of tutorials - from So Sew Easy.
Authored by: Deby at So Sew Easy

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85 Responses to Making a pencil skirt sloper and the resulting skirt

  1. Eva Essa says:

    Dear Deby, frankly I am sewing my own dresses and skirts since I was 9 years old, continuing with my daughter who is 24 years old, first time I see such an easy and wonderful way to sew a pencil skirt. Really simple and amazing. thank you

  2. Michelle says:

    Hi Deby, thank you for your post. I learned how to sew understitching from another one of your posts, thanks! I have a question about adding a waistband to this skirt. You said to make a rectangle for the waistband. Since the top of the skirt pattern is curved, doesn’t the waistband need to be curved too so it doesn’t buckle or have gaps at the sides? Or am I just having trouble envisioning how this gets put together? Thanks a lot! PS your skirt looks like it fits great.
    Michelle

    • Deby Coles says:

      So long as the waist of the skirt sits at your actual waist, then it’s OK to have a straight waistband, and the slight curve on the top of the skirt eases in just fine as it curves around the body. But if you lower the waist on the skirt, then the part you cut off to lower it, then becomes the contoured waist band for the skirt. Add on seam allowances and you are good to go. So it depends on where your waist band sits – at the waist, straight is OK. Lower on the hips, then the waistband should follow the shape of the skirt. Hope this helps.

  3. Lynne says:

    und this sight. This is fantastic! Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Alicia says:

    Step 13 isn’t making sense to me. My quarter waist is 23.75 cm. If I add cm for the darts on the front and back it crosses the middle line on my page. Making points F & G not where I believe they are supposed to be. Can you help tell me where I’ve gone wrong?

    • Deby Coles says:

      Is your waist measurement very close in size to your hips, or did you measure much lower down than your waist? This can often be the cause if you don’t have enough difference in the measurements. If you drafted with a very low waist, try again using the actual waist where it is narrower, and then chop the top off what you have drawn later on if you want the resulting skirt to sit lower down. Or if you really don’t have much difference in waist and hip measurements then you probably don’t need the darts as suggested anyway. You would have to draft leaving them out and then adjust at muslin stage to see how it works in real life and then transfer any adjustments back to the pattern. It can be complicated!

  5. Michael says:

    I love the sloper spreadsheet. Do you have a formula for taking all that information and giving a total fabric requirement?

    • Deby Coles says:

      I haven’t included that because it depends on so much, such as the width of the fabric you are using and whether it has any print or pattern that needs to be matched. Assuming you are using a solid fabric with no pattern to match, you’ll basically need twice as much as the pattern you draw. Once once the pattern is drawn out you can measure it, add on your seam allowance and hem allowance etc, and hopefully there is your answer. Most straight skirts should fit on a yard of fabric, depending on the width of the fabric versus the width of your hips.

  6. Sheila says:

    Do you have any tutorials for a fitted bodice sloper?

    • Deby Coles says:

      Sorry Sheila, I don’t. The bodice is a lot more complicated than the skirt and I’ve not yet made one for myself. It’s certainly on my to do list for one day, but its difficult without a person to help with the accurate measurements needed for this one.

  7. Jeanny says:

    Hi there, I thought I’d share the results of my pencil skirt I drafted from your tutorial. This is the first time I’ve drafted something from scratch, though I would say I’m an intermediate sewer. http://imgur.com/a/LYUPq

    I think it turned out fantastic! I only had to make a few minor adjustments along the way, and mostly due to my inexperience at drafting. I did lengthen the front dart to 14cm to sit at my hip joint, and I tapered down to the knees and added a vent. Maybe because of my tapering, I ended up with a bulge about half way down each side of the dress, so I added in a rather unorthodox dart, parallel to the ground. Whatever works right? :)

    Thanks for a great, easy to follow tutorial!

    • Deby Coles says:

      That looks amazing! I really love it, thank you so much for sharing what you made. I really like the floral one I made. I think the simple design of the skirt allows for a more bold fabric choice. I wonder if the length of the dart combined with where you started the tapering to create that little extra bulge of fabric at the hip? But so long as it works and fits, then its a unique design feature!

