Grading up my Crescent Skirt!

Greetings owls! Creatures of the night, silent fliers. Possessors of giant eyeballs… I think I need to stock up on an animal encyclopedia – I’m running out of wildlife. Perhaps I’ll do a dinosaur week…

OK, so I almost didn’t post this as I believe Tasia will be going over the very same concepts in the next few days for her Crescent sewalong. Unfortunately for me, I’m rushing to finish up a Crescent skirt as we are adding the patterns to our line at the shop, and I want to have a sample in the store asap! Take that, plus my goal to keep up with blogging and my avoidance of any other sewing task today, and here we are – about to look at pictures of how I graded up my Crescent skirt!

Also – I came across a few special issues in my cutting layout – particularly if you are close to my size and are using a 45” wide fabric for your skirt. So stick with me gals! Oops! I mean owls!

Before we get to the relatively boring pictures of wax paper strips – I realized my at-work-shopping showed up in my shots from the cutting table… I cropped it and zoomed it a bit for you guys – sorry the quality’s so wonky.

I became obsessed this morning with an overwhelming and immediate need to amass fabric to make a whole pile of summer skirts, preferably circle skirts, and coordinating knit shirts along the lines of my recent 1980 ruffle shirt. I was inspired by this picture from Casey’s 30×30 project. I’m sure I will eventually copy that look EXACTLY. Until then, I pulled all the knits at the shop that I like (the taller bolts in the back) and then pulled coordinating cottons for skirts. Aren’t they all so fun? I took home three cottons and two knits (I already have one of the knits at home.) I’ll leave you silent hunters of the night to guess what I chose. Now… let’s talk grading.

As a reference, here’s the back of the pattern envelope– I’m making View B – the shorter hem and more gathered skirt. A note for any of you who are hesitant about all the gathers right around the hips… I’ve gotten the real life skirt done to the try-on-without-a-zipper stage and as with all things, I think that you can make the gathers work for you with a mix of proper waist placement and gather taming. I used the Kay Whitt/Sew Serendipity method of pressing the gathers so they act more like pleats (since I’m using a cotton with a lot of body) and the skirt is totally cute if I slide it up to let the yoke accentuate my midriff where I’m more narrow. More pictures coming!

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What we’re working with

In the meantime, here are the pattern pieces, cut and laid out (fabric shopping in the background!) From top to bottom I’ve laid out the facing pieces – they’re all one piece (no curved seam), then the next row down are the waistband pieces. I’ve circled piece #7 in pink as this is the side waist piece and is the same on the front and back – so you have to cut FOUR of these, not two! Then there are the skirt pieces. The pocket piece is laying on the front skirt piece where it will be sewn on and is circled in yellow. This piece is pretty clever – it’s folded in half, forming the pocket bags and side of the skirt all in one piece!

          

Calculating how much to grade up

So! While the size 16 Pendrell turned out to be a pretty good fit on me, pattern measurements notwithstanding, I suspected that the close fitting yoke of the Crescent skirt would not allow me to skate through a lack of grading once again. Tasia mentioned in one of her posts that the waist measurement is the most important one, as the gathered skirt allows a lot of hip action. I decided to add seven inches to the waist by adding strips of wax paper to the center front, center back and side seams. Tasia also mentioned in one of her sewalong posts to avoid grading at those curved seams on the waistband.

For those of you who are potentially new to grading, don’t forget that the amount you add to each seam on the paper piece is doubled in the garment since you cut two pieces of fabric from each paper pattern piece. For the type of grading I’m doing, I have four seams I’m adding to on paper (center front, center back and side seams), times two (two pieces of fabric per seam), for a total of eight spots in the garment that will get a little extra wiggle room. I think you all know how much I like to adjust my patterns and I’ll say right now that I forget all the time that what I add to the pattern pieces will be doubled, yielding muslins that would fit around me and at least one other person!! At least a basset hound…

I took the number of inches I wanted to add (seven) and divided by the number of spots the seven inches would be distributed over (eight). That equals .875 on a calculator, which is 7/8 inch in the real world. Side note: I CLEARLY remember being told in elementary school that by the time I grew up we’d all be using the metric system and speaking Spanish. I want my money back. A quick tip for this type of grading and those of you using imperial measurements; if you’re grading up over a bunch of seams like this, you can take the number of inches that you want to add – in my case seven – write that on a piece of paper, then under that draw a line and under the line jot down the number of spots you are grading up – in my case 8. What you’ve just jotted down is the fraction of the inches you need to add to each seam. See? magic! Need to add five inches over eight seams? Here’s an example showing how to figure out how much to add to each seam first the long way, then the magic way…

Add 5” to a garment at four seamlines (center front, center back, both sides)

The Long Way….

