Breaking cutting rules can give high-end results. 

Note: The shawl from which this skirt was cut was purchased from Bohemian PINK in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.

Patterns are traditionally cut in one direction with their face side up from fabric that has been laid face side up (diagram A).
The rules when cutting are:
  1. Cut all of the pattern pieces in one direction (see diagram A on the left).
  2. Choose one side of the fabric is chosen to be the face. Most fabrics have neither a wrong or right side of the fabric.
  3. Lay all of the patterns face up on the chosen face side of the fabric.
  4. Cut all of the garment’s pieces before sewing the garment.

The work shown in this post is typical of that done in boutiques where one of a kind garments are made. There is too much hand work involved for such a garment to ever be considered for mass production.

This is an exception:
Woven plaid fabric
B. This plaid has a one-way vertical and horizontal design.
Patterns laid over the plaid fabric.
C. Laying the skirt patterns on the plaid to check that there is enough fabric to cut the skirt. The dark wide stripe will  be put at the bottom of the skirt.


The soft wool shawl, shown in diagram B, is woven with a one-way vertical and horizontal plaid pattern.

It is being cut and sewn into a skirt.

The steps involved with cutting the skirt to match
  1. First the fabric is checked to determine if there are any flaws (diagram B),
  2. Then the skirt patterns are laid over the shawl to see if there is enough fabric to cut the skirt (photo C).
  3. Next it is decided how best to cut the fabric to match.
D. The shawl has been cut horizontally into two pieces. The front skirt is then cut in half, vertically. The left side of the front skirt has been turned over so as to produce a mirror image of the right side of the front skirt.
Pattern laid over pinned skirt
E. Laying the pattern over the pinned pleats to check that the pinned front skirt will fit.




Measuring the waist
F. Incorporating darting into the pleating. This is a different skirt, but the process is the same.


Pin the front skirt’s pleats
  1. The shawl is cut into two pieces – the front and the back. The front piece is then cut in half.
  2. The left side of the front skirt is turned over to give a mirror image of the right side of the skirt. The left and right sides of the front skirt are pin pleated to match (diagram D).
  3. The left front skirt’s center front is lapped over then sewn to the right front skirt’s center front, so that the fringe lies just left of the center front.
  4. The pleats are laid so as to include the skirt pattern’s waist darting. The work is checked before the pleats are sewn to make sure the skirt will fit . (photos E and F).
Sewing the pleats
G. Sewing the pleats from 8 1/2 inches above the bottom of the skirt to the waist.
Sew the front skirt’s pleats to match

The pleats are sewn across their underlying fabric, 8 1/2 inches above the bottom of the skirt, allowing the pleats to flair, then sewn up to the waist along the edge of the pleat. Pins are removed just before the needle is about to sew over them (photo G).

As each pleat is sewn, the bottom ply is held back just a little, allowing the feed-dog to pull the bottom ply into alignment just as the fabric moves under the needle (refer to post 73 – efficient feed-dog usage for more information about sewing to match).

Cutting the back skirt to match 


H. Determining where to cut the back to match the front.
  1. The back skirt is laid next to the sewn front skirt ([photo H).
    Cutting the hem
    I. The back skirt is laid by the front skirt to determine just where to cut the back skirt’s hem to match.
  2. The excess at the waist will be cut and saved to make the waistband.
  3. The back skirt’s hem is cut to match the front skirt’s hem (Photo I).
    J. The front skirt’s hem fringe is measured to determine where to sew the stay stitching across the back skirt’s hem.
Sewing the back skirt’s hem
Stay stitching the hem
K. The back skirt’s hem is stay stitched to stabilize the yarns before the hem is raveled .
  1.  The front skirt’s fringe is measured to determine the gauge on which to sew a stay stitch across the back skirt’s hem (photo J).
  2. The hem is then sewn on gauge (photo K).
  3. Finally the hem is raveled out below the stay stitching, finishing the hem with fringe. (Note: The same method is used to finish the skirt’s vertical seams. They are also stay stitched, then raveled instead of being overcast.)
  4. The back skirt’s pleats and center back seam are sewn using the same procedures used to sew the front skirt.
  5. The right seam is sewn to match (photo L).
    The skirt’s right seam is sewn 
Pleated skirt
L. The skirt’s left side still needs to be sewn closed and the zipper set.


pleated skirt and jacket
M. The finished pleated skirt with black jeans jacket
The finished skirt
  1. The skirt’s zipper has been sewn into the left seam allowance and the waistband added (photo M).
  2. The skirt is finished with a separate basic skirt lining that encases the inside of the pleated shell from the waist to the bottom of the sewn pleats.

Laurel Hoffmann is a production pattern maker who first trained in high-end couture on Philadelphia’s Main Line. Later she worked in Philadelphia’s clothing manufacturing designing departments where she learned industrial sample making. In her books she presents the best of both methods, enabling novices to quickly learn the skills they need to make beautiful clothing that fits. She plans to wear this outfit during the holidays.
215 884 7065

© Laurel Hoffmann, 2018.


3 Comments. Leave new

  • Great post. I love the idea of using the scarf for another garment. It is great inspiration. The directions are well done and easy to follow. I might have to try my hand and making some pleats. Thanks for sharing.

    • Contemporary Fashion Education
      December 10, 2018 12:46 pm

      I loved the scarf when I saw it for sale, hanging outside the shop. It said “skirt” to me. High-end often re-purposes clothing. At Joie de Vivre Ann Pakradooni often had a sari be made into an evening gown. The shop was known for that.

    • Contemporary Fashion Education
      January 8, 2019 12:52 pm



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