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Hi, I’m Maria from dresspatternmaking.com and I draft my own sewing patterns. My focus for a number of years has been perfecting systems for drafting blocks that will get a better fit for Non-Standard Figures. I have my own unique system and instructions for drafting the Bodice Block and the Pants Block. From now on, I will be aiming at writing step by step instructions for drafting patterns, starting with dresses, then jackets, then pants and jeans, tops and so on.
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So welcome to my channel.
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Hi. This is video No.4. in a series titled ‘Variations on a Silhouette’. If you haven’t already done so, please watch Part 1: Contouring & Part 2: Drafting the Empire Bodice, because this video probably won’t make a lot of sense if you haven’t watched those. I actually have made Video 4: Skirts before Video 3: Ease, so I have made them out of order.
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But this was the order that I put up at the beginning. I’m just going to stick to the list as is and just make them out of order. In this video on skirts, I’ll be covering a number of different options of skirts that you can use with Empire Bodice that was drafted in Part 2. Now, I was planning on making all of these different skirt options in one video, but after getting to 20 minutes and I had only just done the A-Line Skirt and I realized that the video would end up an hour or longer, I decided it would be best,
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it would be best for me, it would be best for YouTube and probably for you if I broke it up into sections. And that way I would release videos more often. So this is Part A: A-Line skirts and there will be as many parts as needed. I won’t know that until I start writing the instructions and find out how long it’s going to be.
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So it could be only two parts, it could be three. There’ll be as many parts as needed to cover the content I have planned. There’s a lot of introductory information and then the A-line skirt. Let’s get started. So in the Empire Bodice video, I ended up with these pattern pieces for the Empire Line with Shoulder Princess Line, for Kate on the left and for me on the right, and these pattern pieces for the Armhole Princess Line. The measurements at the Empire Line are the same for the shoulder and armhole design options, because the only difference in those two patterns was the princess style one going to the shoulder, one going to the armhole.
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So the skirts will fit either option. So to draft the skirt, you’ll need the bodice measurements at the Empire Line. So the under bust or the high waist measurement, you also need your body measurement and the desired skirt length. When drafting the A-line skirt, you add the two bodice back measurements together and the two bodice front measurements together.
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There’s only one pattern piece of the back and one pattern piece for the front, For the panel skirts however, the princess design line will continue through the skirt, so you’ll be drafting two pattern pieces for the front and two for the back. So before getting into the instructions, I would just show you the different skirt options I will be covering.
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First, the A-line with varying amounts of flare. You can choose the amount to suit your taste and/or figure. Then the panel skirt – again with different amounts of flare. You can choose to make either the A-Line or Panel skirt longer or shorter, then adding pleats. In this case, it’s a squarer skirt, where the added fullness for the pleats is put only in the waist, not the him.
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Again, any length you wish. Then pleats in the panel skirt. In this case, the fullness has been added all the way through the skirt, not just the waist, as it was in the previous example with the A-line skirt, the Bertha skirt. In this example, the pink shapes underneath are the original pattern pieces of the panel skirt and the blue and green shapes on top show the cut and spread that has been done to insert the pleats.
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Now the pattern pieces with the cut and spread are shorter as a design line was added a the part of the skirt was cut off to create a flounce piece. The shape at the center front is different as it’s a wrap skirt. And here the panel skirt again. But in this case the pleats have been added into the seam line.
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I will note here, if you’re wondering about the names that appear with each skirt, I do give every skirt a name. Even if I modify it slightly to make another skirt, it then gets a new name. It makes it easier for me to remember which skirt is which and I do it for my dresses as well. This is my system and it works for me.
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So next the Dirndl skirt, which is a rectangle. And the gathered tiered skirt, which is a series of rectangles. Then adding panels into the A-Line skirt, which is different to the panel skirt. Then adding flounces, which is cutting off some of the skirt to create a separate pattern piece and adding fullness just at the hem edge. I won’t be covering drafting that flounce in this video.
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There will be a separate video on that, but I’ll touch on it briefly. Now, before I mention the tiered rectangle skirt, which I will be covering. But there are 2 other types of tiereed skirts I was planning on covering. The attached tiers and separated tiers, but although I have drafted the patterns and cut the dresses out with these skirt, I have not yet sewn them up.
