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Patternmaking & Sewing Notes
by Don McCunn

Creating a Pattern for
an Elliptical Skirt

A question came up in a Yahoo group Sew What? about how to create a skirt that a person had seen online. The skirt is by the designer Fausto Puglisi and was modeled by Wendy Nguyen for her fashion diary Wendy's Lookbook. By analyzing the image we came to the conclusion that the pattern must be elliptical in shape.

Having made circular skirts, I was intrigued by the idea so I mentioned it at the time to my Yahoo group. Some of the more knowledgeable people in that group questioned whether the elliptical shape would need to be modified in some way to create the appearance of the skirt. I decided to explore the concept using a quarter scale version as I describe in An Introduction to Pattern Design. As I was working it out I decided to make a YouTube of the process which you can see below.

The following steps describe how to create the pattern shown in the video.

Determine the Measurements

A useful patternmaking calculator allows you to put in the measurements of a circumference. which is then converted to the radius of a circle. So for example this skirt will require a circle for the waist. You enter the waist circumference then click the circle button and it will show you the value for the radius. You can find this free calculator on the Stingcodes website.
  1. Determine the length of the hem at center front: ______.
  2. Determine the waist diameter (twice the radius): ______.
  3. Determine the length of the hem at center back: ______.

Draw the Pattern

The video makes reference to the Pattern Making Paper and Scale Rulers I use. The instructions with detailed pictures for drawing this kind of ellipse can be found on the Math Open Reference website.
  1. Draw a horizontal line for the long axis of the ellipse.
  2. On the long axis mark off the length of the front hem + diameter of the waist + back hem length.
  3. Make a mark in the center of the waist diameter.
  4. Find the middle of the long axis and draw a vertical line at right angles at this point. This is the short axis of the ellipse.
  5. Mark the length of the front hem + half the waist on the short axis both above and below the long axis.
  6. Determine half the length of the long axis, then with one end of this length on the top of the short axis, mark where it coincides with the long axis. Make marks on both the left and right sides of the short axis.
  7. Put pins in a string to record the length of the long axis.
  8. Move the pins to the marks determined in Step 6.
  9. Use a pencil to draw a quarter of an ellipse.
  10. Draw a circular waist seam.
  11. Fold the pattern in quarters along the long and short axis and cut it out.

The pattern can now be cut from fabric.

Copyright © 2014 by Donald H. McCunn