Drafting a Pinafore (Circle) Skirt

Nell, a Caucasian person, stands in front of a white wall. They are tucking a strand of hair behind their ear. They are wearing a dark blue blouse and a grey and blue plaid pinafore skirt.

What do you think about when I say pattern drafting? Some rather clever people out there start sewing without ever using commercial patterns and instead make their own! Others like me might spend quite a while using commercial patterns before moving onto drafting. However, I think we can all agree that being able to draft patterns is a very valuable skill, and one well worth spending the time and effort to learn. It can help you with fitting and sewing commercial patterns too. Imagine being able to replace missing pieces, or having a basic blueprint of yourself that you can compare any new pattern against before you even sew it!

This image shows a close-up of the mid-section of Nell, a Caucasian person. They are wearing a blue and grey plaid pinafore skirt over a dark blue blouse. They have one hand in their pocket.

To be frank, I’m not that good with either mathematics or understanding two-dimensional shapes. I hesitated to get into drafting before this because of that. However, I soon realised that if I wanted to keep advancing in this craft I would need to challenge myself to learn new techniques. This experiment in making different skirts was the first step along that path. Now, for readers out there who may find mentions of weight fluctuations and fitting difficulties triggering, please keep in mind I do discuss that as part of this series of posts. These aspects had quite an impact on how each skirt turned out, so it is important to note. Although I am pleased to report this pinafore now fits much more comfortably than it did upon completion. I was also thrilled that when cutting out the skirt I discovered I even had enough fabric to make a pinafore in the first place!

Nell, a Caucasian person, stands in front of a white wall. They have their back to the camera and hands folded in front of them. They are wearing a dark blue blouse and a grey and blue plaid pinafore skirt.

For drafting the actual skirt part of the pattern, I recommend using Mariah Pattie’s YouTube tutorial. There are a staggering number of calculators and Youtube tutorials out there, but Mariah’s made the most sense to me. As I was at the beginning of a time of severe weight fluctuations, for health reasons which are being well-managed, what I should have done in drafting each pattern was to take regular measurements and be prepared to either let each skirt out – or take each skirt in. However, unaware of this yet I started the first pattern with my “standard” waist measurement of 31″. I wasn’t at all thrilled to discover each radius calculator came up with a different figure, so at first settled on 5″ for the radius including seams. This did end up being too big, so I dropped it to around 4 5/8″. I also immediately goofed on the length, forgetting to add extra for the hem and waist seams, which is why the finished product barely scrapes the base of my knees.

Nell, a Caucasian person, stands in front of a white wall. They are side on to the camera and have spun to make their skirt flare. They are wearing a dark blue blouse and a grey and blue plaid pinafore skirt.

I cannot remember who of my friends suggested doing this, but instead of having a seperate front and back pattern piece, I drafted one piece for both. My fabric supplies are often quite minimal and it’s rare for me to encounter fabric wide enough to cut a centre front piece on the fold. This means that both the front and back are cut much the same, and have seams down the centre, and on the sides. With that done, I also drafted a rectangular, two piece waistband about 2 1/4″ tall, and 33 1/2″ wide (1″ tall when finished). These measurements include seams. I figured that since I would want to sandwich a pinafore bib into the waistband, it would need to be in two pieces rather than a standard fold-over design. I also prefer my waistband to overlap with a hidden fastener than for the zipper to struggle up through all that bulk, hence the additional length.

This image shows a close-up on the back of Nell, a Caucasian person. This highlights the crossed over straps of their grey and blue plaid pinafore skirt over their dark blue blouse.

Next came drafting the pinafore bib and the straps. Although I took careful measurements, checking width of the bib, height, and length of the straps, I goofed in a few areas again! I added a pocket to the bib but attached it in the wrong direction, and the wool didn’t like being unpicked. This meant I had to rotate the bib so the pocket opening would be in the right spot. I also couldn’t decide how long or short I wanted the straps to be, which meant that the final positioning of the slider isn’t ideal. But I am rather pleased with their overall construction. I originally had the bib at 10″ tall and 9″ wide and fully lined it to contain all the raw edges. For the pocket, I gave it a 1″ fold-over at the top and 5/8″ seams around the side. I interfaced the top fold-over, pressed it over right sides together along the fold line, then stitched it down on either side along that 5/8″ seam. Then when I clipped the corners and turned it so it was now wrong sides together, it neatly pulled the side seams in to sit where I wanted them to. I also lined the straps to prevent fraying.

Nell, a Caucasian person, stands close to the camera. This image highlights the bib of their grey and blue plaid pinafore skirt over their dark blue blouse.

One trick to keep in mind when making straps is that it’s important to decide ahead of time whether the two of them should cross over or not. And if so, on how much of an angle. It can help crossed-over straps to sit flatter if their ends are cut on an angle that matches their slope. So if making them diagonal like mine, cut their bases along a 45-degree angle, mirrored. This way their ends still line up with the edge of the waistband as if they were flat. There’s a lot of room to tweak the angle and exact fit of the straps, but for this version I made mine quite diagonal and positioned their ends at the mid-point between the side seams and centre back. I prefer this sort of coverage as it makes the whole set-up feel more evenly spaced and secure.

Nell, a Caucasian person, sits on a white chair in front of a white wall. They are side-on to the camera, facing to the left. They are wearing a dark blue blouse and a grey and blue plaid pinafore skirt.

Then comes the sandwich technique! I had marked on all the pattern pieces where centre front was, and where the straps needed to sit, so it made it simple to align the bottom of the bib and straps to the top of the waistband. You can add notches for this as well. I also found it helped to stitch the outer fabric of the waistband to the skirt first to avoid confusion. I then laid these pieces down, right sides together, and placed the waistband lining on top – right side facing the wrong side of the bib-straps combo. It’s the same as placing it down normally – waistband outer and lining, right sides together, but the straps and base of the bib will be neatly sandwiched between them. Once I stitched that together, I understitched the lining, graded the seams and flipped the lining to the inside. All that remained then was to hammer the buttons onto the corners of the pinafore bib!

Nell, a Caucasian person, sits on a white chair in front of a white wall. They are facing the camera with their hands folded on their lap. They are wearing a dark blue blouse and a grey and blue plaid pinafore skirt.

If you want to get extremely clever, you can also attach the end of your straps to the top of your bib using a similar sandwich method with a bib and bib lining. I’ve even seen some fabulous hacks of people making the straps long enough so that they attach to the sides of the bib and into the waistband at the front!

However, once I hung this ensemble up to stretch out for a week (given I cut the skirt in all kinds of crazy directions to fit it onto the fabric), I realised then I had made it too short! I knew the wool wouldn’t hold a 1/4″ seam well, and I was worried about it fraying. After some research I discovered I could draft a hem facing, which I could attach with a 1/4″ seam along the bottom and then slip-stitch to the inside of the skirt. The wool was thick enough it would hide well those little pin-pricks of additional thread! This worked like an absolute charm, allowing me to hem the skirt with the tiniest hem possible, but also giving it a lovely and secure finish that I could be sure would protect the fabric over continual washes and wears.

Estimated Time Taken: 60+hrs across all skirt variations (includes drafting, muslins, fitting, etc).

Estimated Cost of Materials: $70 including notions, paper for patterning, etc.

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