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

  1. Sydney strong says:

    Hello Deby. Thank you for the wonderful pattern. However I’m having some problems with the back waist (point f). My back 1/4 waist plus 4.25 cm is putting me over the half way point, meaning the measurement is going over to the right side. My measurements for waist is 89 cm. please help! Do I need to add 4.25 cm to that side?

    • Deby Coles says:

      I’ll drop you an email Sydney. I think perhaps you have a similar shape to me, not much difference between waist and hip measurement. We can work this out. I’ll write soon.

      • Debbeg says:

        I have this problem too. Could you provide that information? My hip is 99 but my waist is 90. According to your calculations my F will appear over the center line. My measurement would be 29.5 I think. How do I fix please?! Thank you so much!!!

        • Deby Coles says:

          If you have such a very small difference between your waist and your hips measurement, then you won’t need so much in the way of darts. The darts are there to bring in the difference from the width of fabric at the hip to the usually much reduced width needed at the waist. You may only need the shortest and thinnest of darts to achieve this. Or maybe no dart at all if you shape in the sides. Its hard to say because although measurements are a guide, body shape also is a big factor to fit. You may have to make a skirt without darts, using the hip measurement and then let that excess fabric be your guide when you try it on, smooth out the fabric and see what it tells you about where you need the darts and how bit they need to be. Sadly my spreadsheet can only work within a certain set of parameters because outside of that, fits tends to be more personal than standard. You might find this one useful – it shows how to add in darts by ‘feel’. http://mellysews.com/2013/05/draft-and-sew-a-skirt.html

          • Debbeg says:

            Thanks again for your advice. I drafted the pattern with one dart, but I’ll sew my muslin without it and see if I need it. If my skirt comes out good I’ll post a photo. Thanks for being such an invaluable resource!

          • Deby Coles says:

            Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

  2. Awesome post! Though, isn’t this a straight skirt and not a pencil skirt because it’s not tapered below the hipline? 🙂

    • 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.

  3. Alyson says:

    I used this to make a muslin for a pencil skirt for a Craftsy class I am taking. I put the measurements into the excel spreadsheet and made the pattern and sewed up muslin. Amazing I do not need to make any adjustments other than the hem length. Best fitting skirt I have ever worn. Thank you!

    • Deby Coles says:

      That’s great news Alyson. I’m so glad to hear that the tutorial and spreadsheet was useful. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and let me know it worked out well for you.

  4. louise says:

    Hi I am a beginner, so I thought I’d have a go at your pattern as it is well explained. Ive drawn the pattern, but I’m not so sure about how to cut it. How many pieces do I need to have?

    • Deby Coles says:

      Hi Louise, You will have two pattern pieces. Then you use them to cut 3 pieces of fabric, two mirror image pieces for the back and one whole one for the front, cut on the fold of the fabric. You might find the Sew A Skirt series useful – it tells you everything on this skirt project from start to finish and has a step by step for every lesson.

  5. Barbra Ann says:

    Hi Deby Coles,
    Thanks for your response, I am still having a bit of a problem understanding some things. I made a PDF with a diagram of what I am not understanding. Is there anyway I can email it to you as it’s better to see it than my writing my question

    • Deby Coles says:

      Yes, you can send me an email using the little link that looks like an envelope, top right hand side of the site. But I’m on vacation this week so it might be a few days until I can get back to you. I’ll do my best to help.

  6. Barbra Ann says:

    Can someone please explain the instructions below to me. I can’t figure out
    …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…..when I look at the picture, I can’t figure out where to place these marks. PLEASE HELP

    • Deby Coles says:

      If you look at the picture of the finished pattern, you can see the big A and C at the top on either side. F and G are in the middle, near the center and mark the side seam of the skirt at the waist for the front and back. So you measure a 1/4 of the waist plus the allowance for the width of the darts. I hope this helps. Let me know if you can’t figure it out. Deb

  7. Amanda Jones says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I just completed my skirt after following your tutorial. I added a kick pleat in the back. Honestly the most difficult part was the finishing (e.g. waistband, zipper). But now I know what works for me so I can make more skirts. Thanks!

