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I wasn’t sure whether I should add circle skirt patterns to my skirt tutorial series, as there are so many blog posts and videos about this theme already. But then again, the list of skirt styles wouldn’t be complete without them, so here we go! I added some extra variants to make it more interesting.

Now you can forget about the basic skirt pattern. The circle skirt pattern is different and you only really need the waist measurement. Plus of course the total length of the skirt. What you do need instead, is a huge amount of paper, a compass, a tape measure and a calculator. These patterns require some calculations.

The circle radius

About the calculations… I’m not going to bore you much with theory. Just a quick explanation about why you see the 3,14 involved in the calculations.

All the different circle skirt patterns are based on the shape of a circle. But you can’t just draw a circle at random and use it as your pattern. There’s a way to calculate the circle so that you get the exact waist measurement you want. And this is where the 3,14 comes in handy.

It’s the the value of theπ or Pi. The name is derived from the first letter of the Greek word perimetros, meaning circumference (according to Wikipedia).

We use it to calculate the radius of the circle, to get the right waist measurement, and from there the hemline. Don’t worry if you don’t understand the why’s. If you just follow the instructions on how to calculate, you’ll get your pattern in any case.

The basic circle skirts

To get to the variants, we must start from the basics. Here are, in order, all the different versions of the circle skirt: full circle, 3/4 circle, half circle and 1/4 circle.

This time I’m going to be using centimeters for the example measurements:

  • 68cm waist circumference
  • 45cm skirt length

Full circle skirt

All the patterns are drafted for just a half of the skirt as usual so we’ll only need half of the waist measurement, too. 68cm /2= 34cm.

If you’re ok with having side-seams in your full circle skirt, stick with that number. But if you want just one seam in the back, add 1,5cm to get the seam allowance, too.

For the full circle pattern, start by calculating the radius A-B: simply divide your 1/2 waist measurement by 3,14. In this case

34cm /3,14 = ca 10,8cm

Draw a straight line and mark point A in the middle of it. Take your compass and draw a half circle around point A, using the A-B radius you got with the previous calculation.

From point B, continue the straight line adding the skirt length to arrive to point C. Take your tape measure and measure the distance between points A and C. Use this radius to draw the whole hemline half circle around point A.

full circle skirt pattern
full circle skirt

3/4 circle skirt

This is my personal favorite in the circle skirt family. If the full circle is too much, but the half circle isn’t enough, this skirt is perfect!

The calculation for the radius A-B is a bit more complex. It starts the same as last time, 1/2 waist measurement divided by 3,14. But then you have to add 1/3 of the same calculation. Let’s see:

34cm /3,14 =10,8cm

10,8cm /3 =3,6cm

10,8cm + 3,6cm =14,4cm

You can draw the pattern in the same way as the full skirt. It’s just that once you’ve drawn the half circle for the waistline, measure the line and stop at the point you arrive to the 1/2 waist measurement. It’s 3/4 of the half circle.

3/4 circle skirt pattern
3/4 circle skirt

Half circle skirt

This time the pattern covers just a quarter of the circle, so start by drawing two lines at 90° angle to each other. Point A is at the angle.

The A-B radius calculation is 1/2 waist measurement divided by 3,14 times 2.

34cm /3,14 =10,8cm

10,8cm x2 =21,6cm

Now your compass might no longer be enough to draw the circles, so you have to resort to the tape measure or normal ruler. Just try to be accurate. If you’re unsure, you can always measure the arch and see if it’s 1/2 of your waist measurement.

half circle skirt pattern
half circle skirt

1/4 circle skirt

This is the smallest of the circle skirts. It’s practically an A-line skirt. So it’s up to you to choose which is the easiest way to draft a pattern for this type of skirt. However, the pattern is useful for some transformations, as you’ll see after.

The radius A-B is getting bigger. Now you must calculate 1/2 waist measurement divided by 3,14 times 4.

34cm /3,14 =10,8cm

10,8cm x4 =43,2cm

You can either draw an arch randomly around point A and stop when you arrive at the 1/2 waist measurement. Or you can draw another line down at 90° angle from point A, draw your waistline arch from point B all the way to the new line. Then draw a straight line from there across to point B and find X in the middle of it. That’s 1/4. (Wow, that sounds complicated!)

1/4 circle skirt pattern
1/4 circle skirt

The variants

Now that we’ve gone through the basics, we can get to the other versions of circle skirts you can make. These are based on the previous patterns.

Gathered half circle skirt

Starting from the most obvious one. Why would you want to make a gathered circle skirt? Well, it gives even more volume to the skirt and if you add an elastic to the waist, you won’t need a zipper.

This doesn’t have to be a half circle. You could also make any of the other skirts, too, with the same method.

