Thursday, October 21, 2010

How to draft an A-line skirt from Measurements

Today I thought I would share how to draft the basic A-line skirt using your own measurements. Prepare yourself to be amazed how utterly easy this is.

First you’ll need some measurements. I’ve included some hypothetical measurements for your reading pleasure.
 Or are they hypothetical?
Perhaps I’ve plastering the Internet with my measurements.
Or Cordelia’s measurements.
 Or Oprah’s measurements.
But you’ll never know for sure so:
That’s my evil laugh in case you were wondering. Speaking of evil laughs, if you had an evil villain identity, what would it be? I would go with Countessa Dark Hart. Cordelia’s still working on her evil minion identity, and most people think Oadie is already pure evil so I guess he’s already got that covered. But I degrees. Back to the skirt.

Here are the measurements you will need:

Waist-measure this where you want the waist of the skirt to hit—on some of us that’s not at the actual waist—although the high waisted skirt is rocking this season and for good reasons!

Hip-Measure the fullest part of the hip

Waist to hip-measure the vertical distance from where you measured the waist to where you measured the hip. On most gals this is somewhere between 6 and 11 inches.

Waist to Hem- measure the vertical distance from where you measured the waist to where you want the hem of the skirt to hit. Aka, how long you want the skirt to be. I like to measure down the center front of the body. If you have an especially generous backside measure down the center back too. You may have to draft a slightly different pattern for the back.

For Clarity sake here are my hypothetical (or not) measurements:

Waist: 28”

Hip: 40”

Waist to hip: 10”

Waist to hem: 20”

Now you have to do a little math. But before you panic, don’t worry, it’s only a little basic math and you are allowed to use a calculator.

First we need to factor ease into the pattern. Ease is how much extra room you have in your clothes so you can do things like move and sit. I like to put about ¼ to ½ inch ease in the waist of my skirts (I find if I use much more the skirt sits too low on my waist) and about 2” in the hips.

So this is what the math looks like:

Waist 28” + ¼” ease = 28 ¼”

Hip 40” + 2” ease = 42”

Easy right? Have I lost anyone yet? Let’s hope not.

Now comes the tricky bit: When you draft a pattern you are only dealing with ¼ of the body at a time. Think of it this way, you cut the fronts and backs out separately so this divides the body in half and then we are going to draft the pattern on the fold which divides the body in half again. Make sense? Well let’s move on and hopefully it’ll clear things up a bit.

 Because we are working with ¼ of the body we have to do a little more math and divide the waist and hip measurements by 4. It will look like this:

New Waist 28 ¼” ÷ 4 = 7 1/16”

New Hip 42” ÷ 4 = 10 1/2”

Waist to hip: 10”

Waist to hem 20”

This is a time when you should go ahead and use fractions no matter how much your fifth grade self may protest. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did, cause really, who knows what 0.23567 of an inch is?

Now we can start the drafting process. Grab a good sized piece of paper. I like to use butcher paper I picked up at my local restraint supplier, but you can also try to bum some off the newspaper printers, or “borrow” the onion paper you doctor uses to cover her exam chair. Or in a pinch, use the back side of wrapping paper, but I find this tears easily so be delicate with it.

Fold your paper in half.

Along the fold, near the top mark a spot for the waistline. Draw a line perpendicular from the fold to represent the waistline.

Measure down the distance from waist to hip and mark. Draw a line perpendicular from the fold at this point to represent the hip line.

Measure down the distance from waist to hem and mark. Draw a line perpendicular from the fold to represent the hem.

Go back to the waistline. Take your new waist measurement divided by 4 (7 1/16” in this case) and measure this distance from the center fold. Mark.

Mark ¼” to 5/8” above the first mark. This will give you the waist curve. If you are blessed with a pair shaped figure go higher. If you have an apple shape go lower for a less curvy waistline. I used 3/8” .

Use a curved ruler or French curve to connect this new mark to the fold.

Move down to the hipline. Take your new hip measurement divided by 4 (10 ½” in this case) and measure this distance from the center fold. Mark.

Move down to the hem. Figure out how much fullness you want in the skirt. For an A line skirt I usually make the hem about 8-16 inches wider than the hips. In this case I took the hip measurement divided by 4 and added 2” inches (12 ½” in this case). Measure this distance from the center fold. Mark.

