cssa: drafting

Gather up your drafting supplies: a large sheet of paper, pencil/marker, a compass, ruler and perhaps a bit of scratch paper or calculator for the math we need to do.

Begin by finding the diameter of your waist from the circumference (waist measure you took):

C ÷ 3.14 = D

For example, if your waist measures 30”, this is what the equation will be:

30” ÷ 3.14 = 9 1/2” (approximate)

Next divide that number by 2 for the radius. For our example waist, that would be 4 3/4”.

If you want to draft just a quarter pattern, then skip folding the paper in half. However, if you plan on drafting a half skirt, then fold the sheet of paper in half (lengthwise is best); the fold becomes the center front/back line. (Note: all examples will be showing the half circle pattern draft; modify accordingly for a quarter draft.) If you have a drafting compass, this part is really easy because you can set the compass to the radius length, position it in the corner of the paper and draw your quarter-waist measure. If not, here’s how to do it:

Mark the length of the radius from the corner of the paper along one edge. Do so on the other edge connecting to that corner. Connect the two points with a curved line. A curved ruler or drafting compass makes this easy.

You can use this template to draft your skirt directly on the fabric. But if you prefer to have a full paper pattern (especially a good idea if you are doing something like a scalloped hem), it’s easy to do. You’ll probably need to tape together a few large sheets of paper (banner paper, non-fusible interfacing, or my favorite “pattern” paper are options).

Trace your 1/2 waist pattern along one long edge of the paper. From the center front, measure down the desired length plus 5/8” for a hem. Do the same from the side edges. I like to also make length marks in between the center front and side edges as well.

If your hip-to-hem or back-to-hem measurement tends to be longer (e.g. your skirts tend to “hike up” over the hip or rear), then go with that measurement for your length, rather than the center front-to-hem length. You can even the length around the hem according to your needs when the skirt is hemmed later during construction. It’s better to have too much than not enough!

Connect all the marks along the hem with a smooth curve.

If you’d like to create a flatter drape along the center front and back waistline, you can modify the pattern slightly by drawing a shallow, straight line along the waistline to “flatten” the circle a bit. Just make sure that you don’t make the waistline smaller. (Modification not shown in following diagrams.)

Add a 5/8” seam allowance to the waistline seam. Mark a 5/8” seam allowance along the side edges (unless you plan on cutting your skirt on the fold; note this is only workable for shorter length skirts using wide fabric).

Last we need to make a waistband pattern. Again, this is something you could draft directly on your fabric, but I like to have a “hard copy” of since I’ll also cut out interfacing.

Using your waistline length, mark that on a piece of the pattern paper plus 2 1/4” (1” is for overlap). Measure the waistband height, times two, plus 1 1/4” along either end of the long line. Draw another long line parallel to the first. Connect the short ends; you should have a long rectangle as shown below:

Mark the grainline along the length and center front point (center of length).

We’re done! That was easy, wasn’t it? Do let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try and get back to you as soon as I can!

Note: A handful asked about drafting a half circle skirt pattern, which I decided not to cover here for the sake of length and focus to this sew-along. However, if you’d like to draft a half circle skirt, Patty has a great “cheat sheet” here with directions!

September 8, 2011 · 39 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing,tutorials · tags: ,

Abby September 8, 2011 at 11:22

I’m so excited to see this, and I wish I were at home so I could do draft my pattern right now! Do you have any recommendations for the finished waistband width? I’m thinking 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Thank you for the note about the shallow line across the waist to create a flatter front; I never knew you could do that!

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Casey September 11, 2011 at 21:13

I went with a waistband of about 1 1/2″ wide. I find any narrower, and it’s too narrow, and any larger and it starts getting bulky. :) Hope that helps!

♥ Casey

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Faith September 8, 2011 at 11:44

Excellent! I confess that looking at this, my mind goes a bit haywire because my brain sort of shuts down the moment I see mathematics.

I also have a question. If you’re making a waistband that is shaped at the front, say in a ^ shape (but more shallow, obviously), does the seam allowance that will be where the zip is have to be the same width as the back? Does that question even make sense? My last attempt at making a shaped waistband resulted in the front waistband being wider than the back it joined onto.