Divide number of inches to add by number of spots you are adding to: 5/8=.625

Convert the decimal to a fraction…

Put the fraction over 1 – .625/1

Multiply top and bottom by 1000 to get to a whole number – 6250/1000

Simplify – 6250/1000 divided by 5 = 25/40

Simplify again – 25/40 divided by 5 = 5/8

Whew! Add 5/8 to each seamline


The Magic Way

Put the number of inches you need to add over the number of spots you are adding to:

5 (inches) / 8 (spots) = 5/8


Very helpful when you are adding an odd amount of inches!

Adjusting the pattern

Since I was adding seven inches to eight spots, I needed to add 7/8 of an inch to the center front, center back and side seams. I started out by tearing off a piece of wax paper as long as the side seams of the skirt (the longest edge to be graded up) and then I used a straight edge and rotary cutter to cut the wax paper into strips that were about an inch and a half wide – enough to overlap the pattern piece a bit and then trim straight.

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To add to the seams, I taped the strip of wax paper to the edge I was grading and then used a clear ruler and a rotary cutter to trim the strip to exactly 7/8 of an inch.

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Grading up the back was pretty easy – I just added a 7/8” strip to the center and side seams of all the pattern pieces. The waistband pieces are a bit tricky, as they have such cool shaping. I just followed the edge of the pattern piece when trimming the wax paper, then laid the waistband pieces over the facing piece to make sure everything still lined up nicely.

Normally, when just adding a straight amount of width from the top of the skirt to the bottom, I would slash the pattern piece and add to the MIDDLE of the pattern piece to preserve that shaping on the edges of the pieces. I was concerned that if I did a slash and spread, I would get the angled seamlines between the skirt and the waistband out of kilter and the points and curves wouldn’t line up or would end up asymmetrical and wonky, so adding to the edges this time around seemed safer.

Here are the back pieces, all graded up and ready to go.

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Grading up the front was a bit trickier since I wanted to grade up pocket as well. I suppose I could have left it as it was, but then I was concerned that if I didn’t bump out the pocket, the inner fold would be too close to the pocket edge and pull on the skirt in an unflattering way.

Here’s the pocket piece unfolded and laying on top of the front skirt piece – the upper edge of the pocket piece will line up with the upper edge of the skirt, and the two outer edges will also line up, so that the upper right corner of the pocket piece will form the upper corner of the skirt. The skirt piece is angled in the upper right as that’s the pocket opening.

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Here’ I’ve placed the pocket piece where it will be sewn on and folded it. Of course, the pocket piece goes UNDER the skirt piece, not on top, but that would have made a silly photo! The folded part of the pocket piece that’s on the very top forms the pocket bag in the finished skirt.

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I decided to add to the sides of the pocket piece. I could have just as easily slashed the piece and added 1.75 inches to the center of the piece, rather than adding 7/8 inches to each side. I thought if I did it this way I’d be sure to get the side seams to line up and would have to do less work to make sure the pocket openings on the skirt and pocket piece were the same shape.

[Update! I’ve had word from Tasia, owner and designer of Sewaholic patterns, regarding the grading up of the pocketses, my preciouses. Here it is, verbatim “The only thing I would have done differently is not graded the pocket - and moved the whole 'pocket opening line' on the skirt front over, along with the side seam. Although, you may want a larger pocket opening, in which case what you've done is just fine!” What she said TOTALLY makes sense, although the larger pocket is secure and not floppy, so the way I did it works too!!]

First I added to the side of the pocket that forms the side seam. I used my cutter to ensure a nice smooth line between the skirt and the pocket.

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Next I added to the folded over side of the pocket piece. After the tissue was added to the pocket piece, I placed it over the skirt piece and ran the cutter along both pieces (skirt and pocket) to ensure the curve of the pocket openings matched.

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Here I’ve refolded the pocket piece, placed it over the skirt piece again and drew a line along where I did a bit of shaping.

Cutting layout for a size 16 graded up – 45” fabric!

My adjustments made, I was eager to get to cutting. I clipped and tore strips from each end of my piece of fabric (to help line up the fabric perfectly straight), pressed and folded, selvedge edges together, per the cutting instructions. I laid out my first skirt piece and oops! The piece was too big for the width of the fabric!

I’m using cotton for the skirt that comes in the 44” width – it’s this lovely Tina Given’s design…

One yard Tina Givens Climber fabric in Violet from her Haven's Edge line

[Tina Givens Climber in violet]

The swatch doesn’t really do it justice… the purple scrolls are beautifully printed and look like they are handpainted on the fabric.

