Friday, April 24, 2009

Circle Skirt How-to

**If you surfed here looking for a half or 3/4 circle skirt, you can find a separate tutorial for drafting those patterns.  Just click here!

I wish all days could be like today. The kids (mostly) behaved. The weather was pleasant. And I finished the most fabulous skirt! I've been completely in love with the 50's fit & flare look, and so, a circle skirt was an essential piece to that look. I also have always liked the look of a black and white palette, and so, my black and white circle skirt was born.
I know that a circle skirt is pretty simple. Thanks to vegbee's awesome tutorial I had a place to start. Vegbee's version is great. It features and elastic waist, which is comfy, easy to do and easy on the fit. The only problem with an elastic waist is that it can add some bulk, if you have a significant difference between your waist and hip measurements, which I do. After two kids, I have enough bulk in the waist, so I decided that a waistband and zipper were the way to go for me. I also hate hemming. Especially curves. So, after reading about a hem facing on oliver + s, I decided to try that, too.
Let's learn together! I'll show you how it all went.
The first step is to create your pattern. Since a circle skirt is exactly what it says - a circle with a hole in the middle - two measurements and a little geometry is all you need. Don't worry, it's only a little geometry. The measurements you need are 1. your waist and 2. the length you would like your skirt to be, measured from the waist to the hemline. Since it is unlikely that you will be able to find fabric wide enough to make the entire circle, let's make our initial pattern piece a half circle. Your waist measurement is the circumference of the hole in the middle of your circle. So, take your waist measurement, divide by 3.14 (pi) and divide by 2. This is the radius of your center circle. I know this isn't making much sense without a visual. Fortunately, there's video...
OK, so once you have your half-circle, you can decide if you want panels or not. My skirt has six panels, with 2 alternating prints, so 3 of each. To cut out my actual pattern piece, I carefully folded my half-circle into thirds, then added seam allowances. This was the pattern for my 6 panels.
The other two pieces you will need are a waistband and a hem facing. The waistband is easy. It is a big rectangle, measuring (your waist + 2 inches (for the tabs) + seam allowances) long by (desired width x 2 + seam allowances). I used one inch for my desired width - that is, however tall you want your waistband to be. For the hem facing, you will need an exact copy of the bottom few inches of your skirt. I decided to do the facing in four parts, so that my seam allowances wouldn't overlap and get bulky. I again folded my half-circle, this time just in half, and traced the bottom 3 inches, then added seam allowances. Be sure to measure carefully - this needs to fit pretty exactly.
Now, let's put it together!!

For my six panels, I first attached them together in pairs. If you are alternating fabrics, make sure that when you are sewing your pairs together, that you have the same print on the top and sew the same side seam. So, in the picture, you can see that my three pairs are all together, with the black fabric on top. I seamed them all along the right side. I also installed my zipper at this point, between the first two panels that I seamed. I have a love-hate relationship with my zipper foot, so I am NOT going to talk about installing a zipper. There are excellent instructions included with the zipper when you buy it. Follow those. I should have.
Now attach all of your panels together. When you place them right sides together, they should alternate, as you can see below.
Pretty panels all in a row! Just one more seam to go!
Once you are all seamed together, it is time to add the waistband. Be sure to fuse some interfacing to the wrong side, within the seam allowances. Find the center of your waistband and pin it (right sides together) to the seam opposite your zipper, then pin all around.
When you finish, you should have a tab that hangs off the end. This is where your button or hook and eye will go.
Stitch down your waistband where you just pinned. Now press up about 1/2 inch on the free edge. This will become the inside of your waistband and will cover your seam allowance.
With right sides of the waistband together, seam the two overhanging ends.
Trim the seam allowances and clip the corner, then turn them right side out. It should look like this when you're done. You made a little "pocket" to hold your seam allowance!
Now press your waistband down, pinning it on the right side, making sure to catch the folded inside edge of the waistband as you pin. You can see my pin just where my iron has been.
Now from the right side, topstitch the waistband close to the seam. You can also stitch in the ditch if you don't want any topstitching to show, but make sure that you catch the underside of the waistband. It's a bit trickier. Attach your closure of choice to the tabs. I used a hook and bar.

