Darts are most often used to shape the back of the skirt. A fitted, darted front shows every bump and curve of the body. If you don’t have a flat tummy, front darts may not be flattering and can be eliminated with a stitching technique called staystitch plus.
When making darts, careful marking and stitching go hand in hand. Position pins all along the stitching line, with one horizontal pin marking the tip of the dart.
Make sure that pins are in straight lines along both legs of the dart.
Stitch from the wide end of the dart, backstitching as you begin in order to secure the stitches (1).
Remove the pins as you come to them.
When you're ½ in. from the tip of the dart, change to a short stitch length (1.5mm) and stitch the last few stitches along the edge of the fabric. Shorter stitches increase stitching accuracy and make tying knots or backstitching unnecessary.
Stitch evenly off the edge to prevent a bubble from forming at the tip of the dart (2).
Sew a smooth and true dart every time by mentally drawing a line from the first stitches to the tip, pointing the machine in that direction. This visualization is helpful even if you’ve marked the stitching line with chalk.
Press the dart on a ham. A perfectly pressed dart is nearly invisible on the right side of the fabric.
A Hong Kong seam finish, made with China silk, rayon, or silk bias strips, is a flat and elegant binding for hems and waistbands.
Stitching seams is one of the basic components of sewing.
With a little practice, you'll be able to sew perfect straight or curved seams and a variety of professional finishes.
Before you begin sewing, always test for the best stitch length, needle size, and type of thread for your fabric. Test the stitch length for appearance and strength as well as for ease in ripping. A too-long stitch length uses less thread, but creates a puckered seam.
Keep a supply of different needles on hand and use only the best quality—this is not a place to skimp. Change the needle before you begin each new garment and any time the needle hits a pin (listen for the sound of a blunt or bent needle piercing the cloth).
If you notice skipped stitches, or if the thread keeps breaking or fraying, try a different-size needle.
If that doesn’t help, try another brand of needle.
Sewing Perfect Seams
For smooth seams, always cut, stitch, and press seams in the same direction. For skirts, this usually means working along the length of the garment, from hem to waistline.
To sew long side seams, place pins vertically on the stitching line, positioned so that you can pull them out as you sew. This saves time and—because you're not sewing over pins—it also saves wear and tear on the machine.
Pin the top and bottom of the seam first. Next match the notches, then match or ease the fabric in between. A fabric with “tooth” grabs or sticks to itself and thus requires fewer pins than a slippery fabric that moves and slides. You may need to hand-baste some hard-to-handle fabrics, such as velvet, before stitching.
Most seams are sewn with right sides together, using a 5/8-in. seam allowance. Some machines have this 5/8-in. width marked on the throat plate. A magnetic seam guide, which acts as a “fence” along which you can guide the fabric, is also a very helpful tool.
Always press a seam after stitching and before crossing it with another seam or detail.
Remember, stitching and pressing go hand in hand.
Ripping out Seams
Break stitches along one side of the seam with the narrow point of the seam ripper.
Ripping out seams is an essential part of sewing. Use the narrow point of the seam ripper to break a few stitches on one side of the seam. This frees the thread on the other side so that it can be pulled. Working from one end of the seam to the other, rip just a few stitches, grasp the thread with your fingers, and give it a good pull, disposing of the loose threads as you go.
Another way to rip stitches is to use the point of the ripper to break threads on one side of the fabric every 1 in. to 1 in. along the seam and then pull the long freed-up thread on the other side. (The disadvantage is that on the first side you're left with broken threads all along the seam that need to be removed.)
Never work the curved portion of the seam ripper between the two layers of the seam unless the fabric is heavy and very firmly woven.
Otherwise, you’re liable to rip the fabric as well as the threads.
Finishes for Side Seams
Aim for simple, light, unobtrusive seam finishes. Test fabric scraps to see which seam finish is most compatible with your fabric. The seam finish should keep the seam edges from fraying and shouldn't show from the right side. If your fabric doesn’t ravel, the best seam finish is none at all.
One easy way to finish a seam is with pinking shears. Pink the edges, trimming a small slice of fabric away from the seam allowance.
Trimming with pinking shears is a classic, honest way to finish a seam (see photo). The ultimate in simplicity, it adds no bulk and won't show
from the right side. After you sew the seam, trim away the smallest amount of fabric possible.
Test the pinking shears on fabric scraps first. On some fabrics, you can trim both layers of the seam allowance at one time. With other fabrics, to get a clean edge, you must open the seam allowance and trim single layers. Test both methods and compare the results.