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Actually, I have about 20 dresses in all that I have cut out and not yet sewn at this point. Now I know I don’t need any more dresses, but as I only like to write instructions for things I’ve done and have examples to show, then I need to make more dresses and it means I have to cover the attached tiers and separated tiers at some point in the future after I’ve made those dresses.
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So let’s start with a two piece A-line skirt. You will need to draw and cut out a rectangle of paper. The height of that rectangle is the measurement Empire Line to Hip. That’s not your waist measurement. It’s the Empire Line placement to the Hip depth. So take your waist-to-hip measurement and add whatever you cut off when you drafted the Empire Line.
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I will be using Kate and my measurements in the examples, but given it’ll be a bit complicated, confusing, messy to read out the measurements in both inches and centimeters for both Kate and myself – when I’m walking through Kate’s measurements, I will read out the measurements in inches, and they will be in colored font on the screen. The centimeter equivalents for Kate will be there in gray font, but I will not be reading them out. For my examples,
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I will use centimeters. I will read out those in colored font. The inches will be there on the screen in gray font, but I will not be reading them out. So Kate’s waist-to-hip is 8 and 7/16th of an inch, plus from the waist upward to the Empire Line is 3 and 9/16 of an inch. So her Empire Line to Hip is 12 inches. My waist-to-hip
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is 22 cm, plus the 6 cm that I cut off from the bodice, so from the waist up to the Empire Line, therefore the total Empire Line to Hip is 28 centimeters for me. The width of the piece of paper will be your body measurement plus a certain amount of ease at your hip. For Kate, I will take her measurement and multiply by 125%.
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So taking her measurement of 38 inches times by 125% equals 47 and a 1/2 inches. I’ll divide that by four and the width of the rectangle will be 11.75 inches. For me, I’m going to multiply my hip measurement by 130%. I’ll take my measurement of 112 centimeters and multiply by 130%, giving me 145.6 centimeters. I’m going to round that down to 145 and actually I rounded down Kate’s and forgot to mention it, 145 centimeters divided by four is 36.25 centimeters for the width of this rectangle.
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So that’s a kate. The width of the skirt at her hips is 25% more than her measurement. For me, it’s 30% more than my hip measurement. So I want to talk you through these amounts, 25% and 30%. And the suggested amount for you, which will depend on the difference between your waist and hip measurement. So if I take a standard skirt block and in this example, I’m taking Kate’s skirt block, standard size 14, I’m going to show you the amount of ease that Kate will end up in the hip,
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when I use the skirt block to draft an A-line skirt. Now, just in case you’re confused, you do not need a skirt block to draft the skirts taht I’m going to show you. I’m just using the skirt block to show you where I’m getting the amount of ease from that I’m suggesting you use at your hip. I’m going to close one of the waist darts and move the value of that waist dart into the hem.
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This will create some flare and put some more ease in the hip. I’ll cut up from the hem, at right angles to the hemline and draw the line straight up to the dart point closest to the side seam. When I close the dart you will see the hem opens up and we get some extra ease in the hips. I get an extra inch – that’s 2 and 1/2 cm – in the front, and about 11/16 of an inch –
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that’s 1.75 centimeters – in the back. Multiply this by 2 since these are half blocks, that comes to 3 and 3/8 of an inch or eight and a half centimeters across the block. But the block already has 2 inches ease. So in a nutshell, this basic A-line skirt has about 5 and 3/8 inches ease, or 13 and a 1/2 centimeters of ease, in the hip.
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Now, if you were drafting in A-line skirt with your skirt block, you would also need to add an extension to the side. But that’s neither here nor there for our purposes. I’m just mentioning it. But also notice we have waist dart still. We closed one, we still have one waist dart, and that needs to be addressed because our Empire Line skirts do not have any darts.
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I will get to that. So earlier I used the size 14 skirt block and I showed you the amount of ease that I ended up with for Kate, because she’s a size 14. But this amount of ease will be the same for all the standard sizes, the exact same amount of ease, whether it’s a size 6 or size 22 or a size 14 or whatever. It doesn’t matter what size I use here.
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Size 22, it has the same amount of ease added when closing that dart. And the reason they will end up with the same amount of ease is that the standard sizes have the same waist-to-hip proportions and all sizes have 9 and a 1/2 inches difference between their waist and hip. Now, of course, if you have a different waist to hip proportion than the Standard Figure, then you’re going to end up with a different amount of ease there.