  8. edendawn1 says:

    Deby,
    I can’t wait to try this; I have such a straight figure that any skirt I try on it too tight around the waist and it always sticks out on the sides because I have no hips! lol! I’ve stopped looking for dresses and skirts because nothing ever fits right. I’m very new to sewing so I’m having my daughter help me out…lol! Will try to send you a finished skirt when we’re done. I love wearing skirts & dresses during the summer and this really has gotten my hopes up! Can’t wait to start later on today! Thanks so much for sharing this! Dawn

  9. A says:

    Thank you – I’m similar measurements to you, except my waist is 70cm, and my waist/hip distance measurement is 30cm (try finding a skirt to fit THAT?!). I’m busting to give this a go… do you think that I’d need to allow for extra large darts or anything to accommodate my funny shape? Shall try and make one with calico, but thought I would ask as well. Thank you!

    • Deby Coles says:

      Hi and thanks for writing. You certainly may need to make some changes to accommodate more dramatic body shapes. That is a long waist to hip distance and yes you might then need to make your darts longer. I would make it up as usual to start with, make the skirt in some cheap fabric for the first try and put it on inside out without a waistband. Then you should see how flat it lies. where the darts are falling etc and see if you need to extend them. You might have to make them a little wider if you make them longer just to make them easier to sew and let out the side seam that same amount. I’ll be very interested to see how you get on. Good luck.

  10. Grace says:

    Hi Deby,
    I have drafted my skirt as you outlined, and I have cut the front on the fold in my muslin, but the back is 2 pieces, yes? I am not sure how to handle the 2 darts drawn for the back. Could you give me a bit more guidance? Thanks!

    • Deby Coles says:

      Hi Grace. Have you sewn darts before? Even though there are two on each side, you just treat each on separately and sew it as usual. There are more darts in the back because there is usually more of a difference between waist and hips at the back because of your behind sticking out, while the front of your body is flatter. If you would like to use the email link to send me a message and let me know what you are having difficulty with, I’ll see if I can help you. Deby

    • Deby Coles says:

      I’m also going to be working on a full Sew Along skirt series about how to draft the pattern, how to cut the fabric, sew the darts, add an invisible zipper, line the skirt etc. But its going to take me a while to get this together. It should answer your questions and give you a complete step by step too.

  11. Grace says:

    Hi Deby,

    I am clueless, and I will just admit it. I drafted it all out as you instructed, but now, I cut the front on the fold, but the back is 2 pieces… yes? And I am not sure quite how I am to handle the 2 darts that go in the back. Can you give me some more hints? Thanks so much; I am looking forward to seeing how this goes!

  12. Chelsea says:

    Deby, your skirt is one of the Top 5 features from our Pattern Party at Get Your Crap Together! Thank you so much for linking up! Hope to see you next month!

  13. It really does fit like a glove!

  14. So fancy!! Wowzers you’ve got some mad skills!

  15. I need some pencil skirts for work.. Glad I found your tutorial!
    xoxo
    Heather

  16. Heather says:

    What a great tutorial & the finished product looks awesome! I’m pinning this 🙂

    Visiting from Too Cute Tuesday!

  17. rainonatinroof01 says:

    I love pencil skirts! I think they are so chic and classy! Great tips! Thanks so much for linking up to Give Me The Goods Monday! Can’t wait to see what goods you bring next week! Jenna @ Rain on a Tin Roof

  18. Dayle says:

    The skirt looks divine, as do you in it. I will definitely print this out for my mom (the family seamstress).

  19. Elisabeth says:

    Great tutorial! Will definitely try this 🙂

  20. Julia Forshee says:

    I LOVE to sew, but get so frustrated when sewing projects for me don’t fit. When it isn’t so late at night, I am going to study this and make a white one for summer. Thanks for stopping by allthingswithpurpose.com for our Thursday Link Up!!

