Pleated knee-length skirt – Butterick B5613


Here is my first attempt at a skirt ; a staple for those lovely, warm days (when we chance to get them in Toronto).  I find the pleats a very graceful way to add structure and flair to the skirt. Finished this in about a month, working on it in an extremely interrupted month of May. There were a number of new concepts for me with this project:

1) Adding a yoke (that’s the waistband above the pleats)2) Sewing a zipper (!) — this one turned out to be easier than I thought. Maybe it was all those zipper teeth and the thought of breaking the machine needle on one?,
3) and of course, making the pleats themselves.

The pattern was a Butterick I picked up at a local Fabricland and there was a bit of a runaround involved with the sizing. This pattern comes in sizes from 4 to 22, and Butterick sells the pattern in two sets (4-12 and 14-22). Being around a size 6-8 in retail stores, I didn’t imagine for a moment I would be a size 14 in Butterick’s reckoning! Folks, where pattern sizes are concerned, it’s best to guesstimate sizes based on your measurements. I’d gotten the smaller set, went back for the larger set…and the irony is that after that goose-chase, I ended up taking the waist in 2 inches anyway! For skirt #2, I will probably start over with a size 12. The fabric is a pretty floral print also from Fabricland (cotton).

The structure on the skirt front is repeated for the skirt back: the bottom with the pleats is sewed to a three-piece “waistband”, a yoke piece.The back is two separate panels joined by a seam, the top of which ends with a zipper.

Making the pleats  is not hard but involves making a lot of markings on the fabric to indicate the regular spacing of the pleats. I also learnt along the way that there are different types of pleats and that this one is just a side folded pleat. The figure below shows the pattern for the front; each of the little “boxes” indicates a single pleat.


Below is a closeup of the pleat markings. After the fabric is cut to the pattern, all the lines,  circles, and crosses on the pattern have to be transferred to the fabric; markings can indicate where different pieces need to be aligned together, or in this case, where the fabric is folded over to create a pleat. Here, we make the fold at the large circle and pleat sideways to the small circle; the distance between the two circles is the width of the pleat.

For transferring markings, I used a Clover tracing wheel and transfer paper, a system not unlike working with carbon paper. However, this transfer paper doesn’t transfer efficiently, and despite applying the most amount of pressure I would dare to – without ripping the pattern!  – the markings were quite light.

Here is what the fabric looks like once the pleats are made and pinned into place. The pleats are basted into place – i.e. one uses a long stitch length to keep fabric in place temporarily – and the baste stitches aren’t removed until the skirt is finished.


The zipper was easy enough to work with, I have no idea why I put off learning this for so long. The store-bought zipper was 23 cm and this pattern required a 7″ one. I shortened it using a tutorial similar to this, except I sewed the base using a zig-zag on a near-zero stitch length; these settings have the effect of a satin stitch.

Here is a side and back view of the skirt:

IMG_3444 IMG_3436

There were two more challenges towards the end of the project. First, I ran out of fabric before being able to cut out the last center yoke panel (yipes) and visited Fabricland only to learn they had run out of the fabric (double yipes!!). Commercial patterns usually suggest more fabric than is strictly required for the project, so I have to conclude that I must have mistakenly gotten asked for less fabric than the envelope asks for. Just incase this wasn’t so, I made sure to get another half-yard for skirt #2. I ended up using a thin white cotton fabric from my scrap stash as an alternative, and as the gap was in the yoke facing on the inside, things seem to have worked out pretty well.

Here are two pictures, one of the yoke panel facing out and the other facing in. The white panel is the one I substituted.


The second challenge was more pedestrian; the skirt was just too loose about the waist. Using the time-tested “thumb pinch” method, I reckoned the waist needed to be taken in by about 2 inches (~1 inch each side). I managed to avoid having to resize all the pleats by taking the fabric in exactly at the side seams and that too, only at the yoke. I’ll be sure to get photos of this process the next time.

All in all, very satisfying results. Having clothes that fit just so feels very nice, I must say. On to skirt #2 – linings!