A circle skirt is a staple of any vintage wardrobe. While simple in concept, there are a few points that can make it difficult to actually sew one yourself. With this super easy tutorial, you don’t need a pattern or complicated calculations, and you don’t need to sew a zipper, a casing, or buttonholes. My favorite part of this skirt is that even with an elastic waist, it has a flattering smooth front.
Let’s get started!
- Lay out your piece of fabric. My favorite source of fabric is thrift store linens! I got this beautiful tablecloth for only a few dollars, and I knew right away it would be perfect for an elegant Christmas skirt.
- Fold your fabric over from one corner to create a right triangle. This is the part where you *can* use some math if you want it to be precise, but don’t worry, I’ll make it easy for you.
If you want to make your skirt an exact length:
- Measure around the widest point of your hips, we will call this number H for hip.
- Measure the distance from your natural waist (the narrowest point of your torso) to where you want the hemline to be, I prefer mine a couple of inches below my knee, this number is L for length.
- Now type the following into your phone’s calculator or Google: (L+(H/6.3))*2.
If you want to skip the math:
I know what you’re thinking, “but Kelli, you said there wasn’t any complicated math in this tutorial,” well, that’s because when I do this in real life, I’m not that precise. I just stick to averages.
- 28 divided by 6.3 is about 4.5, 48 divided by 6.3 is about 7.5. That means if you just say the radius of your hips (H/6.3) is about 6 inches, it will only change the skirt length by 1.5 inches or less in either direction.
- If you were to buy a tea-length skirt in the store, it would be around 24 inches long. This same skirt will be a little longer for short people like me and a little shorter for tall people.
- 24″ long plus an average 6″ radius is 30″, doubled is 60″
- If you don’t want to have to do the calculations, 60″ should make a nice average length midi skirt for you. Plus, when you make the waistband there will be a chance to adjust the length by a couple of inches in either direction if needed.
When working with an odd piece of fabric like this tablecloth, I don’t even measure at all, I just make the largest triangle the fabric will allow for. If you are purchasing fabric off of a bolt rather than using thrifted linens, make sure to check the width. Some fabric bolts are only 45″ wide, and if you want your skirt knee length or longer you will need at least 54″.
- Cut along the edge of your triangle to create a perfect square.
- Fold the triangle in half.
- Fold in half again as shown.
- Fold one more time. This time you will not fold it evenly in half, you will fold it from edge to edge as seen below. This step may seem odd, but what you are actually doing is folding it again and again around the center point.
Cutting your circle
- Cut off the excess fabric, starting at the shortest point.
As you continue cutting, fold this short side up a little at a time to be your guide so that it is the same length from the center point to the outer edge all the way across. Another way to do this is to use your (L+(H/6.3)) from before (not *2) and use a measuring tape to mark that distance from the center point to the edge all the way across.
Continue until you have cut it all the way through.
- Ta da! You have a circle! You will need it folded for the next step too, but I like to unfold it and refold it so that I can be certain I’m folding it neatly and correctly.
- Fold the circle in half.
- Fold in half again to make a quarter circle.
- And one more time. Now you have a 1/8 circle wedge.
Be sure to keep all of your folded edges lined up as neatly as possible.
- Now we’re going to do a teensy bit more math. Are you ready? This time it’s even easier. Take your hip measurement, H, and divide it by 8. Use your measuring tape to find the point in the triangle where it is H/8 wide and cut across at a slight curve. (Ignore the fact that my measuring tape is kind of crooked, it’s hard to measure with one hand and take a picture with the other.)
Most circle skirt tutorials will tell you to do this part using the radius length (H/6.3) and measuring from the center point to the inner edge. Personally, I don’t like that method, because you have to be very precise. If you are off by only 1/2 an inch because your measuring tape doesn’t start at 0 and your fabric is slippery and you’re trying to cut with one hand while you measure (or take a picture for your blog…) with the other, that will multiply to be a difference of three full inches too big or too small around your hips!
Because of this, whichever method you choose to measure, err on the side of too small, because you can always cut a little more off but you can’t ever make that hole smaller again.
Alright! The hardest part is over! You did it! Congratulations! Let’s move on.
Creating the waistband
At this point in the process, you’ll want to try on your simple circle skirt. Make sure that it can fit over your hips and see how you like the length. Like I said, you’ll be able to adjust it slightly with the waistband.
- Cut a rectangle for your waistband. The length will be your hip measurement, plus an inch for seam allowance. The width will depend on your preference. I like to cut it at about 6 inches, so after folding and hemming I have a waistband that is 2-3 inches. You can make it a bit wider or narrower if you prefer or if you need more or less length on your skirt.
- Fold the waistband in half lengthwise, with the right side facing out. Pin it to your skirt so that the right sides of the fabric are together and the waistband is turned down.
- Pin the edges together.
- Sew the edges together, cut off the excess, spread the seam allowances to either side, and sew the waistband to the skirt.
Hemming the skirt
The most time-consuming part of any circle skirt is hemming it, but I promise you it’s not worth it to take shortcuts. Just look at the difference between the nice, flat, straight hem of this skirt compared to the wrinkly wiggly hem on a circle skirt I sewed a couple of years ago that I tried to just roll the hem as I went along.
Making a proper hem isn’t difficult. In fact, it’s easier to do it the right way, it just takes a bit more time.
- The first step is to just sew a line 1/4″ to 1/2″ from the edge of the fabric all the way around.
- Fold the edge all along the stitched line and pin it. This will make sure that your edge doesn’t get away from you over time due to the curve. Remember, don’t skip steps! It’s not worth it! Especially with slippery fabrics!
- Sew the edge again, fold again, and pin again, then sew down your final hem.
Even with carefully sewing and folding and pinning, this is still a circle, which by definition means the edges won’t be straight. Take your time as you sew and use the following tips to keep your hem smooth:
- If the fabric bows up a little, just carefully hold it down with your fingertips as you sew. Keep the pins in as long as possible and they will do this job for you.
- As you sew it may help to pull the edge tight or let it curve with the fabric as shown below. At some points the folded edge may even seem to naturally curve the other direction. Circles are weird, just go with it
- And finally, add your elastic. I used 3/4″ wide elastic, but a little wider or narrower works as well. Cut it to HALF of your hip measurement. Yes, this is way smaller than your waist. That’s okay. That’s the point. Find the center of the elastic by folding it in half, and pin it to the seam of the waistband, a little below the top edge.
- Using a zigzag stitch that is not too long and as wide as your machine will go, sew the elastic to the waistband. Start in the center, sew to the edge, then repeat on the other side. As you sew, pull the elastic as tight as possible. When you get to the end, be sure to reinforce it by sewing backwards and forwards a couple of times.
- Optional: Add buttons or other embellishments onto the waistband to cover the stitching at the edges of the elastic.
- Put on your circle skirt, twirl in front of a mirror, obsess over how nicely it swooshes, and admire your work.
This circle skirt looks advanced, but it’s simple enough for a beginning seamstress. My favorite part about it is that unlike other beginning skirt patterns you will find on Pinterest, the elastic doesn’t go all the way around, so you have the cute ruffles all around the sides and back, but not in the front. This detail makes the finished skirt much more polished and flattering. No one needs that extra bulk on their belly.
Now that you’ve finished one, you can whip up a few more in different colors and patterns to fill your closet with vintage loveliness!
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