Circle Skirt Tutorial - Zipper Version
Skirts are the gateway drug for sewing. They are so simple. Fitting is relatively simple. And it’s not too intimidating to make a tube.
In 2013, I was spending a lot of time on Pinterest and I found a tutorial on circle skirts. “I can do that” I thought. So I went and bought some silky, paisley polyester and wide elastic and borrowed my mother-in-law’s sewing machine. At the time, I didn’t actually own an iron. I had no idea how important this was to sewing. But I learned pretty quickly.
So instead of going out and buying one. I “made” an iron with a pot of boiling water that I heated on the stove and then transferred to my work space. Of course I didn’t have an ironing board or a cutting mat. So I working with the polyester on my area rug. FUN FACT: Polyester melts when it gets too warm. And boiling water is too warm. So I still have a mark on the bottom of my pot AND on my rug where the fabric melted AND the rug melted from the head of my made-do iron. Lesson learned.
There are so many problems with this skirt. But I still wear it semi-regularly since circle skirts are forgiving and they still look decent even with flaws. However, I recently brought up the hem a few inches and fixed some of the original flaws and suddenly, the skirt gets more compliments when I wear it.
Fast forward to 2019 I made 8 skirts for my Irish dance troupe. These skirts had zippers which means the fitting has to be more precise.
ZIPPERED CIRCLE SKIRT TUTORIAL
*I apologize that all these measurements are in inches. America is ridiculous that we haven’t picked up metric for general life. Sorry.
For a short skirt, you can get by with just over a yard of fabric for one skirt. I eeked out 8 skirts from 10 yards, but I did have to play around some to get that last one cut.
You will also need a standard 7” zipper.
For the zippered skirt, we fit the skirt right at the natural waist (where the torso is most narrow) and went down to 4 inches above the knee.
Most of the girls had trouble getting the length measurement correct because they bent down to see the length and moved the tape measure. Have someone else take the measurement or use a mirror to see the numbers.
EASE: we’re going to add 1” to our waist measurement as ease. This means that the skirt won’t be skin tight but will have a bit of breathing room. If you’re using a stretchy or knit fabric, you don’t necessarily need this ease in.
Also, most our bodies curve (beautifully) and that means it takes more length than just a straight up and down shape. Make sure to measure the length of your skirt taking those curves into account. Keep the measuring tape right on your body and if you have a juicy bubble butt or big hips or curves in front, make sure you’re measuring over those biggest curves. If you don’t, your skirt length will be used up moving horizontally over your curves and will end up too short.
Let’s make up pretend measurements. Waist measurement = 33” —> Waist with ease = 34” and Length measurement= 20”
To make the pattern, you’re going to calculate the radius of your waist. This is simple since your waist measurement is just a circumference. Circumference = 2(pi)r so with the measurement above, 34” = 2 x 3.14 x r r = 5.41” This is the measurement you will use to create your pattern.
Creating a Pattern
Circle skirt patterns are simple enough that you don’t HAVE to make parchment or paper pieces for them. For mine, I just draw on the fabric with chalk or marker.
For an elastic-top circle skirt, you’re going to need to measure your hips so that you ensure the skirt will stretch to fit over them. With this kind of skirt, you can just literally cut out a giant circle from one piece of fabric.
For a zippered skirt with a waistband, I cut the skirt panels in 2 pieces (this also wastes less fabric).
If you’re going to use a narrower waistband than the one I used, you may need to add length to the skirt to accommadate your hem allowance. If you use a wider waistband, then you’ll have to subtract length from the skirt pieces.
Fold the fabric so that there is enough fabric on each side of the fold for R + Length (25.4” using our made-up measurements).
Next, mark a dot 1/2” from from the edge of the left side of your fabric. This 1/2” is your seam allowance. Use your tape measure to mark the radius length (5.41” in our example) away from this dot and then connect the dots to create a quarter circle.
Next, you’re going to make a much larger quarter circle by making marks the length of your skirt away from your first circle. In our example, this means you will measure 20” from the edge of your first circle or 25.4” away from the corner dot. Now you can cut out the lines you marked and the front half of your skirt is cut!
If your fabric is wide enough, you can follow the same steps you just did on the right half of the fabric. If you are making a longer skirt or are working with a narrower fabric, you will have to fold the fabric again and follow the same steps as above.
Once you have both halves of the skirt cut out. You’ll need to cut out the waistband. My waistband finished to 1 3/4” tall. This means that the pattern piece had to be 4 1/2” tall in order to fold it in half with a 1/2” seam allowance on the inside and outside. (1.75 x 2 + 1 = 4.5). The length of the waistband is the length of your waist (with ease) + 1” for seam allowance. With our example measurements, the waistband ends up being a rectangle 35” long and 4.5” wide.
If you want a stronger waistband that holds its shape better, I recommend you use or make an interfacing piece that will measure 1.75” x your waist measurement. I forgot to insert these in to a couple of skirts I made, and it hasn’t been a problem.
Assembling the Skirt
Sew the front and back half-circles together. For the second seam, sew from the bottom to 5” from the top (assuming you have a 7” zipper). The remainder of this seam is left open for the zipper.
Fold the waistband piece in half and iron it to create a crease. Then fold each edge (including the short sides) under 1/2 an inch and iron them to keep them in place.
Fold the skirt at the zipper opening on each side 1/4” two times.
To help you mark the hem, you can sew 1/4 inch from the edge of your skirt bottom. This will help you when folding the hem under.
I made french seams for the side seams for a nice finish. You could also fell these flat rather easily. Just know what you’re plan is ahead of time since you' start sewing RS together for french seams.
If you’re putting in an invisible zipper, you can sew all the way up the side seams and rip it open after you insert the zipper.
It took me 3 skirts to realize the IRON IS YOUR BEST FRIEND especially when putting in the zipper.
Next, sew the waistband to the skirt pieces with RS together, lining up the folded-under short sides with the folded zipper opening edge. Iron towards the waistband. Now you can place the zipper so that the waistband folds over the top of the zipper on the inside.
Sew the zipper in place.
Sew the rest of the waistband down very close to folded under portion.
Fold the hem under twice and sew after checking the length.
Enjoy your skirt! Check out my instagram to see a couple of skirts I made dancing together.
**DID THESE SKIRTS FOLLOW MY RULES FOR CLOTHES: These skirts were affordable, comfortable, and beautiful to me. But, I did buy new fabric since I couldn’t find 10 yards of tartan new. I also used an acrylic as they didn’t have a cotton or wool available that I could find in the correct weight. I did try to create as little waste as possible by maximizing the space. I’ll give them a D+ for ethical.