Special Sunday greetings you naked molerats! Since you’re so naked, I thought you might want to make yourselves some nice little circle skirts. And perhaps, like me, you find yourself with little mole rat patterns just a touch on the small side. But the grading of a circle skirt isn’t so easy, is it you naked rodents? Oh no, not so easy at all…

OK. Goofing around aside, I’ve been giving myself a headache reviewing geometry, so I made myself a calculator and thought I’d share it! I don’t know about you guys, but the math involved with circle skirts is not immediately apparent to me. I mean, I DO get it, after staring at it for a bit, but my understanding totally vaporizes after a few hours and then I have to study up again.

Recently I’ve been plotting about two separate circle-skirt related issues in my head. First, as much as I love my full circle skirt pattern (Kwik Sew 3637 – here’s my last project using it!) it’s just a bit too, um, full circle. I think I’d like to check out a half or 3/4 circle skirt and see how I like that.

For those unfamiliar with circle skirts, here’s the difference between the three styles. Full circles are full doughnuts, half-circles are half a doughnut – you get the picture. Whether you have a full doughnut or a half doughnut, the inside of the doughnut is the same length as your waist measurement. The green circle on each drawing below marks the waist measurement. So if your waist is, say 30″, then that green line is 30″ long in each drawing, but the full circle skirt has twice the volume of the half circle skirt. Get it??

For a much more interesting comparison, here’s a full circle skirt. In action.

Here’s the oh, so lovely three-quarter circle skirt.

And a slightly pixelated half circle skirt…

The other circle-skirt related problem I’ve been mulling over has to do with grading up circle skirts (i.e., making the skirt larger than the pattern I’m using.) Since I usually start with a size 18 pattern (in the big 4 sizing) and do an FBA to get the bust to fit, I also have to grade up the skirt as well. To properly grade a circle skirt, one needs to move the waistband DOWN, not add width to the pattern piece! Here’s what I mean…

OK, I admit I usually grade up my circle skirts the ‘wrong’ way. It works, but it makes the bias hang super-extra weird! My problem was I didn’t know how much to move the waistline down to add the inches I needed, as there’s all kinds of geometry involved!

My problem is (hopefully) solved! I studied helpful posts from other smart folks on the internet and practiced the equations in Excel so that I’d have a handy calculator and won’t have to remember what the difference between the radius and diameter is anymore and how pi fits in to all of this.

In fact, it’s so handy, I’m sharing with you all!

WOW! This is super fantastic! Thanks so much!

WOW! That’s a lotta great work you put in there Patty – thanks sooo much for sharing your maths and calculators with us (plus the diagrams are very helpful too) đź™‚

I have been wanting to make a circle skirt forever but could never figure out how to cut one since my measurements are so much bigger than most of the patterns (waist is 43). Your calculator takes the guess work out of the cutting. Now if I can only find some wonderful fabric on sale đź™‚

THANK GOODNESS I have a 38″ waist like you! Thanks for the calculations. Great tutorial! It must have taken you a long time! Love your blog. Very inspirational.

Such a thoughtful and excellent post. I’ve been wanting to make a circle skirt since before I started to sew. And somehow I still haven’t managed it because I couldn’t find a pattern called “circle skirt”. Maybe I’ll get off my butt and try this!

Dude this is awesome. It’s fun to look at the info as mathematics, since what I do is pivot out the waist dart on a sloper to make the front and back of the circle and then smooth it out, and then measure down in about a bazillon places what the desired hem length will be plus seam allowance. I usually just draft for .5″ since I’d use a rolled hem for a circle skirt, or a facing (horsehair etc).. It doesn’t give you the nice perfect donut hole in the middle using a sloper. I like the donut hole!

Thanks so much for this! Math involved in a circle skirt has always made me want to go screaming in the other direction but now I can make one and twirl til my hearts content.

This spreadsheet is great. Thanks. And thanks for the dog tutu idea. My malamute Tina can expect a doggie tutu in the near future.

