How to Draft a One-Seam Skirt in 30 Minutes

comments (15) December 31st, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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Here is my stretch velvet skirt, together with the original fleece one I made a couple of years ago.
The front view of the fleece skirt.
Here is a close-up of the center back seam and embroidery.
Here is my stretch velvet skirt, together with the original fleece one I made a couple of years ago.

Here is my stretch velvet skirt, together with the original fleece one I made a couple of years ago.

Photo: Jen Stern
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Christmas is over, and my thoughts have shifted to what I will be wearing on New Year's Eve. Whatever I pick needs to be stretchy so it's comfortable to wear while I'm eating, dancing...and eating again! I designed this one-seam skirt for a class I taught a few years ago. For the class I suggested that my students use fleece. It turned out to be the perfect winter skirt—warm and cozy! I decided to try it using stretch velvet for New Year's Eve! This simple pattern is really a rectangle with some darts along the waistline to create a nice shape. The single seam runs down the center back of the skirt. All you need to make your own pattern is a large piece of pattern paper, a long ruler or yardstick, and your hip measurement. After I show you how to draft the pattern, I will give you some tips on sewing a good dart.

If you're scrolling ahead to peak at how much work this pattern is to draft, don't be fooled by the number of steps, seven in all. I wanted to make it as easy as possible to follow, and each step takes just a few minutes!

step 1

Work on a large piece of paper. If you don't have paper that big, use newspaper and make a bold pen line with a skinny Sharpie marker.



Step 2
When you add the waistline, measure the distance between the widest part of your hip and where you want the waistline of your skirt to sit.


Step 3
The center back seam is usually straight. If you have a sway-back, you can take in the center back seam, creating a dart, for a better fit.

step 4
These longer darts are a great substitute for side seams—depending on the kind of knit you are using, they can almost disappear into the fabric.


step 5
If your waist is more than 6 inches smaller than your hip, you add an extra set of darts in the front and/or back to spread out the reduction. I don't recommend making darts with straight legs any more than 1 inch wide—it gets hard to end gradually if they are too wide.


step 6
The center front waist should dip below the sides about 3/4 inch and the center back waist should be 1/2 inch lower than the sides.

step 7


step 8



color view of completed pattern

Take your completed pattern and lay it on stretch fabric of your choice. Make sure the width of the pattern is positioned across the stretch. Cut it out and get ready to sew some great darts!

The secret to a well-sewn dart is to sew off the end of the dart leg as smoothly and gradually as you can. Use a fine chalk pencil to mark each dart. In addition to the dart legs, draw the center line.

draw dart
The center line makes it easy to fold the fabric and match up the dart legs exactly.

Fold the fabric along the center line, matching the dart legs. Pin the fabric in place.

sew dart
Start stitching at the open end, progressing down to the tip of the dart.

When you get within 1/2 inch of the dart, shorten your stitch length slightly and continue stitching directly off the edge of the fold at the tip of the dart.

sew off the fold at the end
Lift the presser foot and pull out some thread, leaving 3- to 4-inch tails.

Tie a loose square knot at the end of the dart to secure the thread.

tie a loose sq. knot
Do not pull the knot too tightly or the fabric will pucker.

Press the dart on a ham or other round surface. I have already packed my ham in anticipation of moving into my new house, so I used a roll of paper towels to press my dart. Any clean, rounded surface will work if you don't have a ham.

press on a curved surface
When you press a dart, don't apply lots of pressure with the iron because it will make the seam allowance visible from the front. If you are working with stretch velvet, hover the iron over the dart and gently steam the dart—finger-press if necessary.

When you sew the longer side darts, mark an inch or so under the cut edges. Start sewing the dart using a 1/2-inch seam allowance. As you approach the end of the cut edge, start reducing the seam allowance as you stitch to the tip of the dart.

close-up of long side dart
Press the seam allowance open.

I was having a hard time photographing the shiny stretch velvet, so I apologize for the bad picture...I think you can still see that the darts around the waist create nice shaping and the skirt falls evenly to the hem.

velvet skirt
All this skirt needs now is an elastic waistband and a quick hem and then it's off to the party!


