Have you ever bought a sewing pattern and it wasn’t exactly what you thought it would be? I know I have! Luckily with a little bit of know-how, there are lots of quick and easy ways to alter a pattern to better suit your needs. (Note: I’m strictly talking about style lines, construction details, etc. Fitting issues are a bit trickier.)
I recently purchased BurdaStyle’s Pocket Skirt #121B (also called Flared Skirt #121A) because I liked its simple silhouette and its front pocket detail. The sample photos make it look like a hoodie pocket on a skirt, and I loved that idea! Unfortunately, I bought the pattern without examining the technical sketch first, and I found the pattern and construction methods to be difficult and confusing. It turns out the front pocket isn’t a hoodie pocket at all but rather two inseam pockets set above a very curved dart and below a horizontal seam that joins the skirt together around the belly area.
Even though the idea of two pocket bags sitting on my lower stomach seemed like it might be uncomfortable, I still wanted to try this pattern. My goal was to simplify the construction of the skirt while keeping the overall silhouette and front pockets.
So here’s what I did! Basically I took the SKIRT FRONT (one piece) and turned it into three separate pieces called SKIRT FRONT CENTER, SKIRT FRONT SIDE, and SKIRT YOKE. Creating these three pieces allows you to sew in the pocket bags as regular inseam pockets. The three pieces also make for smoother seams. Sewing straight lines (almost straight anyway) is always easier than sewing curves. If you want to make the same pattern conversion, follow below for a step-by-step guide, and please let me know if you have any questions!
#1 – Here’s the pattern before any alterations were made.
#2 – Start by drafting the SKIRT FRONT CENTER piece. We are basically creating a princess seam by making the front of the skirt two separate pieces. To do this start at the hem of the skirt and draw a couple of dashes parallel to the center front line. You want this seam line (our princess seam line) to blend into the curve at the top of the pattern piece, so simply eyeball your princess seam placement. It just so happens that the grid of the downloadable pattern makes for a good spot for the princess seam. Very convenient!
#3 – Connect the dashes to make a one straight line parallel to the center front line. Stop your line 4-5″ below where the top curve of the princess seam will blend into the straight line.
*A quick note here, I wanted to make the princess seams parallel to center front so they would be sewn on the straight grain, making them nice and smooth.
#4 – Connect the princess line curve on the CENTER FRONT SKIRT pattern piece to the straight line drawn in step #3. To do this, use a ruler to make a series of dashes that will gradually curve and blend into the straight line. You can also use a hip curve ruler to do this, but dashes are quick and easy.
#5 – Create the SKIRT YOKE by drawing a series of dashes that follow the line of the waist. Your yoke seam line should be parallel to the waistline.
#6 – Draft the SKIRT FRONT SIDE by following a similar method from steps #2-4 to create the other side of the princess seam. If you’ve ever done any pattern drafting you’ll know that typically princess seams are drafted as a way to manipulate darts (move excess fabric around to create a 3D shape), which is exactly what we’re doing, expect that our dart is kind of wacky. For this reason, my SKIRT FRONT SIDE princess line does not blend into the same line from my SKIRT FRONT CENTER, which means that we are taking fabric away from the skirt thereby changing its size. I measured the difference in size grades, and each size grades up 3/8″. Lucky for us, if we remove 3/8″ from the skirt between the two princess lines, we get a nice blended curve from the top of the SKIRT FRONT SIDE princess line down to the hem. After you’ve drawn in your seam, you’ll just note that the smallest size grade at the skirt side seam is no longer your smallest size. Every size gets moved out by one grade. If you’re making the largest size, you’ll simply draw in a new side seam that is 3/8″ away from the largest side seam on the current pattern. I hope this is all making sense!
#7 – On the SKIRT FRONT SIDE, connect the straight of the princess seam to the curve of the princess seam towards the top of the skirt. The straight of the princess seam should be 3/8″ away from and parallel to the princess seam on the SKIRT FRONT CENTER pattern piece.
#8 – Now that we’ve created our three pattern pieces, we must check all of them to make sure they will fit together nicely. You don’t want your SKIRT FRONT CENTER princess line to be a different length than your SKIRT FRONT SIDE princess line. Start from the hem and measure the length of both new seams. They both should be 20 3/4″ long. Then check your yoke seam line. The yoke seam should be 10″ long on the YOKE pattern piece, while the yoke seams on the FRONT CENTER and FRONT SIDE pieces should each be 5″ long.
#9 – Hooray! We have our three pattern pieces, and they are all measured and correct. Our final step is to draw in pattern notches, which are used as guide markers for sewing. To start, draw in your POCKET notches. Measure the seam length of the hand opening on the POCKET piece. It is 5 1/2″ long.
#10 – On the skirt pattern, measure from the yoke seam down 5 1/2″ on both the FRONT CENTER and FRONT SIDE pattern pieces. Draw notches here. You’ll notice I’ve drawn another set of notches below the pocket notches. I like to include additional notches on my pattern pieces when there are curves involved. This set of notches tells me that the seam line below the notch is straight. That means that the curve between the two sets of notches must be eased together when sewing. This helps keep my fabric from shifting while I’m sewing.
Last, but not least, draw in those grainlines! They are all parallel to your center front line.
OK! Now it’s time to cut and to sew. I’ll write a separate post briefly outlining my construction steps for this skirt. Check back for that soon. And of course photos of my completed skirt!