Category Archives: Sewing patterns

Rosalie’s six paneled skirt


Rosalie’s made about a dozen of these six paneled skirts over the years. They’re easy to make, have a nicely balanced skirt, and are a great shape for her. These skirts have more seams than a basic a-line, but the pattern is just as easy to make, and the fullness of the skirt is evenly distributed, rather than tending toward the sides.


To make a six paneled skirt, you will need 2 yards of 45″ fabric, an 8 inch invisible zipper, and the following measurements:

1. Waist – measure all the way around your body wherever you want the top of the skirt to sit
2. Hip/bottom – measure around the largest part of your lower body
3. Waist to hip/bottom – the distance between the previous two measurements
4. Waist to hem – the total length you want the skirt to be


I like to make patterns on newspaper, but any large piece of paper will do. Fold your paper in half. Divide measurement 1 (waist) by 12 and draw a line this length near the top of your paper, starting at the fold. Measure down perpendicularly from the center of this line by measurement 3 (waist to hip/bottom) and mark. Divide measurement 2 (hip/bottom) by 12 and measure out from the mark by this distance and make a second mark. Connect this new mark with the edge of the waist line with a gentle curve. A straight line will do, but curving it slightly improves the fit. Continue this line out until the total length is measurement 4 (waist to hem). Measure this same distance (measurement 4) along the fold from the waistline. Measure out a couple more points in between and draw a line for the hem. Cut out the pattern, unfold, and cut 6 pieces from your fabric.

Sew the skirt together along 5 of the six seams. Add the zipper to the last seam and sew it up. Finish the top edge with double fold bias tape and fold up the bottom for a simple hem.


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Circle skirt tutorial

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I just love circle skirts. Wearing this one makes me want to spend the whole day twirling. This skirt is so straight forward I feel weird about writing a tutorial for it at all. But it could make a nice first drafting pattern for someone, and there are some useful tricks to know when making a circle skirt.

Note: this pattern is written for 1/2″ seam allowances.

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You’ll need two measurements: your waist and the length of the skirt. Measure around your body where you want the top of the skirt to be: this is the waist measurement. Then measure down from this point to 1″ bellow where you want the hem of the skirt to fall: this is the skirt length. The waistband will be made from a rectangle 3″ wide and as long as your waist measurement + 1 1/2 inches. The skirt is made from two identical semi-circular pieces. Before we draft this pattern piece, you should know that it will have negative ease at the waist. This means you will cut out a piece that is smaller than you are. Not to worry! Because parts of the circle will be cut along the bias and therefore stretchy you’ll still fit into it. And it means that the flare of the circle will start off ever so slightly lower which stops the skirt from puffing out right under the waistband and is a more flattering look. Now, for the pattern. Subtract an inch or two from your waist measurement. I used 1″ here. You’ll want a bit more for lighter-weight fabric and larger pattern sizes. Draw a semi-circular curve half as long as your reduced waist measurement. At each edge draw a line down to the skirt length. To draw in the hem, move the measuring tape along the waist curve, keeping it perpendicular to the waist and mark several points along the edge of the skirt. Draw a semi-circular curve connecting these points. Your pattern piece is done. Use it to cut out two identical skirt pieces. If you want pockets, cut pieces for those as well (I used a lighter weight fabric for this).

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If you’re doing in-seam pockets, sew them to the side seams of the skirt.

Sew up the side seams of the skirt, leaving 10″ unsewn at the top of the right side. Sew in a 12″ invisible zipper in these top 10″. Fold the waistband in half with the right sides facing in. Sew up both short ends. On one side sew in 1″ along remaining raw edge. Turn right side out and press flat. Next, sew the waistband to the skirt: press under 3/8″ on the front of the waistband, sew the back of the waistband to the skirt beginning and ending at the zipper, then top-stitch down the front of the waistband. Sew a button to the 1″ flap at the opening of the waistband and make a buttonhole in the opposite side.


The right thing to do now is to hang your unhemmed skirt for a couple of days to let it settle. Because the grainlines are inconsistent through the skirt some parts will grow more than others. It’s not a huge change and it’s never bothered me, but if you’re a perfectionist, let it hang and recut the hem so it’s actually straight. Now you can hem it. Fold up and press 1/2″, then fold up and press another 1/2″ and sew it down. I do a lot of handsewn invisible hems, but I really don’t recommend it for a circle skirt unless you love hemming. It looks good and the weight of it is nice to twirl in, but it takes hours.