Some pinking shears have a notched tip that will cut all the way to the end of the cut. Other brands work best if you don’t fully open the shears and if you don’t cut all the way to the points. Test to see how deep a cut you need to make to work smoothly.
There’s also a rotary cutter with a wavy blade that works well as a pinking tool.
A pinked-and-stitched edge is especially flat and ravel-resistant: Sew a line of stitching ¼ in. from the edge before the seam is sewn.
Pink the edges after seaming, without cutting the line of stitching.
Seams For Bias-Cut Skirts
Cut, making 11-in. seams to allow the fabric to relax. Mark the seamline with basting.
Press the pieces.
Pin along the marked seamline and try on the garment. Adjust where necessary.
You may need to make smaller seam allowances to compensate for the pieces’ having stretched slightly in length and contracted in width.
Sew with a slightly shorter stitch length than usual, stretching the fabric as you sew. Because bias does not ravel, you won't need to finish the seams.
Zigzag edges are quick and simple finishes. Both are made after the seam is sewn and pressed.
Both finishes have two disadvantages, however. First, the extra stitching and thread can add bulk to thin fabrics, which will keep them from lying flat. Second, these finishes, which aren’t found in ready-to-wear, shout “homemade.” I generally don’t use them, but you might want to experiment with them yourself.
For a zigzag finish, use a stitch of medium width and length. Stitch near the edge, but not along it, and trim close to the stitching. If your machine has this option, try a machine-overcast stitch. Stitch close to the edge so the points of the stitches fall almost at the edge of the fabric.
A serger cuts and overcasts the edges of the seam allowance in one quick and easy operation.
The serger, or overlock machine, has transformed home sewing.
Although it doesn’t replace a conventional machine, a serger is very useful for quickly cutting and finishing seam edges in one fast and easy operation (above right).
Fuse interfacings to pockets and zipper areas before serging. If your fabric frays easily, serge all around the skirt, but on more stable fabrics, serge only the seams that will be pressed open. Serge the hem after you mark the length and trim to desired width.
When using a serger, it’s not necessary to cut wider seams than you normally would. The cutting edge of the serger trims just the ravelly edges before overcasting.
Use fine, soft thread, machine-embroidery thread, or texturized nylon to minimize the amount of thread impression “striking through” on the right side of the fabric. A 3-thread edge, using long staple polyester or coned “serger” thread, is the most versatile of the serged finishes. Or, if your machine has a 2-thread finish, try that for a flatter edge.
Serge a wide edge on fabrics that are heavy or bulky, and a narrow edge on flat fabrics that are lightweight to midweight.
Finishes for Hems and Waistband Seams
For a flat and professional-looking finish, you can bind hems and waistband seams with a Hong Kong finish or with a rayon seam binding.
Hong Kong Finish The Hong Kong finish is a simple and elegant touch for medium to heavy fabrics. This flat, narrow binding makes a fine finish for
hems or an inside waistband seam ona skirt (see photo on p. 52), but it’s too bulky for most side seams.
A Hong Kong finish has two lines of stitching and adds three layers of fabric to the edge. The seam edge is bound in bias strips of a lightweight fabric, such as China silk, rayon lining, silk, or polyester crepe de chine.
For the binding, cut ¼-in. wide bias strips, piecing the lengths as necessary. Press the bias strips to remove excess stretchability and to prevent them from rippling.
Before you stitch the waistband to the skirt, sew the binding to the seam edge, with right sides together, /s in. from the edges. (Bind the hem in the same way after marking and trimming it.)
Trim the seam edge to an even 1/8 in. using sharp long-blade shears, or a rotary cutter (1).
Wrap the binding around the seam edge and press. On the right side of the fabric, stitch in the “ditch” of the seam of the waistband and the binding—that is, where the two fabrics are sewn together (2). For accuracy, use an edgestitching foot with the needle in the center position.
On the wrong side of the fabric, trim the excess binding 1/8 in. from the stitching line (3). Bias doesn’t fray, so the binding won't ravel.
Rayon Seam Binding A flat woven-tape seam binding creates a dressmaker’s touch for bulky and flat fabrics that ravel. Use rayon rather than polyester—it’s softer, flatter, and more fluid. With just a bit of practice, you'll find this technique fast and simple.
Rayon seam binding adds less bulk than the Hong Kong finish. It has only one line of stitching and adds only two layers of fabric to the edge. This seam binding can also be used to finish the inside waistband edge and the hem edge.
Press the binding in half lengthwise, making one half slightly wider than the other. Hold the end in place with a straight pin as you work.
Position the narrow half of the binding on top of the right side of
the fabric and stitch along this half (4). This way, you'll be sure that
your stitches will catch the wider half of the binding on the other side of the fabric.
