If you’re looking for a great beginner sewing project that’s simple yet stylish – look no further than the circle skirt!
As you may guess based on the name, a circle skirt is a large circle with a smaller circular hole in the center for the waist. The result is a skirt that’s fitted at the waist and flows into a swishy, voluminous hem.
The best part – you don’t need a pattern! You can easily draft your own with two simple measurements.
What you need
- pattern paper or newspaper
- pen or pencil
- straight edge ruler
- optional: French curve ruler
- tape measure
- scissors and/or rotary cutter
- 2-3 yards of fabric
- zipper (at least 7 inches long)
- sewing pins
- sewing machine with matching thread
- optional: serger
- iron and ironing board
- Calculate the measurements for your pattern.
- Draw out your pattern.
- Cut out your circle skirt.
- Sew together the panels.
- Put together and attach the waistband.
- Insert the zipper.
- Finish the waistband.
- Hem the skirt.
Step One: calculate the measurements for your pattern
You will need to take two measurements to calculate the needed numbers for your circle skirt pattern: 1) your waist circumference and 2) the length from your waist to where you want the hem of your skirt to hit.
First, we need to use the waist measurement to calculate the radius of the waist circle – the radius is the distance from the center of a circle to the edge; in other words, halfway across the circle.
To calculate the radius, use this formula:
(waist ÷ 3.14) ÷ 2
So, as an example, my waist measurement was 33 inches, so the radius I calculated was 5.25 inches:
(33 ÷ 3.14) = 10.5
10.5 ÷ 2 = 5.25 inch radius
The other calculation you will need is simple: just add 1 inch for seam allowance to your measurement for the length of the skirt.
Step Two: draw out your pattern
Now that you’re armed with your waist circle radius and the skirt length including seam allowance, it’s time to draw out the pattern!
For a quick reference, this illustration shows what we are going for with the pattern:
First, find a piece of pattern paper or newspaper that is wider than your radius plus skirt length measurements. I ended up having to tape two pieces of pattern paper together to make it wide enough – just make sure that the edges of your paper are straight and the corners are at right angles.
Next, choose one corner of your paper and start drawing in your waist circle by measuring in from the corner by the radius measurement and rotating the ruler around until you have the outline of a quarter circle formed.
Then fill in the curve with your French curve ruler (or just freehand it).
Next, add another curved line parallel to the first line ½ inch toward the inside of the curve. This is your seam allowance.
You can now cut out the corner of the paper along the new line.
Next, we can use the same concept to add the hem curve to the skirt pattern. Use a measuring tape, make marks from one side of the paper to the other that are the skirt length (plus 1 inch for seam allowance) away from the waist curve.
You can now cut along this second curve and you will have your skirt pattern without seam allowances along the sides.
If you are using wide fabric, you can add a ½ inch seam allowance only along one side, then cut two pieces with the no-seam-allowance side on the fold of the fabric. I added seam allowance by tape a strip of paper along one edge. The pattern will look like this:
However, if you are using narrower fabric (which mine ended up being), you will have to add ½ inch seam allowance to both sides and cut four separate panels from your fabric.
Finally, to make a waistband pattern piece, simply cut a rectangle that is 5 inches tall and the length of half your waist measurement plus 1 inch. So, mine was 17.5 inches by 5 inches.
Step Three: cut out your circle skirt
Now that you have your two pattern pieces, it’s time to cut into that fabric! If you are cutting on the fold, cut 2 skirt pieces and 2 waistband pieces.
If, like me, you are not cutting on the fold, cut 4 skirt pieces and 2 waistband pieces.
Next, finish all the edges of your pieces to keep them from fraying. I used my serger for this, but you can also use a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine.
Step Four: sew together the panels
Next, let’s put together the skirt panels.
First, place two of the panels with right sides together and pin along one of the edges.
Using a straight stitch, sew along the pinned edge with a ½ inch seam allowance.
Press the seam allowances open with your iron, then repeat this process with the other two unattached skirt panels.
You should now have 2 half-circle pieces. Place them with right sides together and pin along one of the edges.
Sew along this edge. At this point, you will have one giant circle with a smaller circle in the center and an opening where the panels remain unattached. We need to leave this opening to insert the zipper later.
Step Five: put together and attach the waistband
Next up – it’s time to start putting together the waistband!
Sew the two waistband pieces together along one of the short edges – make sure to sew them with right sides together.
Press the seam allowances open. You will now have one long strip.
Next, fold the waistband in half lengthwise, with wrong sides together, and give it a good pressing to get a nice crease.
Then pin one edge of the waistband to the waist of the skirt with right sides together.
A note: I realized at this point that my waistband was too long since I had incorrectly calculated or measured it – so I had to trim the waistband to fit – but if you did your calculations as described above, it should fit the waist of the skirt perfectly.
Sew the waistband to the skirt waist.
Press the seam allowances up toward the top of the skirt so that they can be encased inside the waistband later.
Step Six: insert the zipper
Now for the most challenging part of the project – but I promise, it’s not too bad!
Lay the skirt out so that the two unattached, raw edges are lined up with right sides together. Place the zipper next to these edges, lining up the top of the zipper pull with the crease in the waistband.
Pin from the bottom of the skirt up to the stop at the bottom of the zipper.
Next, sew only the bottom portion of the seam, where you’ve pinned. We need to leave the top open for the zipper. Once sewn, press the seam allowances open and continue pressing under ½ inch all the way up to the top of the waistband.
Next, turn the skirt right sides out and pin the zipper into the top part of the seam, lining up the zipper stop with where the stitching ends. The zipper pull should be right where the crease is in the center of the waistband.
Using a zipper foot to get close to the teeth of the zipper, sew along each side of the zipper to secure it in place. If you’re worried you may mess up the zipper, use a long stitch to baste it in place first, then if you like how it looks you can go back in with a regular stitch to permanently attach it.
Step Seven: finish the waistband
Now that you’ve successfully inserted your zipper, the hard part is over! We now need to finish the waistband.
Turn the skirt inside out and iron the top raw edge of the waistband to the inside by a little more than ¼ inch.
Next, fold the excess zipper tape at the top of one side of the zipper down and towards the waistband.
Holding it in place, fold the waistband up and over it and pin it in place. Make sure the bottom folded edge of the waistband is just below your waistband stitching.
Repeat this process on the other side of the zipper.
Then continue folding the waistband down to the inside and pinning it in place. Make sure the folded edge is just past the stitching all the way around.
Next, take it to your sewing machine and sew the waistband in place by sewing inside of the previous seam, sewing from the top. This is called “stitching in the ditch” and will catch the folded edge of the waistband on the inside, hiding all the raw edges.
Once you’ve sewn all the way around the waistband, sew down each side of the waistband at the zipper to secure the edges. You can sew inside your previous stitching to hide the new stitches.
You will now have an almost-complete skirt! All that’s left is hemming!
Step Eight: hem the skirt
While hemming a circle skirt is easy, it takes forever. There’s a lot of distance to cover around the bottom of the skirt, so make sure your bobbin is full!
I used a rolled hem – I folded it to the inside by ¼ inch, then rolled it up another ¼ inch to hide all the raw edges.
You can press and pin your entire hem before sewing it in place, but I found it faster and easier to just roll the hem as it went through the machine. Then I gave everything a good pressing with my iron at the end.
Once your hem is done, your beautiful, swishy skirt is done!
This is the perfect beginner sewing project for someone looking for a simple piece of clothing that can be made without a pattern! Circle skirts are also very versatile – they look great in lightweight, drapey fabrics as well as thick winter fabrics like wool.