A Little Post About Making Box Pleated Skirts

VV6bBoxPleatVV stripedboxpleatskirt

A reader got in touch yesterday and asked me about how I worked out the pleats in my box pleated skirt so I thought I’d post the info for doing just that .

This is the formula I like for working out box pleat markings and how much fabric it will take:

(A) your waist measurement divided by total number of box pleats desired= what each pleat face will measure

(B) your waist measurement multiplied  by 3= total amount of fabric needed (excluding seam allowances) because a box pleat takes 3x its width in fabric. 

For example if you want a skirt with 6 box pleats (3 across the front and 3 across the back) and your waist is 72 cms the formula would look like this:

(A) 72 cm waist divided by 6 pleats = 12cms which is the width of each pleat at the waist and the spacing you need to mark 3 times to create each pleat. So for 6 pleats and a 72cm waist you’d mark ten 12cm spaces for both the front and back. You’re thinking hmmm but 3×3 is 9 , yes but you need a line for the ninth mark to pleat over to so thats why you need to mark a tenth. 

(B) 72 cm waist x 3 = 216cm  is the total amount of fabric needed though you do need to add some extra for seam allowances.  Say add 5cm for seam allowances and there you have the running meterage you need: 2.21 metres for cutting along the selvedge if using a striped fabric like in the red and white skirt above that I did for Making magazine a few months ago. That skirt only has one seam in the left side where the zip was inserted.

In -A- you can use  the number of pleats you like i.e. 6, 8 or 10 etc. Or use an odd number like 7 or 9.  An even number of pleats tends to sit better around a body and then you get seams at the sides for adding pockets in but that may be more about my personal preferences rather than being a fact.

The diagram shows the directions to make the box pleat folds in.


To cut across the fabric so your skirt is made from two pieces like my orange linen one with two side seams (where you can add in-seam pockets)  then the meterage you need would be twice the finished skirt length you want  plus hem and waistband seam allowances. Regarding fabric width to cut it like this-  larger waist sizes will need wider width fabrics or more than two seams in the skirt. To estimate the width needed for your waist size divide the running meterage total you calculated in back in -B- in half. This gives you an idea of what width fabric you’ll need for each of the two halves of your skirt.  As a basic guide:  waists  62cm -72cm should fit across 114cm width fabric, 77cm need 125cm  width and 82 & 8cms require 140cm width fabric. As a work-around for larger waist sizes or if you’re working with a very narrow fabric the skirt could be cut in 3 or 4 panels with the seams hidden in the back folds of the pleats. Or go back to cutting it along the length of the fabric so you aren’t restricted by a limited width fabric. 

It’s a good idea to test marking and folding it out on a long strip of paper first if you are unsure of any aspect of this.

Thank you to ‘iconoplast’ and Nico who both helped me see the way to simplify my calculations from A-B-C to just A & B.

Sewing up the skirt is just a matter of pinning and stay-stitching all the pleats in place. Sewing the right side seam closed and adding a zip in the left one. Adding a waistband on with a button or hook and bar to close and sewing up the hem. You can knock a skirt out in a couple of hours.

Gingham & Stripes & More- Oh My!

NM2015SOooo it’s been awhile since my last post in April so bit of a catch-up.  Back in May when I went to visit my Mum in New Mexico among other lovely outings we spent a wonderful afternoon at an iris farm. Irises by the thousands, so gorgeous…who knew! On my “to-grow” list for next year. No smuggling of bulbs in my luggage was necessary as apparently I can buy similar beauties from Holland and also in the UK. However something I couldn’t seem to get in the UK (at a price I was willing to pay) was a half scale mannequin. Yes, I know irises to mannequins? – quite a jump. Anyway ‘back at the ranch’ after the iris outing I was doing some recreational web surfing and came across a place in Alabama that sells PGM half scale mannequins at a nice price. Clickty click done deal. It arrived at my Mums house a week later.  You maybe wondering what is the point of a mini-mannequin. Main benefit is that draping and pattern experiments on the 1/2 scale use up a lot less muslin. When I made my Lutterloh dress I used tons of paper and cotton fabric before getting the pattern right. In draping the dress below I used a whole lot less and did it IMG_3984on a table top at my Mums house. All because on ebay there was 1950’s pattern (Simplicity3595) I didn’t win so I just draped it on my new mini-me. Transfered it onto paper, scaled it up to full size, made some small pattern adjustments and just went for it in this great ikat cotton stripe from my Mums stash. Here is my finished version with side seam pockets :


A friend saw it in progress and made a birthday wish for a blue gingham version and as she is a good bit smaller than me I felt I needed to proof the pattern before I did her size using a couple of metres of what I think was upholstery cotton I found in a flea market …cue version 2 with the stripes going the other way and patch pockets:


Finally this past weekend I did my friends gingham version (winging its way back to N.M. as I type) and yes, now I think I am done with this pattern.

