How to: Create a Vent

Hey friends! Please note that as of 4/6/2012, this tutorial has been refashioned. The instructions and photos have all been updated to produce a much more professional result. If this is your first time visiting this tutorial, read on, if this is your second or third time (or 4th or 5th) give a read through the material as some of it has changed a bit.
One thing I found when making my navy blue pencil skirt from the Jenny Pattern from BurdaStyle is that the back had a slit and not a vent or kick pleat. I have strong feelings about slits. Slits, for skirts, belong in the front along one leg, if they belong anywhere at all. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. I really feel that adding a back vent or even a kick pleat (kick pleats are closed back vents) adds real value and durability to a garment. Slits are much more likely to tear or distort over time from wear.
You might also be surprised that though this little tutorial brings your skirt up a notch, its very easy to do. Weird huh? Usually things that look better on garments are much harder to do. I mean don’t you find it a relief to know that this is easy peasy? Come now, let’s cheer! OK enough silliness, down to brass tacks.

This is a tutorial for a pencil skirt that has a slit that you want to convert to a vent ( back, front or side vent – it can go anywhere you know). You will need:

  • your skirt pattern
  • straight edge ruler
  • pencil
  • paper
  • tape

Step 1 ✂ OK, ready? Here we go. You’ll need the back skirt pattern piece for this (or the piece that has the slit). All you have to do is add 1 1/4 inches (3.2 centimeters) to the back edge where the slit begins and ends. Then, at the top of the slit, give your the extension a 45 degree angle – do make sure its a 45 degree angle if you plan to go ahead and use this tutorial in conjunction with my lining tutorial (You can achieve a 45 degree angle with a protractor or even a see through quilting ruler). This added on section to the slit of the skirt will be referred to as the vent extension. You’re halfway there. The back skirt piece should now look something like this:

Cut this from the paper, cut your cloth and next we’ll sew it up.

To sew the vent:

Step 2 ✂ Hem and/or finish the raw edges of the vent extension – in the above sample, I’ve merely finished the edge with a serge stitch. It’s up to you to use the finishing technique you desire, know that you have 5/8″ (1.6 centimeters) to work with.

Step 3 Stitch from the bottom of the zipper opening/stop to the edge of the vent extension, pivoting where the center back seam of the skirt and the vent extension meet. Please note that as per the Jenny Skirt pattern via BurdaStyle, this pattern has 5/8″ (1.6 centimeter) seams.

Step 4 ✂ Clip into corner where the center back seam and the vent extension meet. Careful not to clip through the stitching, just close to it.

Step 5 ✂ Press the center back seam above the vent open and press the vent extension to one side. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ve pressed the vent to the right side (wrong side up), but either side will do.

Step 6 ✂ Pin the top edge of the vent extension in place. Satin stitch following the seam line of the 45 degree angle along the top of the vent extension; stitch through all layers. This creates a nice, finished look at the top of the vent that you would typically see on most RTW skirts while also keeping the vent to one side.

Optional tip: For added durability, give the center back seam allowance, from the zipper opening/stop to the section where the center back seam and the vent extension meet, some strips of organza that’s been cut on the straight of grain. This will act as a stabilizer and won’t allow this section to stretch or warp over time.

Happy Venting!

xoxo,
Sunni

  • Suzanne - That is SO TRUE about them tearing! My plus size Burda pencil skirt had this happen TWICE! This is a better way to go!
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  • karen - Yay, that’s great! One thing: when you say ‘give’ the seam allowances strips of organza do you mean add the strips of organza to the edges of the seam allowance once they’re pressed open ie as a type of hong kong finish?
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  • A Sewn Wardrobe - This tut is psycho helpful. Thanks so much for taking the time to post it! I’m totally going to use this in a pencil skirt I have planned for fall.
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  • Revival - Thanks for the tutorial but could you please add with pictures how to do the lining part please?
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  • jayne - ditto on the organza to seam allowance question and the lining part request :D loving this sew-a-long idea.
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  • Sandra - I LOVE this! Thanks for this tutorial, I’ve always thought the seam vent was a bit dodgy but didn’t ever take the effort to find out how to change it. This looks so much better. And that’s what the organza is for!
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  • The Cupcake Goddess - No, actually I add strips of organza to the wrong side of the skirt where you would actually sew the seam. I’m going to do a follow up tutorial for this hopefully by Friday.
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  • The Cupcake Goddess - Yes, I hope to have this up by Friday. It will be much more clear with photos. So sorry!
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  • Ellen - I’m a little behind. I have my muslin cut out. Luckily for me, my pattern actually has a back vent, but this looks very easy. I’ll be interested to see the pictures with the lining. And hopefully, I’ll get my muslin fitted tomorrow. :P
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  • Kennis - Thanks for posting the tutorial! I am making a pencil skirt out of McCall 5590 and am trying to decide how much ease I should add to the waist and hip. Could you share how much ease you have on yours?
    Thanks again and keep up the good work!
    Kennis
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  • The Cupcake Goddess - I like to have about 2 inches of ease in the skirt and 1 inch in the waist. The 2 inches in the skirt gives me room to walk and sit and the 1 inch in the waist makes the skirt sit right and not slide around too much.
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  • Carrauntoohil - Wonderful tutorial! Lots of clear pictures plus great descriptive text make this one of the best I’ve seen. Thank you so much for putting it together — I’m definitely bookmarking it!
    BTW, I don’t have any organza strips… would twill tape work the same?
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  • The Cupcake Goddess - I think that twill tape would work just fine down the length of the back seam. It would give it good strength and durability. I would get a thinner twill tape, I think the thicker it is the more you are likely to see a bulge on the right side of the skirt.
    Thanks so much! I’m glad you like the tutorial!
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  • srkeeler - Thank you so much! I am going to try a straight skirt from my first attempt at a skirt sloper. I knew I wanted to do a back vent, but couldn’t get a straight answer on how to go about it. You are awesome!
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  • rachel - i like the inverted kickpleat in my gab and khaki skirt
    easy to walk and classy
    always put dart on the pleat
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  • Natalie | FrizzyDizzy - This is brilliant. I spent forever looking at a Simplicity pattern’s instructions trying to figure this out. Those pictures are tricky sometimes. This tutorial is perfect! Wish I had it sooner though :P ReplyCancel

  • Ibeth Dellemann - Hallelujah, I got it!
    Thank you so much, I hate to admit it, but I could not comprehend the instructions from the pattern.

    IbethReplyCancel

  • Genevieve - Thank you this was very helpful! I am planning to refashion an old pair of jeans into a pencil jean skirt, but needed to know how to add a kick slit. Thanks once again!ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca Beil - Question: how do you attach the lining of a french vent to the skirt with a single lapped zipper? I would like it to look like the lining in the Pendleton skirts where the wool shows ,then you see the lining. Do you have a book on sewing for sale in the book stores ,or to order from you? Thank you.

    Rebecca BeilReplyCancel

    • Sunni - Hi Rebecca!
      I’ve actually not written a book – just my musings here on my blog. For a skirt with a french vent – or slit, in my opinion – I tack the zipper to the lining by hand with a slip stitch. Hopefully that helps.ReplyCancel