DIY: Basic A-line skirt drafting

25. März 2007
Because fashion sewing imho is totally underrepresented over at whiplash, I decided to take the chance of this month´s challenge to provide you with a small tutorial on how to draft a basic A-line-skirt.

As usual the pictures are clickable for larger versions.
The drafting lines are hard to photograph, so please take the time to see the bigger versions.

Here we go:
Drafting requires taking your measurements first, best taken over the underwear you will most likely wear under your finished garment.
Of course I didn´t want to show up almost naked or violate any copyrights by using images from a sewing book, but a nice lady who's my friend for more than 25 years now isn't afraid to show, so I asked her over. She may turn 48 this year, but still she's a role model to many.
Please let me introduce you to Betty...

wl-02-measurementsYou will need the following measurements:
waist (pink ribbon)
hips (the widest part of your body; green ribbon)
hip depth (distance between those lines; see red arrow in left picture)

Decide how long you want your skirt to be.
(In my case: 60 cm)
Get your tools ready:
A long ruler (a patchwork ruler works well!), scissors for paper or a rotary cutter (don't use the one you use for fabric, the paper will dull the blades!), french curves or - even better - tailor's curves and a pencil.
This time I used thick feltpens, but you should use a pencil with a fine point. Thick lines are not what you want, I just used them because otherwise you would see NOTHING instead of "not much"... ;)

Take a piece of paper about 100 x 100 cm (or a size to match your pattern).
You may also glue several sheets together.
Mark a line in the upper third - this will be your hipline.

Mark the center of this line.
This will be the point where sideseams meet at your hip, I'll refer to it as "point X" *g*

Draw a second line parallel to your hip line. The distance is your measured hip depth.
This will be your waistline (or waist-helping-line).
The pictured third line in a 90° angle to both other lines is just for further guidance.

Draw another line marking the length of your finished skirt (measured from waist to hem).

All lines you drew until now are just helping lines and don't belong to the actual pattern, though they are neccessary.

Based on your taken measurement mark center front and center back of skirt:
hip measurement + wanted ease / 4 = distance between point X and black lines
In my case: 94 cm + 6 cm / 4 = 25 cm for each side.
From center front/center back, mark sidepoints for waistline:
BACK: waist / 4 - ease + dart width (in my case: 72 / 4 - 2 + 2.5)
FRONT: waist / 4 + ease + dart width (in my case: 72 / 4 + 2 + 2.5)

(In case you have a "stomach", like me, this will make the sideseam look straight in spite of being lightly curved in real.)

From those points go 2 cm upwards and 1 cm downwards on the line of center back to draft a slightly curved waistline.
Don't worry if it isn't all that perfect round - you can adjust everything when you trace and cut the paper pattern.

At the half of both waistlines draw a helping line for the darts in a 90° angle to the "waist-helping-line" (pictured in red).
To both sides of this new (blue) lines, mark 1/2 of dart width.
wl-draft09-dart2Draw darts.
The back darts should be slightly longer than the front darts. In my case the front dart is 8 cm, the back dart 10 cm long because in fact I DO HAVE a butt.

Note that the points of the darts aren't placed on the blue lines but slightly beneath them - The measurements of this "misplacement" equals the distance of the curved waistline to the "waist-helping-line" (marked in picture).

Draft sideseams from waistline down to point X - these lines should be slightly curved, because your hip is also slightly curved.

The skirt's hem will be wider than it is around the hip, so the lines for the side seams will cross in point X - the shapes for front and back will overlap now.

Mark points 5 cm above your marked skirt length and 5 cm away from center line.

The wider your skirt, the bigger these measurements.

Draft the beginning of your skirtlength in a 90° angle to the sideseams, otherwise your seamline will look crooked and wavy.

Draw a slightly rounded line from those points towards the center back and center front.

To make the skirt look "neat", draft a facing for the waistline (a second line parallel to waistline).
My facing is 6 cm wide.

DRAFTING IS FINISHED HERE - Wasn't all that hard, was it?! :)

Because drafted pieces overlap in your drafting, trace front and cut from tissue paper. Cut back from drafting paper.
With cutting you can adjust curves.

Trace both front- and backside facing, fold darts closed on facings (shown).

Congratulations! You can now happily use your pattern!

