February 12, 2012

Those culottes - a tutorial

Heh, heh, thank you for the enabling words about my recent fabric purchase. I should know by now to trust fellow seamstresses to understand the temptationsof good AND cheap fabric.
In this post I will, as promised, try to explain how to draft the pattern for those culottes.

In any pattern making method, culotte patterns (or split skirts or whatever you may call them) are based on skirt blocks. For this pair, you start out with a half-circle skirt. Draft one of those is very easy and quite similar to drafting a circle skirt.
Interestingly, circle skirts are much more common as draft-your-own projects but most commercial patterns for 'full skirts' are in fact half-circle ones. Take Burdastyle's Linda for example. Although I love circle skirts, there are quite a few practical advantages to this slightly more modest relative. The amount of fabric required, to name just one. And they're a little less likely to be blown all the way up on just the slightest breeze...

Anyway, for the culotte pattern you will need your waist circumference, hip height (vertical distance from waist to hip) and sitting height (when seated straight, this is the vertical distance from waist to chair). You may know these measurement by different names, not all charts use the same names for the same things and I'm translating from Dutch.
If you want to make a more low-slung version, substitute 'waist' for 'where-ever you want the waistband to sit'. Just make sure you measure to the same 'waistline every time.

For the half-circle skirt, this is the formula for the waistline: waist circumference times 2 divided by 6,28 is the radius of the circle part (essentially, this is just like drafting a circle skirt, just with a circle which could fit your waist twice)
You only need to draw a quarter of a circle, so I usually start with the corner of a piece of paper as the center of the circle.

When you have drawn the waistline, draw the hemline at the distance you want. One my culottes, that was about 40 cm.

This is the end result. Make sure to mark the center line (most easily done by folding the cut-out pattern exactly in half). Front and back of the skirt are the same.
To make the skirt pattern into a pattern for culottes, cut the pattern piece along its center line.

First, add 10 cm to the center front/back lines of both pieces. This is for the front and back pleat.

Then, measure along the center front line and mark the sitting height. From that point, draw a line at a right angle from center front, the length of which should be 1/10 of you hip circumference + 2,5. Square down to the hemline.
Now, mark the hip height on the center front line and draw a gentle curve from that point to the middle of the line.

Repeat the previous step at the back. Only here, the length of the line should be 2/10 of your hip circumference - 3 cm, creating a more roomy crotch curve.

This is your pattern finished. Just add waistband (and pockets if desired)
You can add seam allowance either on the paper or on the fabric. Both pieces should be cut twice with the center front and back on the straight grain. I only just managed to cut my, rather short, version out of folded fabric of 1,40 meter wide. So, if you have a bigger size (I'm about a Burda 36) and/or want your longer, expect to need about the desired length times 4 in fabric.

To assemble, sew along the original center front line for about 15 cm, partially closing the front pleat. Then, sew the front crotch curve.
Repeat these steps at the back.
Then, sew the inner leg seam and then the outer one, leaving about 18 cm open on the left side to insert a zipper.
Insert the zipper and sew on the waistband. Hem.

My culottes are lined. I omitted the pleats in the lining to reduce bulk. This works fine. Otherwise, you sew the lining like the outside, attaching it to the zipper before you sew on the waistband. Outside and lining are treated as one when sewing the waistband. I've hemmed them seperately, as I usually do on flared skirts.

This also means you could make these culottes just the same without the pleats, but I think those box pleats add to their almost-a-skirt look.

I hope this how-to makes sense to you. Feel free to ask if anything isn't clear.
As usual, if you make something using this tutorial, please drop me line in the comments, I'd love to see it.

37 comments:

  1. Thank you!

    I think I might have time to try this in a couple of weeks, so I'll give it a shot and let you know how it went! I am curious if they'd suit my figure.

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  2. Thanks! I've bookmarked this for future reference. (and hooray, blogger is letting me leave comments again!)

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  3. Awesome tutorial! Thanks for your comment. There must be something in the air :-) I love your finished product btw. I think I've got to ditch the pleats though. Too much fabric all over the place.

