Drafting the Cowl Skirt

I wanted to go into a bit more detail about how I drafted the last skirt I made.

Cowl SkirtThis pattern is two pieces that join centre front and centre back. You could easily adjust it so the seams are at the side but it might mess with how the drape hangs so check first. My pattern ended up being 4 pieces due to lack of fabric but it hangs fine. Drafting this was a matter of tracing round a straight skirt block, marking drape lines, slashing and spreading. Like so.

What you’re looking at above on the left is the half the back and half the front piece joined at the side seam. You can see where I have already marked and cut the drape lines.

1. Trace. I took my straight skirt block and traced round it. Or, you could simply trace round an existing straight skirt but leave a seam allowance and remember to account for stretch.

IMG_2853 - Copy (2)

2. Drape lines – side seams = yellow stars. I marked points on the side seams (on both front and back pieces) 8 and 12 inches down from the waist. This is the depth of the drape so my drape hits 8 and 12 inches down. These are shown above where the two pieces meet in the middle.

Drape lines -waist = red stars. The lazy version, measure along the waist on the front, divide into three, mark points. Repeat for back. The Aldrich version assumes you’ve made a skirt block and have darts marked.  On the front, mark a point in the middle of the dart and another halfway between the dart and centre front. On the back, mark 2 points in the middle of the two darts. Either way, it works out to the same thing. These are shown above on the top of the pattern pieces.

Draw curved lines between those points you’ve marked.

Slash. Cut along those curved drape lines. Cut straight through the side seam but stop just before the waist or it’ll be chaos. It’ll still be OK but just a but chaotic.


Spread. Place your pieces over another piece of paper so you can trace round it at the end. I didn’t do this in the pic. Open up pieces, keeping the pieces touching at the bottom hem. You can tilt the pieces as far as you like but see the top part there? The little pieces way at the top? OK, that top edge? What you’re looking at is the side seam which is now horizontal. Get this part right. There’s a lot of room for adapting this pattern but Aldrich is pretty adamant that messing about with this part might make life difficult.

To that I say, rules? What rules? I’ll let you know what happens when I throw them out the window.

Trace round that shape. Draw a line which curves up slightly between those far corners at the bottom hem.

Cut two of fabric and stitch together. 

I had far too much excess in the front and back because of the stretch in my fabric so I cut some away and added 2 pleats in front and 2 in the back.


Make the waistband. All I did was cover a piece of wide elastic and attach.

As I used jersey, my skirt doesn’t have the stiffness in the drape and I tapered the skirt at the hem as a nod to a hobble type silhouette. No hobbling for me though, not when I have to leg it across London regularly.


Now I’ll be adding drapes to EVERYTHING. Thank you Metric Pattern Cutting, you’ve changed my sewing life.

Tailor at Large has a lovely version of the cowl skirt in wool. Being in wool there’s a different quality to the drapes and it looks very cool. I’m looking forward to making this in other fabrics to see what happens. I’ve got a piece of velvet and some sequinned fabric that’d look beautiful used this way. I just need to prepare myself for the anarchy of sewing with these messy fabrics and the hoovering-marathon that inevitably follows.




About Vanessa

Sewing and assorted nonsense. For reasons that escape me, I left the sunshine and beaches of Australia for the crisps and glitter of London in 2001. I now live in the middle of some kind of feline drop-in centre in East London battling for space to make costumes and clothes. Over on twitter and instagram as @smittenness Email over here ------> smittenness@gmail.com
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10 Responses to Drafting the Cowl Skirt

  1. Awesome skirt you clever girl!

  2. that_girl says:

    hey!! can i know the name of the book you used as the reference? and awsome skirt btw!

  3. Jacky says:

    Hey there!

    Thanks for the link to my cowl skirt. 🙂 I like it in the fabric you’ve used there – more drape than the wool I worked with.

    Bet it’d be nice with silk…


  4. Pingback: Flaming Cowl Skirt | MontanaDesigns

  5. jay says:

    Looks super in the stripes. I made a long one, loosely based on the Stingray pattern (http://patternpandemonium.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/beached-stingray/), it is so comfortable!

  6. Candida says:

    hi,Nice skirt!it would be very kind ou you if you could show how to attach belt to the cowl skirt.

    • smittenness says:

      The waistband was just a folded over piece of the same jersey. I overlocked it to the skirt but left a gap. Then I threaded elastic through the band, stitched the elastic to itself, closed the gap by overlocking and that was it.

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