DIY tutorial: Circle skirt

I know in my previous post I had expresed the intention to make a pleated circle skirt using the peach textured fabric I got from Pins and Needles. I realised once I started measuring what I needed though, that the amount the shop owner recommended was only enough to make a circle skirt, not a pleated one. (Note to self: always measure what length of fabric you require before going to the store, especially you’re not intending to always buy 3 metres worth of material). So instead, I had to change my plans and practice more on the pleater board I made using any scrap pieces before I start on the real deal and post the full tutorial on here.

How I did the circle skirt was really a mix and match of my own way of doing things, and instructions from the BurdaStyle pleated circle skirt pattern and from the book DIY Couture: Create Your Own Fashion Collection that I got as a gift from my OH.

So here’s what you need to make the circle skirt:

Fabric (the amount you’ll need depends on your waist measurement and desired length of the skirt)
Invisible zipper (approx. 9 inches)
Dressmaking fabric scissors
Tailor’s chalk or HB pencil
Sewing machine and thread

Optional materials:

Lining (depends on how sheer your fabric of choice is and if you want it)
Ribbon (for the waistband)
Hook and eye closure

Now here’s how the process goes:

1. Have you decided on where you want the waistband of your skirt to sit and how where you want your skirt to fall? For the length (drop of the skirt), don’t forget to factor in your hemline as well! I added on 2 cm for this for a rolled hem, so the finished hem ends up being 1cm in width.

The length of fabric you’ll need will be twice that of the length of the skirt and your waistband measurement divided by pi (ie 3.14, those high school maths lessons – and this tip from DIY Couture! – do come in handy!).

You’ve got a waist of 26 inches (65cm) and you want the skirt to fall just below your knees, so the length would come to approx. 60cm. You’ll also need 2 cm factored in for the hemline.

Length of fabric required = 142.7cm minimum (120cm [drop of skirt x 2] + 20.7cm [65cm waist/3.14] + 2cm [hemline])

Make sense? Where possible, also decide on how wide you want your waistband to be as well, so you’ve got enough leftover fabric on the bottom to do this. I wanted an inch-wide waistband, so I needed a 7cm by 43.4cm length of fabric. This is because you’ll need the length of the waistband, plus 1cm taken taken in on each of the 4 sides and double your waistband width as this will be folded over. This will be explained later.

2. The fabric I got from Pins and Needles is 100% polyester. Now, fabric in general is quite good for pinning when it’s still in its folded state, but when you try to draw on it, it can become complicated. To make it easier, with the fabric still folded in half along the width (as it is when you get it from the shop, but make sure you’ve turned it inside out so you’re working with the back side of the fabric), I folded it again so it’s in quarters (handy tip from BurdaStyle).

Where possible, I would put heavy weights on the corners of the fabric to stop it from moving or pin all 4 sides to carpet.

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3. From the top folded corner of the fabric (not the edge), meausure a half of your waistband (ie. 10.35cm – this is your waist radius, because it’s in half once you’ve done one half-skirt, the full half-skirt waist will be 20.7cm). Make a mark where this is using pins on your fabric along the top and on the fold of the fabric.

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4. Do the same again, starting at the waistband, measure the drop of your skirt (ie 60cm) and mark it again on the fabric with pins.

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5. Tie a length of string that is at least the length of the waist radius and the drop of the skirt (ie. at least 70.35cm in length) to your tailor’s chalk/pencil. Starting at the top, using your tailor’s chalk or pencil, hold the length of string to the corner of the fabric and draw an arc for the waistband.

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6. Do this again, starting at the corner, and start at the mark for the drop of the skirt and draw another arc. These are your half circles (folded) for the skirt.

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7. Pin both the top and bottom layers along the arcs you’ve drawn for the waistband and the hem of the skirt. It’s like what you would do with a dress pattern, to keep your fabric together when cutting. When you’re ready, cut out the pieces.

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8. Once you open up your half circle quarters, you’ll realise that they’re joined along the top (the original fold along the width of the fabric as you bought it). Cut along these lines so you’ve got 2 half circles that look like this:

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Do not cut along the fold you made to turn the length of fabric into a quarter (as opposed to the full) length.