    • Brenda Lysak says:

      I like to sew too and have same problem, nothing ever fits right! I feel like this sloper idea is the missing link to sewing success for me. Never heard of a sloper before.

      • Deby Coles says:

        Good luck with it Brenda. Once you have the basic pattern you can make so many variations. I plan to work on a series later showing how to adapt the basic pattern to different skirt types.

  21. Krista Low says:

    This is fabulous! I just pinned this and Love that you posted this! Thank you so much! Krista @ http://ahandfulofeverything.blogspot.com/

  22. Katie says:

    Beautiful skirt! I fully plan to make a few of these for work once I’m no longer pregnant!

  23. Great tutorial – thanks for sharing

  24. Kathleen says:

    This is awesome! Thanks so much for the pattern. I just started sewing a few months ago and have actually been looking for a cute skirt pattern. This is perfect,Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  25. carriehurst says:

    I agree…pencil skirts that fit well are VERY hard to find. This is very pretty and flattering, though. Thanks for sharing at Pinworthy Projects.

  26. Deby Coles says:

    I linked up – thanks for the invite

  27. What a beautiful skirt! Thank you so much for linking up at Project Inspire{d} and have a lovely week.

    Mary Beth

  28. Julia says:

    Found you via the COM link party! Great job! You are very ambitious to make your own pattern!

    Cheers,
    Julia
    It’s Always Ruetten

  29. Jordan says:

    This is fantastic! Would you pretty please link this up to our Frugal, Crafty, Home Blog Hop?! I am always looking for good sewing tutorials! Thanks!
    xoxo, Jordan

    http://www.lilywhite-designs.com/2013/04/frugal-crafty-home-blop-hop-17.html

  30. I just made this skirt following your directions and it worked wonderfully (I’m wearing it right now)! Finally a skirt that fits me! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Derby!

  31. Heather says:

    Ooh, thank you. I’m totally going to pin this for when I get a sewing machine.

  32. Rita says:

    Wow you look amazing in that skirt! Thanks for the tutorial!

  33. Melissa says:

    This is great! I also am a true pear, and have trouble finding pencil skirts that fit well. Thank you so much for this detailed tutorial.

    Thank you too for linking up to our link party. I love seeing what you come up with!

    Melissa
    redfllycreations(dot)com

  34. hansendawg says:

    I hate altering patterns because I never do a good job of it. This seems to be a method that would work. I am more hippy than an off the rack pencil skirt would allow or maybe my waist is just undersized! lol , thank-you for taking the time to share this info.

  35. Stitches says:

    I have the dame problem as you where my theighs are wider then my hips. I actually just made my first pencil skirt yesterday out of some cheep fabric I found for $1 and it just happen to be slightly stretch and it worked so well. I kinda did it where I sewed a streigth skirt and then pinned it on to me and sewed it up the side. I can’t belive how well it worked. This is a great tutorial!

  36. Reecea says:

    I am a new follower and fan. Saw your Link Party Directory, followed you on Google+, and then saw this post. Love the skirt! Might be making one of these pencil skirts for my grown daughter. She needs more cute office attire.

  37. wow- that turned out well!

  38. MammaNene says:

    YOU
    ARE
    GREAT!
    I always find something interesting here… This one goes in my Summer Sewing 2013 pinterest board, to be sewn soon 😉
    MammaNene

    SergerPepper.blogspot.it

  39. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for this free pattern! I’m new at sewing, but I think I could handle this.

  40. MaytagNMom says:

    I just commented on your other post I found at the Happy Hour linky party (two dresses) and this one is amazing too- great tips!! You are seriously interesting me in sewing. (Hands shaking thinking about it…but those can be calmed with a nice soak in a tub, I suppose)

    Thanks for your fun posts and “showin’ us whatcha go!” SKILLS!
    Smiles, Suz@MaytagNMom
    Illinois

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