Get Your Craft On

How To Sew a Circle Skirt – DIY Fashion Tutorial

The moment you’ve all been waiting for: a circle skirt tutorial that has the math already done for you! Download my FREE circle skirt template, and you’re ready to go!

For detailed instructions, watch my video tutorial here:

how_to_sew_circle_skirt_tutorial_thumb

I tried to address all the questions you guys have asked about circle skirts over the years: how to hem a circle skirt, how to avoid hemming (heh), how to determine how much fabric you need, what to do if your fabric isn’t wide enough to cut the skirt in one piece, and so on.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel!

free_circle_skirt_pattern_pdf_03

This tutorial was filmed using a Creative Labs Vado HD Digital Video Camera, a Canon Rebel (for still shots), and edited in Sony Vegas Movie Studio.

- – – – -

ARCHIVED TUTORIAL BELOW – The following is my original circle skirt tutorial, which includes the steps that show you how to do the math.

The awesome thing about circle skirts is that once you get the idea, you can use the same premise to make a variety of different styles all based on a simple circle skirt.

 This tutorial is for a classic circle skirt (think 50’s style poodle skirt). The other variations of the circle skirt can be found here.

If your circle skirt turned out ginormous and you’re left scratching your head, check this out.

Difficulty:

 

Step 1

Cut a waistband out of stretchy fabric or stretch lace. It should be large enough to stretch over your hips, but small enough that it stays put on your waist. For shiggles, let’s say our example waistband is 40″ wide.

 

 

Step 1

Step 1

 

 

 

Step 2

I’m skipping ahead here for just a second to show what our end goal is.

What we want at the end of all of this is to wind up with a big donut shaped piece of fabric with the center hole’s circumference matching that of our waistband, so for our example, 40″.

 

 

Step 2

Step 2

 

Step 3

Thar be math ahead!! Don’t worry, it’s not hard, and I’ll walk you through it.

If you’re a little rusty on your geometry, let’s revisit. The circumference is the measurement aroouuuund the outside of a circle. The radius is the measurement from the center point of the circle to any point on the outside of the circle (the diameter goes all the way across the circle, and is two times the radius, but we don’t really need that here).

 

 

Step 3

Step 3

 

 

Step 4

MATH STUFF! HUZZAH! I’ll bet you love math as much as i do, so this part will be So Much Fun.

Before you try to skip the math and wing it, read this.

In order to cut an accurately sized hole (40″, remember?), we need the radius of the circle.

NOW…

let’s pause for a minute. I’m not going to go into great detail about this, but there’s something called ‘bias’ with fabric. It has to do with how the weave of the fabric effects the way the fabric drapes.

Cutting on the bias will make the fabric stretch. When you make a circle skirt, you’re going to wind up cutting part of it on the bias- no matter what you do, it can’t be avoided. Even with a non-stretch, woven fabric, it will stretch. Stretch fabrics will REALLY stretch when cut on the bias.

So if you’ve ever made a circle skirt, and you’ve done ALL the math right, and it still turned out a little too big, we shall blame bias.

To counteract bias, we need to make the hole smaller than we think we need it. So we will subtract 4 inches from the 40″ we are shooting for. That gives us 36″.

I know 4 inches sounds like a lot, but trust me here. You always want to shoot for smaller with a circle skirt (unlike most other things where larger is more easily fixed), because that can be fixed by cutting the hole bigger!

So even though we want a 40″ hole, we are going to do the math for a 36″ hole.

To get the radius, we use this equation:

radius = circumference divided by 2 times pi

and

2 times pi = 6.28

SO

radius = (36″) divided by (6.28)

radius = 5.7″

which is about 5 3/4

 

Step 5

The next step is figuring out how much fabric we need. Circle skirts require a decent amount of fabric, so sometimes you’ll need to make your fabric donut out of 2 or even 4 different pieces of fabric.

Here’s how you figure it out:

Take your desired skirt length (minus the waistband), in our case it’s 16″, and add it to the radius measurement.

(Remember to account for hems and seam allowances!)

5.75 + 16 = 21.75″

Now multiply that times 2 and we have 43.5″.

Your piece of fabric must be at least 43.5″ in length and width in order to cut a circle skirt in 1 continuous piece.

