My circle skirt turned out big enough for an elephant, WTF!?

Was your circle skirt too big when you were finished?

Did you cheat?

Tell the truth, now…

I bet you tried to skip all the math and do this:


To be clear, this is the WRONG WAY to make a circle skirt. The tutorial for the correct way is here.

What’s wrong with doing it this way? I’ll explain.

Say you wanted the waist hole to be 32 inches.  Cutting the circle can be a real bitch. There’s math. Math sucks! There must be a less mathy way of doing this… You’ll wing it!

So you fold the fabric in half twice, and then you divide your waist  measurement by 4.  This gives you 8 inches.  You measure a line that’s 8 inches long, because lines are easier to draw.  But you really need a circle, so you just sort of draw a curved lined around it.

If you look at the gap between your 8 inch line and the curved line, there are several inches of extra space in there.  Now multiply that space time 4, and that’s where you got a skirt that’s ridonkulously big.

Do the math once, trace it on a piece of paper, and have it already done on a pattern that you can use over and over again.

24 thoughts on “My circle skirt turned out big enough for an elephant, WTF!?

    1. Were you using very stretchy fabric? I’ve had some circle skirts end up really huge when I tried using slinky stretchy fabrics.

  1. I had this problem too, even with non-stretchy fabrics.. You just have to cut it A LOT smaller than you think you’ll need, and keep making it a teeny bit bigger. Every fabric acts differently, so you just have to be super super careful.

  2. When i made a circle skirt for a friend it turned out big enough for the both of us! Since we were in a hurry (60’s dance in two hours lol) I just made a waistband the length of the huge opening in the skirt, sewed it on and gathered it alot on the elastic. It turned out pretty well and though we didn’t win the prize she had a huge amount of fun twirling around in it 🙂

  3. I’ve had that happen a few time, due to careless cutting on my part. I just pleated the excess into the waist band.

  4. I loved the instructions – I did your math, but when calculating the circumference needed I multiplied to get 90% of the original waistline and then subtracted 1/4 inch from the total required ( I was working on a 2 year old). It worked like a charm leaving me a 1/2 seam allowance. Thanks!!

  5. You could always sew in some elastic… if it’s as oversized as you imply, that should be enough for a cute gathered circle skirt (like the one I’m wearing right now! ;3).

  6. Coz I make a fox look sane –

    I do the math. Get my nice radius.

    THEN divide that number in half.

    Then I add 3-4 inches to the end length.

    Guaranteed, I will have to trim the waist some, but hey no elephant fitting skirts.

    Course when I was providing foxes are sane and made a six circle skirt out of jersey coz I could and what else was I going to do with 60 yards of fabric, I didn’t have to trim anything at all from the waist.

  7. i just made a cape for halloween, which is basically a bigger circle skirt that wraps around your neck. You’re getting the measurements wrong because you’re not doing the correct math equation. What you need to do is find the radius of the circle you are trying to cut. Basically this entire article is wrong which is a little annoying considering how crucial this math is. Lets use the same example as the article and say you want a 32″ circle for the waist. You do not divide 32 by 4 and then draw a line to make a triangle. This is the first wrong step. the 8″ line is not even placed in the proper spot for a radius…’s not cutting through the middle of the circle. This is where high school math classes that most people didn’t pay attention to actually come in handy. Since we do not know the diameter or area of the circle we are trying to cut because it is not laid out in front of us, we have to find the radius from the circumference, which we know is 32″. Therefore the equation is radius=circumference/(2xpi). If pi is 3.14 we can call 2xpi 6.28. So for this example, radius=32/6.28, or radius=5.095. To be safe you should always round that number up to the nearest quarter inch, so lets call it 5.25. Take your fabric and, in the same corner you would have drawn your ridiculously large hole on where both edges are folded instead of raw fabric, you are going to measure 5.25 inches in a diagonal line from that corner to the opposite one. you ca fan more lines out around it to make it easier, because that is the point that you will be drawing your circle off of. See how 5.25″ and over 8″ is a huge difference, let alone it is the difference multiplied by 4?
    This may be hard to understand without images, so feel free to e-mail me for more help if you’d like. [ ]
    I’m not trying to school the readers as much as I am trying to school the author for publishing such an awfully wrong tutorial. I did well in math, but I am an art school graduate with a bachelors in Photography and haven’t sewn anything for 7 years until last week. I haven’t taken a math class in 6 years. And still I used no pattern and made a perfectly sized hole. This article is nothing but confusing to those who don’t remember/don’t know this kind of math, and wouldn’t think twice to look up the correct way when they’re trusting this article written by an experienced crafter to be true. It makes them feel dumb and incapable when really the author is the one being moronic.
    All that being said, I love the things you make and I will continue to look through this site but I will be extra weary of the instructions.

