How to Make a Scalloped Front Skirt

comments (5) August 26th, 2009     

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Christopher Kanes spring 2009 collection featured scalloped edges combined in a number of ways
This skirt is adapted from Neue Mode J21390. The pattern requires the addition of seam allowances.
Use any shallow, straight-sided lid to guide your curves.
Christopher Kanes spring 2009 collection featured scalloped edges combined in a number of ways

Christopher Kane's spring 2009 collection featured scalloped edges combined in a number of ways


Watching fashion trends is a great way to get ideas to incorporate into your sewing projects. This season serpentine edges were found in garments from many designers, but none were as dramatic as that from Christopher Kane. Here is an adaptation of the serpentine edge that you can use to create a dramatic edge that can be adapted for day or nighttime looks.

The placket could be used in a variety of ways. You could, for example, incorporate a similar version into any pattern. Make it your own by positioning the serpentine edge on a new or existing seam or using it otherwise as a functioning design element. The process involves a series of steps that is described below, which even a beginning sewer can follow. 


Master class made easy

The original Yves Saint Laurent inspiration was a center-front opening on a straight skirt. You can use a favorite skirt pattern and alter it by drafting a new front opening. But I think it’s easier to sew the placket first and attach 
it to two lengths of fabric, then cut out the pattern 
with the placket already in place. That way, you’re certain that all of the pieces fit perfectly together. All you have to draft is the serpentine line. 


The trick is in the planning

Sewing curves, especially ones smaller than an armhole or jewel neckline, can get tedious. This project requires sewing two long rows of curves and keeping them perfectly matched. It can be done, but there’s a trick to making it fun. This edge
contains two alternating curves. To simplify your planning first and your sewing later, find a 3-inch-diameter jar lid with straight sides. 
We'll show you how to use it to establish your pattern—and even to sew your curves.




Use any basic straight-skirt pattern. Prepare the front pattern piece by copying the pattern and taping a mirror image along the center-front line to make a full-front pattern piece. For the serpentine edge, use a straight-sided, 3-inch-diameter jar lid to guide your sewing. Choose a lid with a flat top. Cut a 200-grit sandpaper disk to fit the top of the lid, and affix the paper, grit side out, to the lid with double-sided tape. You’re now ready to turn your lid into a cam as described below.

1. Start drawing your pattern. Draw a line in the center of a piece of paper. Position the lid edge, top down, 1 inch outside the line, and trace around the short side. Mark two lines on the side of the lid to correspond with the position of the line on the paper. These will later be used as registration marks. Mark three parallel lines below the finished length line--two 1 1/2 inch apart and the third 3/4 inch below. Cut the excess tracing paper off at the third line.



2. Sew a test run without thread. Remove the thread from your sewing machine. Align the lid on the paper over the curved tracing. Use the lid to position the paper until the needle is aligned with the line under the lid and the lid touches the left side of the presser foot as shown. 

Lower the presser foot. Apply a slight amount of pressure with your fingers, pushing down and gently into the presser foot. Begin sewing, and stop stitching when the needle meets the registration mark on the other side of the lid. Without otherwise guiding the paper, the lid directs the stitching to create a consistent curve.



3. Use the sewn curve as your template. Notice that the sewn curve is larger than the traced one. The difference is the distance between the left side of your presser foot and the needle. The stitched curve is the size and shape of the largest curve on your serpentine edge. You can change the size of the curve by adjusting your needle position, an option you might want to consider later. 



Use a penny to make a template for the smaller curve in the serpentine chain. Draw a line across a penny 3⁄16 inch away from the edge. With the smaller side of the penny pointing in the opposite direction of the larger curve, position the end of the line at the exact point your stitching touched the line on the paper. Match each side of the coin to the drawn line, and trace around the penny as shown. The connected curve you’ve just drawn is one repeat of the chain of curves that make up your serpentine line. Use this paper test pattern to establish the finished length of your skirt.


1. Make a template of the penny curve to follow for sewing. Do this by aligning the line drawn on the penny with the straight edge of a 3x5 index card. Trace around the short side of the penny. Cut out the curved segment, and discard. I’ll explain how to use the template later.


2. Determine the finished length of your skirt. Starting at the waist seamline, using your test paper for length, measure down the center front of your skirt to see how many repeats you have before reaching the hemline. Make the hemline fall after a full, large curve. This may require adjusting the original hemline up or down. You can also adjust the size of the large curves by changing the needle position or using a different-size lid. Adjust your pattern to accommodate the modified skirt length and allow for a 2-inch hem allowance. 



3. Cut the placket strips. Cut two straight-grain strips of skirt fabric 4 inches longer than the center front of your adjusted skirt pattern and 9 inches wide. Fold each strip in half lengthwise, with right sides together. Cut a fusible interfacing to fit each folded strip, and position one on each strip on opposite sides. Do not permanently bond the interfacing. Just touch it gently with an iron to temporarily hold it to the fabric. You’ll finish fusing it later. 


4. Draw reference lines across both strips. Lay the folded strips side by side with the folded edges aligned in the center and the interfaced sides up. Draw a line perpendicular to the folds across both strips about 1 inch from the top short edge. Draw a second line 5⁄8 inch below the first line. You will align your pattern waist seam to this line when you cut out the pattern.