9. Repeat steps 2 to 8 above for the lining if you’ve got one.

10. Now, to decide where your stitching is to go up to where the invisible zipper is going to be, line up one side of the skirt and lining fabrics side by side and align the zipper where you want it to sit (don’t forget to factor in the waistband width as well). Mark where you want the stitching to start.

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11. Starting at the point you marked, start the stitching from here down the drop of your skirt. Make sure you do this for both the skirt and the lining (if you have one). Don’t forget to use your pinking shears along the sides of the stitching to prevent fraying at this point – will make it easier to do this as you go along rather than trying to do all of them with your finished garment.

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12. Stitch the length of the drop the skirt on the other side from the waistband to the hem.

13. Because it’s a full skirt and it’s the most dreaded part (taking it in by pins alone takes me 45 minutes for the skirt alone, then again for the lining), I did this part next and sewed hems for both the skirt and the lining separately.

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Although the skirt half circles and those of the lining have been sewn together, note that I haven’t joined the skirt and the lining together. This will come later.

Note: This may be a case of bad dressmaking practice, but I hemmed the skirt on the ‘outside/right side’ of the lining, only because I wanted to preserve the life of the side seams. Friction with your body when worn or when on top of other fabrics can increase chances of fraying, so by turning the ‘wrong side/inside’ of the lining towards the wrong side of the skirt, the chance of friction is reduced.

14. Next, I started on the short sides of the waistband (the width) and took in 1cm on each side and ironed these down before securing them with stitches.

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15. Then I did the same (taking in 1cm on each side) along the length of the waistband. I only ironed these down.

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16. Once you’re happy, fold this in half so you get your desired width for your soon-to-be-completed waistband.

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17. Here comes the tricky/fidgety bit. First, imagine when you’ve got your skirt inside out, how you would want it to look (the side to be seen should not be facing you) – I lined up the waist of both the skirt (wrong side) with the lining (right side) and pinned these together.

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18. Along the open seam where the zipper is to go, follow where stitching is and fold in the seam lines of the skirt and the lining towards each other so this is hidden and pin. Make sure you do this for both sides.

19. Carefully removing the pins from the waistband strip first, align the top of the 1cm of fabric folded under to the tops of the lining and skirt and pin the waistband in place. Continue to do this until you’ve aligned the waistband along the length.

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Remember how you had to take in the seam lines for the zipper opening? This is how it will look once you’ve pinned it all.

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Looks neater, doesn’t it?

20. Now, sew along the end opening (width end) of the waistband and along the length to secure it to the skirt. Don’t forget to baste stitch if this helps.

21. Align the zipper to the opening you’ve left along the open side of the side seam and waistband, pin and sew.

22. I put a hook and eye closure to either sides of the waistband just above the zipper. You want these ends to be just on the inside of the waistband ends to remain hidden.

Ta da! Your circle skirt is finished!

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23. I decided that I wanted to put an extra touch to my circle skirt – by adding ribbon to the waistband. For mine, I bought 2 metres’ worth and used the entire length because I wanted a long-droopy bow on it. You might not need as much, depending on how you want it to look.

Make sure you find the halfway point of the ribbon and test how you want the tied ribbon to look before cutting it to the length you need.

24. Before I started, I melted the ends of the satin ribbon on the stove to prevent it from fraying. (Note: I know this might be a bit silly saying this, but in case of younger audiences I have to say this – make sure you get an adult to help you with this part for health and safety reasons.)

25. Again, I aligned the halfway point of the ribbon to the fully-stitched side seam of the skirt (not the zipper side), secured these and started sewing along and bottom ridges just at the edges of the ribbon until I reached the ends of the waistband. This means that the ends hang loose above the zipper.

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Et voilà!

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It’s not the best picture I’m afraid, but I was anxious to get a photo of the finished skirt after spending almost an entire day of my weekend working on this. I also had to take in the waistband somewhat because I was anxious about not having enough of a seam allowance (which ended up being too much of a seam allowance, even with the zipper pinned, it fell to my hips when it should have been sitting on my natural waistline) and also the skirt lining as well as it made the skirt too full for me.

Have you got any tips or photos you want to share from making your own circle skirt? How did you find the instructions I posted and is there anything I could improve or add to, to make it easier to follow?

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