Design and Knit a Skirt From a Style in Your Closet – Step 1: Taking Measurements

A-line Skirt Style From my Closet

I’m beginning a series of posts on how to design a hand knit skirt. A knit skirt is a fashionable, easy style to wear. I own a few knit skirts, and they are my number one travel piece. The skirt on top is a straight hand knit style in a lace pattern with a tie waist. The style below it is one of my favorite purchased skirts. It has a gored hemline, with more shaping than a straight style. Some of you may pause and believe you’re not confident enough to approach a skirt project. I would bet that somewhere along your knitting journey, you’ve designed a scarf. The steps from designing a scarf to a garment is easier than you might think.

“Designing” is often described by non-creatives as some special, innate skill. A very small percentage of the population is born with such a gift. But even they had to practice and hone their skill to keep in the game. Everyone is creative, it simply requires finding out what you love doing the most, and then practicing the necessary skills.

Designing a project begins with an inspiring thought or idea. Ideas don’t fall from the sky; they are acquired by observing the world around you. There are innumerable means of acquiring design ideas, including replicating a garment, visual stimuli, a color palette, and ideas from fashion magazines. In this series I’m choosing to replicate a favorite skirt style from my closet. Make sure you choose a style that fits you well. Hand knit skirt styles are usually made in simple shapes, either a straight or A-line style. More complicated skirt shapes such as gored are seen more often in woven or machine knit fabrics, but are not impossible to hand knit.

The key areas to fit a skirt are the waist and the hips. Typically, skirts are worked from the hem to the waist on straight needles. A skirt can also be made with circular needles, knit from the bottom up or from the top down. Most skirts are easy to knit, as the front and back usually have the same measurements and shaping.

For a straight skirt, the lower width is typically two to four inches wider than the hips, allowing for sufficient ease at the hemline to walk comfortably. Remember that knit fabric is stretchy, so this rule is not set in stone. The width tapers from the widest part at the hips to the waist.

An A-line skirt is similar to a straight skirt, but the shaping is continuous from the lower hem to the waist. The lower part of the skirt tapers from the hem to the hip, then the upper part tapers from the hip to the waist. The A-line is the skirt shape I have chosen to make in this series.

The first step is to take measurements from the skirt. Hand knit garments do not have seam allowances, so don’t add on seam allowances to your measurements. Write down all your measurements.

My Skirt Measurements (inches):

  • Hem Width = 29.5in (I’m going to use 30in as my finished hem width)
  • Hip Width = 22in
  • Waist = 16in
  • Length to Top of Waistband = 29in
  • Length From Hem to Hip = 20.5in
  • Length From Hip to Top of Waistband = 8.5in (Note: My skirt has no attached waistband, just a ribbon sewn at the top. I will subtract one inch from this measurement (7.5in from hip to beginning of waist) to make a waistband. I’m doing this because this skirt sits right at my waist.)
  • Finished Waistband Length = 1in

Let’s draw a schematic of the skirt and its measurements. To draw a schematic or a diagram of the measurements to scale, I use square graph paper, at 8 squares or 10 squares to the inch. There is graph paper specifically designed for knitting, featuring a grid where the squares are the same proportion as the gauge. As an example, with a gauge of 4 stitches and 6 rows per inch, the grid of the knitter’s graph paper has 4 squares to the inch horizontally, and 6 squares to the inch vertically. There are a variety of grids available to match the various gauges. Knitter’s graph paper allows you to design without the distortion of regular graph paper. This type of paper is most useful when color knitting such as Intarsia; showing exactly what the shapes look like in the finished knitting. Regular graph paper works fine for drawing schematics, because you’re concerned with the measurements of the pieces drawn to scale.

Schematic of A-line Skirt

Next time I’ll discuss yarn choice, stitch patterns, test swatching, and how to calculate yarn amounts. Stay tuned.