Circle Skirt | Part 2, A Simple Sew Along Blog

Updated: Jun 19, 2021

‘Happiness is the secret to all beauty; there is no beauty that is attractive without happiness’

Christian Dior

'Was it Christian Dior who saved us from the war era limitations highlighting the Circle Skirt? Well he certainly gave it a boost of recognition, it was undoubtedly more popular in the 1950’s with more fabric becoming available after the war. But the circle skirt has been around before that and since then, emphasizing an hourglass shape in a very elegant and opulent form in any length imaginable. It is indeed a classic, and a very twirly fun classic, pouring out stylishness at every angle, and I for one am very happy wearing a circle skirt in any form!’

Amanda Goldsmith

On that note we are more than happy to share notes with you to whip up a Half Circle Skirt as a very quick weekend project.

This project is actually split into two Parts. You are reading Part 2 which is intended as a non technical Simple Sew Along to create a very quick half Circle Skirt. You could see it as an introduction to Circle Skirts, the idea is that you just follow along the instructions pretty much verbatim to create a skirt very much like this one which is our test garment….

Hopefully you will enjoy this blog and consider joining our community in the Threadelicious ThreadBox to learn more about designing and making your own clothes and help us grow our little community further and help us add more value to the Threadelicious experience!

If you are already a member you can access the more technical part of the project stored in the Projects area of the Threadelicious ThreadBox – Part 1 and you can learn so much more about designing Circle Skirts and how your design decisions will affect your calculations and pattern making.

The Circle Skirt we are making here is a knee length Half Circle Skirt with a waistband (no interfacing) and invisible zip installed to the top of the waistband (no buttons needed) and a small hem. It will also have two side seams so it will be a side fastening skirt (unless you spin it around of course). Nothing too complicated but just enough to get your teeth into. The good news is that you need no prerequisites of learning from the Threadelicious ThreadBox, although some sewing experience will be beneficial as we are not going into detail about how to use a sewing machine, of course there is nothing stopping you stitching the whole thing by hand.

So if we have peaked your interest so far after making your test garment you can make it with beautiful fabric like this, here is a day in the life of a half circle skirt, made in the morning, worn in the afternoon!

Once you have made one of these skirts you can start to mix up your colours and before you know it you may get a Circle Skirt addiction!

Out of all the versions of Circle Skirts, the Half Circle Skirt is a solid favourite, it’s not too extravagant or overdone but has enough volume to give an A-Line shape enhancing the waist and is very feminine and elegant no matter what the length.

The skirt looks really crisp in a woven fabric such as a cotton or linen showcased here in a beautifully printed mid weight linen from one of our favourite family ran fabric stores Sckafs Fabrics here in Brisbane. It can be made in a light or medium weight or even a heavy weight for a different more structured effect and your skirt can be any length from mini to the floor, fabric can be block colour or any size print as there really is no pattern matching (OK maybe in the waistband!). However just be mindful that your pattern will be rotated through all angles so consider what it is going to look like at the seams. We recommend for this Sew Along to stick to a woven fabric because other fabrics may not have any bias stretch and will need different calculation considerations.

Before you go out and buy any fabric it will be useful to have a quick read of this whole sew along, especially this first section dealing with sizing and fabric lengths so that you understand how much fabric you will need and can visualise what any fabric print will look like. As with all garment making we believe it is a good practice to make your first test garment from cheaper fabric such as a muslin or a quilting cotton so that you do not waste your beautiful and more expensive fabric. Any adjustments can then be noted and then the fashion fabric cut when you have confidence in what you are doing, after all you may wish to make some changes or add some other design features. All fabrics are not created evenly some fabric have more bias stretch than others so ensure that you make your test garments with a fabric that has similar characteristics as your fashion fabric.

This is where mock ups can help for you to experiment. If you are worried about the bias stretch of your fabric consider buying half a meter extra of your fashion fabric to cut a very small skirt only a few inches long to test the bias stretch on the actually fabric you are going to use. It is probably worth doing this if you are going to cut a few skirts out of the same fabric with different prints for example to get a really nice fit.

Note if you do create a mock up in this way make sure that you snip the top half inch of your test garment where the waistband would be attached as the first half inch of the fabric will be seam allowance used to join the waistband otherwise you may think that the skirt is too tight!

All of our measurements are in inches however you can work in centimetres if you prefer.

We can’t wait to see your finished skirts so please send us your photos!

Made to fit

The half circle skirt is a really great simple project to get a good fit because you only really need two body measurements, the Waist Circumference and the Skirt Length.