My tutorial is over, but here is a short summary of sewing:

From fabric cut front, back (center front and center back will also mark grainline and will be laid on the fold) and facings, adding seam allowances, marks for darts and hem allowance.
If you're not completely sure if your pattern really works out, make a muslin or use wider hem- and seam allowances so you have some "ellbowroom" to adjust seamlines and hemline.
From lining fabric cut front and back MINUS facings.
From fusible interfacing cut facings. Iron to fabric facings like indicated.

Sew darts on fashion fabric as well as on lining fabric, iron towards center.
Sew side seams on outer fabric and lining,leaving open about 20 cm from waist down in the left seam (right seam in lining) for the zipper. Press seams open.
Set in zipper to skirt. You may prefer an invisible zipper if you have one handy - this would be the perfect solution. I used a normal zipper, but used the invisible zipper foot of my machine. Works well! ;)

Close right side seam of facing. Sew lining to lower side of facing. Iron seam allowances towards facing. Topstitch, fixing seam allowances in place.
With right sides facing, sew facing to skirt. Press seam allowances towards facing. Topstitch facing to hold seam allowances in place.
Fold facing and lining inside skirt, press.
If wanted, hold facing in place with some stitches by hand.
Handstitch facing and lining to zipper.
Try on skirt and mark final hemline. If you don't have one of those fancy tools for marking, try using this tip (via whipup).
Hem skirt and lining.
I would have preferred a blind stitched hem, but my serger ran out of thread right after I did the rolled hem on the lining, and my cotton/silk fabric is so very delicate and frays like hell, so I finally decided for a "normal" hem.

Skirt, finished... all sides, unfortunately shown on me, not on pretty Betty:
I hope this tute is plain - sometimes I run out of words, so if you have questions or suggestions how to improve this, please let me know. I appreciate your feedback!

Have fun drafting - or leave it ;)


  1. Congratulations! That's just perfect! Good describtion!

  2. charlotte07:33

    good tute! can't get betty out of my mind...I'm quite sure she wasn't sold with THAT outfit.
    next time we like to see a tutorial for sexy barbie-underwear. woooo-hoooo!

  3. That's a great tutorial, thank you! and I love your Betty. I want some underwear like hers *gg*

  4. Very well done! Love Betty too, and you look stunning with your new skirt!

  5. Katrin, love your style, hair cut and color and all! The skirt fabric is so wonderful. Where did you get it? Very cute. BTW, have you been sewing from Mrs. S lately?

  6. Thanks, ladies! :)

    The fabric is from Ikea. *gg*
    It's meant to be a curtain, but who cares... ;)

  7. Wow, that's amazing. What a wonderful tutorial with all the pictures and details. The best I've seen~
    Oh! And you are so cute in your photos!

  8. ikea!!! (angels singing) this means the fabric is available here in the usa nd i am only 3 exits away on th beltway...

  9. Thanks for this very cool tutorial!
    I have to admit that the first pictures scared me off (I'm a girl who grew up without barbie), and I prefer the results shown on you :)

  10. Wow, Katrin, your efforts to give us all such a wonderful skirt tutorial are admirable. This is fabulous (and your model doesn't look a day over 21). Love your skirt.

  11. I've just found your blog and I am so thrilled to see that you sew from Mrs Style. I have some of the magazines, but haven't plucked up the courage to try anything yet. So it's fun and inspiring to see your projects. Thanks also for your very clear tutorial on drafting an Aline skirt.

  12. Hi, you may be interested in some sewing tutorials for zippers (among many other things) so you don't have to baste, pin and pray :). There's a bunch of links so I don't dare put them here in case this bounces but you can find them under "Admin" of the upper left sidebar at Select "tutorials index".

  13. Great directions! I feel like I can attempt this and not feel so out helpless! :)I found you through whipup...

  14. I just found this tutorial via I love it. I think I'm going to give this a try. Thanks for sharing.

  15. This is just what I've been looking for!!! thanks :-) BTW I came here via

  16. Ah, this was brilliant! I have never delved into the art of actual pattern making. Your tutorial gave me instruction enough to attempt it, be successful at it and to want to venture further! Thank you so much!

  17. Such a cute tutorial! I loved the Barbie :)

  18. Anonymous14:49

    Thank you for a great website. So much information. Love the tutorial of the skirt. Thank you from Australia. Katherine

  19. Wow
    I'd say you have a teaching gift. The skirt doesn't look homemade in the least!

    thanks for sharing!

  20. Anonymous20:10

    hi awesome work. just loved the finished look. but I want a skirt with waistband...please let me know how to make the pattern for that as the skirt waist is curvy so do I need to cut the band on bias? please clarify.