Generally fabric comes in 45″ and 60″ widths, so as long as your piece of fabric is long enough, a skirt with these measurements is not a problem.

However, if you want a really long skirt, you will most likely have to piece together your giant donut in halves or quarters.

 

 

04

Step 5

 

 

 

NOTE!

This isn’t so much a step as a note, because the drawing illustrates a particular concern with circle skirts. Patterns. That top little skull guy is going to wind up being upside down on our skirt. Maybe you don’t care, that’s cool, but it’s something to keep in mind. One-way patterns will be upside down and sideways at various points on the skirt. If that bothers you, see the next step. If you cut your skirt in quarters with all of the pattern pieces oriented so the pattern stays right-side-up, you can avoid this issue.

You can avoid this by choosing patterns that aren’t one-way. Polka dots work fine. Or you can use one-way patterns to your advantage to get interesting designs. Stripes, for example, look pretty cool on a circle skirt because the stripes take on a curvy appearance. See an example here.

 

Looking for cute fabric? Try Fabric.com

 

Step 6

Okay, take a deep breath… we’re almost done.

If you have determined you can cut your skirt in 1 continuous donut, fold your fabric in half. And then in half again, so it’s folded in quarters. Make sure you get nice neat folds… you don’t want it to look sloppy like my drawing. And you don’t want wrinkles.

From the folded corner, measure 5 3/4” out from that point in several places and then connect the dots with a curving line, so that you have a quarter circle.  Each point along the quarter circle should be 5 3/4” away from the center point. (see the blue dots in the drawing.)

Now do the same thing for the length measurement.  You could measure 16″ from the 5 3/4″ line, but you’ll get more accurate results if you measure from the center point again. So just add those two together and measure 21 3/4″ from the center. (purple dots)

Cut where you’ve marked and…

 

 

 

Step 6

Step 6

 

Step 6 b.

If you’ve determined you won’t be able to cut your skirt in one continuous donut, you will wind up cutting your fabric something like the examples below.

 The top illustration shows the circle skirt cut in 2 half circle pieces. You’ll need to add seam allowance to those straight edges so you don’t lose any circumference when you sew the pieces together. If you don’t want to worry about seam allowances, you can piece your fabric together first, then fold and cut as shown in Step 6.

 The bottom illustration shows the circle skirt cut in 4 quarter pieces. Again, don’t forget the seam allowances.

Step 6 b.

Step 6 b.

 

 

Step 7

Ta-da!

Look familiar?

Laying flat, the middle circle will be 36″, but when you open it up and let gravity have a tug at it, it’ll be much closer to 40″.

Measure it to make sure, and if you need to make it a little bigger, go ahead. Just take a sliver off that inner circle to make it a little bigger. Go slow, because like I said before, too big is harder to fix than too small.

 

 

Step 7

Step 7

 

Step 8

Attach the donut to your waistband, and you’re done!  If it turned out a little bigger than your waistband, just stretch the waistband a little as you sew them together.

You can use this same idea to add a flounce hem to a dress or skirt.

 

 

Done!

Done!

 

 

Okay, so now you’ve mastered the circle skirt. What else can you do with it? Check these ideas out!

 

126 comments to How To Sew a Circle Skirt – DIY Fashion Tutorial

  • Sara

    Ohh sorry – that’s Step 5!
    I’ll get there … thanks again

    • Sara

      … Nope, sorry! (I wish I could delete or edit my own messages to avoid cluttering you up!) Step 5 clarifies how much fabric one would need if the whole “doughnut” will fit into the length/width of the fabric. My “doughnut” is just a bit bigger than the width of the fabric, and it’s a one-directional pattern, so I’ll probably need to cut it in quarters. So how *do* I calculate how much to buy?
      Thanks for any available rules of thumb …

      • Lex

        You’ll need the ((“waist” radius) + (length) + (seam allowances)) x 4.
        So I think in your case that would be:
        (4.5″ + 21.5″ + 1″) x 4 = 108″

        108″ is exactly 3 yards.

  • Valerie

    Any solutions for keeping the skirt itself from stretching on the bias giving a lopsided hem.

    • Lex

      If you mean that the skirt stretches after you’ve sewn the hem- let the skirt hang for a few days before hemming. Re-measure it and even out the length before hemming.