Start with the lid to sew a perfect large curve effortlessly. Use the reference line to transition to the penny template, and alternate sewing the two curves down the lengths of the strip.



1. Baste a reference line for aligning your lid. Set up your machine with an open-toe presser foot and its longest stitch. Baste a line 1 3⁄4 inches away from and parallel to the fold on each strip. This basted line holds the layers together and provides a line to follow when sewing your curves.

Start sewing the first strip with the fold on the right and the drawn line on the top edge of the strip. Stitch, following the basted line through both drawn lines. Take two stitches past the lowest line, and position the needle down into the basted line. 

Lift the presser foot, and pivot your fabric until the presser-foot toe points to the fold. Lower the presser foot. 

Align your lid with both of the side marks on the basting line and the side of the lid touching the presser foot. Stitch with the lid as you did before, allowing the lid to move the fabric. Stop with the needle down in the basted line on the opposite side of the curve. 



2. Alternate between the lid and the penny template. Set the lid aside, and align your penny template with the straight line along the basted line and the point where the curve starts at the needle point. Shorten the stitch length when sewing the penny curves. Take a stitch at a time, hand cranking if necessary, and pivot the fabric with each stitch to navigate this tiny curve. Check your template to make sure the straight edge is always aligned with the basted line. Follow the template curve, just skimming the template edge with the needle until you reach the basted line again. 

With the needle down in the basted line, remove the penny template, reset the stitch length, reposition the lid as before, and stitch around it. Continue sewing curves in this manner until you reach the hemline at the end of a large curve.


3. Mark the hemline before sewing the second strip. Align both strips with the folds touching and the interfacing up. On the lower edge, hold a ruler through the last stitch on the first strip, perpendicular to the fold, and draw a line across both strips.

Sew the second strip from the hem up. Position the needle down at the point where the line you just drew crosses the basting line. Position the lid as before, with the side marks aligned with the basting line, and start sewing the large curve. Proceed as before, alternating large curves and penny curves until you reach the waistline. At the end of the last large curve, continue sewing straight along the basting line right off the edge of the strip.


The transitional steps between making the strips and sewing your skirt are the most important because they establish a smooth, flat, finished serpentine edge.



1. Remove the basting, trim, fuse, and trim again. Remove the basting stitches. Lift the lightly tacked interfacing in 
the seam allowance, and trim it close to the stitching. Then permanently fuse the interfacing. Trim the seam allowances to 1⁄8 inch. 
2. Clip curves, compare sides, and finish the lower edge. Clip every 1⁄16 inch into the penny curves. The larger curves probably won’t require clipping. Stitch the hem edge by sewing over the line you drew in step 3 under SEW THE EDGE above. 
3. Press inside and out. Use a pressing tool to press open the curved seams with your iron. This is an essential step for creating a good-looking serpentine edge. Turn the strip right side out, and carefully press the edges to avoid stretching or distorting them.


Incorporate the strips into your pattern, and start your basic sewing. Sew buttonholes and buttons before attaching the skirt sides and cutting out your skirt-front pattern. This step eliminates pattern-drafting steps and makes everything fit together perfectly.


1. Add buttonholes and buttons. At last, you can see how your strips fit together. Lay them out, overlap alternating large curves, and mark the buttonhole placement along the center-front line. Sew the buttonholes and corresponding buttons. Note: The buttonholes alternate with the buttons.

  2. Sew in the strips. Sew a piece of fabric to the long, raw edge of each strip. Determine the size of this fabric by measuring your skirt-front pattern. Cut each piece 1 inch longer than the unfinished center-front length and as wide as the widest section.
  3. Cut out your pattern. Button the placket, lay it and the attached fabric flat on a table, and align the center-front line of the pattern with the placket buttons. Cut your skirt front from this piece. Cut out the remainder of your skirt, assemble, and finish as you normally would.  



This feature was excerpted from an article by Judith Neukam in Threads issue #126.


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Comments (5)

SewingNella writes: @Lauraflo:

Don`t be prudent, if you are not comfy with yourself, don`t blame the clothes. There is nothing wrong with showing of a bit of skin and be sexy

I made this skirt short while ago and it`s amazing
Posted: 9:30 am on March 19th
SabrinaStyle writes: That's a great idea for using pinking shears to reduce bulk on curves! Thanks.
Posted: 4:24 pm on September 29th
lauraflo writes: I like the way this skirt looks, and the explanation of the scallops is excellent.
But my concern with the design is that, when the wearer sits down, there will be gaps between the scallops that will show their slip underneath. There should be a placket below that would prevent this - or perhaps make the skirt front non- opening and use a side or back zipper, with the scallop plackets stitched into seams on a solid front.

A design has to be wearable, not just good looking.
Posted: 10:45 am on September 11th
Paws2 writes: I love this design!!! I will without a doubt make this skirt enjoying every moment.The interesting thing is that I have made a band with a scalloped edge for a plain blanket to add a little pazzaz. I was not able to give the edge a nice smooth finish. I will follow the method to finish the edge described above which I'm sure will do the trick. Thank you for sharing this design and method for this wonderful skirt!!!!
Posted: 8:35 am on September 11th
Ktquilt writes: I like using a pair of pinking sheers to clip the curves. This takes out excess fabric and provides the space for the curve to adjust.
Posted: 5:09 pm on September 6th
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