    1. Hi Juliet-
      My tutorial for circles skirts is here:

      This article is in response to people that wind up with a circle skirt that is too big. The diagram is showing the shortcut that some people take when they try to skip the math, which then results in a ginormous circle skirt and emails to me asking WHY their skirt didn’t turn out right.

      Thus the title “My circle skirt turned out big enough for an elephant, WTF!?” And the rest of the text of the article, explaining why this method won’t work. I could make a snarky comment here along the lines of “This is where high school reading comprehension lessons that most people didn’t pay attention to actually come in handy,” but I’m too polite. Moronic, but polite.

      I do apologize as I realize it was a bit unclear, particularly because I didn’t link back to the CORRECT tutorial for making a circle skirt. This and the original tutorial were written in a former version of the site, and I hadn’t realize they didn’t both link back to each other when I migrated to the new site.

      1. I would have made the circle too big too, that’s why I’m researching the circle skirt. I see no reason why the waist can’t be gathered or pleated if the circle for your waist is too big. It will still be a full / circle skirt. That’s one way to clean up a mistake without wasting material. Just a thought. 🙂

    2. Wowwwww you are a complete moron and apparently can’t read English. This article is for what NOT to do. Before “schooling the author” you might want to be sure you’ve been schooled first.

    3. Juliet,

      I’m not trying to “school” you but if you read the heading you would have known this was in response to those who may try to “skip the math”. This is what happens when you try to guess!!

      In the tutorial, she explicitly explains the math and how to arrive at the exact measurement needed!
      Be kind, read carefully before you attempt to correct, otherwise you look a fool?

  8. Hey Lex,
    Don’t let snarky people get to you. They are insecure and do what they do in an attempt to build themselves up by tearing others down. The rest of us love your tutes and would have you change for the world!!

  9. Hi there. Just to let you know- I am a relatively new sewer and have been trawling the interweb looking for a good tutorial on circle skirts. Trust me I’ve seen some doozies – but yours is fab. Precise, clear, informative and funny. It’s turned out perfectly – so thank you. X

  10. hi lex,so glad to be here and to share my little problem with you.
    I also had problems while cutting my skirt but also with a non-stretchy material and i ended up wasting most of the fabric,so i really need ur help here with some explanations,will really be glad 2 hear from you,thanks a lot.

  11. I just wanted to say that you ladies are Hilllllllarious!! ???

    (Juliet & Lex)

    Just reading yalls comments to one another. But anywho, I’m a total newby to sewing so I’m trying to learn via YouTube and various other sites and articles. Everyones comments are very informative and I just wanted to say thanks for the info and Lexi could I use your pixie shirt tutorial for ANY non-stretch fabric?

    1. Yes, the pixie skirt tutorial with the elastic waistband should work with any non-stretch fabric (or stretch fabric, for that matter!).

  12. Really need your help. ? purchased a commercial pattern to make a circle skirt for a friend. It is a full circle skirt – poodle skirt pattern actually. I basted it all together and got her to try it on for size before I actually put the permanent stitching in. (Btw – new sewer here) She HATES the fullness of it, and wants me to reduce it. I don’t want to ruin the drape etc….is it okay to take it in equal distance on the sides? Ie 6” each side – have I said it’s HUGE? It has an elastic waistband so I have lots of room there. Tia

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much fullness that will get rid of.
      For example, a 25″ long circle skirt with a 30″ waist (just using those numbers as examples) has a hem with a circumference of 182 inches. Taking in the sides 6″ is only taking 24″ out of that. That’s not even a 15% reduction in the fullness. Probably barely noticeable. It will effect the drape a bit, but again, it probably won’t be very noticeable because of the sheer volume in a full circle skirt.

      I think you’d be better of making a half-circle skirt.

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