Here is a quick sketch of what we are going to make.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION:- We will be using our own measurements for this example skirt so you will need to transpose your own measurements into the following calculations so that your skirt fits who it is intended for!

If you replicate this table on your notepad it will give you a place to store all of your important measurements;

Measure the waist circumference with a tape measure, where the waist naturally curves on the body, if there is no curve at the waist measure around ¼” or ½” above the belly button. Now this is important, however tightly you pull the tape measure will be very close to the way this skirt fits. So if you want a snug fit get the tape measure right up to the body, if you want a little ease add a small amount of slack say ¼” so that the tape measure can be spun on the waist ever so slightly. The skirt will sit higher than this point as the waistband will be above the waist. Make a note of the Waist Circumference.

Here are our body measurements for this example;

Now we did say that most of the technical detail has been removed from this sew along but we have to do a little maths in order to complete the skirt.

Without any explanations (they are all in Part 1!) the following is the formulae we are going to use for the half circle skirt and this includes 2 inches of fabric that will be used for seam allowances (1” for each side in total, that’s ½” each piece of fabric in each seam). Yes although we are not adding any inches to the Waist Measurement in the formulae the bias stretch of the fabric will accommodate this extra approximately for the seam allowances. This does not include any extra wearing ease. If you are using centimeteres you will need to spread 5cm across the 2 seams.

Here is the formula we are going to use for the Half Circle Skirt

A quick note to briefly explain the formulae;

r - stands for radius, this is the figure we are trying to find , WM - stands for Waist Measurement Circumference,

- or mathematical pie is 3.14 in this sew along we are working to 2 decimal places.

We can solve this formulae by adding in our Waist Measurement. In our example we will be using a Waist Measurement of 30”.

As we are going to add a Waistband to the skirt we are going to need a half inch of seam allowance at the top of the skirt. So we are going to remove half an inch (or 13mm) from the radius.

You should now add the radius measurement to your notes; transpose your own Waist Measurement into the formulae solve the formula and take the half inch from your radius figure.

Here is our table with the radius measurement added.

The other measurement we mentioned is the skirt length. If you are making this skirt for the first time and creating a test garment that probably will not be worn consider making it short so that you don’t use up too much fabric unless you wish to check the length as well – remember your test fabric may not drape the same way as your fashion fabric.

Measure from the Waist down to the knee or just above or below it where you want the skirt to finish.

Make a note of the Skirt Length.

We are using a Skirt Length (L) of 22.

Just changing the subject slightly although it is another measurement we need, circle skirts can be a little tricky to hem because you are turning up a wider piece of fabric into a less wide space so you really need to stay away from wide hems (unless you are facing the hem). We are going to create a small double hem for the base of the skirt using a rolled hem technique. We are going to allow ¼”for the first fold of the hem and ¼” for the second fold of the hem and we are also allowing ¼ for the turn of the cloth (although TOC may only need to be 1/8 it is a negligible amount), therefore we are allowing ¾” for the hem.

Make a note of your hem allowance.

How much fabric do you need?

Due to limitations of fabric widths generally a circle skirt and even a half circle skirt cannot be cut from one piece of fabric. Usually you will have to cut two pieces and join them to make the skirt. To make things simple we have two seams in our skirt and so we will be cutting two pieces, a Front and a Back.

We need to ensure that we can fit the skirt into the fabric width and also that you buy enough in length to cut the two pieces we need, as well as the waistband.

To assess this we are going to need one final measurement, the Total Length.

Total Length (TL) is the radius + the skirt length + the Hem allowance and this measurement will help us determine the fabric amount needed and if it will fit into the fabric width.

With our measurements transposed into this calculation;

Total Length (TL) = 9 + 22 + ¾

TL = 31 ¾”

Go ahead and work out your Total Length Measurement

Fabrics come in a variety of widths but let say your fabric is 54”wide which is a typical fabric width. Folding this in half gives 27” and this figure is simply not enough for most length skirts because we are working with the Total Length figure in the table, but all will become clear shortly.

As we have a TL of 31 3/4” this will fit into a fabric width of 54” with some to spare.

As we need to cut two pieces we will need to ensure that the fabric length is at least 31 3/4” x 2 = 63 ½” or 1.61 meters.

Don’t forget we also need fabric for the Waistband.

The waistband for this skirt is made in two pieces of 1 ½” wide, allowing for 2 x ½” seam allowances that is two pieces of fabric 2 ½” wide. So that is 5” of fabric needed for the waistband. The length of the piece is the Waist Circumference plus 2 x ½” for seam allowances, in our case that would be 31”.