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Casey September 11, 2011 at 21:14

I try to keep things an even seam allowance, so things match at the side seams and back. Just for my own sanity’s sake! lol. ;)

♥ Casey

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puppyloveprincess September 8, 2011 at 12:29

faith’s comment made me think of something. .. i really wish they had little sewing projects in my math classes; hands-on activities like that would’ve actually made math really fun!

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Jesslyn September 8, 2011 at 13:10

Question! I do want to do the flatter drape along the front/back but won’t drawing that shallow line in the waist automatically shrink it a bit? Should I size up by an inch to accommodate the line? The pattern drafting is the part that most intimidates me and why I’m so excited for this sew along. (Math and I don’t get along.)

Question 2 – what is your recommended waistband width? The vintage tutorial you posted last year said 1.5″ but that seems a little small. Does it matter if we go larger?

I got some great exaggerated b&w houndstooth material. It’s a little on the heavy side which I love for fall/winter but hope it will still be swingy.

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Casey September 11, 2011 at 21:17

Here are my thoughts (I didn’t do this on my first skirt for this sew along, but have on the second, which is still under construction! ;) : I don’t think flattening just a tiny bit would reduce the waistband too much. Also: remember the waist opening is on the bias, so you’ll have that to work with. My recommendation would be to flatten the pattern front, then take your tape measure and check the measurement against your waist measure.

I usually end up with a 1 1/2″ wide waistband. On me, I find that the most flattering width (I’m about 5’5″ for reference). Wider gets a little too bulky. But I’d say go with a width that you feel most comfortable with.

I can’t wait to see your skirt–houndstooth sounds perfect! :)

♥ Casey

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Littlefoot September 8, 2011 at 13:25

I’m so excited to get started on this! Must resist while I make dinner, etc!!!

Thanks for the tip on the flatter section over the tummy area… I may take that into consideration!

I’m also wondering about the waistband width! Not sure whether to go for narrow or wide… Hmmm decision time!

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Stephanie September 8, 2011 at 17:24

Yay! I’m thinking about drafting a fun waist band for this project and maybe even boning it if I’m feeling really adventurous.

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Casey September 11, 2011 at 21:18

YES!!!! I think boning a wider waistband would be perfect; and help alleviate some of the weight that comes with wearing a full circle skirt. Can’t wait to see your version! :)

♥ Casey

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Faith September 8, 2011 at 23:36

I just had another thought – if we don’t have a drafting compass, would a pencil and string do just as well? I don’t want to try it out if it’s liable to create something way off the mark but part of me loves the old-school-ness of it :) Has anyone tried this? I haven’t done it since I was a wee tot so I don’t know how accurate it would be.

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Casey September 11, 2011 at 21:18

Yes! That’s the way I used to do this before I had a drafting compass–go for it!!! :)

♥ Casey

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Alexandria B September 9, 2011 at 00:52

I really love the way you share this information. Your post really make me know a lots of things when it comes to drafting and sewing. I

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Anna | Mormor hade stil September 9, 2011 at 02:18

Yay! I’m looking forward to the weekend when I’ll have the time to try my hand at drafting!

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Vicki Kate September 9, 2011 at 03:46

Wow! I never realised the drafting of a circle skirt was so straight forward. Why I never realised it I don’t know because looking at your instructions makes it very easy to understand. Looking forward to doing this at the weekend.

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Casey September 11, 2011 at 21:19

So glad you found these instructions easy to understand! :) Drafting really isn’t too tough–and this is one of my favorite things to draft because it is so easy and not too many maths. ;) hehe! (Which is where I always get jumbled up!)

♥ Casey

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Olivia September 9, 2011 at 08:17

Math is my worst subject. I am a little lost but after I read it a few times I think I will get it.
Thank you!
I can’t wait

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KatyDidStitches September 9, 2011 at 10:44

Very good information here, Casey. I’m not drafting my own pattern this time, as I already have a circle skirt pattern that fits well…but I noticed that it does indeed have the flattened waist. I always wondered why…and now I know!

Kathy

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Megan September 10, 2011 at 10:01

Quick question. I am tempted to use your shaped pockets tutorial to make pockets for my circle skirt. Do you think there is any reason why it would not be compatible with a circle skirt? Just checking- my sewing experiments do seem prone for disaster!

