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by Don McCunn
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Using the Lower Torso Sloper for Skirts


The Lower Torso Sloper can be used to create a variety of different skirts. Some examples of variations are included in my book How to Make Sewing Patterns on pages 130 to 134, 2nd ed. (pages 147 to 151, 1st ed.) If you have taken my "Introduction to Pattern Design" class, all the techniques described were developed using the skirt like example of an apron. It should be a straight forward process to applying those techniques to skirts.

Skirt Variations

I am including instructions for the five skirt variations shown below. The first skirt is the sloper made in an appropriate fabric. The next two skirts illustrate the two types of fullness you can include in a skirt. The final two examples show how to convert the sloper into a skirt with a contoured waistband that can either be fitted, a Pencil skirt, or a full A-Line skirt.

Fitted Skirt
Fitted Skirt

This is the fitted skirt made directly from the sloper. Only a pattern for a facing has been added to the instructions.

This example was made from corduroy. If you are new to sewing, I highly recommend you consider using corduroy for your skirts as it is a very friendly fabric to work with.

Instructions for a Fitted Skirt

Gathered Skirt
Gathered Dirndl Skirt

This is a gathered dirndl skirt made from rectangles of fabric. This style illustrates the appearance of gathered fullness. The waist opening is a straight line gathered into elastic for a pull on skirt. It is based on the hip measurement and does not require a fitted sloper. It is a very easy skirt to make.

Instructions for Dirndl Skirts

Handkerchief Hem
Handkerchief Hem and Circular Skirts

This is a handkerchief hem made from a square of fabric. This style illustrates the appearance of draped fullness. The waist opening is the same as you would use for a circular skirt. It does not require a fitted sloper.

Instructions for Handkerchief Hem & Circular Skirts

Bubble Skirt
Bubble Skirt

The Bubble skirt is made from an inner skirt and an outer skirt. The inner skirt is shorter and the outer skirt has more fullness. The two hems are sewn together to create the bubble hem. It can be made either from a sloper or from just measurements.

Instructions for a Bubble Skirt

Fitted Skirt A-Line Skirt Pleated Skirt Leather Skirt
Contoured Waistband Skirts

The instructions for these skirts show how to change the sloper for a contoured waistband. Two basic styles are included, fitted and full. The instructions include how to add a lining and how to create a leather skirt.

Instructions for Contoured Waistband Skirts

Calculating Fabric Needs

Fabric Layout

When you are creating an original design if you are not using fabric you already have on hand, you will need to determine how much fabric you will need.

One way to do this is to create the patterns first then lay them out as if you were placing them on folded fabric. While 44 inches is a standard width for a lot of fabric, you may need to adjust the layout for different width fabric. Keep in mind that some fabric, such as velvet, is directional. You may also want to work with prints or plaids which require more yardage.

One thing to keep in mind is that when you are creating your own patterns, you may change the patterns to fit the fabric you bought. I have on occasion done fullness for a skirt but then when I saw how it was going to come out on the fabric, redrafted it a little smaller.

For the handkerchief skirt and the gathered skirt described above both were based on the material. The handkerchief is square so the length equals the width. For the gathered skirt, I used the material I had on hand adjusting the hem length to the fabric I had.

Another option is to try out your design idea in quarter scale. Then layout those patterns and multiply by four to determine the amount of fabric you need.

Adjusting for Fullness

When you are creating a skirt that has fullness, start with the maximum amount of fullness you think you will need but add extra length to the hem. Then if you need to remove some of the fullness, you will have the fabric to make the change as shown in the image below.

Changing Fullness

Resources for Design Ideas

There are a variety of resources for design ideas.

  • Your closet is a great place to start. What length hem lines do you like? What type of fabric appeals to you? How much fullness do you want?
  • When you go shopping, take a tape measure, pad of paper, and a pencil (and maybe a camera). When you see a skirt you like, try it on and jot down the vital dimensions.
  • If you want to develop your design repertoire, start collecting images from newspapers, magazines, and websites. Keep them in a folder to refer to.
  • Go fabric shopping and see if any of the fabric speaks to you. Sometimes the fabric will leap right off the shelf and into your arms allowing you to figure out what you are going to do with it later.
  • Visit the websites of the pattern companies and look at the information they include for a given pattern. Those little line drawings of the styles can easily give you most if not all the information you need to create the design from your sloper.

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