Back to my cutting troubles. An easy way to deal with them would have been to just remove the grading I had done on the skirt pieces. Since they are gathered, I had a lot of wiggle room. Now that the skirt is assembled, I can see that I could EASILY have done this! But I wanted to make the pattern as it was meant to be! I refolded the fabric the other way – instead of folding the fabric to match up the sevedges, I folded down the fabric keeping the selvedges of each side together. I folded down the length needed to cut the back pieces which are cut separately, not on the fold.

I’ve marked the selvedges in yellow in the photo below. I’ve already cut out the back piece (in the upper right hand corner) and laid out most of the waistband pieces on the other half of the folded fabric. There was enough room for everything but the two pieces that needed to be cut on the fold (the front facing and front skirt, they’re sitting on the fabric in the lower half of the photo) and the second cutting of the side waistband piece (circled in pink), which needs to be cut out twice for four pieces.

The green line shows the center of the fabric, where I will fold to get those other two pieces cut out.

Here I’m showing how I laid out the front skirt, the front facing and the second cutting of the side waistband. The green line shows the fold and the yellow the selvedge.

The skirt front piece is slightly smaller than the skirt back, as it’s cut on the fold and as such doesn’t need the center front seam allowances. I didn’t check, but I suspect that the skirt back piece is just a bit larger, even if you discount the seam allowances. In any case, the skirt front fit better on the folded fabric, but still didn’t fit entirely. The blue outlines the pattern piece below, and the yellow shows the edge of the fabric.

Again, since there’s so much gathering in the skirt, I figured I could fudge a bit. I just used a straight edge to even out the side seam on the fabric – it’s not quite straight in the photo – I cleaned it up a bit after I took the photo, but didn’t snap another shot!

This isn’t the first time I’ve come up against the cutting layout not working well for me with 45” fabric. For some skirts with a lot of volume, or even some wide legged trousers (although I’ve mostly had trouble with muslin and trousers, and muslin is more like 38 or 40” wide) A lot of time, it’s totally fine to fudge – if the pattern piece won’t fit on the 45” fabric, it’s a very full garment you’re working on and trimming some off the edge will not even be noticeable. I trimmed a circle skirt in the manner once and it gave the skirt a sort of cool almost tulip shape! If for some reason you feel you MUST cut the entire pattern piece, well then it’s time to piece the fabric! I’m too lazy to do anything of the sort, but if it’s just a few inches (the crotch extensions on trousers come to mind) you can buy a lot less yardage and just hide your extra seams in an inconspicuous spot!

And that’s my sewing work for the day (OK, yesterday – I had a few glasses of wine with a girlfriend last night and was too sleepy after to do a blog post!!) I’ll probably post another nonsensical post before the advent of the weekend, so have a swell day, little owlets. I’ll check in on ya’ll later!

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8 Comments
  • AmeliaSews
    April 23, 2011

    Hi, It was great to meet you yesterday and see your beautiful skirt fabric in person. It is much better in real life. Can't wait to see the finished product. Amy

  • LAP
    April 22, 2011

    This is so awesome! Your grading tutorials are super clear and will be bookmarked by sewists worldwide..

    I am hope, hope, hoping that you got the Amy Butler peonies with the pink & white stripe, because that particular combo practically has me bouncing up and down like a child who got pixy stix in her Easter Basket. But I also love the orange cafe dots with the Kate Spain Central Park print. I love the hand of that fabric so much!

  • Karen in VA
    April 22, 2011

    Patty – you are the BEST!!!!!! I am going to join the sew-a-long (eventually) and my brain wasn't happy with all the grading up I was going to have to do and here you go and do it for me!!!!! Now I can get started on my muslin…..

    PS Love the fabric combos you picked out…wish I were brave enough to wear mixed prints like that….fashion-less accountant that I am, I don't seem to be able to do this on my own…..

  • K.Line
    April 22, 2011

    Also, I've been known to fudge on the edges to make patterns more compact (or to make a garment, even when I don't have enough fabric). I'm always surprised by how much wiggle room there is in all of these patterns.

  • K.Line
    April 22, 2011

    Seriously, that magic way seems too good to be true!

  • Cathi
    April 22, 2011

    Great tutorial and that fabric is gorgeous. There are days I really dislike living in a small town and when I see fabric like that….that's the day!
    Can't wait to see the finished skirt.

  • Stevie
    April 22, 2011

    Great tutorial Thanks! I'm rubbish at grading anything! I used to in college and then I forgot pretty much everything! I always go to zealous and have waaaay more fabric than I need! x

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