As you stitch along the edge of the binding, pull it slightly toward the fabric with your finger so that it wraps around and encases the raw edge. Press to eliminate puckers.
1. To apply Hong Kong finish, trim the binding to an even 1/8 in. with shears or a rotary cutter.
2. Wrap the binding around the edges, press and stitch in the ditch of the seam on the right side of the fabric.
3. Trim excess binding on the wrong side of the fabric. Here, an appliqué scissors is used to get as close as possible to the seam.
4. To apply rayon seam binding, stitch the press binding with the narrower half on top of the right side of the fabric.
Pressing seams and darts is the secret to making clothes that look professional.
The best iron gets hot and stays hot and gives off a good shot of steam.
Always test a scrap of your fabric to determine the best setting to use.
You'll also need a clapper/pointer, a hardwood tool for flattening seams and pressing points; a pressing ham, a contoured device that looks like its namesake and is used to shape darts and curved seams; and a press cloth.
Press cloths protect the surface of the garment fabric, and professionals rely on them. Use a cotton, see-through press cloth for cottons, silks, and linens; a specially treated, heavy drill (cotton twill) press cloth and a scrap of wool for pressing wools.
The heavy cotton protects the wool fabric, particularly if you are ironing the right side of the fabric, and allows you to press with the iron set at a high temperature.
Wool pressed against wool prevents the fabric from flattening and becoming shiny. (Professional tailors often sew a square of wool to one area of the heavy-cotton press cloth in order to have both at hand.)
Test your fabric to see if it can be pressed on the right side. If right-side pressing changes the appearance of the fabric, always use a press cloth. Your fingers are also important pressing tools, especially for fabrics that are slippery or don’t hold shape easily.
Finger-press all seams before using the iron.
After sewing each seam and dart, press it flat, as it was sewn, to blend the stitches, smooth the fabric, and erase puckers.
Then press the seams open on the wrong side of the fabric. Use your fingers and the point of the iron to open the seam halves to lie flat as you work (1).
💡 1. Press the seam flat on the wrong side, holding the seam halves open as you work.
Press the seam or dart again on the right side of the fabric, using the press cloth if necessary (2).
💡 2. Press again from the right side, using a press cloth if necessary.
Unlike ironing, which is a sliding motion, pressing is a lifting and lowering motion.
As you work, use the clapper to flatten and cool the pressed area.
The hardwood absorbs heat and moisture, and the weight of the tool and the pounding flattens the stitched seam or dart. For some fabrics, such as cottons, rayons, and silks, just the weight of the clapper is enough to do the job; for wools, you may need to apply extra pressure.
Also press back darts and curved seams over the ham to build curves and shape the garment (3).
💡 3. Shape curved darts and seams by pressing them over a ham.
Press front darts over the ham’s flattest part to avoid rounding them.
Press all vertical darts toward the center of the garment.
After pressing, seams and darts should be so flat they almost disappear. Let the pressed area cool before readjusting the fabric on the ironing board.
Pressing the Stretch out of Bias
Before handling any piece of fabric that’s been cut on the bias, press the stretch out. This technique is straight from the workrooms of French couture. After pressing, the seams of bias-cut skirt panels can be sewn with minimum distortion. After the garment is finished, the hem will not sag, and the skirt will be less likely to stretch in length and decrease in width.
Position the bias-cut skirt panel on a pressing surface that is long enough for the entire length. Steam-press, and as you do, gently stretch the fabric in the lengthwise direction of the skirt. Begin at one seam and work in radiating parallel lines across the panel to the other seam. Allow the fabric to cool before repositioning it. Repeat the process with all of the skirt panels. The hem may become uneven, but after you've measured it and hemmed it evenly, it will stay even.
Steam-press while gently stretching the fabric lengthwise to ensure that the finished garment will hold its shape.
Multistrand embroidery floss works well for making tailor’s tacks because it’s thick and won't pull out readily. I also use a chenille needle, which is sharp and has a large, easy-to-thread eye.
Make one small stitch through both layers of fabric on each pattern mark, leaving at least ½-in. tails at each end (1).
💡 1. Mark darts with tailor's tacks, leaving 1/2-in. tails.
Slowly peel the pattern tissue from the tacks without tearing it. Carefully pull open the fabric layers so that there is enough thread between them to clip the tacks and leave tails (2).
💡 2. Pull the fabrics apart and clip the tacks.
These tacks on the inside (right side) of the cloth will be more uniform lengths, so you will be able to tell the right side of the fabric from the wrong side at a glance.