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For curvier figures, the bigger the difference between the waist and the hips, then the bigger the waist dart and the more fullness you’ll get in the hem and ease in the hip, when closing the waist dart. And conversely, if you have a squarer figure and you don’t have that much difference between your waist and hips, the smaller the difference between your waist and hips, the smaller the waist dart and the less fullness and ease in the hip will be added when you close the waist dart.
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So when we close 1 of the 2 waist darts, we ended up with a total of 5 and 3/8 of an inch or 13 and a 1.2 centimeters of ease in the hip, which, if you do the math, is the hip measurement times 115%. But the pattern still has waist start. So very important point I want to make here.
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Although 5 and 3/8 of an inch or 13 and a half centimeters may seem a lot of ease in the hip, it’s not enough ease to make this skirt without any waist darts. If we wanted to make a skirt with no waist dart, we have to close the second dart and we will end up with even more ease in the hips.
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So when I close the second dart, I end up with another 3.3 inches or 8 and a 1/2 cms across the whole block, remembering that this is for the Standard Figure. If you’ve got a bigger difference between your waist and hips it would be more than this, if you got smaller difference, it would be less than this. So for this skirt pattern, which is for the Standard Figure and is a waisted skirt, no darts in the waist, the amount of ease in the hip is about 22% of the hip measurement.
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However, given that the skirt that we’re drafting is falling from the under bust, or at least a high waist, the angle of the side sean is not going to be quite so angled. And so actually you don’t need as much ease as you do when it falls from the waist. But to be safe and given the style of skirt I have chosen to show you had a draft does have a fair amount of flare, I’m going to be using and suggesting that you use this amount of flare, the same amount that you would need if you were drafting a skirt from the waist.
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So this is the suggested hip measurement to use for your skirt. The standard figure has approximately 10 inches or 25 cms difference between the waist and the hip and with this much difference, a 10 inch difference between your waist and your hips, use 125% of the hip measurement for the width at the hip for every inch or two and a half centimeters or less than that.
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So for example, if you’ve only got nine inches difference between your waist and your hips, subtract 1.25% for every inch. For every inch above add 1.25%. So for example, mine, the difference between my hip and waist is 14 inches – that’s 4 inches more than the Standard Figure. 4 times 1.25% is 5%. So I will use 130% of my hip measurement rather than 125%.
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So here are some examples of my dresses made to that hip measurement – that is 130% of my body measurement. These are not all A-line, but they are made to that hip measurement. The one on the left is a basic A-line. The middle is an A-line with panel design lines, and the right one is a 6 panel skirt. But you can see at the bottom what the drape is like,
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for me at least, with that much flare. You could also add a lot more flare if you wish. The skirt to the left, which is the only basic A-line of the three, has 145% of my body measurement at the hip. The middle one is also drafted to 145% of my hip measurement, but with panels and the skirt on the right is 155%,
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but with panels. Just two more things before we continue drafting the A-line Skirt. If you don’t like having a large hem circumference because you think that an A-line doesn’t suit you, if you prefer a squarer type dress than one of the other skirts I’ll be covering will probably suit you better. Skirts with pleats where the fullness is added only at the top, only to the waist or the Empire Line waist and not in the hem allows you to have a smaller hem circumference and the squarer shape.
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Of course, a straight skirt with dartwill probably suit you too, but that’s not something I’m covering. The second thing is that you can go ahead and try a smaller percentage than I am giving. Feel free to do that. But especially given that the shape of the Empire Line doesn’t require as much flare as from the waist, since it’s higher up.
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But there is a point where you will no longer retain the integrity of the fit. For me, at 118%, it is not right. It does not retain the integrity of the fit for my body. Although I have plenty of ease in the hip, I get bunching up around the bottom, above my bottom, and just the fit and the shape are not ideal.
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It doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t fit right and it doesn’t feel right. So these are the amounts I suggest. If I have time, I’ll upload a little chart with a simplified version of this that you can download and refer to. So, as I’ve already covered and as per the chart, for Kate, I’m using 125%s of her hip measurement.
