The Full Circle Skirt. We love them right? That fab swooshy noise from the fabric swishing around our legs. Circle skirts are great either long or short, and can be high waisted to define our waist, or sit lower down, resting on our hips.
Circle skirts of all kinds work in so many different fabrics too, so you can make them easily enough in a different fabric for whichever part of the world you happen to be living in! 🙂
But… just how easy is it to make a circle skirt pattern?
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Making a Circle Skirt Pattern
When it comes to making your own circle skirt pattern, you’re gonna need two key measurements.
- Your waist measurement. This is where you want the skirt waistband to sit on your body.
- Your desired finished length. This is the point where you want the skirt to fall to, on your leg.
You are going to need to work out which measurement system you’ll be using too. I’m using metric (centimetres) as that’s what I grew up with, but feel free to work in imperial (inches) if that’s your thing!
Then of course, there is also seam allowance to consider. I use 1cm seam allowance for woven fabrics and 7mm for knit fabrics. You get to decide on yours, but please be sure to keep it consistent!
To clarify – in the fashion industry, 1cm is standard for wovens, but in the home sewing / dressmaking world, 1.5cm is standard.
What You’ll Need for a Full Circle Skirt
- 2 tape measures (a good one and a tatty one)
- Pencil (my choice is always a 4H)
- Pattern master / long ruler
- Pattern paper
- Push Pin
- Thread to match your fabric
- Sewing machine or hand sewing needles
- Paper scissors
- Fabric scissors
- Invisible zipper
- Fabric (It is quite unlikely that you will fit a full circle skirt pattern onto fabric that is less than 140cm wide. Unless you have a wasp waist and plan to have your circle skirt SUPER SHORT! 😉 So be prepared to search for fabric that is wide enough if you plan to cut the skirt in one piece with no seams!)
- Finally, you’ll also need a calculator, because we now have to do some maths!
Now, one thing to remember, if this all seems stupidly complicated, I have a pattern creation service for a full circle skirt available here!
Circle Skirt Pattern Maths
Yep – you DID read that right. We now have to do math in order to create a pattern for our full circle skirt. We’re firstly concerned about pi. It looks a bit like this: π
Pi is = 3.141592653589793238462
We will need to use this ‘number’ to work out the radius of our waist. Don’t worry though, we’re gonna round it up!
What is a radius?
First off, lets start with the diameter.
The diameter is the measurement from one side of a circle to the other, as a straight line, crossing through the centre.
The radius then, is half the length of the diameter.
And since we’re going all circular, the circumference is the measurement of the circle’s perimeter.
Why Do We Need The Radius?
Without the radius, we won’t know how big a circle to cut out of our pattern for our waist!
Now, the method you use will differ depending on what type of circle skirt you want to make. In this post we are ONLY looking at a full skirt circle pattern. I’ll cover a half circle and 3/4 circle skirt pattern later on! So be sure to check the right section below so that you make the pattern correctly! 🙂
How To Find The Radius
Circumference (C) divided by pi (π = 3.141592653589793238462) = diameter. And of course, the diameter (D) is the radius (R) x 2!
When factoring in seam allowance, remember that you need to add seam allowance to the waistline (to attach the facing too) and again to any seams that you have running from the waist to the hem – this wouldn’t apply if you are panning to make the skirt in one piece.
Full Circle Skirt
A full circle skirt is made up of one entire piece of fabric OR it can be cut as multiple pieces which when stitched together at the seams make a full circle skirt.
Cut as One Piece (No Seams)
To create a pattern that will be cut as one whole piece you need to follow these steps:
Step 1 – Finding the diameter:
Take your waist measurement = C
My natural waist is 86cm
C ÷ π = D
Breaks down to…
86 ÷ 3.14 = 27.38cm
Step 2 – Finding the radius:
D ÷ 2 = R
27.38 ÷ 2 =13.69cm
So the radius of my waistline is 13.69cm which for you imperial peeps is almost 5.5 inches!
As I will be cutting this circle skirt in one whole piece of fabric I will use this measurement only, along with the length of the skirt. Remembering of course that the length can only be as long as the fabric width!
How do we know how wide the fabric will be?
There’s a stupid way of cutting out a circle skirt doing the rounds online, which includes folding the fabric over so many times and then cutting as you see fit. That’s a daft thing to do, and not what any pro would do! Why?
When we fold fabric over, that ‘fold’ is adding a little bit extra of fabric that we haven’t accounted for. If we have multiple folds for multiple layers to make it ‘easier and faster’ to cut, we will end up with even more unaccounted fabric. Which means that our skirt will come out bigger than planned, and so won’t actually fit us properly!
In order to do it properly, please do the following:
1: Measure the width of your chosen fabric NOT including the selvedges.
Mine = 137cm
2: Now take the diameter (NOT the radius) we came to earlier in Step 1
Mine = 27.38cm
3: We then take this amount away from the total width:
137cm – 27.38cm = 109.62cm
Total available – diameter of my waist = amount remaining
Now this is the amount of fabric remaining for the length of the circle skirt centre front, the length of the centre back, the seam allowance and the hem allowance. I’ll go for 54cm finished length!
How Much Seam Allowance And Hem?