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Casey September 11, 2011 at 21:21

Do you mean the side seam, shaped pockets? I’d say try it! Although remember that the side seams of a circle skirt do drape a little differently than (for example) an a-line skirt. I have seen pictures of more moderate circle skirts of the 50s sporting similar, shaped pockets though…

♥ Casey

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Lisa in Berlin September 11, 2011 at 11:06

@Faith: I just did that pencil-on a string thing and it worked very well! Well, what I did was mark my circle in various places (since the radius is constant), and then just used my pencil on a string to connect the dots.

I’m also unsure how wide to make my waistband…I’d love to hear more thoughts on this.

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Lillefix September 11, 2011 at 16:07

I’m ot sure if I’m going to use the straight line waist or not. I think I can imagine how it might look, though it might have been nice if I could find a picture showing the difference on a finished skirt. I’m wondering, is the straight line waist the same as the pattern on on the 1954 instructions you have previously posted http://elegantmusings.com/2010/09/make-your-own-50s-circle-skirt/ or is that a differnt approach? I’m a total beginner as you can tell :p.

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Casey September 11, 2011 at 21:22

The original pattern does not have a straight line across the waist (this is something I’ve seen in several other places), but the waist pattern was more of an oval–which is similar. I’ve completed one of my skirts with a circular opening and am working on the second with the straightened front/back. I think it’ll just make things a bit more “flat” right at the front, instead of creating a deep fold that tends to happen because of the circle shape.

Hope that helps! :)

♥ Casey

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Lillefix September 11, 2011 at 22:11

Thanks for the reply, it did make it more clear to me :)

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misc-maranda September 11, 2011 at 22:28

mua ha ha! your example is my waist size-jack pot!! :) thanks so much for doing this sew a long-can’t wait for the next step!!

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Victoria / Justice Pirate September 12, 2011 at 16:28

I added this to my craft bookmarks for if I ever do get around to sewing again one day.

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Elissa September 12, 2011 at 21:39

I’m confused about the waistband. Where do I find the waistband height?

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Elissa September 12, 2011 at 21:47

Sorry. I meant waistband height. I am confused where that comes from.

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Casey September 14, 2011 at 08:03

It’s totally up to you how tall you want the waistband to be! :) I chose about 1 1/2″ for mine, but yours could be anywhere from 1″ to 2″ (or even wider, though then you’d most likely need to shape it to accommodate the angle of the torso/rib area).

♥ Casey

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Kelsey October 28, 2011 at 21:54

What about really, really tall girls? I’m 6’2 and the last circle skirt I tried to make wasn’t even close to being long enough for my comfort. And I extended the pattern as far I could on the fabric! Any way to get around this? Was I just going about it the wrong way? Help!

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Evelyn August 1, 2012 at 20:59

Hi, I am new to sewing and I want to make a skirt that is long in the back and short in the front for my niece. I have instructions that I found on-line but because I am new to sewing it hard to follow. I want to draw a half circle but the waist hole will not be center and I am not sure how to do this. The front length will be 16 inches and the back will be 34 to 39 inches and the side length should be 20 inches. I want to make a pattern that will be placed on the fold of the fabric. Would it make sense to draw a waist circle and cut it out and then place it where I need it to be in order to get the front short and the back long?

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Evelyn August 28, 2012 at 17:59

I am a bit confused on the radius measurements – I did the math for 34 inch waist and it came out at 5.4. Step one reads “draft the 1/2 waistline template” if I am drafting 1/2 of the waistline 5.4 is not half or I just don’t understand math.

Please Help!!
Evelyn

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Debra Soundy October 4, 2012 at 08:10

I have been researching circlular skirts as it is my daughter 21st bithday in a couple of months althogh a normal young lady she is obsessed with Tommy Steele and his pattern will make a wonderful suprise for her so she can look like they do in the films. Thank you again and I am sure wil your patterns and instructions she will be rocking on her special birthday

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Tawnda February 26, 2014 at 15:21

i am thankful for a circle skirt tutorial that is straight forward. some tutorials seem so difficult, i never even bother. this one is easier and also easy to modify if needed! thanks

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