  21. Thanks for the tutorial. Quite helpful and now I'm thinking about using this as basis to do a wrap skirt... possible?

  22. Hello, thanks for the simple & clear tutorial! with this tutorial I'd be able to make different sizes skirts to fit my dolls! even myself i doubt! hug \(^u^)/

  23. kimberly17:02

    Love the tutorial...Would love to master this as A line skirts are very FORGIVING to fluctuating waist sizes...

  24. Anonymous22:04

    Greetings from the U.K. and thank-you so much for such a wonderful tutorial! I am new to sewing but your clear instructions have really helped me out no end and I can't wait to get started. However, I do have a pretty basic question: how do you decide how much material you might need, even approximately? Thankyou again!

  25. Great tutorial, I am looking forward to trying it. I just have one question. Do you have any suggestions on the types of fabric to use for the lining/fashion fabric? I was thinking of using broadcloth as it's inexpensive and I just need a solid color but I wasn't sure if something else might work better.

  26. As for the type of fabric: You can use almost anything you want, from cotton to silk, a wool or anything that strikes your fancy. Broadcloth is absolutely okay.
    It's your choice if you cut it straight of grain or on the bias, depending on the look you want to achieve.
    Just make sure your lining fabric won't "climb" up your tights. I'd use a regular "lining fabric" for lining the skirt rather than using any other fabric.

    As for the fabric amount: The amount of fabric will vary. Is your skirt wider or narrow? Is it long or short? What are YOUR measurements?
    A short, slim skirt for a size 6 obviously needs less fabric than a full, floor-length skirt.
    Also you'll have to think about patterns: A plaid fabric will require some extra for "fitting" the plaids.

    I'd suggest to draft your pattern first, then measure its width at the widest part and its length.
    Usually you'll need two times the length of your skirt to be on the safe side. Most likely you'll have some leftovers.

    A little extra for plaids or if your fabric is very narrow and if you have to add seams because you're making a full skirt. Or if you cut on the bias...

    Hope this helps :)

  27. Anonymous20:26

    Greetings from the U.K. - thankyou so much for taking the time to reply and to explain about the fabric amount. I'm going to have a go at making a plain skirt first and just see how that turns out before I feel brave enough to attempt plaids *grin*. Thanks again; Caroline.

  28. Very, very nice!!! I only just found this - it's May, 2010, and it is so useful. And hey, personally, I like it better on you than on Betty! You look just fine - who's a perfect "Barbie" anyway? :)

  29. thanks for the pattern! it's been 11 years since i sew my own skirt. it's a great help for me to remember.

  30. Anonymous08:59

    Thank you for these instructions! I'm making my daughter a "pillowcase" dress out of some funky fabric and I was thinking I'd like a skirt out of it too. Since I have both a stomach and a butt, I found your instructions for accommodating both VERY helpful. Now if I can just find the time to do this...two kids under 3 years and a full-time job don't leave much time for sewing projects! Wish me luck!

  31. Anonymous06:21

    Thank you for this tutorial. I have all the materials and m set to draft my skirt. Its very easy instruction and even my 8 year old niece can understand it. Thanks again. Cheers!

  32. Anonymous23:25

    thank you for such a neat n easy to understand tutorial..m a newbie so this really helps...thank u again

  33. I'm thinking of trying this even though I can see it's a little over my head, and I'm struggling to grasp it all. I have one question about order of operations on this step:

    BACK: waist / 4 - ease + dart width (in my case: 72 / 4 - 2 + 2.5)
    FRONT: waist / 4 + ease + dart width (in my case: 72 / 4 + 2 + 2.5)

    Is that, in the case of the Back, "waist" divided by (4 minus "ease" plus "dart width") or ("waist" divided by 4) minus "ease" plus "dart width"? Or ("waist" divided by (4 minus "ease")) plus "dart width"? The third one seems least likely, but not impossible. Or maybe I'm just making myself crazy and overthinking it. Just for the fun of it, these three options with your example measurements would result in 16, 18.5, and 14.5, respectively.

    The way you wrote it indicates option #2, and you probably meant exactly what you said, but if you have a moment to confirm that for me, it would really help put me at ease.

    Thank you!

  34. What a great tutorial- exactly something I was looking for!

    thank you so much for posting this:)

  35. Anonymous01:32

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  36. Anonymous21:28

    really helped with my college work! from a photgrapher to a designer. This helped me make my first garment !


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