This is great; thank you!

Thank you so much for this great tutorial and circle skirt worksheet. I love your blog. I only discovered it recently but have been following you since. Now I am off to make a half circle skirt …. đź™‚

This is a WONDERFUL post, definitely bookmarked for fall skirts. Thanks for doing the hard work for us!

I have had many a circle skirt math disaster in my day, complete with some on-the-fly redemption successes.

This one is particularly notable:

The disaster – http://sincerelyyours-kate.blogspot.com/2008/02/circle-skirt-redemption.html

The redemption – http://sincerelyyours-kate.blogspot.com/2008/02/circle-skirt-redemption.html

Have you solved for the pesky problem where the circle skirt is a bit short over the bum and hangs a bit lower on the waist? I am pretty straight hipped and flat bottomed, but I always see my hems pull up over the trunk anyway. Any solutions?

Thanks so much for this post! With all the pattern manipulation I’ve been doing I’m starting to think I need to get college credit in applied geometry! The photos of the differences between full, three-quarters, and half circles were especially helpful đź™‚

Thanks for such a helpful post. I’ve been struggling with the geometry of a circle skirt for ages. I couldn’t work out how to grade up the waist of a paper pattern and your calculator in Excel is fantastic. Would just like to point out that I think some of your line references aren’t quite right: Should read subtract line 20 from 23 and use measurement on line 24 to grade up waist measurement. Brilliant anyway!

Excellent tool! Thanks so much for sharing.

Re the hanging lower in the front problem: While generally it is better to adjust at the waist/hip area, the geometry of making the back waist higher and the front waist lower gives me fits. You could cut the skirt in four segments and make the necessary alterations at the waist. If you’re very large-hipped, as I am, this tends to screw with the “look” of the circle skirt, because it changes the drape from the waist.

I usually just try the skirt on, note how much longer it hangs in the front, then fold the skirt so that the side seams are together and the fold runs through the center front. Then trim the skirt shorter in the front, tapering back to the full length at the side seams. With a circle or half-circle skirt, you have plenty of fullness and swing, so you can’t really tell that it’s a half-a**ed solution. (Note though that I always wear skirts well below the knee, so I can’t say how this would look on a short circle skirt. Try it on a muslin first if you’re doing a shorter skirt.)

It also helps if you make the waistband rather substantial and fairly snug to your waist (elastic helps), because a full circle skirt is pretty heavy, and the waistband tends to stretch a bit, being on the bias.

Wash the unhemmed skirt and hang it to dry before hemming. It’s quicker than waiting several days/weeks for the bias to settle.

I’m wondering with woven fabric (fabrics that don’t have stretch), my concern is that by using the waist measurement that the skirt won’t slide up over the larger hips. So it’s my understanding that the hip measurement should be used, to be on the safe side like in this diagram: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_X29Ay8F1pMk/Slv6cd3iXEI/AAAAAAAAAWA/yDX_9YO2xbs/s1600-h/Skirts+Cheat+Sheet.jpg

Funny you should mention that! I JUST made a circle skirt with an elastic band for the waist and was concerned about the same thing – how would it slide over my hips? Up until this project, all of my circle skirts have a zipper closure, so that’s how they slid up (or rather, over my head, that’s how I usually put on circle skirts!)

Even with very stable wovens, cutting on the bias (which is what happens with a circle skirt) provides a LOT of stretch.

Anyway – I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but it pulls on just fine. I’t magic. There, oh, and 11 inch difference between my waist and hips, and apparently the bias can totally handle it.

If you cut the waistline of the skirt to your hip measurement rather than waist, I’d think you’d have to do a bit of gathering, which would give it more of a dirndl look. One of the reasons I like circle skirts is they have good volume without adding bulk at the waist in the form of gathers. On the other hand, if the general waist to hip difference is about 10 inches, well, depending on your measurements, the gathers might not be all that noticeable. If I were to gather 10″ at my waist, I’d be gathering 125% of of the total length needed – compare that to the general ratio/rule of thumb for a nice, full curtain of about 200% (twice as much fabric as width to get good folds, etc.)

