My Skirt Sloper

I thought it might be interesting to talk a little bit about my skirt sloper and it’s features. I drafted this sloper last spring in my pattern drafting class. If you’re interested in making a similar one, you might invest in a copy of Building Patterns. This book was written by my school’s founder (and my current instructor) Suzy Furrer. It’s a wonderful resource that takes you step by step in creating your sloper and then details the process to draft variations. Each section has a few pages on rules of drafting that I find invaluable. I can’t attest to working through the book on your own but perhaps one of you owns a copy and could give us your opinion on this. I know that Sunni at A Fashionable Stitch uses it!

Here are my back and front skirt slopers on card stock. Notice that these are halves and you would need to either cut two or cut on the fold to make the skirt. This is a one dart sloper (for a total of four darts in the finished garment). The book gives instructions to draft a two dart sloper but I found that I get the best fit with one. If you have a greater difference between your low hip and waist measurements, you may find that the two dart sloper fits your better.

The sloper is drafted using three core measurements – the waist (taken just above the belly button), the high hip (generally 4 1/2″ below the waist), and the low hip (about 8 1/2″ below the waist). Added to these measurements is 2 inches of ease. You might be able to make out the notches for each of the hip measurements which enable me to mark these locations when I’m tracing the sloper. Something that you might not be able to take from the photos is the redistribution from front to back. The front sloper is actually 1/4″ (for a total of 1/2″) larger than the back so that the side seam falls toward the back. According to my book, this is a more flattering place as it minimizes the appearance of the rear end.

Taking a look at the center back, you’ll notice that I’ve pointed to the back contouring. Instead of the center back being a straight line, the waist dips in and reconnects with the center back midway between the high and low hip. This helps the fabric to contour to the natural curve of your spine, preventing gaping at the waist. If I wanted to eliminate the seam at the center back, I would straighten the center back seamline and then increase the dart by the amount that I added to the waist.

I’m sure there are a myriad of ways to draft a skirt sloper. If you’ve ever drafted one, how does yours differ? I’m curious to hear about the different features!

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36 Responses to “My Skirt Sloper”

  1. Thank you for showing us the sloper, I’m interested in making one myself and have been reading up on the subject. Have you made a skirt from it yet?

    • Yes, I have! I’ve been using it for a little over a year and have made several skirts with it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve used a commercial pattern for any of the skirts featured on my blog. Most recently, my teal skirt was drafted from it. A sloper is such a great tool and making a skirt sloper is a great way to ease into pattern drafting.

  2. I so must get my act together and make one of these. I love that you have accounted for the natural curve of the spine. I’ve not seen other slopers do this. I’m off to investigate that book. Thanks Lizz! 🙂

  3. This is so cool! I’ve never made a sloper before and have found the idea a bit intimidating, but I love the look of yours! I’m interested in taking a stab at it (especially after seeing Maddie’s tutorials for drafting a bodice block). Thanks so much for sharing this!

  4. Awesome, thanks for sharing!! I’m very interested in pattern drafting, especially since I’m dabbling for the first time in pattern alterations and am starting to truly understand the structure of a pattern much better and the how and why of flat adjustments translating into the 3D garment.

    This may be a dumb question but in your opinion, in what way(s) does drafting your own sloper for a basic skirt like this, or a top say, differ from making personal adjustments on an existing commercial pattern? I’m really curious to know, as I see the painstaking process people go through to make the perfect sloper and I often wonder how much different the resulting garments are from altering an existing pattern. It must be worth it! 🙂

    • For the average sewist, it’s really a matter of preference. I find that I can achieve a better fit with my sloper in half the time it would take to alter a commercial pattern. When I draft a new pattern from my sloper, if there are fit issues they are often minor and easy to spot.
      Now say that you already have a commercial pattern that you’ve altered so it fits perfectly. Most commercial patterns have some sort of style lines already. With my slopers, I don’t have to contend with these – I have a blank slate to start with. This is probably less of an issue with skirts, since it’s fairly easy to find a straight skirt with the darts intact but when you’re looking at a bodice it’s rare that all the darts are at starting position and the armholes and necklines have not been tweaked yet. Although this might not seem like much, these features could have a big impact when you go to draft a new pattern. If you’re planning on making a lot of design changes, you’ll find that starting from scratch gives you a more refined product at the end.
      Does this help?

      • Yeah! That makes a ton of sense! I was looking at it from the perspective of a finished pattern, but as a blank slate it is invaluable – as you say, all the elements are already in the right place to start with so you can focus on designing the style without worrying about the structure being off…. very cool!!!! 🙂 Thanks!

  5. Honestly, patterns do my head in and I wish I understood them better! It all seems so daunting! Maybe I should pick up a book like yours….Thank you for the post on your sloper 🙂

    • You know, I’ve found that drafting from scratch has helped me a lot in this area! Sewing was so daunting to me before I started my pattern drafting class and creating patterns has helped me to understand what’s essential and how that flat piece becomes 3D. At the very least, it’s always interesting to gain a different perspective on the process!

