Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer of Skirts - Circle Skirt Tutorial

Some announcements first: The Dorothy Dress Giveaway will be ending Sunday (6/27) evening. Check the post for rules to enter- but remember, if you don't leave a comment you aren't entered in the giveaway!

Circle skirts are awesome. They provide that perfect fit that flares at the bottom without creating icky bulk at the waistband. I don't know about you, but when I usually think about circle skirts I think about poodle skirts and vintage, long, 1950's skirts. Like this:

However, you obviously make them whatever length you want (and by the way, can you imagine buying a pattern for anything like this? Talk about a waste of money...)! There are a lot of them out right now in knee length and above for summer, and they are really cute and flirty looking.

Also - I don't know why I never though of this before! But they make AWESOME skirts for dresses! Any pattern you have where the top and bottom of the dress are different pieces, you can substitute a circle skirt for a whole new look. A quick modcloth search yielded the below circle-skirt dresses:

Now on to the tutorial!

Before I even tell you what you need, we need to do a little math. Super easy math, I promise! The steps on this tutorial will be a little out of order, because you need to see how to do it before you can figure out how much fabric you need.

***If any of this doesn't make sense, leave a comment and I'll clarify!! It may look scary, but it's really simple, and any confusion is just becuase I may not have explained it well enough.

There is one decision to make first though: You can either make this with an elastic waist or a waistband with a zipper.

Measuring steps:

Step 1: If you are making a waistband, measure around your waist where you want your skirt to sit. This is the circumference. Subtract 4 from it (to counteract bias stretching). To get the number we want, divide the result by 6.28. This number = w.

If you decide to make an ELASTIC waist, measure the widest part of your hips and add 5 inches to that. Divide the result by 6.28 This measurement = w.

Step 2: Decide how long you want skirt (an exact length, starting where you want your skirt to sit on your waist). This measurement = L.

Now here's the key to the whole skirt: how you cut out your fabric. This 'pattern' assumes you have four pieces of fabric you are cutting through. What you want to do is draw the two curving lines shown on your fabric. For the smaller line, make two marks on the fabric at the point shown: the w you got earlier. NOTE: DO NOT USE W/2. That is a mistake in the diagram; simply use your w measurement. For the larger arc, measure out from the smaller line mark and measure L as shown. If one of the L's is on the fold when you're cutting, that's fine! Fewer seams to sew later.

At this point you can figure out how much fabric you need. I'll give an example: Say my w is 36 inches and my L is 30 inches. I would need a total of 4 squares measuring (30+[(36-4)/6.28] = 30+ 5.01 = ) 35 by 35. OR, you could have two rectangles measuring 35 by 70, each folded in half.

So, here's what you need:
- Fabric of the dimensions calculated above
- Bias tape to match your fabric
- waistband materials: extra fabric, interfacing, and a zipper. If you don't know how to make a waistband, hold tight for a few days - my next skirt tutorial has a waistband in it.

Now, simply sew all of the panels together at the sides, so you wind up with this:
**If you are making a waistband, do not sew the last seam all the way up - leave room for the 9" zipper.

Next, sew the bias tape around the outside edge. If you don't want to use bias tape you can just hem it, but I'll warn you that's pretty ambitious if you don't have experience with curved hems (which I HATE). They're kind of nasty sometimes.

Finally, if you are using elastic, sew an elastic casing around the inside circle and insert the elastic (Go here for help). If you are doing a waistband, have at it - or wait until next week for further instruction!

Don't forget the enter the giveaway! I already have the next couple week's skirt tutorial made; I just need to get some good pictures!


  1. Thank you for this tutorial!

  2. Great tutorial! Thanks for making so simple, can't wait to try it.

  3. Wow, thanks so much for sharing this! I'm definitely going to make my own - I love these skirts so much!

  4. Thanks. These are really cute skirts.

  5. Great tutorial! I have a question, when you make it with elastic, you said to add 5" to the hip measurement, but for the zipper you said to subtract 4" to the waist measurement. Did you mean to say subtract 5" from the hip measurement (to allow for the bias stretching)? Thanks!

  6. Mirza -

    The reason why you subtract 4" to the waist measurement is to counter act the bias (as you obviously understand). 4" is usually sufficient to deal with this; 5" would probably be too much. The reason why you ADD to the hip measurement is because you're using elastic - you want a little bit of gathering around the elastic - for comfort, if nothing else. Basically, it allows you to get it on and off without a zipper. Does that help?

  7. Hi
    Your tutorials are amazing, your such a brilliant seamstress.
    Thank you

  8. Hi,
    If you're sewing one half-circle and two quarter-circles out of woven (non-stretch) fabric, how do you account for seam allowances?

  9. I've never worried about seam allowances, because with a circle skirt it's so full a little seam allowance doesn't really matter!

  10. Hi, I've got a question. What do you mean when it says:
    This "pattern" assumes you have four pieces of fabric you are cutting through. What do you mean by that?