I didn’t understand some of the notations on your link! (Sunday morning prior to 8 a.m. AND my second cup of coffee…) hope I’m sounding rational!! đź™‚

Thanks for this great download to do the math for us. I’m like you, I’ve done it before but I always forget how haha!

Since you did most of the math for us I did one more step because I’m most interested in the 3/4 circle… to draft just half of the pattern, extend the horizontal line of the original diagram towards the left, measure UP 45degrees from there and draw that line out to the end of the hem line (to follow the example it would be 29.14″). And there’s half of a 3/4 circle skirt pattern.

However, if you want to cut on a folded fabric, I would still fold that 1/2 pattern piece in half because the angle is an odd one that would be difficult to measure out (67.5deg UP from the right hand horizontal of the original diagram)

Just wanted to say a HUGE thankyou! The calculator was soo helpful! đź™‚ hello pretty skirts!!

Ugh, they always said we’d need that geometry in real life and they weren’t kidding! You should come see my post about building a greenhouse and my geometry issues there!

If they had just SHOWN us in geometry how to make something and use it, it would have made so much more sense to me back then!

I have been wondering how to make a circular skirt as I had seen a magic skirt at a shop and felt that I should be able to make one in colours that I like. THANK YOU SOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH. Guess what all the girls in the family will be getting for Christmas!

Thank you so much for the great tutorial! Love the excel spreadsheet!

Re: the hanging front problem. There are two factors. Bias stretch and butt bulk. The second factor will show itself on the very first time you try on the skirt, the first will need some time to show. In both cases, the solution is the same.

1. Do follow the sound advice to let the finished and washed skirt hang for a month (pegs on a hanger)to stretch all it needs, before doing the hem.

2. To do the hem, stand straight on a stool or chair, and,while you slowly turn around, have a helpful friend on her knees measure the distance from the desired hemline to the ground at many points all around the fabric, marking with pins, . There is an easier way, with a tool on a stand: you choose the desired hemline and then that puffs chalk powder. If you plan on sewing lots of skirts it is a useful investment.

hello, thank you sooooooooo much for the calculations. i am not understanding two things though because i am new to sewing. i am making a half circle skirt. the drawing for this above , is it cut on a fold ? if sew then i would have two peices in total with two side seams? In addition i am hippy so i am thinking a 3/4 is less bulky, how do i orient my fabric and pattern peice? how many peices would i then have cut out. i cant wait to add this skirt to my dress bodice and finish.You ROCK!!!!!! Just saying

Man! Where was this yesterday when I totally let a poodle skirt beat me because I just couldn’t understand the math. Thanks! I’m gonna have another go at it. Thanks very much!

great tutorial!

I am new at sewing, and this is wonderful help.

I do have a question: would that make sense to try other fractions of a circle, such as 1/8 or 1/5?

And if so, how would the fabric had to be folded for the cutting? Thank you so much!

this is a awesome tutorial! thank you so much for sharing it.

I have a question, since I am very new to sewing: is it possible/sensible to use other fractions of the circle, such as 1/8 or 1/6?

And if yes, how should the fabric be folded for cutting?

Thank you

If you choose to use other fractions of a circle, what you’re making is a six-gore (or eight-gore, or twelve-gore) skirt. All the pieces are identical to one another — skirts like this drape beautifully and (if you can find them on the rack at all) tend to be pretty high-end. The math is slightly different if you are using a multiple of six pieces; it’s not necessarily harder, but it’s potentially more fiddly. You would need to figure in seam allowances for each piece.

As for how to fold the fabric: These pieces tend to be pretty big, so the way to fold it is the way that lets you fit the pieces on it! đź™‚ Just remember that you want the straight lengthwise grain running up and down the center front and back of the skirt (this will be a seamline on an eight-gore or twelve-gore skirt, but not on a six-gore skirt).

awesome awesome awesome! Thank you for writing this and creating the excel file – it’s saved me a lot of time and effort and now I can’t wait to make my circle skirt(s)!