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Comments (15)

ahlix writes: Any tips on if you want to make it tighter at the bottom like a pencil skirt? Ay tips would be helpful! Thanks!
Posted: 12:44 am on October 6th
user-1088709 writes: This is fantastic! My daughter just finished an advanced fashion class in high school but never learned about making patterns. I have sewn for years but the thought of making a pattern was overwhelming. We are both soooo anxious to try this skirt! More pattern designs please!
Posted: 7:30 pm on December 27th
jenali1123 writes: i must say thanks a million for the skirt instructions; very easy to understand especially for a beginner like myself. i am anxious to start this project.
Posted: 1:25 pm on June 12th
JACC writes: pattern for A-line skirt needed
Posted: 8:37 pm on November 4th
SlickBleep writes: Jennifer, thanks very much for this pattern. I've been sewing for 30 years but would not have known how to do this myself — thank you for teaching me. I'm going to make two of them tonight out of stretch wool boucle and if they flatter my post-baby tummy I will send you pictures.
Posted: 9:10 pm on September 27th
JenniferStern writes: Hi, garments and pattern making are my first love, so I'll be doing more on Craftstylish soon!...I'm putting the final touches on my own pattern line (The jeans are to die for!!!)

As far as the elastic waistband is concerned... I wrap a piece of elastic around my middle to get the length that's comfortable. Then I sew it into a circle and mark the quarters. Position the elastic against the wrong side of the waistline and pin the quarters to the side seams and CF and CB. Make sure the top edge of the elastic is even with the raw edge of the skirt. Then use a serger (or 3-step zig-zag on your sewing machine) to sew the elastic to the edge of the waistline. Stretch the elastic so it just fits the fabric between the pins. Hold the elastic taut as you sew--let the machine feed the edge without holding it back or pulling it through. Then fold the elastic down, (encasing it in fabric). Pin in place and use the 3-step zig-zag to stitch the elastic down. --that's it. Let me know if you need more detail!
Posted: 7:24 pm on February 1st
Love_it writes: Thank you. Bring on more lessons about garment construction and pattern making. More, More......
Posted: 2:36 pm on February 1st
cnanabele writes: I am on a diet and will be dropping at least 2 skirt sizes so this will be perfect to make inexpensive interim clothes. How did you make the elastic wasteband?
Posted: 2:28 am on February 1st
JenniferStern writes: Hey you guys I want to see your skirts!!! If you're working with fleece, this pattern is even easier because the darts disappear into the nap of the fabric...just be careful when you are "pressing" them. Hover the iron over the dart and use gentle steam because polar fleece can melt..yuck!
Posted: 9:52 am on January 11th
rainwolfe writes: I have a piece of charcoal fleece that I was thinking would be great for a skirt, but since I haven't done much in clothes-making I was worried about messing it up.
This is Perfect!!
Thank you!
Posted: 10:53 am on January 10th
fergi writes: As a new student at a vacational training center learning how to sew i thank u for such an awesome idea cant wait to try. I would really like to see more simple sewing ideas and patterns
Posted: 4:39 pm on January 6th
JenniferStern writes: If anyone needs help getting their skirt to fit, shoot me an email at [email protected] One tip I can think of right off the bat--if you are making a low-waisted skirt or have little difference between waist and hip measurements--your darts will be very small, especially in front!
Posted: 8:28 am on January 6th
ChessWidow writes: Thank you! I started working out a few months ago and my body shape has changed a lot! You've just saved me a lot of money buying a pattern. :)
Posted: 9:21 pm on January 1st
IggyJingles writes: As someone with a relatively large waist to hip measurement, I have made lots of these very one seam/darted skirts in the past. But I didn't use stretch fabric. I used flannel or twill or poplin and put a zipper in the back seam and used a regular waistband. I was making straight skirts of different lengths. With longer ones I would leave a walking split in the back seam.

Posted: 3:19 am on January 1st
Fiberfads writes: How wonderful is this! Can't wait to try it. Thanks.

Posted: 12:27 pm on December 31st
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