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So the rectangle is 47 inches, divided by 4 is 11.75 inches wide. For me, I’m using 130% of my hip measurement and my rectangle is 36.25 centimeters wide. We are going to draft the back skirt pattern piece and then make adjustments to the final pattern piece to create the front. So to start, we need the back bodice measurements at the Empire Line.
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That’s the center back and the side back measurements added together. Remember, they already have ease in them. So the total of those two added together. We need to reduce the top of the rectangle to those measurements. For Kate that 7 and 13/16 of an inch. And for me, that’s 20 and 1/2 centimeters. So you need to do some simple math.
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Take the width of the rectangle, which for Kate is 11.75 inches, and deduct the measurement of the back bodice at the Empire Line. So 11.75 inches minus 7 and 13/16 of an inch equals 3 and 15/16 of an inch. The top of the rectangle needs to be reduced by that amount. That happens to be 10 centimeters. Okay.
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My rectangle is 36.25 centimeters wide. My back bodice at the empire line is 20.5 centimeters. So 36.25 -20.5 equals 15.75 centimeters. So my, the top of my rectangle needs to be reduced by that amount. Before I start the step by step instructions. I think it will be beneficial if I show you what we will be doing. I will speed up the slide instructions and show it to you really quickly in a minute or so so you can see the process beforehand.
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I think it will be much easier if you understand what we are doing before we start. We are going to cut this rectangle up into vertical panels, cutting from the top down, leaving a little hinge at the bottom. hen overlap the pieces at the top edge so that we end up with a measurement of the Empire-Line-Back at the top.
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The wider he rectangle, the more panels you need. So divide your rectangle width by 2 and 3/8 of an inch or 6 cms for the number of panels. Kate’s rectangle is 11 and 3/4 inches wide, so divide that by 2 and 3/8 of an inch = 5. I’ll divide Kate’s rectangle into 5. Mine is 36 and a 1/4 cms wide.
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Divided by 6 cms means that I’ll end up with 6 panels. Now, I didn’t actually get exactly 5 or exactly 6. I just rounded up or down to the nearest whole number. So that was to work out how many panels. Now we have to divide the rectangle width by that number of panels. So for Kate, 11 and 3/4 inches divided by five is 2.35 inches, which is more than 5/16 and less than 3/8.
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Now, I can get that exact measurement on the computer, but the chances are you can’t. So the divisions don’t have to be perfectly equal. A suggestion is marked them as two and 3/8 and the last panel will be a little smaller. Something like that is fine. -36.25 centimeters. Divide that by six and I get 6.04 while I can measure 6.04 centimeters.
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Chances are, you can’t. So mark them at six centimeters and the last one will be 6.25 centimeters. Then draw lines down to the hip, making sure those lines are at right angles to the top of the rectangle For Kate, dividing it by 5 means there are four points for overlapping. For me, I’ve divided by six, so I’ll have five points for overlapping.
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The next bit of math is working out how much the top needs to be reduced by to fit the back bodice at the Empire Line. So take the width of the rectangle and subtract the back empire line measurement. This is what I mean. The measurements of the center back inside back bodice pieces at the Empire Line. So Kate’s back bodice pieces are 7 and 13/16 of an inch added together.
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So take the width of the rectangle, 11 and 3/4 inches, and deduct seven and 13/16 of an inch. The reduction needed is 3 and 15/16 of an inch. My back bodice pieces add up to 20.5 centimeters. The width of my rectangle is 36.25 centimeters. 36.25 -20.5 leaves 15.75 cmss. That’s how much I need the top of my rectangle to be reduced.
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So a summary: Kate needs a reduction of 3 and 15/16 of an inch. I need a reduction of 15.75 centimeters. So if I divide Kate’s 3 and 15/16 of an inch by the 4 overlapping points. And remember that although the rectangle was divided by five, as I showed you before, there are 4points where the overlapping occurs. So if I do that division, it ends up with a number that’s difficult to use.
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So you have to do a bit of problem solving. So in this case, I’ll use 1 inch three times, and then for the last one I’ll use 15/16 of an inch. So from the first panel line, I’ll measure to the left for 1-inch and mark a point. For me, dividing 15.75 cms and by 5 ends up with 3.15 centimeters, which again is difficult to measure concisely unless you’re on a computer.
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In this case, I would suggest using 3 cms for the first 4 and then using 3 and a 14 for the last one. But my point is here, you have to do a bit of problem solving. They don’t have to be exactly the same, just as close as you can get. So repeat that for each vertical line. For Kate.