Use a curved ruler to connect the waist and hip marks.

Use a straight edge to connect the hip and hem marks.

To mark the hem, use a yardstick to make sure the length from waist to hemline is consistent.

Why hello pajama pants.  I strongly recommend wearing PJ's when you sew.  Comfort is key!

Use a curved ruler to make the hem line nice and purty.

Add seam allowances to the waistline, side seam and hem.
I used 1/2" cause it's easy to measure.


Cut out.

The center fold becomes the grain line.

Mark the pattern with your name, a reminder to cut 2 and I like to add the date.

And there you have it: an A-line skirt that should fit you beautifully!

Maybe tomorrow I’ll show you how to draft a gored skirt. Or maybe I’ll show you a totally amazing vintage maternity suit. Or maybe I won’t do anything. That’s the Contessa Dark Hart using her evil teasing skills to keep you on your toes. Bwhahahahahaha.


  1. I'm new to sewing and really want to make myself a few skirts but I'm sooo afraid! Thank you for the very detailed tutorial. I'm going to try to make my own parent and try this.

  2. Thank you again for the instructions. I made the pattern and the skirt turned out great! I've looked at many a line skirt tutorials and this was the easiest one!

  3. Thank you so much for this! I made my own skirt and just posted a review for it, giving this blog credit for helping me make my own a-line skirts. You are a lifesaver!

    My review link:

  4. What do you use to close the skirt at the waist? A zipper? Button? Elastic? How do you put the skirt back together?

    1. I use a side zipper. You however can do whatever you want which is the beauty of drafting your own patterns.

  5. Great tutorial. Thanks!

    (oh, said butcher paper from the restraint supplier. I think maybe spell check punked you.)

  6. I found you on a google search. These are beautiful instructions. I will definately use these to make my daughters school uniforms (A-line shirt). Thank you so much. Is it okay to pin your instructions?

  7. Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial. I have done home science at school like 7 years ago and I have learned how to measure this. But right now unfortunately i could not remember all these steps and planning to make one for me. I will give a try and let you know about my final output. Your tutorial would be effective for me because all the steps you have mentioned here was the same instructions which were give by my teacher those days. You hhave refresh my mind. Thank you

  8. I just made my pattern and cut the skit out. What kind of waist band do I make. Can't wait to get the skirt done. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. You could:

      Line to the edge (sew the lining to top)
      Put a facing on it
      Put a regular straight waist band on it (stay stitch, clip as needed to make the straight waistband fit the curve of the waistline.

      At least in theory. I have yet to actually try this.

    2. You can even put thick piece of elastic on as the waistband (one that you don't mind showing) and do a simple pleat of the top of the skirt into the waistband elastic. Then you have no need for a closure. Of course, if you decide to do this, you need to add extra into your waist measurement for the pleating.

  9. I really loved your tutorial my measurements came out unique to me and hopefully my skirt will to when I finish. I had a question about the hem line because I want to use an elastic band for the waistline. Would I still use a 1/2" hem line like you did or should I increase the hem line at the waist to fit the elastic?

    1. If you want to use an elastic waistband, you will need to add additional allowance to allow for an elastic casing--I usually allow 1 1/2" for 3/4" wide elastic. One thing to keep in mind as well, the measurements above will allow for a failrly fitted skirt and you will most likely not have enough ease to pull the waist on over your hips, so you will want to add an additional 5-10 inches of ease in the waist and and probably hip so you can get it on!

  10. when you are measuring the length are you suppose to start from the waistband or you can you down 2". From waist to hip are you suppose to go down exactly 10" or it depend with size of a person

    1. Always measure the length from the waistband. To measure the hip to waist, you must first measure that distance on you (this is the distance from your narrowest bit to your fullest bit). For many people this is in the 9-11" range.

  11. Thank you for this post, I've just blogged about the skirt I made from it. All other A-line skirt tutorials sounded so confusing, but I made your one in no time at all

  12. OK I have a rather large bottom. And the length on my front is 6.5 inches shorter than my back. How can I accommodate for that? I love skirts but I'm getting tired of every skirt I try to make ends up so short in the back :-(. Thanks!

  13. Hi,my hip measurement is 39" so I know now to add 2" for movement. this is going to be a 10 paneled skirt in suede, but I dont know what with the skirt should be at the bottom, could you please help me.Thank you