NOTE: I am currently unable to check my email or respond to comments due to an internet connection problem (and my dratted ISP is dragging their heels about fixing it!). So I’ll get back to questions as soon as I can. My apologies—but I want the “show to go on" with this sew-along anyway!
Circle skirts are one of my favorites simply because they have very few fabric restrictions. Unlike most garments, you can construct a circle skirt from the finest silk organza (layered and lined, of course) or a heavy wool, and just about everything in between. They can be cut from one piece of fabric, or pieced, which will be something you’ll want to consider as you plan. Generally the shorter the skirt and smaller the size, the less fabric you’ll need and more likely you’ll be able to cut from one piece (so if you’re sewing for a little girl this will be perfect!). I’ll share the formula further down.
First let’s talk about fabrics that won’t work for a circle skirt. Namely knits. Stretch fabrics will droop and skew in ways that throw the line and fit of the circle skirt off. This style is meant to sit at and be fitted to the waist, so a stretch material isn’t needed. Just avoid them for this project. Now that’ we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about fabrics that will work!
As I mentioned, just about any material will work. For sheer fabrics you’ll probably want to account for layering them and lining. For heavier materials, you can do away with a lining or opt to underline or create a free standing lining (meaning it is only attached to the skirt at the waistband). Quilting cottons work for this style skirt as well, which opens up a whole world of exciting print and color possibilities! Here’s a short list of fabrics that I think are best suited:
Cottons: twill, denim, quilting/medium weight, corduroy, velveteen
Rayons: velvet, medium weight suitings
Polyesters: organza/crisp sheers, chiffon/georgette, medium weight, velvet (note: avoid fabrics with stretch content such as Lycra/Spandex)
Wools: medium suitings, melton, felt
Silks: medium weight, dupioni, shantung, taffeta, organza/organdy, chiffon, gauze, heavy weight suitings
Linen: all weights
Decorator Fabrics: suitable as long as they are not treated (such as oilcloth/outdoor fabrics) and not stiff to the point of not draping.
Keep in mind that some of these fabric choices are probably better suited to adventuresome or advanced sewers (silk gauze springs to mind… it has a mind of it’s own!). So if you’re not up for a challenge, stick with fabrics you enjoy working with or know will not cause too much of a headache.
Also keep in mind that if you piece your skirt, you’ll need to finish the seams. Some materials will need more of a seam finish than others, especially depending on if it’s machine washable (such as cotton) or not (silk organza).
To determine your yardage requirements:
Generally 4 yards of 60” wide fabric should be safe for most (adult) sizes. (Yes these skirts eat fabric!) Just don’t expect to be able to cut the skirt from one piece, unless you’re making a mini or above the knee skirt. Most like you’ll need to seam it along the sides to create the full circle.
If you’re planning on cutting your skirt with just two side seams (basically your pattern will look like a half donut!), use this formula to determine how much fabric to buy:
Waist circumference divided by 3.14 (pi)= the diameter (ex: 30”/3.14=9.55”).
Take the length and multiply by two. Add the waist diameter. This will give you the half-width of the pattern (we’ll be making these seamed). So if you’re waist is 30” and you want your finished skirt to be 30” long, the final edge-to-edge length will be 69.55” (approximately 2 yards). Since the front length (length + radius) for this example skirt (finished front length is 34.25”) won’t allow for the skirt to be cut on the fold of 60” fabric, you’ll need to double that yardage amount. Thus the amount needed would be 4 yards of 60” fabric. (This would work for 45” too; as long as that front length measure is narrower than the fabric, you’re fine!)
Additionally, you can squeeze a skirt out of less fabric, depending on your finished length and if you’re willing to piece the skirt (you can cut four separate sections which allow for better usage of fabric). I’d recommend checking out the original article this sew-along is based on here. This shows how to cut out with a 1/4 circle pattern piece, as well as giving an idea of how much fabric you’d need (though I always recommend a bit more just in case!).
Hopefully I haven’t made everyone get headaches from this. Math has never been, nor ever will be, my strong point. Thus I’ve probably approached it from the wrong way, but after researching this seems relatively sound. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask me!
thread to match your fabric
waistband interfacing: fusible interfacing compatible with your fashion fabric, silk organza for light to medium fabrics, Petersham ribbon (most fabrics), or horsehair canvas (heavy fabrics only) are options.
lining or underlining (purely optional; I’d advise only for sheer fabrics or things like wool. Purchase the same amount for the skirt fabric.)
pattern paper, banner paper, Swedish Tracing Paper, newsprint: we’ll be drafting the pattern pieces on paper so you can reuse them. You’ll most likely need to tape pieces together, so don’t worry if it isn’t super-wide.
pins, sewing shears, paper scissors, pen, string, marker/pencil, rulers/yardstick, sewing machine, iron (usual sewing tools).
You may have also noticed there is a bonus project in this sew-along for a petticoat. While there are good instructions online, this version will be my take on how to make your own. Essentially it’s just a fitted hip yoke with an elastic waist, and then rows of tiered ruffles..
Basic a-line skirt pattern: I’m using the Ginger skirt, but any a-line will do
1 yard nylon tricot (for the hip yoke)
Lingerie elastic (enough to go around your waist plus a few inches)
3-5 yards 72” wide netting (towards 5 yds. if you want a very full, poufy petticoat)
thread to match
Don’t want to make a petticoat, but want to keep the swingy hem? A great alternative to the bulk of a petticoat (or to even add an extra bit of body to the skirt hem if you are planning a petticoat) is to add horsehair braid to the hem. Sunni at A Fashionable Stitch has recently started stocking horsehair braid, and Gertie has a thorough tutorial on using it to finish a hem here. I won’t be going over this step-by-step, but will try to include a note and appropriate links in the hemming post.