Sweetheart Gingham

Sweetheart halter dressSo you can make one too :) from the pattern I just added to my Free Stuff  page. It’s a UK 12/US 8, 36″ bust/29″ waist. More detailed measurements are on the pattern,  just have a look. The bodice and 1/2 circle skirt patterns are separate pdfs.  *Though for stripes or checks the bodice cf and cb are cut on the bias it is straight grain fused and/or lined to behave and fit as if cut on the straight. I did originally try it unfused and lined all on the bias too… honestly it was a pain! Using the bias only as a decorative feature and not a fitting feature is much less headache. The skirt pattern can also have the grains switched so the cf and cb are on the straight grain and the side seams then on the bias.

VVSweetheart Inspiration

Inspiration: with shorts or a pencil skirt.

I can also imagine the sweetheart halter bodice with a pencil skirt or with loose shorts as a playsuit/swimsuit… on my Free Stuff page are my pencil skirt drafting tutorial and the French Knicker one which would get you there. I have re-imagined the original illustration to give you an idea: The mini-mannequin is back in the UK living in my workroom now. I haven’t yet had another chance to use it but have a couple of Coupe de Paris and Lutterloh patterns lined up I aim to try out small before going big. It’s just finding the time between brides, some costume jobs and my personal ‘impulse’ makes 😉

Here’s a couple of sneaky peeks at a beautiful 1930’s style bias dress I made over May & June. Being worn this Sunday, long silk tulle veil and all.

Lauren detail Lauren train

She’s going to look amazing. I’ll post some pics from the day when I have them.

For myself I made a pumpkin orange linen box pleated skirt. Just the best colour on a grim day!


I’m also sporadically working on an updated LBD too… same bodice with a soft sailor collar and a 4 gore bias skirt, made up here in a drapey rayon. So far its been my go-to hot weather dress.


But for now  after I post this I’m back to finishing another wedding dress, bias silk and gold lace.

On a final note it’s my Mums 85th birthday tomorrow.  She made sewing, drawing and reading into big parts of my life for which I’ll always be grateful. This is us in May.  Happy Birthday Mum !!


Me and Mum, May 2015, New Mexico.



U.F.O -abbreviation for Un-Finished Object. [noun] A sewing term.




Oh yes.

If you sew you have ’em.

They lurk in closets or huddle in bags. If left long enough they transform from UFO into a WTF was I thinking? or an OMG I remember this! and get cut into quilt pieces if they are lucky or simply binned if not. This past Friday I had a pre-summer closet shuffle, a.k.a. What-Fits-This-Year and I found two UFOs from last summer.

But isn’t it wonderful how if you take a break from a project, anywhere from overnight to ahem     a year! and look at it with fresh eyes that whatever seemed wrong with it isn’t such a big deal after all?  That’s how it works for me most of the time anyway. A sleeve suddenly fits in perfectly…. the pattern correction needed is blindingly obvious…. the pocket placement is clear. A long break did the trick for these two.

weldons gif by veravenus.com

This red linen dress  from a 1960’s Weldons pattern that I got for 25 pence was a spur of the moment make. So simple, a piece of cake yet turned into a nightmare. Most of the problems were to do with my posture and needing to shorten the back bodice length (shorter than most patterns) and lengthen the front (prominent bust). Simple enough if I’d made proper pattern alterations but I didn’t.  Then the bust darts just wouldn’t play nice: too high, too long, uneven… I gave it two days of undivided attention then into the back of my closet it went. (I know I know I should’a done a toile but I don’t listen to my own advice) So Saturday it was assessed, the dart issues corrected in 10 minutes flat, a zip added and finally it was finished. No big deal after all.   VV60's dress



Next up out of the closet was this saucy sarong dress, abandoned at its first fitting last year. Why? Because I wasn’t paying attention and had simply cut the bodice waaaay too small and the skirt was an experiment that didn’t go quite as planned. Fortunately I had just enough fabric left to cut a new bodice, re-cut the back skirt as the new under front and cut new backs. Tada….6 hours later done. I’ve wanted a “Tiki” dress for years. Where was this dress when I was thirty years younger but hey, better late than never 😉  I added a wide boned inner-waistband, not talking comfort here. It’s all about the shape.  I adapted it from one of those swimsuit patterns

that yes,

I      am     still      working on.


So two UFOs saved from the scrap heap. Hooray.

VVsarong dress

In the meantime while it is not yet hot enough for those dresses  I have been wearing this sample dress from the sewing project I designed for the April issue of Making. Soft rayon jersey, cheerful colours, super comfortable…. I could do with a couple more of these! It’s not retro I know…. but add a wiggle skirt with a drape instead of the flared skirt, reshape the neckline from a V into a sweetheart and it could be.VVjersey dress free pattern

I’m off to USA to catch up with family for a few weeks and just wanted to leave you with something for the nicer weather and so the pattern pdf is now posted on my VVFree page. As usual with my free patterns it’s only in the one size (pic below has info) but not tricky to grade up following the Threads guide -link  there on the right sidebar. It’s a fairly easy make, no darts or zips. All sewn on a domestic sewing machine with just basic stretch stitches.

VV jerseyDressFreePatternEnjoy.

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