      If you mean that sewing the hem itself is problematic, I have a video tutorial that I’ve allllmost finished that has some tips for the hem.

  • Kaity

    Not sure if any one has asked this but:
    Waist is 29″ (including the 4″for bias)
    Skirt length is 26″

    Will I have to make it in halves?
    If so/not how much fabric will I need?

    Thanks much, your tut rocks!

    • Lex

      You’re sooooo close to being able to cut it in 1 piece. You’ll need a piece of fabric 61″ x 61″. Most woven fabrics come in 44″ width, and most knits and special occasion fabrics are 58-60″ width. If you knocked off 1/2″ from the length, you could cut it in one piece if you had 60″ wide fabric.

      If you cut it in halves, you’ll need 61″ for each half, so 122″.

      I have an updated video version of the tutorial on the way that explains all this in more detail. Once Halloween is over, I can hopefully get it finished up.

  • Lisa

    I feel like I’m missing something about the waist.
    If I need a 30″ waist band, and I make the skirt waist smaller than that, how will it stretch over the hips?
    Shouldn’t my fabric waist radius be larger than the elastic to allow for the stretch when pulling up over the hips?

    • Lex

      It really depends on how you’re making the skirt- for the sake of someone needing the waistband to measurement to be exact as possible, I included the instructions about cutting the waist smaller.

      If your waistband is going to be stretchy, then yes- you can cut the skirt waist to accommodate the hip measurements. Though if you’re using a knit/stretch fabric, it will likely be able to stretch over your hips or over your head/bust, even though it’s cut to fit your waist. Obviously it depends on a person’s measurements, but I have 10″+ difference between my natural waist and my hips and I’ve never had a problem with it.

      If you’re making a waistband that doesn’t stretch, you’d cut the waist smaller per the directions and put in a zipper.

      • Lisa

        Thank you for the quick response. I need these skirts for this weekend for a Halloween costume.

        I have a 10″ difference between waist and hip, and fabric with absolutely no stretch, so I’m going to add about 6″ to the waist circumference and hope for the best.

        I’ll keep you posted…

        Lisa

  • Becky

    Thank you sooooo much! This was so easy to follow! 1 skirt down and 1 to go. My girls are going as Fluttershy (human) and Dark Super girl. I figured the skirts would be pretty easy, but your site made it a cinch. :)

  • samara arthars

    This is by far the best explanation! If only I had found the info about the bias and subtracting a few inches! Luckily im pregnant so I can cleverly pin it for now! Thanks for the help!

  • anitha

    Thank you so much. This tutorial helped me successfully make a circle skirt. I now want to attach a border from a lace, but since the skirt is circular and lace being a long rectangular i’m unable to attach it to skirt its crumpling. Could you pls advice how to attach a border of a different color material or a lace to circular skirt? Thanks in advance!!

    • Lex

      Lace that is about 3″ wide or less can usually be sewn to a hem without problems. The other option is to gather the lace or trim, which will allow it to follow the curve nicely.

  • anitha

    Thanks for your response, i am able to achieve adding lace to hem(ie lace hanging down from the hem) , but attaching a lace like a border to the skirt, ie. from hem to couple of inches above the skirt is what i’m facing issues with. Hope my ask is clear

  • Hey Lex!
    I’ve chosen my fabric and I have all of my notions in hand, thanks to your tutorial! Here is my situation…I’ve seen circle skirts with a bit of tulle trim at the bottom, simulating a petticoat. Have you any idea how to accomplish this? I have plenty of the 6″ spools on-hand but I’m not sure how wide to do the ruffle…6″ or cut it down to perhaps 3″.
    Your assistance is greatly appreciated!
    ~Suzie
    Jacksonville Beach, FL

    • Lex

      Instead of hemming the bottom of the skirt, you can sew the tulle “right sides together” (though tulle doesn’t generally have a wrong side) around the bottom edge of the skirt. You’ll want to gather the tulle so it will conform to the curve of the hem. Press the seam towards the skirt when you’re finished sewing the tulle down and topstitch over the seam. It’s actually quite a bit easier than hemming the skirt, in my opinion.

      You can leave the tulle at 6″ or skip cutting it and fold it in half for a double thickness of 3″, which gives the bonus of a little extra volume.

  • Eicca

    I am way bigger in my hips, so even with elastic top – zipper or something is required or it is too big at my waist. 3/4 circles are too tight at my hips even.

