Sewing

How to Shorten and Narrow a Skirt

Curly haired woman with one arm on her hip in a black and white dress above white and pink boxes with text that read Sewing tutorial: 2 ways to hack this dress to match your style, petite font dot com.

Curly haired woman with one arm on her hip in a black and white dress next to teal boxes with text that read Sewing tutorial: hack an A-line skirt pattern, make it shorter and narrow, petite font dot com.

When you shorten or narrow a skirt, you save a bunch of fabric! Or, if you’re short on fabric, either is a good way to get a similar look more efficiently.

Today I’m going to use the Project Sew My Style pattern of the month, the Chalk & Notch Orchid Midi, as the basis for these two skirt hacks.

First, I’m going to shorten the skirt. Then I’m going to make it more narrow. I’m making it a skinny mini!

And then check back again on Friday when I make the most scandalous hack: moving the slit to the back of the skirt!

*Housekeeping: full disclosure, I received this pattern for free as a member of the #sewmystyle2019 leadership team.*

Because I’m short, the “midi” length of the original Orchid pattern is laughably long on me. It came all the way to my ankles! El Hubo actually asked if I was making a Mole Woman dress (*insert eye roll*).

I knew from the beginning I would make this into a knee-length version. The directions included for this are very easy, but here’s a visual guide.

Note: if you plan to do both of these hacks, make sure to shorten the pattern first!

How to Shorten a Long Skirt

Decide how much length to take off the skirt, keeping in mind your hem depth. This particular pattern’s hem is 1.375″ or 3.5 cm.

Locate the two shorten and lengthen (S/L) lines on the Front and Back skirt pieces (shown here in red).

Note: some patterns only have one shorten and lengthen lines included. If that’s the case feel free to add another parallel line of your own. This can be done around the knee area, or several inches below the hip point.)
Line drawing of front and back skirt patterns with red lines indicating where they can be shortened

  1. I decided to take off 11″ (27.94 cm). Divide this amount in half (5.5″ or 13.97 cm) and draw a line that distance above both S/L lines (indicated by blue lines).
    Line drawing of front and back skirt patterns with red lines indicating where they can be shortened and parallel blue lines above the red ones indicating how much to cut off
  2. Fold or cut your pieces along the red S/L lines and move this up to your newly drawn blue lines. Your side seams are going to look a little ragged.
    Line drawing of shortened front and back skirt pattern pieces with uneven seam lines
  3. Now retrace the side seams so they are smooth lines. This is called “truing” the seams.
    Line drawing of shortened front and back skirt pattern pieces with seam lines smoothed out

On this particular pattern, you may have to adjust the slit as it might end up too high up your thigh. Keep that in mind! If it’s not an issue, then you’re done shortening!

How to Narrow an A-Line Skirt

Now that the skirt is showing off your amazing calves, it’s time to narrow the sweep. The sweep is the circumference of the bottom hem. My fabric was too narrow for the full A-line skirt, so this hack allowed me to still have an A-line skirt but only slightly narrower.

The key here is to decide how wide an A-line you want. According to Fashion Pattern Making Techniques Vol. 1, a standard A-line skirt is about 3-6 cm (1.25-2.25″ rounded up for even numbers) wider than a pencil skirt. Pencil skirts are cut straight down from the hip point (typically the widest point along your hips). We’ll use this point to make our adjustments.

  1. I’ll be using the new shortened Back Skirt pattern piece for this example.
    Line drawing of back skirt pattern piece
  2. Extend the hem from the center back out straight (not curved), exactly perpendicular to the center back or grainline. This is the red line in the illustration below.
    Line drawing of back skirt pattern piece with red line drawn perpendicular to center back
  3. Find the hip point or hip notch. Draw a line straight down (parallel to the center back or the grainline) to the extended straight hem (red line).
    Line drawing of back skirt pattern piece with red line drawn perpendicular to center back and new blue line parallel to center back from hip point to new red line
  4. For this example, I opted for a skirt 2″ (5 cm) wider than a typical pencil skirt. I drew a line 2″ away from the blue line in Step 3 and extended it up to the original hem (green line).
    Line drawing of back skirt pattern piece with red line drawn perpendicular to center back, blue line from hip point to red line and new green line indicating 2-inch difference from blue line
  5. Draw a straight line from the original hip point down to your new mark (shown in grey).
    Line drawing of back skirt pattern piece with red line drawn perpendicular to center back, blue line from hip point to red line and new green line indicating 2-inch difference from blue line with new grey line drawn from hip point to green line
  6. True (or smooth) the seam at the hip point (shown in the red box) by curving it to meet the original seam line.
    Line drawing of new back skirt pattern piece with a red square around hip point indicating lines need to be smoothed
    Here’s an example of using a curved ruler to smooth out that line.
    Image of curved ruler along the skirt pattern side seam showing how to smooth the seam
  7. Do the same to the Front Skirt piece—OR to avoid doing the math, simply match this new cut line on the Front Skirt pattern piece. Make sure to smooth out the hip curve!
    Line drawing of both front and back skirt pattern pieces, red box around skirt front hip point where seam needs to be smoothed

And that’s it! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Note that because this pattern has an interfaced hem, narrowing it will also save you a little bit of that material. You will have to narrow pieces #18 and #19 for the hem fusibles.

Here’s a sneak peek at my finished Orchid. The narrower skirt is subtle, despite having a sweep that’s 10″ narrower!

Curly haired brunette in shortened and narrowed Orchid dress

Check back on Friday when I’ll show you how to reverse the skirt so the slit is in the back!

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