  6. That’s really neat! Thanks for sharing it!

  7. I think most companies use a high hip position of 4″ and a low hip position of 8″. It is interesting that you teacher recommends 1/2″ lower. In any case, your sloper looks great and obviously works really well for you! There is definitely a natural curve of the spine at the CB and putting shaping in this seam can make the back darts smoother so they don’t have to be as large or as long. Although if you are planning a zipper at the CB seam, this curve can make zipper setting difficult. The grain line will change along the seam line and has the possibility of stretching with sewing. You can control it somewhat by fusing the seam allowance of the zipper area, but at straight CB seam is a bit easier to work with when a zipper is involved.

    • I’m so grateful for your insight, Alexandra!
      Interesting! I didn’t know that was more or less the standard. Suzy does mention that the actual position of the low/high hip measurements will vary from client to client but recommends starting here. I was actually anticipating having to raise the measurements to be 4 and 8 but it wasn’t necessary in the end.
      And you’re dead on with your advice on the back contouring! Depending on the fabric, I have needed to stabilize the area. However, I’ve gotten into the habit of fusing the zipper area anyhow. I suppose that there will come a time when a fabric doesn’t respond well to this seam but it’s easy enough to eliminate the contouring.

  8. So this is the secret of your awesome skirt fitting. A-ha! 🙂
    It’s great that you have it on cardstock. I would like to have all my patterns without wrinkles and creases.

  9. Thanks for posting this!

    I’ve been thinking of drawing my own slopers due to major fitting issues with most commercial patterns. Bodice slopers sort of freak me out but this looks easy enough to start with.

  10. Thanks Lizz! After I got quite frustrated with my bodice block – well really my sleeve – I decided I needed a break and haven’t got around to drafting the skirt. The skirt sloper looks like it will be a bit easier. I was interested in seeing the contoured center back – I think my book just has one longer dart – but the additional contouring at CB makes a lot of sense.

  11. I’ve never drafted one but would love to and am very interested in that book. That’s for a great post. I look forward your posts. I get them sent to my email.

    designrefinebemine.blogspot.com

  12. I made blocks in fashion design evening classes – we drafted them up in class with teacher’s notes but the technique is pretty much that in Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Making. Starting point is natural waist & hip/largest area plus ease (off the top of my head i think the ease is 4cm). Like yours they’re drafted as halves with one dart front and dart. The CB is straight, shaping provided by darts with are different widths and in different positions dependent on whether they’re front or back. At the time of doing the class my blocks didn’t need much tweaking at all – I very handily matched the standard size we were learning to draft off anyway but I’m planning on going back to it when i have some spare time over the summer to make sure that it still fits perfectly because its been a few years.
    Sorry to ramble on – I’m excited to see other bloggers talking about drafting for themselves, I love to start from scratch and draft something to make whatever it is I’ve dreamt up in my head 🙂

  13. Drafting a skirt sloper is definitely on my to do list!

  14. Lizz this is great – thank you. I went along to a pants and skirt drafting class, which also used the Aldrich and Bray approaches, a combo of sorts from memory. I haven’t yet used either (hopeless, no?) but I will be dusting them both off. Please do post about your bodice block. Yes please!

  15. This is great, thanks! I sort of have a sloper, but honestly didn’t draft it from scratch. It’s my go-to pencil skirt pattern, that has been modified over several makes to fit me. And I guess it’s a two dart sloper, due to my waist/hip difference. I really like the tip about the CB curve.

  16. Hi I am thinking abot making this skirt but I have a question I want to make this into a fitted pencil skirt any ideas how much I should taper in? Also I know it is 2 inches of ease added 1 for the waist and 1 for the hips for it to be fitted do I need to take out the ease completely?

    • Hi, Sharitta. Much of this is personal preference – I would recommend making muslins throughout the process so that you can see how your changes affect the garment. I did have to do a fair amount of tweaking to get the skirt block to fit perfectly but not nearly as much as a bodice or sleeve block.
      For a pencil skirt, the amount you can taper in will depend on the length of the skirt. Longer skirts can be pegged more than shorter skirts. For a knee length, I’d taper anywhere from 1/2″ to 1 1/2″ (for a total of 2″ and 5″ respectively). Your preference and aesthetic may differ. You may be able to taper more if you add a slit or pleat that would allow more movement.
      As for ease, I wouldn’t take away all of it unless you are making this in a knit. Without the ease in a woven you’ll have no allowance for movement and the skirt will shift uncomfortably. For me, 2 inches is still plenty body conscious but your comfort may differ.
      Hope this helps and happy sewing!

  17. Also did you have to do allot of tweeking to get it to fit perfect

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