To mark any pleats or tucks, try using two different colors of embroidery floss to mark each set. Later, you'll be able to match the sets easily. (See p. 61.)
To mark a dart, make snip marks to mark the tops of the legs. Use tailor’s tacks to mark the midpoints and tip of the dart. Then sculpt the dart by connecting the tacks with a hip curve and a fine-line chalk marker (3), and you'll have an easy-to-follow stitching guide.
💡 3. Use chalk and a hip curve to mark dart lines on the wrong side of the fabric.
Don't machine-stitch over tailor's tacks, they can get caught in the stitches and be tricky to pull out.
Instead, baste or mark the area carefully, remove the tacks, then stitch by machine.
Assuming by this stage you have already selected and made/purchased a skirt pattern.
💬 Different possibilities for constructions
First, sew all the darts. You want to press them towards the back. So for the back piece, that means you press boths sides towards eachother. For the front piece, just the opposite.
The next thing you want to do is sew the seam that has the zipper, and insert the zipper into it. Follow the procedure that is appropriate for the type of zipper you're using.
Sew up both the side seams.
Your next step depends on whether you have a vent and lining.
If you're including a lining, now is the time to make it. The lining is made the same way that the rest of the skirt is made, with two exceptions; the darts are just pleats, and they have more 'ease' included. How you distribute this 'ease' is up to you. You can add it to the dart pleats, add another dart pleat, or make a box pleat in the middle.
Of course, if you include a lining, you have to include this in the way you've finished your zipper. And connect it to the vent, if your skirt has one of those.
Next is attaching the waistband if your version has one. First fold it double along the long side and press. Add your interfacing. Sew it to the right side of the fabric. Then turn it over and press the seam into the waistband. Now use the stitch-in-the-ditch technique to finish the waistband. Add your choice of closure.
All that is left now is to hem the skirt.
Les Marches à Suivre
Adjust the pattern for fit and design
Cut out all the pattern pieces. Transfer markings to fabric.
Apply interfacing, as needed, at pocket, waistband, or zipper openings.
Overlock edges if using serger to finish seams. Apply pockets while serging the side seams.
Stitch darts or tucks. Apply pockets.
Stitch center-back seam, forming French vent if there is one. Insert zipper.
Pin side seams, wrong sides together, vertically along seamlines. Try on, altering as needed. Stitch side seams. Press. Try on again, fine-tuning for swayback, tummy, and waistline measurements.
Construct lining: Stitch center back seam, allowing room for zipper and vent opening. Stitch side seams.
Insert lining. Machine baste at waist, forming tucks at darts. Handsew around zipper.
💡 More info on Basting
Basting is temporary sewing to hold things in place.
It is typically done by hand, but you can also machine baste.
Examples of where basting is commonly used are:
- Basting a seam in place before sewing it
- Basting an ornament, pocket, or other part in place before attaching it
- Basting darts or other pattern changes while fitting the garment on a model
- Basting is never permanent, but merely a temporary measure to hold things in place.
Hem: Mark, press, trim, pin, and try on. Finish edge, stitch. Press
Hem lining, attach at vent.
FInal pressing to finish your skirt.
But I will be making a skirt with:
a back vent,
a zip at the back seam
4 darts on the front piece and 4 on the back.
💡 An optional vent in the back and possible locations for the zipper. In this tuto, a vent is used (see part one section 2)
A vent in the back is optional. It will allow you to walk a lot easier than if you make the skirt without it. The vent also influences where the zipper will be located. If you choose to have no vent, the default zipper location is on the side seam, and the back will be cut-on-fold. With the vent, there has to be a seam in the back piece, and the zipper will be located on that seam.
Skirts could be tight. This limits your movement quite a bit. More so, when you try to sit down, the skirt may try to pull itself off your waist, or, when you get back up, stay quite high on your bum. Lining the skirt will make it move a lot easier around your curves, and thereby make it easier for you to move.
Adding lining can be done by creating a slightly shorter front and back piece, that has some extra fabric in the middle. The extra fabric makes it easier for the lining to move. One inch for each of the front and back pieces is enough. You can either make a box pleat in the front and back, or add the extra fabric where the darts are. You do not need to sew darts in the lining fabric. Just a pleat at the dart position will be fine.
Without the zipper it will be impossible to get in and out of the skirt. So it should be at least the length from your waist to the largest part of your bum. Longer will make it easier to put the skirt on and off. Don't use one that's too long, because the part of the seam where the zipper is behaves differently than the part without it, and you want to try to make it invisible also in movement.