Waistband done! On to the hem facing. Don't forget that with a circle skirt there are areas that are cut on the bias. Be sure that you hang your skirt for at least 24 hours to let the bias set before you hem it. Otherwise, your hem could ripple after the fact. OK, bias set - let's go. Seam all of your facing pieces together to make a BIG circle. Finish the inner edge of the circle with either a serger if you are so blessed or just an overcast stitch. Or I guess you could hem it, but that would defeat the purpose...
Now, this is the painstaking part. Pin it, right sides together, to your skirt. I laid it out on the living room floor while the kids where sleeping. Start at a random spot and just go around the skirt until you get it all lined up the way you like it. It took me three revolutions around the skirt.
Once it's pinned, sew away. Then clip the seam allowance every few inches. This will help it lie nice and flat when you flip it.
OK, now that it's all clipped, flip it wrong sides together and press. Be sure to press it so that you can see a bit of your pretty fabric on the inside, so that you know that no one can see your facing.
Now stitch down the facing and you are done!! I chose to hand stitch it because I wanted it to be truly invisible, but do whatever floats your boat.
See, it really is a circle!Now, let's see yours!

ETA 8/11/2010: I've noticed that quite a few of you are popping over see a half circle skirt, and since Anne commented that she was interested in a 3/4 circle, I added an additional mini-tutorial to include drafting the pattern pieces for a 1/2 and 3/4 circle skirt.  The math is a smidge more complicated, but hopefully the tutorial makes it clear.  Click here for the tute!


Beth said...

Can't wait to see it!

Charity Indietutes said...

great stuff!

(and love the red shoes ;))

The Mommy said...

Nice tutorial!!!
Great suggestions, and very helpful pictures.
I would add one suggestions to the hem facing: pre-clipping, grade the seam allowance towards the skirt, then after clipping the stitching (ideally: cut out pie-wedges), understitch the facing before pressing. This is done by spreading the facing/skirt flat with the seam allowances all towards the facing. Loosen the needle tension slightly, and sew through all layers. Then press. It will never roll outwards. Promise.

Good job, Mommy!!!

KID, MD said...

I knew I was forgetting something - I meant to understitch!! I was so excited about finishing it at that point, though I mightn't have done it even if I had remembered.

I love it! It's so fun to have a twirly skirt!

The Mommy said...

Yeah. I've done that.
When you get the babies' new outfits, you'll see that I had serged everything. I had intended doing Logan's shorts in a flat-fell, and the shirt in french seams -- but I didn't.

Julie said...

Just for clarity's sake, back almost at the beginning, you said, " Your waist measurement is the circumference of the hole in the middle of your circle. So, take your waist measurement, multiply by 3.14 (pi) and divide by 2. This is the radius of your center circle.".

If C = pi x 2r , don't you mean to say, "take your waist measurement, DIVIDE by 3.14 (pi) and divide again by 2" ?? Otherwise you're going to find some peculiar radiuses (radii?) I've looked and looked at this over and I just impossibly confused??? Your little video is very helpful once you get past the radius part.

KID, MD said...

Yes!! I knew that didn't sound right. I'm correcting it in the main post now. Thanks for spotting that!

anne said...

Hope you're still responding to comments on this one because I love this pattern! But I do have a Q or two - I am making it with a gorgeous fabric that unfortunately I don't have enough of - am hoping that 3/4 of the circle will do as that is all I have! Do you think it will make a big difference?? Also, would it change the way that the waist measurement is taken if I'm missing a quarter of the circle?

Would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks for posting this again!

KID, MD said...

Anne, it will change the way that you do the waist part, and will involve a little geometry. Mine's a little rusty, but if you'll give me a day or two, I'll write a post about how to alter this for a 3/4 or 1/2 circle, and link back to this post.
Good question! Thanks for asking and I'm glad you like the tute.

KID, MD said...

OK Anne, all posted! Please let me know if you have questions about it!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled on this fantastic information in the very early hours of the morning when my brain was Fuzz! I have been making costumes for the past month for the local Ballet School production of Sleeping Beauty and when it came time for me to make the full circle skirts for the Garland dance my brain just would not make sense of how to calculate the measurements. So Thankyou from the bottom of my heart!!!

Lisa said...

Thanks so much! I've always hated how full skirts (never attempted a circle one before) get ugly on the hemming with all those curves. I'm making a dress for my daughter to look like Queen Susan from Narnia (the Prince Caspian one) in her purple dress. The info I found was that it's probably a 3/4 circle. I'm going to go do some drafting now thanks to your help!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post! I'm trying it now and a bit less intimidated than I was before:).

CBoyer said...

I have a question, did you add any ease at all? I am working with an, erm, somewhat valuable fabric, so I want to know BEFORE I cut it out if I should add any ease to the waist? Did you? How did it fit if you did/didn't?
Thanks so much!

The Middle Sister and Singer