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  4. Oh my goodness, you have just made my day!!! I have been looking for a pattern just like this recently, when I realised how great culottes are for dancing - still get the swooshiness of a skirt, without the risk of underwear flashing :)
    I had one great pair that went missing - now I can make a few more pairs myself!

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  5. Oooh these will be awesome in silk as skirt underthings so I can ride my scooter in a skirt without causing accidents! Thank you!

    http://theperfectnose.wordpress.com

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  6. Fantastic tutorial, and it's so straightforward! Thanks very much for sharing. :)

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  7. I haven't ever been completely happy with any coulottes or coulotte patterns I've found because the front never seemed to hang correctly. I suspected that the inseam needed adjustment. I found your site and tried your pattern. I didn't quite understand the directions for the pleat, so we bought another pattern and adjusted the inseam according to your directions. The coulottes turned out great and hang correctly.

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  8. wow I just love the way you explained it. Thanks a lot.Going to try it right away.Do you think it will work if I make a 3 piece paneled pieceand cut the skirt pattern out of it?

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  9. wow thanks for this! those are awesome skirt pants!! :D totally making me some now! thanks again!!

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  10. This is just fab, and thank you so much for posting it x

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  11. This is a great tutorial, very easy to follow and it has resulted in some pretty great culottes for me :) http://ingemaakt.com/2013/07/20/culottes/ thank you very much!

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  12. die 10 cm voor de plooien, is die 5cm links van de middenlijn en 5 cm rechts?
    Hoe bepaal je de sitting height?
    Je eindproduct is prachtig maar ik snap de tutorial niet zo goed :-(

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    1. Hallo MaMarleen,

      Ik geef je graag antwoord, maar je profiel bevat geen email-adres dus doe ik het maar zo.
      Middenvoor blijft middenvoor (en middenachter middenachter) dus de ruimte voor de plooien wordt, in zijn geheel, toegevoegd ernaast, in de tekeningen in de tutorial rechts van middenvoor/achter.
      Sitting height is zithoogte. Een veel gebruikte maat voor broeken en dergelijke (Knip en Burda leggen dit uit bij hun maattabellen) die ik, om die reden, niet verder heb uitgelegd. Het vinden ervan is simpel: ga rechtop op een harde stoel zitten en meet (zoals bij de meeste metingen gaat dit het beste als je iemand anders kunt laten meten) van je taille tot het oppervlak van de stoel. Dit is de zithoogte. Het is altijd wat meer dan de heuphoogte maar kan alles tussen 2 en 10 cm meer zijn, afhankelijk van je figuur.

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  13. Thank you very much for the awesome tutorial! I made some great culottes, but based them on a full circle skirt instead of a half circle skirt. :)

    http://sometimessewist.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/the-almost-tanias/

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  14. Thank you so much for the tutorial! I've almost made them in a bright orange rayon and plan to wear them cycling this summer. But I'm having some problems. The crotch hangs so low, almost to the bottom of the shorts, and I made them 40 cm from waist to hem. I can't figure out where I've gone wrong.

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    1. I really hope you'll come back here to read my reply because there is no contact information in your blogger profile at all, and I'd like to help finish your culottes well.
      The issue you mention is new to me, so I had to think about it. With such a short version, I can imagine the crotch sticking out when the culottes are flat the table or on a hanger. Does it also hang so low when worn?
      The only thing I can think of which you may have done wrong, is not stitching the insides of the pleat down properly. In that case, the weight of the crotch and pleat would be able to pull down too much.
      Another possibility, considering the fabric you're using, is the fact that rayon tends to stretch a lot on the bias. Center front and back, and the vertical part of the crotch and the inner leg seam should be cut on the straight grain. If you didn't they may have been stretched out. The crotch curve itself may also have been stretched.

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  15. Hi Lauriana, thanks so much for your reply. I'm new to this so didn't realise I had no contact info in my profile. I did cut it with the inner leg seam and straight line of the crotch on the grain. But I didn't have the inner part of the pleats stitched down, should I just stitch across the top of this, at the waist? I tried this and the crotch doesn't hang so low. It must be because the rayon stretches too much on the bias, as you suggested. I will work on them. Can you suggest a better fabric to use?