Genius. What more can I say?

I’m making this now. Will tell you how it turns out. So cute.

Thank you for this. I have 5 granddaughters and this looks like a lot of fum to try. especially for the oldest.

I love your calculator. I prefer to make my own clothes and this helps a lot with getting my shaping right.

Thanks so much for this – I am attempting a circle skirt for the first time (my mom made them for me all the time when I was little), and this is really helpful. The photos are particularly useful – I’ve decided to do a 3/4 circle model because of my childbearing hips, and I think I’ll be happier with it in the fabric I’m using (a medium-weight chambray).

Thank you đź™‚ this is ever so helpful and the way you’ve explained it has made everything so crystal clear! I love the illustrations too. You’re a gem!

I was also wondering how/where would you put a zip in a circle skirt? I have an existing commercial dress pattern (separate bodice and skirt joined into one dress) I like the bodice pattern but I want a 1/2 circle skirt instead. The dress is meant to have a zip down the center back.

Thank you for this great tutorial! The directions are clear and easy to understand!

Just popping in with some remarks– like Patty said, the grain is critical on this kind of skirt. The fabric will always “drop” where it forms a bias and the fabric will drop very little on the true grain [warp]. It’s a great idea to hang the skirt before hemming.

Also, I like to stay stitch the waist opening. The circular opening will stretch out incredibly with handling. As soon as I have cut my pieces, without dropping the weight of the fabric from the waist opening, I slide it into the sewing machine, making a medium to large stitch 1/8″ in.

This is great! Thanks for posting and sharing!

Great info. One thing I would change is the word “radius” on the 1/2 circle skirt because I believe it it actually the diameter (radius is 1/2 the diameter)…just a suggestion. But very helpful…especially the pictures of the different skirts. Thanks!

ha ha – I already forgot what a radius was! silly hard geometry –

Thank you so much! I made a skirt that fits me properly, finally!

https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/c0.0.403.403/p403x403/426772_4498427857417_1046438707_n.jpg

I was googling “plus size circle skirt” and found your website, an hour later, I had the skirt made.

You have saved me! I love you and your witty humor! My daughter just began 6th grade and Orchastra. Her tini tiny figure and the need for floor length skirts during recitals created a huge delima. As a seamstress for 18 years I offered my services (floor length skirts for young girls are hard to find and not cheap). I didn’t expect to get the reception I did. I am now making skirts for 2 different schools and needed a simpiler solution than what I had 1st developed. I found your calculator!!! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!

Hi

I am trying really hard to understand the calculations here to make a 3/4 skirt. I understand a lot of what is being said, but do not understand how we calculate the radius measurement for our waist measurements. I am a 30″ waist. I understand that we take off 2 inches for bias stretch. But how do I calculate the radius measurement for the arc line of the waist? I would love to make this skirt as I do not like any of the modern fashions I can see in the shops at the moment in UK nor can I afford them. I ahve all summer at home and would like to make a few variations and maybe if I get super clever I would really like to make a dress – now theres a challenge : )

please help

Lisa

Yaaaay! Thank you soooooo much for creating this calculator! I’ve made circle skirts before, but I didn’t quite understand how they worked. The spreadsheet helped me understand why the measurements are the way they are. It also helped me grasp the concept of what a circle skirt actually is and what they 3/4 and half circle skirts are. I’ve been to the site you cited as your main source before, but until I stumbled upon this article I didn’t quite get it. Your use of imagery is fantastic! Anyway, I’ll definitely be referencing this post and your page in my future skirt making projects!

This is so great! Thank you so much for making/posting this!! You have saved me, I’m in the process of making a dress without a pattern for the first time and tackling the skirt was a bit daunting and this has helped me so much! Thank you!!