  8. Lana says:

    Hi, just a quick question. I have made sloper for my daughter. It fits great, but she wants the waist lowered from her natural waist to where she likes to wear her skirts. When I lower the waist line all but one dart in the back are only 1 1/2″ long. She isn’t very big, but I am not sure what to do at this point. Do I add a bit to the side and create new darts?? Do I just go with it??

    • Deby Coles says:

      Hi Lana,
      I wonder if she already has a ready-to-wear skirt that has a similar fit that she likes? Perhaps you could get some idea about the darts for your sloper by getting her to try this one on, and then taking a look at the shaping, how well it fits, where the darts might fall. In your daughter, if she is nice and young and slim, sometimes they really don’t need much in the way of darts. It also depends on the distance between the top of the skirt and the fullest part of the body – in a short distance because of a lower sitting ‘waist’ then the darts may be quite short and still work out. I hope these ideas help.

  9. Gaie says:

    Hi, I am trying to put together this pattern and have made it down to the back darts. At this point I am to divide the quarter waist measurement by three to find the even spacing for the two darts. However, going back to step 9, when making the A to C line (waist line on the chart), it instructs one to take the widest HIP, not waist, measurement and divide by 2, and then add the ease measurement. On the chart, the A to C is referred to as the waist and the C to D line the hip. My dilemma is that the measurements for the A to C line are too big on my chart and don’t correspond to my waist at all, when calculating for the back darts. Please explain and maybe by put your measurements on the chart as well. Thanks for you r help.
    P.S. I am new to this circuit…:)

    • Deby Coles says:

      Your waist has been curved in at earlier steps and now you will have a line at the back from A to H for your back waist measurement, which would usually be less than your hip. This already includes the allowance for the width of the darts. So simply trust your calculations at this stage for the darts. “divide your quarter waist measurement into 3 for the spacing. My quarter waist is 20cm, so the first dart is at 6.7cm and the second at 13.3cm. ” Measure the thirds along the curved waist line A to H from the point A and this will space them evenly. You can carry out a double check, by measuring the length A to H, subtracting the width of the darts and if you have worked it all out correctly, that should now come out to the quarter waist measurement and you should be able to see that it is less than the width of the hip. Mine is not very exaggerated because I have a thick waist. If you still are stuck, let me know.

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  11. Milly says:

    Great skirt pattern, but technically this isn’t a pencil skirt?? I thought pencil skirts follow the contours of the body, narrowing at the hem line?

    • Deby Coles says:

      Perhaps its a difference in terminology depending where you come from. In the UK, we would call this a pencil skirt – its straight up and down, like a pencil. Even a tighter tapered skirt would be a pencil skirt too. At least where I come from. If you wanted it tapered, then you would simple move in the bottom hemline and inch or two and draw slightly curved line down from the widest part of the hip to the new narrower hemline.

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  13. Kathryn says:

    thank you so much for this post! I did pattern making in my 20′s, so ive forgotten all the formula’s I used. Your method has brought it all back. I’m pear shaped with a tiny waist so I’ve been stressed about using commercial patterns. I’ll post an update once I’ve done my skirt.

  14. Lisa Inskipp says:

    Thank you so much for this. My first fitted garment, and it looks good! My daughter is in total awe of me (and a 21 she doesnt think i am good for much) and now seems to think i am a great seamstress…oh dear. I love how you explain things, and find both your patterns and your instructions so easy to follow.
    Lisa

    • Deby Coles says:

      Great news Lisa – so good to hear that it worked for you – see, it wasn’t too hard. And now you have your basic pattern, know how to sew it and know it its, you can make a similar skirt in lots of different fabrics and lengths. I’d really like to do a series on how to adapt the pattern to make other well-fitting styles of skirt – one more thing on my ever expanding to-do list! One day….And thank you for the thanks, it means a lot to me.

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