    But zippers suck to install. And are very boring. Grommets are awesome.

    Save removed fabric. Cut skirt open. Hem with iron on stabilizer and backing fabric if needed. Add grommets. Lace up. Add backing if needed. Or just wear tights. Or another skirt. Or whatever. Add a second set if you need more room. I put mine in front, about at my hips.

    Or just wear the skirt really low.

    • Lex

      Another option: depending on your bust measurement, try putting the skirt on over your head instead of over your hips. I’ve solved many a problem this way, myself. ;)

      • Eicca

        Nope, my boobs come in at 44″. Hips are 45″. Waist is 31″ without corset, 26″ with corset. I’m all kinds of curvy. Need an opening or wearing very low. As in on my hips low.

  • I really love your tutorials. The way you break down the points makes it easy to read

  • Katherine

    http://circleskirtpattern.com/ this does the calculations for you :)

  • Sri

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! The way you explained how to calculate the dimensions for the skirt was fantastic! Looking forward to making many more in the future :)

  • Aimee

    Thank you so much! I do not sew at all and needed to make a poodle skirt for myself for a party. I found another site that told me to use felt so I wouldn’t have to sew a hem. Your directions were great. I did as you said about the waist and it was a bit big, but I can correct that with some velcro….I am not complaining because that means I measured my waist too big, which is a relief to me! Thank you again!

  • Claire

    hello, i am just wondering what program you used to create the pictures?! :)

  • Sue

    Hi just trying to make pull on bell bottoms to go over pants for a costume for my daughters group, do you think this pattern would work for that, or be too full? Just going to try it with a spare piece of material.

  • Ash

    http://fuckyeahcharlottecrosby.tumblr.com/post/44800973864/okay-so-two-amazing-people-wrote-in-and-told-me
    Hi! Could please tell me or direct me to a website that shows me how to make this kind of skirt??
    Thanks so much !

  • Erin

    Great tutorial! Do you think there would be a way to do the pieces in six pieces? I want to make a skirt with 6 different panels of color. Just curious if that would work instead of four!

  • Wendy

    What is the trick to printing the circle skirt template? When I print it, that square does NOT measure 4×4?
    ps – your youtube tutorial is awesome!

    • Lex

      Sorry, most of the patterns have instructions for this, but I didn’t think about how the circle skirt template doesn’t have instructions.

      If the square does not measure correctly, check your printer settings. The patterns should be printed at 100% size, so when you reprint, uncheck any boxes that say something like “96% actual size” or “Scale to Fit”.

  • Rebecca Warren

    HI Lex,

    Thank you so much for your tutorial. I am a beginner at sewing and would really love to make this skirt. I am unsure of the amount of fabric I will need, and how to cut it. Could you please help me?
    My waist is 25.5 inches and I would like to make this skirt approximately 39.5 inches (inclusive of a hem allowance.)
    I would really appreciate some advice,
    Thank you so much,
    Rebecca

  • How would you modify this design so that the skirt has a high waist?

    • Lex

      For a high waist, cut the waistband to fit your natural waist. But cut the hole for the circle to fit either your bust (if you want to put it on over your head) or your hips (if you want to pull it over your hips). You’ll need to stretch the waistband to fit the waist-hole of the skirt. If the waistband fabric won’t stretch enough to fit the waist-hole, use a wide elastic instead.

  • Patricia Carbery

    Hi. I am making a circle skirt for a lady in a wheel chair and she has to put it over head I am using pinwheel corduroy which doesn’t stretch do I use the measurement of her shoulders to cut the waist out and she does want the color spandex elastic she wants a regular waist band how do I measure for that thanks for any help you can give me

    • Lex

      Yes, I would measure her shoulder for the waist-hole.
      If you want the waistband fabric to match the skirt, you’ll either need to add a closure (like a zipper) or make a casing for the elastic with the corduroy fabric. You won’t be able to do a “self casing”, they don’t really work with circle skirts. The casing would need to be a separate piece that you sew to the skirt.

  • Patricia Carbery

    Would I make the waist band the size of waist-hole and cut the elastic the size of her waist and thread it though the waist band thanks for the quick response .

  • Patricia Carbery

    Thanks a million you are a life safer Pat

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>