My main mission in sewing is to create garments that someone wears frequently. That’s one reason I love sewing circle skirts! They’re easy to sew in any size, and they’re easy to style with a tucked-in blouse or crop top.
Why sew a circle skirt?
Circle skirts appeared in fashion in the late ’40s, originally in Dior’s New Look collection. It quickly became a common garment to sew for a few reasons:
- It’s quick and easy to sew
- It looks flattering on almost any shape, highlighting the waist to create an hourglass look
- It never goes out of style (maybe as a consequence of the two above!)
Before you start sewing your circle skirt, you need to get your fabric all set.
In this tutorial, I made a full circle skirt in knit fabric with an exposed elastic waistband.
You can use almost any kind of fabric, from woven to knit, from lightweight to felt wool. It will surely look different, depending on your fabric choices, but still be gorgeous. (Read more about choosing fabric for clothing.)
If you’re using a stable fabric, don’t forget to add a center back closure (button on the waistband and zipper on the skirt portion). Otherwise, your skirt won’t fit around the hips.
Sizing your circle skirt
While I made a full circle skirt, you could also create a three-quarter circle skirt, a half circle skirt or a quarter circle skirt. The more you cut out, the less full the skirt will look. You’ll also miss a bit of the “twirl” factor!
Setting up your fabric
In my tutorial, I made a circle skirt for my 8-year-old daughter. Because it’s a small size, I was able to cut the fabric for the skirt in one piece, omitting any side seam.
If you’re sewing a circle skirt for yourself, you’ll most likely need to cut two to four segments of fabric and sew them together. Don’t forget to add seam allowances where needed!
Choosing fabric for your circle skirt
Step 1: Take your measurements
To sew a circle skirt, you need three measurements:
- Waist circumference (measured where you want to wear your skirt)
- Skirt length (measured down from the waist level) = “d”
- Hip circumference (the widest part of your hips)
Get these measurements and mark them down.
Now, we’ll do some math, because we actually need your waist radius. You might remember that you can calculate a circle’s radius with this equation:
radius = circumference / 2π =”c”
(Remember, π is about 3.14). So, divide your waist circumference measurement by 6.28 — easy peasy.
Determine how much fabric you need
You can only cut a circle skirt in one piece only if it is for a smaller size (and not too long). This is because while you can buy any length of fabric, you are limited by fabric width that usually is 45″-62″, depending on the loom.
If we call “c” your waist radius and “d” your skirt length, then “c+d” can’t be bigger than half of your fabric width, if you want to cut your full circle skirt in one big donut shape!
Here’s how to determine how much fabric you need:
- If twice your “c+d” (+ seam allowance) is less than your fabric width, then buy a length of fabric that’s twice the “c+d” measurement. You can cut the fabric in one piece.
- If twice your “c+d” (+ seam allowance) is more than your fabric width, then buy a length of fabric that’s four times the “c+d” (+ twice seam allowance) measurement.
Step 3: Create the paper pattern
To create your pattern, you can use drafting paper, wrapping paper, old newspaper or brown craft paper. Make sure the paper you choose has at least one right angle and is at least as wide and long as your “c+d” measurement.
Measure the “c” length on both sides of the 90-degree angle, along the sides of the paper. Pivoting your ruler at the corner, mark the same measurement many times between the edges of the paper. Then join the dots to create the inner curve of the pattern.
Repeat with the “c+d” measurement, always pivoting at the same corner
Cut along both arcs and your paper pattern is ready to use.
Step 4: Cutting your fabric pieces
Cutting from one piece of fabric
First, we’ll fold the fabric so we can cut the pattern piece in one move.
Lay your fabric right side up. Fold it right sides together, matching the selvedges.
Then, fold again the fabric in the other direction. Fold it down enough that the width (a) is the same as the length (b). You might have some extra fabric.
Place your pattern piece in the corner noted above, trace the inner and outer curves, and cut along those lines.
Cutting from multiple pieces of fabric
(Note: This method also comes in handy if you’re using a directional fabric.)
You have two options: cutting two semi-circles or cutting four quarters. r you have a fabric with a one-way pattern, you can cut it in two semicircles, by placing the pattern you will draft in step 4 along the fold (fold the fabric so the raw edges are are matching
Cutting two semi-circles
Fold your fabric in half, right sides together. Place your pattern piece with one straight edge along the fold. Trace and cut the piece (remember to add seam allowances). Then repeat so you have two semi-circles.
Cutting four quarters
This option is best for larger sizes or longer skirts.
Lay your pattern piece on the wrong side of the fabric and trace four pieces. Remember to add a seam allowance to both straight edges of each piece.
Finally, sew the two or four pieces together to create the skirt.
A note about hem allowances:
You may want to add a hem allowance to the wide curve of your pattern piece, if you plan to hem your skirt. I skipped this, because the ponte knit fabric I used won’t fray, and the 2″ wide elastic, added plenty of length to the skirt.
Step 5: Check the hip measurement
Since we’re using an elastic waistband, we won’t create a closure on the back. That’s why it’s a good idea to check that the skirt will fit over your hips. Lay the skirt out as shown below.
Measure the distance between the two points noted above. The measurement should be a little bit smaller than half the hip measurement.
If you are concerned about it being too small, carefully try to slip it on, but don’t stretch it too much or it may get distorted.
What if it doesn’t fit?
If it really can’t go over your hips, trim away a tiny little slice from the waist, but don’t cut too much! A little trim can widen the waist more than you might expect.
Once you’re satisfied, finish the waist opening with either a zig-zag or an overlock stitch. Another choice can be to press the raw edge toward the outside of the fabric (not to the inside!), so it will be enclosed in the waistband seam.
Step 6: Create the waistband
Cut the elastic the exact length of your waist circumference. This way once, you take out the two ½” seam allowances, it will snugly hug your waist! Sew the raw edges, right sides together, and trim using pinking shears to minimize fraying.
Add strength by topstitching on each side of the seam. Open the seam allowances so they lay flat and sew at 3/8″ from the first seam.
Here’s how they should look, on both sides:
Step 7: Attach the waistband
Mark your waistband in four equal segments. These markers will identify the center back (your seam), the center front (opposite enter back) and the two points halfway on each side.
Repeat this marking the skirt. Make sure to put the straight of grain on the side and not the on center front and back. Your skirt will drape better this way.
Now, pin the wrong side of the waistband to the right side of the skirt, as shown above, keeping a consistent distance from the bottom edge of the waistband (3/8″ to 1/2″). Remember to the four points on the skirt to the ones on the waistband.
Sew from the right side of the waistband, slightly pulling the fabric and waistband while you sew (the skirt is against your feed dogs). Use a triple step zig-zag stitch so the waistband will preserve its stretch.
And this is the completed full circle skirt!
If you want to finish the hem, mark the hem while on a real body so you won’t get an uneven hem.