Posted in Outfit Post, Sewing, Sewing patterns, Tutorials | 6 Comments

Swimsuits Part 2: a pattern for bikini bottoms

These are the pieces of my pattern for high waisted bikini bottoms:

The pattern comes in two sizes: “small” (24-30″ waist, 33-38″ bottom) and “large” (28-36″ waist, 36-46″ bottom). I don’t think these sizes correspond very well to standard sizes, they’re just the two sizes I have my pattern in. Use the measurements above, or the more detailed measurements bellow to figure out which size is better for you. To use the pattern just click on each of these pictures and keep clicking until you get the full size image. Print it out, check that the 1″ mark really is 1″, tape the pieces together at the stars and dots, and cut out your swimsuit.

Swimsuits are stretchy, and these two standard sizes will fit a range of people pretty well, but I always adjust them to more closely fit the person they’re for. To do this you will need these measurements.

1. Waist. Measure where you want the top of the swimsuit to be. For this high waisted style that will be your natural waist, somewhere near your belly button.
2. Bottom. Measure around the largest part of your lower body.
3. Thigh. Measure around the top of your thigh.
4. Side height. The length you want the side to be, from the edge of the leg opening to the waist.
5. Front length. From the waist in front to crotch center.
6. Back length. From the waist in back to crotch center.

Next, scale those numbers for swimsuit fabric. Swimsuit fabric is stretchy, and you want the swimsuit to stretch a bit when you wear it. This will help it stay on and keep it from sagging in an unflattering way. Your swimsuit should be at 10% – 30% smaller than you. All of the swimsuits shown here are on the 10% end, because we’re not fans of the skin-tight slightly squished look a smaller swimsuit gives, but we’re also not serious swimmers. A tighter swimsuit is more secure. For a splashing around in the ocean swimsuit, multiply all your measurements by 0.9; for a looking-cute-while-swimming suit, multiply by 0.8; for a bikini you can dive in, multiply by 0.7 and take the elastic option whenever there’s a choice of how to finish an edge.

Using your adjusted measurements, make sure that the pattern measurements match your measurements. Modify the pattern as needed, keeping in mind that it will stretch more over your bottom, while the elastic or waist band can bring it in slightly at the waist (my measurements are waist 25″, bottom 38″ and the size small fits me perfectly).

The pattern measurements for the size small are approximately:

1. 27″
2. 33″
3. 16″
4. 8″
5. 10″
6. 11″

For the large:

1. 29″
2. 36″
3. 17″
4. 9″
5. 10″
6. 12″

Next: sewing together your bikini bottoms.

Posted in Sewing, Sewing patterns, Swimsuits, Tutorials | 20 Comments

Hemless a-line skirt

Marigold over at Hideous! Dreadful! Stinky! is organizing a summer sewing challenge: make a skirt (or dress) a week for the month leading up to summer. To help those of you participating in this Summer of No Pants, I have a tutorial for an easy a-line skirt.

My least favorite part of making a skirt is hemming. You’re nearly done with a skirt – you can try it on and see how beautiful it will look – but you can’t wear it out just yet. It still needs a hem. You can hem it by hand, folding up the edge half an inch and then three more inches and taking tiny stitches along this edge. Your skirt will hang nicely, with a clean edge ready for twirling. But this beautiful hem will take hours, postponing that exciting moment when you leave the house in your new skirt. You could take the easy way out, folding up half an inch, then half an inch again and stitching it down on the machine. But it’s hard to make the curved edge of a skirt lie flat like this, and even when you get it right it gives the fabric a stiff edge that doesn’t move as well as a wider hem. The solution? A contrast band sewn around the edge. It can be sewn on a machine, there’s nothing to keep flat, it doesn’t stiffen the bottom edge, and the contrasting color is a nice detail.

You will need

1 1/4 yards main fabric

1/2 yard contrast fabric

A 9″ zipper (or a 7″ zipper and a button)

To make the pattern:

Making a pattern for an a-line skirt is pretty straight forward. I made half a pattern piece and cut two pieces on the fold. Measure around your waist (where you want the skirt to sit). Draw a slightly curved line 1/4 this length at the top of a large piece of paper (newspapers work well). Next, measure from your waist down to the point where you want the skirt to end. Subtract 3” from this measurement to get the length of the skirt (you’ll add the extra length back in with the contrast band at the hem). Measure out the skirt length straight down from the inner edge of the waist curve and draw along this line. When you cut your fabric pieces, you will fold the fabric in half lengthwise and put this line along the fold. Measure the skirt length from the outer edge of the curve, angling the measuring tape out somewhat to give the a-line shape, and draw along this line. Measure out several other points along the waist curve and mark where the end of the skirt will be. Draw a curve connecting these points. Cut out your pattern piece, fold your fabric lengthwise, and cut two identical pieces. This will be the front and back of your skirt (for this skirt the front and back are identical). Measure the bottom edge of your skirt and cut out a 6” wide strip of contrast fabric 1″ longer than your skirt edge. You may need to sew together two or more pieces of fabric to get a long enough strip. For the waist band, cut out a strip of fabric 3” wide and 1 1/2” longer than your waist measurement.