You are amazing! Thank you! I’ve struggled with the correct way to do this for so long- and having a 38 inch waist the vintage patterns always need to be altered- plus I didn’t have the fortune of coming from a sewing family so I’ve had to learn on the fly. Thank you for clearing this up for me, you rock!!!

Fantastic. I have been needing this for a while. Thanks so much

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So excited to have found this! I made a circle skirt when I was a “kid”, but it’s been a couple of decades. I’m daydreaming about new floaty spring fabrics and think a 3/4 circle skirt will be perfect! Thanks for making it easy.

Without your Excel file there is absolutely no way I would have got my head round the calculations for the circular skirt. But when I downloaded it (and opened it in Mac Numbers) it was so easy!Thank you soooooo much for making the Excel file available – you’re a star!

Thanks for some other informative blog. Where else could I am getting that type of information written in such a perfect way? I’ve a mission that I am just now working on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such information.

I may have commented on this in the past somewhere, but today II finally got to actually use your worksheet and it works great! I now have a 1/2 circle skirt in my closet in bright Kelly green. Can;t wait to wear it!

I just wanted to say that when I was making a dress with a 3/4 circle skirt, this post and calculator helped me so much, and my dress turned out great!

Hi Zoe

I am trying really hard to understand the calculations here to make a 3/4 skirt. I understand a lot of what is being said, but do not understand how we calculate the radius measurement for our waist measurements. I am a 30″ waist. I understand that we take off 2 inches for bias stretch. But how do I calculate the radius measurement for the arc line of the waist? I would love to make this skirt as I do not like any of the modern fashions I can see in the shops at the moment in UK nor can I afford them. I ahve all summer at home and would like to make a few variations and maybe if I get super clever I would really like to make a dress – now theres a challenge : )

please help

Lisa

Hi Lisa! I will do my best to help you, would you like to email me? zoesta@gmail.com

My waist is just under 30″ so what worked for me, could easily work for you.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?

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Spreadsheet calculations worked out perfectly for the full circle skirt. I made a real has of the invisible zipper. Me t time will be better I’m sure. Love your blogs. Sincerest thanks for taking the effort to share – just sensational. Greatly appreciated.

Thanks for this excellent resource. I tried your calculator to make a toddler-sized skirt. It worked beautifully and was super-quick and easy. Pictures at the end of this blog post http://www.meggipeg.com/2013/09/baby-car-seat-blanket-and-toddler.html

Thanks! I used this on the first thing I have sewn in 10 years!! Worked great! Now that I have made a poodle skirt, I am ready to make a circle skirt or two for everyday wear!

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Bless this post â™Ą I was thinking about the 3/4 skirt and, it would be better if you just make a pattern of the quarter thingy, fold the fabric like if you were going to cut a full skirt, cut it with the 3/4 measures to have a complete circle, and then place the pattern on top of the fabric and cut just the area that occupies that quarter, to finally have just one seam instead of three or two đź™‚ aaaand you could use that leftover to cut the waistband or something.

Place the pattern on top of the unfold complete “full 3/4” circle thing, I forgot to mention.

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Hi

You post on how to make a half circle, three quarter circle and full circle skirt is great. However I want to point out that cutting the skirt is only the first step to making a good crpircular skirt. The next step is to hang the un hemmed skirt for at le ast a month or 3 months if you have the time. The hem is going to keep dropping because it has been cut on the bias. If you don’t do tis the finished hem will continue to drop. When the hem as finally dropped after hanging it you can cut the hem in two ways. Firstly you can put the skirt on with the waist band sewn in and zipper if it has one (it seems some of you followers were also using elastic waist bands – which is good also) the. You can get a friend family members r to use a dressmaking t-square and measure the hem from the floor all th eay round either use tailors chalk or pins to mark wher it has to be cut. Alternatively you can lay the skirt flat on a large table or a cle an floor. Now measure the length you want the skirt with additional 3 cm hem approx. measure from the waist to the hem and use pins or tailors chalk to mark. Fold the skirt so that it is manageable. But check and re-check your measurements all the way around, skirts that are cut on bias move easily. After you have cut put the skirt on and check hem again with your eye if you think it is un even trim carefully. I recommend before you hem to overlock hem or zigzag. Then run a row of wide gathering stitch where the zig zag is. Then hem up you skirt, pull the gathering thread where it does not sit flat, before yow sew pin up the hem now iron press, now you are ready to sew you hem. Have fun – a good finished garment needs extra care and hard work. Have fun

