One of the most popular pieces I sold when I was in business was a tulle skirt I’d named “Emma,” and it also happened to be a personal favorite of mine. I first designed it for myself, never thinking I would add it to my collection. I was looking for a tulle skirt, but I wanted something good quality and very, very big and fluffy. You can find tulle skirts that are okay quality but the fluffy and pretty part is lacking. I get it: every layer, every stitch costs money. I know how that goes. The good thing is that tulle is pretty inexpensive, and a little effort keeps the construction quality on the up and up. And, making one yourself really puts you in control. You can make it as full or as delicate as you like.
But before we can talk about how to make this skirt and where to get all the materials, we have to talk about drafting the pattern. Once you know how to draft a circle skirt pattern, you can use it for any number of other styles too, which is great. Quick note: this pattern is for woven fabrics only, and we’ll be adding a zipper.
For this project you will need the following supplies: paper scissors, pattern paper, ruler, yard stick, flexible curve, pencil, and tape. For more information on these things, read this post.
There are four types of circle skirts: full, three-quarter, half, and quarter. A quarter circle is just barely flared, a half circle is the perfect amount of flare for a ton of projects (I use this as a ‘foundation” for a lot of different designs, but more on that later), and I’ve never once used a three-quarter skirt. Ever. So, let’s not worry ourselves with that one! Today, we’re focusing on the full circle. In order to draft the pattern, we have to know the measurement of the seam it’s being sewn to, and in this case that’s the waist. To figure out your waist measurement, use a measuring tape and measure around your natural waist. We all like breathing and eating while wearing clothes, yes? So, to your waist measurement you’ll want to add 1″ or 1.5″–your call. I usually go with 1.5″. This additional amount is called ease, and it is absolutely essential to making sure your clothes are wearable.
For this tutorial, I’m using a 30.5″ waist measurement, with 1.5″ of ease added, for a total waist measurement of 32″.
Waist measurement + ease = total waist measurement
Think of your circle skirt as a pie. For pattern making purposes we want to divide our pie into 4 sections. So, divide your total waist measurement by 4. For me, 32 divided 4 is 8. We want to draw one quarter of a solid circle in a 90 degree angle, and the measurement of that curve is going to be 8″. So this is a quarter of our skirt or “pie”, and we’re going to cut this piece of the pie on the fold, to make half of our pie.
I used my flexible ruler to draw a curved line that is measures 8″. Because we aren’t using a radius chart in this tutorial (which keeps things exact), we want to make sure our curve is as proportional and well rounded as possible. Mark where the 0″ and the 8″ land on your 90 degree angle and measure from those spots to the corner of your 90 degree angle, where your lines meet. Adjust your flexible ruler as necessary to make this distance as equal as possible.
For reference, the first time I did this, I measured 4.5″ on the left side, and over 5″ on the right, so I adjusted my ruler and evened it out to 5″ on each side.
To achieve a circle that’s not wobbly or uneven, you can use a mixing bowl or anything that is nicely rounded. Long ago, before my college days, I used many a mixing bowl to draft a circle skirt, and it worked like a charm. Trace around your flexible ruler or mixing bow to draw the curve.
Side note: this is not how we drafted these patterns when I was in business. That process involved a complex chart and radius measurements. It can be overly confusing if you’ve never done this before. This “mixing bowl” method is way more professional and legit, right? Right.
So, after you’ve drawn your circle in the 90 degree angle, you want to double check that your measurements are correct, add seam allowance to the waist and side seam, and draw the hem. Simply add 1/2″ to the waist curve we just drew as well as next to the side seam. One side of the pattern is your center front which will be placed on the fold, and the other side is your side seam, hence the need for seam allowance there.
Seam allowance added to the waist seam:
Seam allowance added to the side seam:
Now we determine the length of the skirt. To mark the length, put the yard stick on the waistline, not the seam allowance. Remember to account for a hem if needed. Pro tip: there is no need for a deep hem in a circle skirt. 3/4″ is gracious plenty for a hem. Tulle isn’t hemmed though, so this only applies to our lining or if you cut this pattern out in a different fabric.
Mark the hem all the way around, and cut out the pattern. Label center front and any other important details, like waist size and how many of the piece to cut.
So, we need a back pattern. The best part? All you do is trace the front pattern piece. If you don’t mind a side zipper, you don’t even have to copy the pattern because the front pattern piece also becomes the back piece and the zipper goes in the side seam. Both front and back will be cut on the fold. This can use extra fabric and you already need about 4 yards, so I personally prefer a center back seam. Trace the front pattern piece and transfer the “center front” label to the back, except label it “center back.” Then, tape on some paper and add 1/2″ for seam allowance at the center back.
Ta-da! We now have a full circle skirt pattern, both front and back. To draft a waistband, draw a line the length of the total waist measurement (or half and cut it on the fold), plus an inch for seam allowance (half inch if you’re cutting on the fold). I like 1.5″ waistbands, so mine is 2.5″ wide when seam allowance is included.
Circle skirts are one of the easiest (and prettiest!) designs ever, and they never go out of style. Later this month we’ll put this pattern to use and make our tulle skirt. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to help!