Pleated Skirt Draftalong: Step 1 – Preparing The Skirt Block

I spent it knitting!!!

Gah, where did the time go?

Ah! I’m so sorry that it’s been so long since my last post! I got bogged down by my knitting deadline and when I have a deadline promised to someone else it takes precedence over my commitments to myself. Now with that apology over lets get back on topic.

Today we are going to prepare our skirt block – or if you don’t have a block we are going to create one from a commercial straight skirt pattern.

Creating a Skirt Block

My skirt block is drafted using the method described in Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear by Winifred Aldrich. It’s a good basic block and the instructions are pretty clear and formulaic, however like many pattern making books if you have never done it before there is no substitute to being taught by someone who knows what they are doing. I’ve learnt loads from doing a course and while I would have gotten there eventually in my own time, I probably (knowing me!) would have cut a few corners along the way.

If you don’t have a block drafted though “DON’T PANIC” as the hitchhikers guide says, we can get there using a commercial skirt pattern just as easily. I have two straight skirt patterns in my pattern library both New Look and both would work well here.

The first is New Look 6103 view A. It is a midi length straight skirt that I loved so much I made three in a row. It does come up a bit roomy so you may want to go down a size and the darts in the front are very slightly bigger than those in the back (weird!) which I found made a big baggy area that was almost like a front ‘bottom’. So you might want to reduce the dart value in the front if that’s an issue for you too.



The other skirt pattern I have that would work is New Look 6843 view B or C (pick a length that works for you). This has a good balance of dart values and includes a waist band that you can use for your finished gore skirt if you don’t fancy drafting one from scratch.


It doesn’t matter which straight skirt pattern you use, just make sure that you make a test garment first, alter it to fit you well and then transfer those alterations back to your pattern before you go on. I personally always trace my patterns onto sturdier paper so that I can play around with the copy while keeping a master pattern to refer back to. It is also a lot easier to manipulate sturdy paper rather than delicate tissue paper.

Once you have your straight skirt pattern that fits you, trace it onto fresh paper, remove the hem and if you are a beginner the seam allowances too (it’s easier when you start to not have to worry about them until the end). Mark where your low hip falls (the widest part of the skirt pattern) as a horizontal line on both the front and back and you now have a skirt block to work from!

Distributing your Dart Values – Front

The first step in this draft is to prepare your straight skirt block for the manipulations you plan to carry out. For us this is dividing up the dart values to make two darts at the front and three in the back. Then next week we will pivot out the darts while adding flare to the skirt to give an A-line silhouette.


Pivoting out darts to give an A-line silhouette


To make two darts in the front of your skirt with only one dart, draw a centre line up your dart, effectively cutting it in half and extend that line to the hem of your skirt keeping it parallel to the centre front. Measure the distance between the top centre of your dart and the centre front (CF) of the skirt and draw a line half way between the two, parallel to the centre front.

Draw a line halfway between the dart centre and the CF

Draw a line halfway between the dart centre and the CF


Narrow the dart value on the existing dart by half and draw in a duplicate dart on the new line you’ve just drawn. You’re front is now ready.



Distributing your Dart Values – Back

If you have only one dart on your back skirt block follow the instructions for the front of the skirt to distribute the value between two darts. Make the second dart 1-2 cm shorter than the first and draw a line down from the dart tips parallel to the centre back (CB). Now narrow the back darts so that the dart values are equal to that in the front. Draw a line between the points of the two back darts and using that line as a depth guideline draw a third dart half way between the two to make up the left over dart value from the last step.


Two darts that match the front and a third dart containing any left over dart value.

That’s all folks, you’re now ready to turn your straight skirt block into an A-line one. See you next week!

My prepared block

My prepared block



  1. Ariel says

    Hi Jo,
    two questions:
    1) The darts on my starting pattern are located a lot more centrally than on your tech sketch. Rather than just halving the distance between the dart and the center, should I shift my dart out first?
    2) The way my pattern is designed, my back dart is the same size as my front dart (this may be due to my back piece being slightly larger than my front piece). Or rather it will be, when I take out the back contouring and add that amount into the dart. Do I just leave out the third dart then? And if so, should the darts be the same length as in the front or still staggered lengths?

    • says

      Hi Ariel,

      Thanks for your reply!

      1) Yes, I would divide your block up vertically into thirds and place your two darts on the on the dividing lines so they are equally spaced out. The more equally the darts are spaced out, the more even your flare will be added in the next step.

      2) Yes, leave out the third dart, if your block fits well with two darts of the same size. I would stagger them, but you don’t have to. Staggering the length of the darts just helps with the shape around the bottom.

      I hope that helps, thanks for asking.


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