I love the idea of being able to figure out what size to make the circle skirt—but I must be so very very dense—I read this last night—I read it again this morning—How do you tell what the radius of the waist will be? It tells you to put your waist measurement subtracting 2 and then taking that answer—but it doesn’t tell you what to divide by to get your radius. I am at a total loss. Same for the full, half, and 3/4 size. Anyone want to help?

Hi there, plug the numbers into the spreadsheet and it tells you. I can’t remember the math, that’s why I made the spreadsheet!! đź™‚

Thanks for getting back with me. I tried to put my numbers into your worksheet—nothing happened. I do have Excel but it did nothing at all. Thanks for sharing though. I asked on one of my facebook groups and they told me for the full skirt I needed to divide by pi squared whihc would be 6.28. So I will see how that works. Thanks for the great info.

Sibyl

Circumference of a circle is simply the Radius x 2 x “pie” or 3.14. So, divide your circumference (waist) measurement by 3.14 and then again by 2 and you will get the radius. Elementary school math is still handy!

It’s your waist measurement divided by Pi

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I just made a few of these skirts and love them! But the elastic is a little too small on my hips and I can hear the thread snap each time I pull them on. Also, I thread wasn’t sewn straight on the elastic and it looks a little sloppy. Any advice?

Hi Thank you for this website. I am trying to make a 3/4 circle skirt with invisible pockets. I did my pattern and though I’d just cut each quarter but when I piece them together the outer shape is doesn’t look like a circle anymore.

Anyhow could you explain how to do a 3/4 circle skirt with pockets. That would most helpful. I am trying to make my wedding dress.

Thanks.

Maya

I am thinking about how to do an easier 3/4 skirt (I don’t have paper big enough to draft the whole circle). Instead of drafting a whole circle minus a 90 degree chunk, wouldn’t it work to draft an pattern piece at 135 degrees, cutting two pieces of fabric? 360-90=270 270/2=135

You’d have more seams, right? Other than that, I ‘think’ that would work… but I’d have to actually do a mockup to figure that out!

I agree smaller pattern pieces would be better. Understand your calculations but not how to draw/apply them to paper for a pattern

Hi! Thank you so much. You made things so much clearer. I went to the circle skirt calculator that you linked, and something confused me though…

The formula for a full circle skirt is this: Full Circle Skirt = ( (c – 2) / ( 2 * pi ) )

But the example does it like this: Let us consider the circumference of the waist is 28 cm and length of the skirt measured is 50 cm.

Radius =28 / (2 * 3.14)) – 2

= 4.14cm

Using the formula will give a different answer (PEMDAS rule, anyone? Hahah…), so may I know which one is correct? Should I subtract 2 from the circumference before dividing by (2 * pi)? Or should I do it like in the example, and subtract after?

Would really appreciate your input!!! Thank you so much…

~ Sewing Beginner

How do I get the calculator? I’ve added my name and email and clicked the button to unlock it, but it doesn’t do anything.

I’d really like to try my hand at my own personalized circle skirt and heard rave reviews about this. Thank you.

LadyJai

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I did not get the circle skirt calculator. All I received was the nonedible version. Which does not help me at all.

Cindy – so sorry! I missed your comment đź™‚ The version that I share is not editable because I want to make sure it’s not altered by anyone, rendering it unusable! You can copy it to your own Google Drive account (or save as your own file) and use it that way đź™‚ Have fun! Thanks, Patty