Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Skirts and Pattern Matching

I was asked a question today that got me thinking….hey, I don’t even know how many yards go into my skirts!

Figuring Out Skirt Yardage

My basic (very basic, no gores, cartridge pleated) methodology is this: 

(Personal caveat:  I rarely actually measure.  I rip out the first panel, using the “step on it and pull up to waist” method, plus a generous hem allowance, and do pattern matching from the top by “rounding up” to the next matching element at the bottom of the fabric and cutting there.  I feel like I’m not making sense.  Please let me know……)

waist-to-floor" x 2/3/4 panels + 12+" = total inches needed

waist-to-floor"  My waist-to-floor, straight down* is 41”.  I find that if I measure straight to the floor, I (usually) get a good walking-length when petticoats are added.  I usually don’t wear shoes with heels, but if you do, make sure to either add a few inches, or do your base measurement with the heeled shoes you’re gonna wear on.  (If you’re feeling particularly confident, skip the whole measuring bit, and go ahead and rip off a panel as I described above for the first panel, and use that as a guide for the rest of them)

Where it gets different is if I’m doing pannier skirts, haaauge bum skirts, or anything with a cage/crinoline, but basically same dealio, get the waist-to-hem measurement**.

2/3/4 panels This is where it gets a bit….squidgy, and has a lot to do with personal preference, type of fabric, type of skirt,  width of fabric etc.  I usually end up doing two or three panels, as a general rule.

12+"  More squidginess over here.  The very, very bare bone minimum I feel comfortable squeaking out a skirt + hems is 12” over all.  (that gives me a mere 3” hem, since about an inch is taken up in doing the cartridge pleats) More hem is always safer.

So, all that to tell you with no pattern in the fabric, that I use 2.6 yards (very minimum) to 5.5 yards (very maximum) for a plain, no gore/train cartridge pleated skirt.  I suppose my average skirt is somewhere in-between!

Pattern Matching Skirts

Ok, now on to pattern matching in skirts.  The basic rule of thumb is, the bigger the pattern repeat, the more yardage you’re gonna need.

For fabric without a pattern repeat, all you have to do is figure out your length, and you’re set to cut.

The very first thing to do when figuring out yardage for patterned fabric, is to measure out your base panel (in this case, 46”)


Unless you’re really, really lucky (it’s only happened to me once), your pattern isn’t going to just match up with your specific measurements***. 

The top of the panel starts half-way through the repeat, so the 2nd (3rd, 4th) panels will also need to start 1/2 way through the first repeat.



Here is a link to a post I did about how to figure out the top curve when attaching skirts to bodices without all that fiddly draping.  After sewing the panels together, that’s the next step in my skirt/gown construction process.


*An easy way to get this measurement with no help is to step on the measuring tape, grasping the end (the 1” end!) and stand up straight, holding the end of the tape to your waist.  Bend over, and see where the edge of your foot is marking.  Here is a totes cool stick figure showing you what I’m talking about:


**To get a waist-to-hem measurement with hoops, it’s backwards from the waist-to-floor measurement.  First off, it’s easiest to have someone do it for you, but if you’re totally stuck doing it yourself, make sure your measuring tape isn’t all curly at the ends (like mine tend to be), or use a retractable metal measure-y thing.  What is that called?  Ummmmmm…..huh.  Just googled it.  I guess that’s called a Tape Measure too.  Anyway, I digress.

So, put on your hoops or petticoats, or whatever fluffy bits you’re gonna be wearing , and feed the 1” end of the tape to the floor, going over whatever bit of you is sticking out the most.


***FYI: most modern brocades & jaquards I’ve used have been woven so the two selvages are the same. This makes it easier to match up patterns. There have been times where the patterns are off-kilter, and instead of matching across selvages.  If this is the case, then you’ll have excess at the top of one, and at the bottom of another.  If this doesn’t make any sense, lemme know and I’ll draw it out.

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