If you think about it you can see that you could cut the waistband from the remaining fabric after you have cut out the two skirt pieces, and as this is a woven fabric the grainline should still be strong enough to support the waistband. But if you want to cut on the grainline you will need to add at least 5” to the fabric length that you want to buy.

With our measurements then which equate approximately to a size 10 skirt and to ensure that we have enough space for cutting out we would be prudent to buy between 1 ¾ metres (to cut the actual skirt) and 2 ¼ meters if we want to cut out a small test skirt to check the fit.

Now consider how much fabric you need for your measurements.

Hypothetically speaking If we were creating a size 14-16 skirt using a 40 inch waist out of this fabric which would give around a 13 inch radius we could potentially get the skirt close to the skirt floor with this 54” width fabric, it would certainly allow for an ankle/tea or maxi length.

Tools Required to make the skirt

  • A pen and paper for your calculations

  • Fabric marker, we are using a marker that can be ironed away in order to create these marks on the fabric, your marks can be cut away anyway if you don’t have access to this kind of marker so just use what you have to hand that can make accurate markings

  • *Test Fabric (muslin or quilters cotton) with a similar weight and drape to your fashion fabric

  • *Fashion fabric (depending on fabric width and measurements around 2 meters just for the skirt)

  • Tape measure to take your measurements

  • Scissors or fabric cutter

  • Sewing Machine with invisible zipper foot

  • Matching Thread

  • Invisible Zip 8” or so in a corresponding colour to your fashion fabric (you don’t have to add a zip to your test garment as this can simply be pinned to check for fit)

*After making all of your calculations it will become clearer how much fabric you will need

Sew Along Instructions

Getting the fabric ready

We recommend and are using a test fabric for our sew along, it is a cheaper mid weight linen fabric, so consider what fabric you are going to work with to start with for your first attempts, it is a sensible way to get a good fit. Also there is nothing stopping you actually wearing your test garments! Its also a little easier to see fabric marker lines on a lighter fabric for our photos.

Whatever fabric you choose to start with ensure that your fabric is preshrunk, i.e. wash it dry it and give it a good iron before you start.

Lay your fabric on the table and assess your selvage edges that go down each side of the fabric (not the cut edges from the store).

The selvege is where the fabric was attached to the loom and sometimes it has little marks or holes in it and can be used in your garment but because we are using a ½” seam allowance if the holes come into the fabric more than 1/2” or if the selvage pulls tighter than the rest of the fabric you will need to trim it all away (by cutting it away in a straight line. So go ahead and deal with the selvedge edge on the left side. Otherwise keep it and use it as it will mean that you will not have to edge finish the seam allowance saving time and thread and it will be hidden inside the skirt anyway.

We are keeping the selvedge edge intact for this test garment.

Next we need to check that the fabric has been cut straight at the shop, if not trim and recut the width of the fabric straight (if it helps fold the fabric and cut straight across through both layers squaring off the cut from the side of selvage).

Marking the Fabric

We are going to measure out and mark the fabric for two lines, the Waist line and the Total length of the skirt.

With your tape measure, measure exactly from the left top corner across the width, the measurement is the radius measurement and make a mark at this point. Our measurement is 9”.

Measure from the same corner down the fabric for the radius again

Measure from the same corner at regular intervals for the radius creating a marked dotted arc shape from the top to the side of the fabric.

Join up this dotted arc, you can free hand it or use a curved tool.

Next we are going do the same thing again but this time using the Total Length Measurement (TL) rather than the radius measurement, which will take a little extra time because it is going to be a bigger curve.

With your tape measure, measure from the same corner of the fabric across the width for the Total Length and make a mark at this point.

Our TL measurement is 31 ¾”.

Measure from the same corner down the fabric for the Total Length measurement.

Measure from the same corner and take the tape measure centrally in between the two marks made and mark the Total Length measurement again.

Measure from the same corner at regular intervals for the same amount creating a marked dotted arc shape and join up this dotted arc, you can free hand it or use a French curve as before.

Your skirt is ready to cut out but before you do, check your calculations and check your markings!

Cut out both lines.

Then find the next piece of fabric and repeat the whole process straightening off the top of the fabric by folding fold the fabric in half width wise and cut straight across squaring off from the side.

Then mark out both arc lines and cut the fabric out.

You will now have two pieces for the skirt cut out that are more or less exactly the same.