The Dalloway Pattern - Grading the Hips

Friday, September 12, 2014

As I mentioned when I released Dalloway last week, grading the hips is one of the trickier things that you might need to do to the pattern. This is because the skirt is one length of fabric, with no side seams.

But that's what makes it interesting right?

When I was making the pattern, I deliberately left a lot of ease in the hips to hopefully accommodate a large portion of people making Dalloway, but with that said, I still completely understand that some people may need more room, while others need less room. So hopefully, this little tutorial will help those of you that need to do some adjusting around that area, and you'll see that it's not too complicated and that actually, the method I'm about to show you means that you can play around with the proportions to get the perfect fit for you.

So, what's the trick to adding (or removing) hip ease in the Dalloway skirt?  Basically, you want to adjust the depth in the pleats along the skirt that shape the waist.

What you don't want to do is move the legs of the pleats along the skirt with the intent of adding ease in between the individual pleats, especially when making the dress, as the pleats match up with certain parts of the bodice. With the skirt version, it probably doesn't matter as much since you're just adding a plain waist band, but moving the pleat legs accurately would be the harder way to adjust the hips in my opinion.

Onward to the tutorial...

  • Dalloway pattern (either the skirt or the underlining pattern piece - it doesn't matter)
  • Muslin or scrap fabric to make up a test skirt
  • Scissors
  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Cello tape
  • Extra paper if you are adding ease

1. Make up a muslin of the skirt piece using pattern piece D (this is the skirt underlining piece and matches up with the skirt piece exactly once the horizontal pleats have been sewn into the skirt).

2. Work out how much ease you need. Take note of where the skirt is pulling (or bagging if you need to reduce ease). The great thing about adding ease to the skirt my way is that you actually get to choose where you add in your ease. Is it pulling at the back? Or at the front? Add your extra ease here only. Or if it's too tight in general, you can divide your extra ease up and add it all over. 

For the sake of this tutorial, I'm going to say I need to add a total of 2.5cm extra (or 1inch) to the back pleats.

3. Once you've got how much extra you need to add, it's time to divide that number up equally across all the affected pleats.

Since I'm just going to be adding ease to the back pleats only, and there are a total of 6 of them (I've included one side of the side box pleat that sits to the back - though it's totally up to you if you include that pleat, or the entire side box pleat or none of it!!) - which works out to be about 4mm for each pleat (aka slightly bigger than 1/8inch - sorry guys, I'm a metric lady and have no idea how to write that in inches!!).

2.5cm/6 = 0.41cm (I've rounded to 4mm)

4. Now I need to divide that 4mm by 2 because I'm only working with half a pattern and I wanted to add 2.5cm total to my skirt.

4mm / 2 = 2mm

So all up, I'm only going to be adding 2mm to the depth of each pleat (slightly less that 1/8inch). And while it might not sound like a huge amount, as we all know with sewing, the tiniest changes in fitting all add up.

5. Now the fun part! Cut off the top strip of the skirt that has all the pleat markings on it.

6. Cut all the affected pleats in half and pull apart by the required amount.

7. Place paper underneath each section to fill in the gaps and tape up.

8. Tape your adjusted strip back onto your skirt and fill in the extra length added to the end with spare paper.

9. Draw in the new ends of your skirt pattern Sew Lines (including the end notches) then transfer the new markings/adjustments to your other skirt pattern piece.

TA DA! A nicely adjusted skirt pattern. This tutorial works exactly the same for taking away ease, you just want to do the opposite.

See, totally not as scary as you thought right?

Any questions? Please feel free to pop them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them :)

3 comments on "The Dalloway Pattern - Grading the Hips"
  1. This might sound like a stupid question but pleat math makes my head explode - does this method increase the waist size? If not, what can I do to increase the waist and hip without messing up the pleat distribution?

    1. Hi Blacey - not stupid at all, pleat math does the same for me too!! This method will not increase the waist size, just the hips since we're increasing the depth of the pleat but not the pleat itself. If you're in between sizes in your waist, since it's only 5cm/2inches difference between sizes, I would divide the extra amount you need in your waist up evenly and use the same method as above, but add it to the spaces 'between' the pleats instead of the pleats themselves. This will also increase your hip ease by the same amount and then if you need more hip ease, you can use the method as above.

      Does that make sense? I can draw you up a little diagram if you like, email me at and I'll see if I can explain it any better in pictures. I'm a visual person myself so I completely understand if I've totally confused you :)

  2. Hey Jen, thanks for the super swift reply! It makes perfect sense, thanks a million!
    I've scoured the internet looking for a tutorial on how to grade up a pleated skirt but didn't find anything - now you've solved my conundrum in a sentence!
    Looking forward to making a dalloway now, thanks again!


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