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I’ll measure to the left of each of those vertical lines for 1-inch until the last one, where I’ll use 15/16 of an inch. For me, I’ll measure 3 cms to the left of each of the vertical lines until the last one, where I’ll use 3.75 cms. Of course, after measuring, you mark a point, then, as shown in the image, draw diagonal lines from each overlapping point at the Empire Line that is the top of the rectangle to meet the vertical panel line to the right at the hip line.
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So this is what you’ll end up with. Now, you shouldn’t have a diagonal line on the last panel because nothing will be overlapping that last panel. Using a pair of scissors, cut down the vertical lines, not sloping lines, but the original vertical line from the top to the hip line, leaving little hinges at the hip line. Now, if you haven’t already cut out this rectangle, do so.
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Now you’ll need to put some paper underneath and tape down the left edge of panel. Number one, just to make it easier for me to explain and for you to hopefully understand when I’ve taped on the panel, I’ll make it a bit darker to indicate that that panel is secure – it’s not able to move. So with panel No.1. taped down, we’re going to take all the other panel pieces together, leaving them as they were drafted, but just pivoting them as a group to meet the angled overlap line that’s drawn on panel No.1. And take the edge of panel No.2. to panel No.1, then pivot panel 3 4 & 5 all together to meet
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the sloping line on panel 2 and tape down panel 3 to the panel 2 and continue on until the last panel has been pivoted. For Kate – that’s panel 5 has been pivoted to meet the sloping line on panel 4. And for me, that’s panel 6 being pivoted to meet the sloping line on panel 5, make sure everything is taped down securely.
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Check the measurement at the empire line. If it’s not correct, you’ll need to make the necessary adjustment -either overlap more or open up a panel. Both Kate’s measurement and my measurement are out a little bit, so I’ll have to make adjustments for both of us. So I’ll pull up the sticky tape between panel 5 and 6 and make the adjustment. For pattern making.
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it’s best to use the type of sticky tape that you can pull up reasonably easy. This is a short aside. If you find my content useful, please share like and subscribe as this will help me get more subscribers and help me produce more content in the long term. You could also support in by buying my booklets through my Ko-fi shop or Google Play.
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You could alternatively just buy me a coffee. But I will be publishing more and more booklets later this year and next year I’ll be doing patterns from start to finish, such as dresses and jackets. Make the skirt whatever length you wish. Kate and I will end up with skirts that are quite short shorter than I would wear. But I’m trying to keep the skirt within the computer screen real estate.
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So you choose your length. But remember that it’s from the Empire Line above the waist. Don’t make the mistake of measuring from your waist down and using that here. So using your empire line to hem measurement measure down at the center back from the Empire line for that length. Then measure down at the side same for the same length.
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Now an adjustment can be made to the side seam to account for bias stretch. The issue is that it’s hard for me to even make an educated guess how much stretch that side seam will get. When pattern makers are working with standard figures, then the angle of that side seamis going to be the same for every size, so they can actually make a guess. Given that you will all have different widths for the rectangle and different measurements at the Empire Line, and you might have different amounts of flare.
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It’s really you’ll all have different angles for the side same. And I cannot make an educated guess. If you’re the kind of person who’s very particular about the hem being perfectly even ,then you probably hang it up for 24 hours, check it and make the necessary adjustments. As you can see, Kate and I will have a different result.
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My side seam will probably stretch a little more. This is one area where my patience is non-existent and I don’t really care if the hen is uneven. I know that’s bad, but you’ll notice that on my dresses. So I suggest if you really care, make the side same measurement, the same as the center back measurements, then make your adjustments after you’ve hang it up for 24 hours. In this step, we’re going to mark another point on the hemline that will help us draw the curve for the hem.
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Note that’s two green arrows for Kate are the same length. That is the center back length is the same as the side-seam length. The two purple arrows for me are the same length. That is the center back and the side-seam lengths are the same. So first mark the halfway point of the Empire Line waist, then mark the halfway point at the hem.
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Draw a line the same length as the center back length from the midpoint at the Empire Line through the midpoint at the hem and mark the end point. When you have the same measurement as the center back length. Draw a curve from the center back hem – tt needs to be at right angles for at least 3/4 of an inch or 2 cns – to touch the point just drawn and – meet the sides, same point.
