The circular skirt has lots going for it. This one appears to have exaggerated underpinnings giving the model the appearance of an exceptionally wasp like waist.
It is flattering for women with smaller waists and disguises larger hips. It can be showy and fun, supported by a full petticoat, or it can be restrained and modest and drapey, if made in a softer fabric.
The original – cut a hole in a table-cloth and wear it tonight – approach shows just how simple it can be, and for many it provides a good way in to sewing.
I have reviewed the wide range of instructions on the internet and some are decidedly dodgy and will not give you a good fit. I have also read all the old books I have at home (showing that this skirt has been permanently in fashion, and that there is nothing new under the sun). So here, having distilled it all down, and piloted the approach, I offer you what I think is the easiest and best way to make a circle skirt.
You can start with your skirt block you can eliminate the darts, creating a flared skirt (with a curved waistline). Then additional slashes (from hem to waist) allow you to get the CB and CF at right angles to each other, with the waistline becoming a quarter circle)
But of course the easier method is to create a “donut” shape, where you just cut out a circle from the middle of the cloth. You can create just one seam into which the zip is inserted (unless you make the skirt in very stretch fabric and add a piece of wide elastic for the waist band). Most of the web “tutorials” are based on this approach in order to make the job as easy as possible.
How to get the size right?
Here we go back to basic maths and we need to work out the radius based on our circumference/waist measurement. The circumference of a circle is just slightly more than three times the diameter. To calculate the diameter we need to divide the circumference by pi which looks like this: which is 3.14 (or very slightly more, but we will don’t need to be more accurate). The radius will be half this so 3.14 x 2 which means you must divide the circumference by 6.28 to find the radius. Measure your waist snugly. My waist is 68 cms. 68 cms divided by 6.28 = 10.8 cms.
We could now make a paper pattern by creating a quarter circle pattern piece, on to which we add seam allowances on the waist line, side seams and hem. The CF/CB can be cut on the fold. This creates a nice pattern that can be used again and again, with a side zip and possibility of side seam pockets if prefered. Unfortunately even reliable Mrs Aldrich lets us down with her fabric layout diagram. The CF fold is not on the fold as it should be, and with a different arrangement of the fabric it should be possible to avoid the CB seam.
However this approach is much more reliable that the quick and dirty method of avoiding a paper pattern altogether. All over the internet are “tutorials” that involve folding the fabric into four (cross and lengthwise), measuring out from the point to produce the waist line, and then measuring down from the waist line as far as the fabric allows for the length of the skirt (or shorter).
But before we start cutting let’s talk about ease and seam allowances (I have viewed about 25 diagrams and tutorials and none of them mention this issue). If we measure down 10.8cms and CUT along this line what do you think is going to happen?
As you sew on the waist band, sewing 1.5cms below this cut what happens?
You have now created a radius of 12.3 cms, which (x 6.28) gives a circumference of 77cms – 9cms too big. Assuming we take 3cms off for the back seam it is still 6cms too large. Even if you like a bit of ease this is way too roomy.
Let’s start again.
If you draw in your waist line as instructed at 10.8cm, and use your tape measure on its side to draw a second line 1.5cms above it as your cutting line you will be able to get a good fit from the quick and dirty/no paper pattern approach. However – and I have made several samples before I wrote this, in both paper and in fabric – I must issue a big warning.
- Fabric becomes very unstable when a substantial circle is cut into it, and stretches markedly if you are not very careful.
- Also cutting through four layers accurately is not easy. Even half a centimeter makes a difference to the fit. You do have to be very accurate. I would say a little smaller rather than bigger is better as you can stretch the bias a smidge to fit it into the waistband.
- I stay stitched the waistline
Once the donut is cut out you will need to create the CB seam by separating the skirt along the straight grain on one edge.
I wanted a wool with drape and found the perfect fabric at Simply Fabrics. I think it is Paul Smith suiting in navy that is not too deep. The fabric really makes this skirt in my opinion. It is a nice quality and I should have lined it, but I wanted it to be as light and drapey as possible, so in the end I made it with nicely finished seams instead. It is a little deeper than this photograph shows.
I made the waist band along the selvage edge two centimeters longer than my waist measurement – ie 70cms, to allow for ease. I kept it fairly narrow as this was the best use of the cloth, but a circle skirt can look great with a much wider waist band. If you are fairly petit a narrower waist band (and belts) may suit you better than a wide belt, and vice versa.I applied very light interfacing to the waist band then the cut edge of your skirt is coaxed to fit onto this straight edge. I carefully pinned, then tacked, the waistline of the fabric. Even though I had cut accurately it didn’t have any trouble filling the space.
Before finishing it I added an invisible zip, closed the CB seam, and finished the waistband by hand.
I put the skirt on Camilla and let it hang before hemming. It is swishy and heavy, but also it drapes nicely. I am looking forward to wearing it. But first I need to think about hand or machine hemming. Any views?