An invisible zipper is often used in a straight skirt. Lately there has been a trend to use zippers that are right in the open. Sometimes even from contrasting fabric. Choose what works for you in the style you're going for. Be creative (or not)! You might want to opt for an alternative option if your fabric is on the heavier side.
A waistband is optional. If you omit it, there will be quite some stress on the top of the zipper. Make sure your zipper is up to the task. An invisible zipper might not be the best option then, since they can't always take that much strain.
💡 When to use darts and how many darts
Darts are used to compensate for the difference between your waist and seat measurements.
Depending on this difference, there can be two darts, one dart, or no darts at all.
More darts make for a potentially better fit. But if the amount of fabric that the dart will take in becomes too small, the number of darts will be reduced.
Otherwise it would be very difficult to sew the darts, and they would probably become rather unsightly.
Some of the difference will be taken in by the side seam, and if the difference is small, no darts will be included in the front and back pieces.
N.B: Dark shading denotes right side of fabric, and dotted light shading denotes right side of interfacing.
Detailed and Illustrated Instructions
Part One: Preliminary Construction
1. Stitch darts on Skirt Front J and Skirt Back K as follows:
Fold the right side in on center line.
Stitch on dart stitching line, typing off stitching at dot.
Press darts towards center front or center back:
the back darts get pressed towards the center back
press these at the front darts towards the center front
“Replace front darts with staystitch plus”
💡 When sewing all the darts, you would want to press them towards the back. So for the back piece, that means you press boths sides towards eachother. For the front piece, just the opposite.
💡 N.B: In "Easy guide to sewing skirts" it's indicated to "press darts towards center front or center back", but after messing around I find that the direction they go do matter after all, which is why the last phrase I have changed it to "press these at the front darts towards the center front"
2. On Skirt Back:
Stitch center back seam between large dot and box, matching notch
Backstitching at dot and box
Baste seam above dot to waist
Press seam open above box
💡 N.B: Remember to sew an 1-in. seam allowance.
3. Center closed
Center closed zipper face down over pressed-open seam allowance on wrong side, with top of zipper 1/8 inch below seamline.
Pin and hand-baste zipper in place.
💡 N.B: Reinforce zipper opening with fusible interfacing.
4. Slash center back seam
Slash center back seam allowance of wearer's right side above extension to square.
On the wrong side of fabric, align wearer's right extension over wearer's left extension.
Baste extensions together along upper edge between square and small dots.
💡 N.B: Reinforce top of vent with fusible interfacing.
💡 N.B: Add two rows of topstitching on right side, to reinforce vent.
💡 Topstitching is when you sew with the good side of the fabric up and your stitches are visible on the finished garments.
While a decorative feature, topstitching can also play a role in garment construction.
5. Pin extension to Skirt Back.
On the outside of Skirt Back, stitch through all layers on stitching line from square to small dot, locking off stitching at square and dot
6. Stitch Front to Back
Stitch Skirt Front to Skirt Back along side seams, matching notches.
Press seams open.
At waist edge, put in an ease stitch along seamline.
💡 N.B: Construct and insert a lining if there is a lining.
Part Two: Waistband
A waistband is optional. If you omit it, there will be quite some stress on the top of the zipper. Make sure your zipper is up to the task. An invisible zipper might not be the best option then, since they can't always take that much strain.
1. Pin interfaced side of Waistband to Skirt
Pin interfaced side of WaistBand to Skirt, right sides together, matching center fronts, stars on Waistband to side seams of Skirt, and dots.
Ease-stitch at waistline as necessary to fit on Waistband.
Stitch along seamline.
Trim seam allowances and press towards Waistband.
Apply elasticised fitted waistband.
Slipstitch pressed-under edge of Waistband over previously stitched seam on wrong side of skirt.
Sew hook and eye on Waistband.
Secure wasitband by stitching in the ditch from right side.
Step Three: Hem
Press up hem along hemline. Finish raw edge of hem with seam tape or overcasting.
Slipstitch binding to skirt.
Press wearer's left back extension into place and slipstitch edges of extension to skirt back, covering hem.
Turn hem back and catchstitch in place halfway into hem allowance.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCADgVLKh4k "HOW TO SEW A SKIRT WITH FACING | NO WAIST BAND REQUIRED | EASY STEP BY STEP METHOD"
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-rKYPmu7Bo "how to sew a MINISKIRT (make your own pattern + detailed tutorial)"
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LePBR0p-Is "How To Draft A Simple Skirt Pattern With Inner Facing And No Waistband"
- "Easy guide to sewing skirts" par Marcy Tilton
- Queensland University of Technology DFB210 Fashion Design Studio 3 (QUTFashion)
- Claudette Davis-Bonnick "DavisBonnick"