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  16. how much fabric should i take if i need the culotte to be 32 inches in length and 30 at waist?

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  17. m sorry i need 25-28 at waist because i need to add elastic and my actual waist is 25 inches

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    1. With this widely flared design, the waist circumference doesn't actually make that much difference to the amount of fabric needed. (just keep in mind that you will have to be able to pull that elasticated waist over your hips)
      My culottes were fairly short and I could just cut them out of fabric folded double. In your case, I think you'd need to get at least four times the full length. about 130 inches of fabric just to be sure.
      You could limit the fabric use by making the pleat and crotch a separate piece, connected to the remaining skirt with a seam.

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  18. Thank you for this tutorial. I like my culottes and they were really made easily.

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  19. Thank you for sharing your cullote pattern! I've made one (and I'm planning to make more) and I love it ^^

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  21. One more question...sorry..when you are marking the sitting height from the centre front/back lines do you use the original cf/cb lines or do you use the line from where the 10cm pleat would end? I am new to sewing pants. I made my first pair ever yesterday and slightly messed up the crotch height because of a rookie mistake. So I really want to get this right. Thanks so much

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  22. Hi Shelley, of course I don't mind about questions. Certainly not when you're new to sewing this kind of thing.
    In this pattern, you draw the crotch curve from the pleat which you've already added to the center front. Bear in mind though that these are culottes, not really trousers. The fit is pretty much that of a flared skirt but with two legs and, accordingly, the crotch hangs a bit lower than it would in trousers.
    By the way, I'm guessing from your name that you might be Dutch as well. If you think the language (no matter how good your English is, sewing terms can be confusing) in the tutorial may be causing an extra obstacle to understanding it, don't hesitate to email me with further questions in Dutch (email address is in the sidebar on the right, at the top of the page).

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    1. Thanks Lauriana.

      I am from South Africa but yes, I married an Afrikaans man with a surname that was originally Dutch :) So I understood most of your comments in Dutch as the languages are very similar (Afrikaans having come from Dutch). Thanks so much for the response. I will email you if I have any further questions.

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  24. So, I draw the 1/4 of the circle skirt, add the pleat and crotch, then cut out 4 of those and start by sewing the front pleat and crotch pieces together, then the back pleat and crotch pieces together?

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    1. Draw the 1/4 circle, ** cut it in half ** (which line will be put on the straight of the grain of the fabric), add pleat (if desired) and crotch, etc. Or I suppose if you wanted a really full skirt you could use the full 1/4 circle, add the crotch, cut 2 front & 2 back, etc. (But you'd have to draw the 1/4 circle twice, so you'd have a front & back pattern.)

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  25. Dear Lauriana, thank you very much for this tutorial! I have already made two pairs of perfectly fitting and very comfortable culottes thanks to you and I want to have some more :)

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  26. By the way, this is unnecessarily complex:
    "this is the formula for the waistline: waist circumference times 2 divided by 6,28 is the radius of the circle part"

    You don't need to multiply by 2.
    Just use the waist measurement and divide by pi (3.14).
    It comes to the same number. Try it.
    (less complex = less to screw up & less intimidating for people who don't like math)

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  27. Now I'm going to have to try to make these.
    Mine will be a bit longer, because I'm a bit older than you & not in as nice a shape.
    Think I want to add pockets too. I can't function without pockets.

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  28. Thanks for the Tutorial. I have a problem understanding the step where you draw the small curve in the crotch. Somehow my sitting height is longer than the hip height, or did I measure that wrong? And I dont know from where to draw the curve...

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  29. I am an idiot, I wanted a lower waist (below my belly) and did not adjust the sitting height measurement.

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  30. If I didn't want a pleat in my culottes could I just forget the 10cm and ad in 2-3cms for ease?

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  31. Hun,where's your Pinterest button? I searched all over Pinterest with different titles and couldn't find anything like this. This is what I was looking for! Thanks so much.

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