Good afternoon, dear ones! In this, our final month of The Season of Separates, the Curvy Sewing Collective is focusing on all things skirting. It’s time to talk pencils, a-lines, and–my personal favorite–the circle skirt. Today, I wanted to share some inspiration, tutorials, and patterns that will help bring your wardrobe–wait for it–full circle.
Before we go diving into inspiration and maths, however, allow me a moment of academic indulgence. Circle skirts are so much more than just circle of fabric draped about the body! We associate full circle skirts, specifically, with the 1950’s, when they rose to popularity alongside an increasing societal love of dancing. If you love a little swirl, when you spin, this is the skirt style for you. They have curved hems, with a portion of the skirt falling on the bias, which means they move beautifully. The four most common permutations of the circle skirt are the quarter, half, three-quarter, and full, which have increasing amounts of fullness at the hemlines. I stumbled across the above graphic, which illustrates really well the different geometries we’re working with. A quarter-circle skirt (Skirt 1) is practically an A-line, with no folds and a flared shape, while a full circle (Skirt 4) has a ton of folds through its hemline. The bigger the circle, the more swirl you’ll have in your skirt! Unfortunately, the bigger the circle, the more it hogs fabric. When I make circular skirts, I tend to stick with half and three-quarter circles, which provide a nice balance between body and fabric consumption.
The great thing about circle skirts is how versatile they are. Depending on the fabric you use, they can be show-stopping pieces for a glamorous night out, or everyday basics with a feminine twist. I have a few of each, in my wardrobe. Fabric wise, you can use anything from a beautiful silk crepe to a heavy wool flannels. To best take advantage of the circle skirt’s body, you’ll want a fabric with a bit of movement it, however. Personally, I’m a big fan of using vintage cotton novelty prints, for fun, summery pieces. If you can find piece of fabric with a circular border print, like a vintage table cloth, there’s no better use for it than a circle skirt! I still have dreams about Mena’s tablecloth skirt, from The Sew Weekly.
Of course, there is one big glaring problem with circle skirts: math. No matter which style of circle skirt you choose to make, drafting your own pattern is probably the best way to go. You’ll get a skirt that not only fits your waist perfectly, but is the exact length and style you want. Though I’ve linked to a few later on, circle skirt patterns are few and far between, because their actual drafting is so simple. Though it will involve words like “radius” and “pi without an e,” it’s a really accessible process. There are tons of fantastic, hand-holding tutorials out there and, even better, a few calculators that make things even easier. I recommend making paper versions of your circle skirt patterns, instead of measuring and cutting right on your fabric, however. This way, you’ll have the pattern for future use and can try your hand adding in seams, to cut down on fabric waste. Below, I’ve linked to a few of my own favorite resources.
Tutorials & Calculators
Full Circle Skirt Calculator — This site is exactly what it says, a handy little widget that takes your waist size and desired hem length, then fills in all the numbers you’ll need to make that skirt. It even gives you the fabric width required for such a garment. My only complaint is that a Half Circle Skirt and 3/4 Circle Skirt calculator doesn’t also exist!
Circle Skirt Calculator & Grading Worksheet by Snug Bug Mercantile — The ever-lovely Patti, of Snug Bug Mercantile, posted one of my all time favorite circle skirt posts ever. Not only does she include the how-to maths portion and diagrams of the various circle skirts, but she gives you her own spreadsheet for calculating your math. It’s so simple and user-friendly! Even better, Patti is one of the few bloggers to give the 3/4 circle some love. As that’s my favorite circle skirt, I highly recommend this tutorial.
3/4 Circle Skirt Tutorial by Miss Make — If you’re longing for that rarest of all circle skirts, the 3/4, Devon’s tutorial will be right up your alley. Clear directions, helpful images, and a really cute end result. Thanks to Nicole for jogging my memory about this wonderful tutorial!
Circle Skirt Maths Explained by By Hand London — Now, By Hand London has an official circle skirt calculator of their own, but I’ve found it to be really buggy. No matter what numbers I put in, it tells me I don’t have wide enough fabric, even when that’s patently false. However, Elisalex did post a really thorough, thoughtful explanation of drafting various circle skirts, along with how to lay out your fabric for each option. If this if your first time making a circle skirt, this is a fabulously simple rundown of the topic.
Narrow Hemming a Circle Skirt by Gertie — While Gertie is not my usual go-to source for sewing knowledge, I do really like her two-part video series on hemming circle skirts. Thanks to the bias portion of circle skirts, they have a tendency to drop and get uneven, after hanging for a little while. Gertie helpfully walks you through not only evening out your skirt hem, but then giving it a narrow hem afterwards. Considering hems are why some people avoid these beautiful skirts, this tutorial gets four start from me, for taking out some of that mystery!
Now, I have to admit something. For the first few years of my return to garment sewing, I used the cheater’s method of sewing circle skirts and just bought a few appropriate patterns. None of them were quite perfect, either not being my exact waist measurement or being a length I didn’t love, but they were easy, accessible approaches to this skirt style. Luckily, nowadays there are a few more patterns for circular skirts out there, from both the Big 4 and Indie designers.
Simplicity 1200 — 3/4 Circle Skirt with Length Variations and Optional Waistbands (up to Waist 37” and Length 25”)
Simplicity 4236 — Full and Half Circle Skirts (up to Waist 34”)
Vogue 8980 — Pieced Circle Skirt with Waistband (up to Waist 37” and with a fuller front skirt than back)
Kwik Sew 3637 — Low Rise, Yoked Semi-Circle Skirt (up to Waist 37″, though since it’s a low rise, that number is actually higher, if you’d like to raise the waist up)
Cressida Skirt by Jennifer Lauren Vintage — Half-circle skirt with Double or Single Front Button Closures (up to Waist 38”, more sizes reportedly coming soon)
Hollyburn Skirt by Sewaholic Patterns — Half-circle Skirt with Faced Pockets & Waistband (up to Waist 35”, more sizes reportedly coming soon)