  11. Thanks for all the math.
    I have a question, where does the 5.01 come from in the equation for finding the amount of fabric you need?

  12. Fantastic tutorial, the best one i've seen for circle skirts :) Been wanting to figure it out for a long time! Thank youuuu! :)

  13. Thanks for not only the helpful tutorial but the helpful tips on how to incorporate it into a dress pattern - great idea!

  14. what size elastic do you recommend?

  15. I've just come across your "pattern" as my 13 yr old daughter is going to a 50's inspired party tomorrow and wanted a poodle skirt. Just pumping myself up to give it a go!!

    @It's in my nature - I'll break down the sum for you:
    The brackets within the whole sum mean you do those parts first.
    30+[(36-4)/6.28] = 30+5.01
    So, doing the innermost bracket first is 36-4=32. The 32 is then divided by 6.28 which is 5.01. THEN the next sum is 30+5.01= 35.01.

  16. Wow, this is great! I'm looking to make a bright yellow dress with this type of skirt (on a budget); how do you think I'd go about attaching some sort of top to this? And would it be possible to add some sort of tulle underneath the skirt, would the measurements be the same?

  17. This looks so good!!! I want to try it!

    Hopefully will blog the results :)

    xx S

  18. Thank you very much. I really need to get the maths clear in my mind. I am going to make taffeta bridesmaids skirts

  19. I am SO not getting this!!!

    My daughter's measurements are

    Waist 27.5
    Hips 28
    Length 18.5

    So how much fabric do I need to get? I am really not stupid so I don't know why this is giving me such a hard time! Please someone help me!!

  20. I think when she wrote the article she meant to say her waist measurement was 36, not her W measurement. The W measurement should be about a fourth of your waist, so unless she actually has a 144 inch waist I think there was a typo haha. So the formula for the version with the waist band would be L+(waist-4)/6.28, or for the elastic it would be L+(waist+5)-6.28.

    Now in school I learned that the order to solving formulas is Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply/Divide, Add/Subtract. So I'll use the example above.

    Waist = 28 (I assume you want it to sit there, if you want it to sit on her waist then use 27.5)
    L (length)= 18.5
    Insert the numbers into the formula and you get 18.5+(28-4)/6.28

    22.3 or we'll just say 22

    So you would need four 22 by 22 pieces or two 22 by 44! [:

  21. I too am having prolems with the math as you know its very hard to find eveningwear in large sizes im hoping to make this skirt for a christmas outfit my measurements are waist 46 hips 56 and length 48 HELP PLEASE Marjie

  22. This is wonderful, and I think I am going to make a couple skirts like this. I think it would be darling to add a band of lace along the bottom.

  23. Thank you so much for this tutorial, inspired me to do a 50s style dress with a circle skirt. You can check it out here

  24. OMG...this is awesome. I just made a full-length one for bellydance, and it moves so beautifully! Going to make a knee-length one with black and white polka dots and red binding. :)

  25. Wow this is a really good tutorial...But there is just one thing I would like to brag about...MINE IS SEAMLESS HAH! Lol I had a really big piece of fabric and I just folded it to one forth it's size and measured than cut! :D It's a see-through blue one attached to a bodice that's inspired by a traditional german dirndl ^_^

  26. caitlinschlamb@live.caMarch 15, 2012 at 10:45 PM

    Oh man, the math definitely confused me, sorry!! my Waist at it's smallest is 30 inches and my hips are 40 inches.. and I'd like for it to be about 34 inches long (I'm tall, and going for a vintage style skirt to boot!) I'm also doing an elastic waist band! If anyone can help me I'd be pretty darn grateful! <3

  27. hiii when attaching the skirt to a dress do you follow the instructions for attaching a waistband then just leave the waistband and sew to the bodice? thanks

  28. I made one for my daughter and it turned out GREAT! I will be sharing pictures on my blog next week. Thanks for the easy to follow tutorial.

  29. That's easy enough even I could do it!

    dezertsuz at gmail

  30. Where did you find the pattern for the floral halter dress? Thanks!

  31. Any suggestions for making this skirt with a drawstring? I plan to layer two of them for a costume, I guess I just need to know if the formula for the W measurement would be different. Thank you!

    1. I'd use the math for the elastic, but leave a slit in the last seam same as for a zipper. Hem the slit, make the casing, and thread your drawstring.

  32. I'm 14 years old and I made one of these for summer and I LOVE it ♥♥♥ I can't wait to make more ♥♥♥

  33. I'm 14 too, haha, and I've been looking for a good circle skirt pattern! Thanks so much for posting this pattern!

  34. I'm quite big so may need a lot of fabric!

  35. Could u explain in cemtimeters? :(

  36. Great pattern! But just like my engineer father, not so good with the spelling! Check "endeavers" at the top of this post.

  37. I'm 15 looking for a skirt pattern and this is really hard but i worked through it and i would recommend this to all who love making skirts thank you so much for this tutorial

  38. This is additionally a decent post which I truly appreciated perusing. It is not consistently that I have the likelihood to see something like this.



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