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Drape a Skirt Sloper

You can easily drape your own skirt to solve the problem of an uneven skirt hem.
You can easily drape your own skirt to solve the problem of an uneven skirt hem.

You can easily drape your own skirt to solve the problem of an uneven skirt hem.

by Kathleen Cheetham
excerpted from Threads #132, pp. 40-45

An uneven skirt hem is just one symptom of an ill-fitting skirt that doesn't hang properly. The good news is that you can easily drape your own skirt and solve this problem. The skirt-draping process starts where the difficulties emanate-with the"hang" of a skirt at the top, which, of course, is your waist, tummy, and hip. I'll show you how.

A skirt is the simplest garment to drape. You'll need a sewing friend, 3 to 4 yards of light- to medium-weight muslin fabric, and your ability to stand for about 60 minutes.

Fabric on its way to becoming a skirt
  Fabric held at the waist and falling from the hip is on its way to becoming a skirt.

Trade off with your sewing friend and drape each other. Wear the shoes you would with a skirt and your best-fitting foundation garment. The shoes ensure the same posture that you'll have when you're dressed in finished garments.

If you have a dress form you've made or bought that matches your size and shape perfectly, you can drape that for an accurate fit as well. But be aware that a dummy may need a slight layer of padding first so you can build in some breathing room; otherwise, the resulting pattern may be too tight.

In the end, you'll have a basic skirt sloper that can serve as groundwork to design other skirts. This sloper can lead you to A-line, gored, flared, or any other skirt style pattern. And, every skirt you design from this sloper automatically fits and hangs beautifully.

Prepare the muslin for the skirt front
When you prepare muslin fabric for draping, it is important to cut the fabric straight on the lengthwise grain and keep the waist and hem edges square. Press and align the fabric. Then use your measurements described below to figure out the size to cut your muslin.

• Place a pin or otherwise mark a side seam position on your clothes or body so you're sure to measure to the same side seam location.
• Measure across your fullest horizontal circumference-either the hip or tummy-from center front to side seam marker. Add 2 to 3 inches to this measurement for ease and seam allowances. Multiply the total by two to establish the width to cut your muslin fabric skirt front.
• Cut the muslin piece 5 to 6 inches longer than your desired skirt length. Along the lengthwise grain of the fabric, identify and mark the center grainline with a felt pen.

Prepare the muslin for the skirt back
The skirt will have a center-back seam, so plan to cut two pieces of fabric after taking and adjusting these measurements:

• Measure across the fullest part of your hip from center back to side seam just as you did for the skirt front. Add 3 to 4 inches to this measurement for ease, plus 1 inch for the center-back seam allowance.
• Cut two pieces of fabric for the back, with each the width calculated above and the same length as the front piece you cut earlier.

Baste seams and try on the skirt

Plus-size mannequin
  We used a plus-size mannequin (below) because it has more curves than the plus-size dress form shown above. The mannequin's hourglass shape serves as a better model for forming darts.

Machine-baste the front to the backs along the side seams. Baste the centerback seam, leaving 12 inches open at the top.

1. Tie narrow elastic comfortably around the waist. Then, with the seam allowances to the outside, pull on the skirt muslin and tuck it under the elastic.
2. Arrange the fabric with the center-front and center-back lines aligned on your body. Throughout the draping, keep the center lines positioned properly on the body and perpendicular to the floor.
3. Now stand straight with your weight shared equally on both feet while your sewing friend adjusts the skirt until it hangs evenly. Begin adjusting from the top, using the waist elastic to hold everything in place. Move the skirt up and down under the elastic until the side seams and the center-front and center-back seams hang perpendicular to the floor.
4. Once all vertical lines are hanging correctly, make sure the hem is parallel to the floor. Adjust as necessary.
5. You may notice the fabric above the waist elastic is not even-that's okay. What's important is that everything below the waist hangs smoothly and evenly.

Baste seams and try on the skirt
Baste seams

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