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Adjusting an a-line skirt pattern gra…

Bonnie_Braga | Posted in Patterns on

I understand by making a slight adjustment to an a-line skirt pattern grainline it will make the finished skirt hang evenly rather than sticking out at the sides. Is there a calculation for this adjustment? The bridesmaids skirts I am making are all about a size 12 and approx 85″ around the bottom edge. Thanks for any tips/tricks. Bonnie


  1. Theodora_D. | | #1

    Bonnie, There is a good discussion of this exact issue in Sandra Betzina's book Power Sewing Step by Step, which I found at my public library, and is available at many booksellers. I also believe this issue has been addressed in back issues of
    Threads mag and when I get a chance I'll go upstairs and look into them. I am almost 100% sure that that is where I found the idea, and if it's not, it's a great book anyway.

    The idea is to shift the vertical grainline of your pattern piece so that the straight of grain no longer goes down the center front and back seam lines, or folds lines, of your pattern piece, the way it usually does on an a-line skirt. Take your front pattern piece and fold it in half lengthwise, with the side seam lines on top of the center front seamline or foldline. Crease it. That crease line creates your new grainline. Do the same thing to the skirt back pattern. The side seam and the center back or front seams are now both slightly on the bias.
    Two things to note at this point. 1.This method means you have to have a center front seam and center back seam. You can't have the center front on the fold with this method, so you end up with a more or less visible seam down the front, which may or may not be visible and/or unattractive in the fabric you are using. 2. If your pattern originally had a center fold and now you have a center seam, you have to remember to add 5/8 seam allowances.

    That method might use slightly more fabric, and in a smaller size (12 is a smaller size as far as I'm concerned), you might or might not need to get more fabric. I would do a trial layout on another length of fabric you have lying around as long as it is the same width as your fashion fabric. You could also fudge around by having some pieces of the pattern go up and some down and shoehorn them onto the fabric the way one often can with triangular shaped pieces but you really have to pay attention to the nap of your fabric and whether that will create a shading effect. I would be very careful of doing that with any bridesmaid type fabrics. The "with nap" layout is almost always best in that case.

    Another way to achieve the same graceful effect is to change the grainline of your skirt piece dramatically to the true bias. Draw the new grainline a true 45 degrees to the one on the pattern, unfold your fabric and cut a single layer with a full pattern piece. In that case you would probably have to trace your skirt pattern and tape together the two pieces to get a complete front and back piece. I am completely sure that method would produce a beautiful effect, but it would require much more fabric, and may even require 54 inch wide fabric. And a lot more care on your part dealing with the bias seamlines and the hems, which would have to hang a while before you marked them, so excess fullness caused by the bias could stretch out before you hem.

    How much trouble you go to will depend on your clients. Many bridesmaids could care less and would be unwilling to pay for more fabric and a better construction method. For other clients, these details are acutely important and they are willing to pay for your extra work and the extra fabric. It depends on your situation. Efficient use of fabric and effort are probably what prompted the pattern designers to create an aline skirt with the grain running down the centers in the first place, if it is a bridesmaid pattern. You might see different attention to this detail in a bridal gown pattern, especially one of better quality, because the presumption is that for the bridal gown, you'd care more about those details.

    1. Bonnie_Braga | | #2

      *Thanks Theodora, I didn't know that I would end up with a front seamline using this method; the outfits are for my sister's wedding and I really want them to look (and fit)as close to perfect as I am capable of. I am making the skirts with the typical bridal satin. I have never had any luck with a bias skirt; the few times I attempted them I was very disappointed with how they fit and hung; maybe I did something wrong! Anyway they went in the garbage and I am afraid to try them again! I guess I will make up a trial skirt using the pattern I have and a similar fabric and see how it turns out. Thanks for your help; if you have any other ideas, I'd be glad to hear from you again. Bonnie

      1. sanderson | | #3

        *For what its worth...I just shortened an A-line bride's maid's skirt. When I took it apart to see how the RTW folks had done their hem I saw they had inserted a type of "horse hair" braid into the hem allowance. The braid was about 3/8" wide. It seems the extra stiffness gave the hem a more round flow and seemed to contol the sides' drape.

        1. Theodora_D. | | #4

          *Bonnie,If you are using bridal Satin you definitely want to avoid the center front seam and you don't want to do anything funny with the nap because of shading. Sanderson's solution seams to be an ingenius way of controlling the way the fullness hangs. I'd experiment with that--it will pull some of the fullness to the fornt and back, discouraging it all from hanging to the side. A full length slip with some body would also help. Theodora

          1. Bonnie_Braga | | #5

            *Hello, thanks for your input; can you tell me how the braid was inserted? Was it sewn into the raw edge or just lying along the fold line? How deep was the hem? It certainly sounds worth trying. Hope to hear from you soon.Bonnie

          2. sanderson | | #6

            *The hem was just a half inch (a quarter folded up over another quarter) with the braid inserted between the fold and the main fabric. Sorry; this looks wordy to me but I'm not used to describing sewing techniques. The actual sewing was very close to the fold at about 10 stitches to the inch. Also, I used stean to hold up the first quarter inch but then finger pressed the final turn. The braid seemed to protect the outer part of the skirt from a ridge when I pressed the hem after sewing. Added bonus? Hope this helps. If you find this stuff, please let me know what it's really called.

          3. Theodora_D. | | #7

            *Bonnie and Sanderson, I am also familiar with the braid stuff. It's called horsehair braid, and while in the olden days it was really horsehair, it is now a nylon product. I find it in my local large chain fabric store and it is a Dritz product. It is usually hanging around near the boning packages. It can sometimes be found in half inch and full inch widths, but it sound like half inch would be fine for your hem width. And yes, it does act as a kind of interfacing to add body to the hem and keep those ugly fold lines away.

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