00:26:14:22 – 00:26:33:24
So this is the final shape of the back A-line skirt. We will first create the center front from the center back then place some notches on both skirts to finish them off. Flip the back skirt over and trace it onto some fresh paper. Note that the center front line, which is marked with a black line, is only temporarily the center front line.
00:26:33:24 – 00:27:03:05
It will be redrawn in the next step. For both Kate and for myself, the Front Empire line measurement was larger than the back measurement, and so the difference is added at the center front. Looking at Kate’s block, the black dashed line was traced from the center back. 0.27 inches is added to the Empire Line waist and a new center front line is drawn – obviously parallel to that original center front line – and the redrawn one is shown in blue.
00:27:03:15 – 00:27:24:09
Looking at my block, I’m adding 1 and 1/2 centimeters past the center front and redrawing a new center front line – shown in pink. If your front measurements were less than the back, then you would shave off that difference from the center front rather than adding to it. That original center front line that was traced from the back is not shown, it’s no longer relevant.
00:27:24:09 – 00:27:46:15
It was just a guide and it’s gone. Mark nothces at at the Empire Line to help construction – for both the front and back pattern pieces. Why did we create the front block from the back? Why didn’t we just start with another rectangle which would have had the same width as the back at the hip line, but a different measurement at the empire line? Because the front and the back have different measurements at the Empire Line.
00:27:47:03 – 00:28:08:05
If we had created the front the same way as we drafted the back, the side seams would have ended up with different angles. Now it isn’t essential that adjoining seams have the same angle. It doesn’t for a princesss seam, for example, and it doesn’t for pants, especially if you have a large bottom. But if you can have the same angle on adjoining seams, then it’s best to do so.
00:28:08:05 – 00:28:25:16
It’s best practice. Why not make it easier if you can? If the side seams are on different angles, compared to the grain line that is, they might fight each other a bit. It’s just a bit harder to sew. There’s no reason we can’t have these both on the same angle compared to the grain line. And that’s why we did it this way. For the panel skirt
00:28:25:16 – 00:28:48:12
2e will do the same thing, make sure the adjoining seams are on the same angle. So the last 4 things to be done or checked, this is not including seam allowance or cutting instructions – that’s going to be done at the end when we have all the pattern pieces. So No.1: make sure that the center, front and center back are at right angles at the waist line and the hem for at least 3/4 of an inch or 2 centimeters.
00:28:48:18 – 00:29:07:02
No.2: Put the front and back together at the side seam and check the flow through at the hem. I certainly need to do some work there. No.3: Put a notch in the side seam to help match up those pieces when sewing. It can be done at the hip – I actually did it a bit lower. And No.4: Check the flow through curve of the Empire Line at the side
00:29:07:02 – 00:29:26:15
seam. So here are the pattern pieces for the A-line skirt for Kate and for me. Making the skirt longer or shorter is easy. Just extend the center front and the side seams the same amount and put in another guide midway – as I showed you earlier – to help draw the curve. If you want more flare, you do have to start with a new rectangle from your empire line to hip,
00:29:26:15 – 00:29:44:10
but that process does not take long. Once you’ve done it once or twice, it will only take 10 minutes or so to draw that rectangle, to cut it up and overlap it, to get the basic shape. I left a note on an earlier slide that I made a mistake when measuring Kate’s bodice at the empire line, specifically the center back bodice piece.
00:29:44:13 – 00:29:59:19
The bodice pattern piece is correct, but when I measured it, I wrote down the wrong measurement, or I measured it incorrectly. But that means when I drafted the skirt, I drafted it to the wrong measurement. The skirt will be a bit smaller than it should be at the Empire Line. Well, I caught the mistake, so I can add that back into the skirt.
00:29:59:24 – 00:30:17:16
But let’s be a lesson to you. Check your measurements. I should have at least double checked each measurement and/or check that all of these measurements at the empire line added up to the total measurements that I started with or that I wanted at the empire line. Now I know my measurements, so I would be unlikely to make that mistake for myself.
00:30:17:22 – 00:30:40:01
But I made that mistake for Kate. So double check your measurements as you go along. Let that be a lesson for you. So until next time – Skirts Ppart B, the 6 panel skirt. Stay well. Chao from me.