My seam allowance at CF and CB would be 1cm each, and my hem allowance would vary depending on the fabric selected but for simpler maths let’s say that it is 1cm too. Though, in reality the seam allowance on the waistline doesn’t need factoring in as it is technically contained within the waist ‘circle’ that will be cut out. 🙂
- 1+1+1+1 = 4cm
- 109.62 – 4 = 105.62cm
Now, let’s divide 105.62 by 2 and we have our finished skirt length
105.62 / 2 = 52.81cm
So, take your tape measure and measure from your waist (the point on your waist that you measured earlier to get your radius!) and down your body to the finished length. You may find it easier to have someone else do the measuring for you! Is this long enough for YOU?
If it isn’t, there are things you can do to lengthen the skirt. You could add banding. You could add trimmings. But this is the maximum length you will be able to achieve cutting a full circle skirt in one piece of fabric!
Drafting The Full Circle Skirt Pattern As One Piece
Now that we have all the measurements we need, we can get cracking on drafting the full circle skirt pattern!
- Lay a rather large piece of paper on your work table – it needs to be as wide as the fabric you are going to be using. As we are making a circle skirt pattern, it would be ideal to have the paper squared.
- Find the centre of this piece of paper and mark it with a cross.
- Draw a line from this centre point with your metre rule, going in both directions, as far along as you can until you reach the papers edge.
- Now measure the radius amount along this line, from the centre point. My radius was 13.69cm so at this point I will add another mark to the line.
- Now for the fun part. Take your SCRAPPY tape measure and use the push pin to make three small holes. One at the 1cm line, another at the radius amount line + 1cm. Eg. As my radius is 13.69 + 1cm = 14.69cm. This leaves my radius as the amount in between the two holes. The third hole is the length of the skirt pattern. My finished length is 54cm so I will make this hole at 55cm (54 + 1 = 55).
- Place the tape on the pattern. Put the push pin through the hole at the 1cm mark and place this at the centre point on the pattern.
- Take up your nice sharp pencil and place the point through the hole at the radius hole.
- VERY CAREFULLY, keep the pin pushed into the pattern paper so that it doesn’t move and bring the tape measure taut using the pencil in the hole. Don’t try to stretch it!
- Now you get to draw the first circle, maintaining the same even pressure on the tape so that you are creating a perfect circle that should match your waistline!
- Once this is complete, use your good tape measure to check that the circle is consistent in size from the centre point.
- Next, place the pencil on the second mark on the tape measure and draw the circle skirt hemline, again maintaining an even pressure on the push pin, pencil and tape. Check the measurement from the centre point is consistent.
- The very last job to do is to add seam allowance to the waistline, and seam allowance to the hem line. You can then cut out your circle skirt pattern! Yay!
I put together this diagram to explain it – I hope it makes sense and helps you to understand all of that in a visual way!
Full Circle Skirt in Sections
If our fabric isn’t wide enough to cut a full circle skirt out in one piece, we will need to cut sections and seam them together.
There are several options here but the three simplest would be:
- Cut two half circles which will require two side seams
- Cut one half circle and two quarter circles which will use two side seams and a centre back or centre front seam.
- Cut four quarter circles and have four seams; two side seams, centre front seam and centre back seam.
Phew! Are you still with me?
So, now we get to make our circle skirt longer as we have more fabric width to use! Yay!
For now, I will show you how to make the pattern for a full circle skirt made out of two half circles.
A Full Circle Skirt in Two Halves
The great thing about making your circle skirt in two halves is that you can have the skirt twice as long as when it is cut in one piece. Yay!
You will need to buy twice the amount of fabric however, as you will now need twice the length.
- Draft your circle skirt pattern as before, but this time you can go much longer, as your fabric width will now determine the maximum length of the skirt.
- Fold the pattern PERFECTLY in half down the centre.
- Add your chosen amount of seam allowance, along the straight ‘side seams’ and of course the waistline and hem.
- Place the straight edge of the pattern along the selvedge.
- Cut out the pattern piece twice so that you have two semi-circles.
- Think about how you will get into the skirt – will you have a side seam zipper? An exposed zipper on the centre front or centre back?
- There should be plenty of fabric left over to create facing pattern sections for the waist line.
- Finally, don’t forget to hem the skirt. You could go for a simple turned hem. A pin hem. Or add on a trim of some sort to snazzy it up even more. Enjoy!
What Not To Do
Things you SHOULD NOT do when making a circle skirt include:
– Don’t choose polyester over cotton just because you dislike ironing.
– Don’t fold a square of fabric in half and then half again and think that’ll do the job. It won’t. Please make the pattern properly. It will last you much much longer! 🙂
– Do NOT mark a line in permanent ink on the fabric ‘by sight’ to make a quarter-circle cut out for your waist.
– PLEASE don’t just ‘fold up a couple of centimetres’ as you sew your hem. It is a CIRCLE – this means the hem will go through straight grain, cross grain and the bias, and so will stretch and be wonky on occasion.
Circle Skirt Examples
There are quite a few circle skirts available to buy online, such as these from Vivienne of Holloway and Alice & Olivia.
John Galliano has never been one of my favourite designers, but this collection for Dior in 2011 has some rather fabulous circle skirts contained within.
How To Wear Your Circle Skirt
There are different ways to wear your circle skirt of course, depending on the type of fabric you choose to make it in, and the colour and detailing too.
Pair it with a simple silk blouse for the office, a fitted lace tank for something more suited to a night out, dare I say it – A CROP TOP – for something a little more avant-garde, a fitted tailored jacket or a knitted twins et for something a little bit more traditional.
However you decide to wear it, I would love to see photos of the finished piece, and how you choose to style it up!
Til next time…
RECOMMENDED READING: If you loved this post and are excited to get creating other skirts, why not join my free pattern making basics course?
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