Putting together the skirt:

To assemble the skirt, sew the front and back together along one side. Fold the waistband in half and sew it to the top of the skirt. Put in the zipper at the open side and sew up the rest of the that side. Fold the contrast band in half lengthwise with the right side of the fabric facing in. Sew up the end of the band, making a loop. Fold together the remaining edges of the band so that only the right side of the fabric shows. Sew the contrast band to the edge of the skirt.

To put in the zipper:

Putting in zippers is my worst sewing skill. I don’t have a zipper foot (I don’t know why not – I used to have two. They didn’t break and I don’t know how I lost something that never left the sewing machine table, but somehow I did), I pull too much on the fabric so the zipper buckles, and I’ve never figured out what to do at the end of the zipper where the seam starts. But this skirt needs a zipper, so here’s my best explanation of how to put one in.

First, sew down the bit of the zipper that extends past the teeth. Next, place your zipper at the edge of the fabric with the front of the zipper facing the front of the fabric. Sew the fabric and zipper together along the very edge. Do not pull on the fabric while you do this, or your zipper won’t lie flat. Repeat on other side. The bit of the zipper you pull on will get in your way at some point. When this happens turn the needle all the way down into the fabric, lift up the presser foot, and pull the zipper out of the way. On the outside of the skirt, turn over a small flap of fabric to cover the zipper. Sew down this flap from the top of the zipper to the bottom. Put the needle into the fabric, lift the presser foot, and turn the corner. Fold over a flap along the other side of the zipper and sew down the bottom of both flaps. Turn the corner again and sew up the other side of the zipper. Your zipper is in! Time to sew up the seam. I don’t know what other people do (maybe sew up the seam before they put in the zipper), but I have trouble sewing right next to the zipper, so I do the first couple of inches by hand, then switch to the machine.

To add a button (optional):

The Summer of No Pants crept up on me unexpectedly – one weekend I thought I had all the time in the world, the next I realized that between my sister’s graduation, my best friend’s dance show, and a big wholesale order coming in, all that time was filled. So I rushed to make this skirt right away from supplies I had lying around the house. On the whole this worked out well, but I didn’t have a long enough zipper in a remotely appropriate color. So I was stuck with a 5″ pants zipper. To fill up the extra space I needed to get into the skirt I added a button. If you’ve never made buttonholes before and are trying to turn out a skirt a week, I don’t recommend it, but if you just love the way it looks on my skirt and want a button of your own, here’s what you do.

Cut your waistband with an extra inch of length. Before you iron it down, fold it in half with the right sides facing in, sew up each side, and sew an inch along the bottom of one side. Turn it right side out, iron, and sew in as normal. Put in the zipper so it comes up to the bottom of the waistband. Cut a slit large enough to put your button through in the extra flap of waistband. Sew around this slit with blanket or buttonhole stitch (see picture). Sew the button to the other side.

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The easiest shirt ever

I thought this shirt was easy to make, but it doesn’t compare to the one I made for Isabel this weekend. She started describing a shirt she’d seen: square, slightly cropped, very drapey. I asked her to draw a picture and she drew a rectangle. Yes, I can do that.

We found the drapiest fabric in the house, a fairly loose knit left over from Rosie’s weekend project. I measured her, cut out two rectangles, sewed up the sides and shoulders, cut out the neckline, and 10 minutes after she asked for it, she had a new top.

To make your own you will need half a yard of drapey knit fabric (a bit more if you want it longer). Avoid fabric that is in any way stiff or you’ll end up with a boxy shapeless shirt.

Decide where you want the sleeves to come to. Holding your arms straight out, measure from one sleeve edge to the other. This will be the width of your rectangle. Measure from the top of your shoulder to the point where you want the shirt to end. This will be the height of your rectangle. Cut out two rectangles as long as the sleeve to sleeve measurement and as tall as the shoulder to hem measurement.

Put the two rectangles together with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. Using a slight zigzag stitch (so the seams will be stretchy like the fabric), sew half way up each side and all the way along the top. Cut out a neck hole in the top. I cut a boat neck, but any sort of neckline would work.

You’re done!

Posted in Sewing, Sewing patterns, Tutorials | 73 Comments