The calculation of the radius A-B is otherwise the same as for the regular half circle skirt, but you must add extra width to the waist so that you can then gather it.

In my example I added 50% extra, which means I multiplied the normal 1/2 waist measurement by 1,5. If you want double, multiply it by 2, etc. So:

34cm x 1,5 =51cm

51cm /3,14= ca 16,2cm

16,2cm x2= 32,4cm

gathered half circle pattern
gathered half circle skirt

Paneled half circle skirt

Remember panel skirts? Did you know you can make paneled circle skirts, too? Well, you can! First draft your circle skirt normally, and then divide it into as many panels as you want. It’s easiest to divide at the hemline. You’ll only need one of the panels as your pattern though.

In my example I drafted a half circle and the skirt will have a total of 6 panels.

paneled circle skirt pattern

Reason for wanting to divide your circle skirt into panels could be that you’ll make the panels in different fabrics. Or maybe you don’t have big enough piece of fabric to cut the whole skirt in one piece.

But also, like in the examples above, you can then go ahead and alter the panel to get a whole new shape to your skirt. I just simply gave it more volume with the slash and spread method. The resulting skirt will be wider than a normal half-circle skirt.

6 panel circle skirt

In the other example I inserted godets in between the panels. That gives more volume only to the hemline.

6 panel circle skirt with godets

1/4 circle skirt with a front pleat

And then there are the pleated versions. First let’s add just one box pleat in the front.

Again, you can draft the 1/4 circle skirt pattern as usual, but you need to add 1/2 of the pleat width to the 1/2 waist measurement. In my example the front pleat is 10cm wide on both sides. That means the A-B radius calculation goes like this:

34cm + 10cm =44cm

44cm /3,14 = ca 14cm

14cm x4 =56cm

In the picture here you can just see the final pattern.

Pleated 1/4 circle skirt

To have more pleats, the method is the same as above. Decide the number and width of your pleats and add them to the 1/2 waist measurement. Of course, remember to count only half of the total number of pleats. And on the c.front and c.back calculate just half of the pleat width.

My skirt has 2 whole pleats and 2 halves, which makes 3 pleats. Each of them needs 20cm. I know that may seem like a lot, but these are box pleats, so it’s only 5cm folded in two on both sides.

The calculation:

34cm + 60cm (3×20) =94cm

94cm /3,14 = ca 30cm

30cm x4 =120cm

Here’s how the pattern looks like:

Divide the pleats evenly at the waistline. The skirt becomes much more flared than the 1/4 circle skirt. If you need an even bigger profile, start from the half circle skirt.

The high-low skirt

Here’s a very simple variation to the full circle skirt. First draft the pattern normally and then re-draw the hemline like this. Just pay attention to the front length so that it won’t remain too short and make the backside as long as you want.

Remember to add the seam allowance to the waist measurement so that you can add a zipper to the back.

high low skirt pattern
high low skirt

Handkerchief skirt

This one is the second variation you could do with the full circle skirt pattern. Draft it the same as usual, but instead of drawing a round hemline, make it a rectangle.

Choose the minimum length you want to have in the front, back and the sides. I used the same 45cm I had in the original full circle.

Then draw two lines at 45° angle starting from the centre (=point A) that go past the corners of the previous rectangle. Draw 2 symmetrical pointy bits around the lines.

handkerchief skirt pattern
handkerchief skirt

And that was the last one of the circle skirt patterns. Just a final notion: you can use the straight waistband for each of these skirts.

I hope you got some ideas for your next skirt project. Be sure to check out the other skirt tutorials, too, if you haven’t done so yet.

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15 Comments

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      You’re welcome! I’m glad to hear that. 🙂 I was trying to make it as simple as possible.

  1. Thanks so much for the post especially for the pleated and handkerchief hem circle skirts. I really appreciate the work you’re doing. For the full circle skirt the distance A-C is used to draw the hem from the center front to the center back right? I just wanna be sure I understand it well.

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      You’re welcome. I wanted to add something extra to the usual circle skirts. 🙂 You can think of the two arches of the full circle skirt as the waistline and the hemline. Just remember, that the actual skirt length is calculated from point B to C (if you do for example that 45 cm starting from point A, your skirt will be too short). And yes, the arch goes from center front to -back. When you cut it on a fabric folded in half, you’ll get the other half, too.

  2. I’ll definitely try out these projects and will like to tag you so you can see what I made that’s if you permit me to

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Sure, I’d love that! 🙂 I hope you’ll get lots of pretty skirts out of this.

  3. great tutorial! i love the design of the fabric you used for the handkerchief skirt and i am going to make something like that and share with you but i am not sure about the right kind of top to pair with it. maybe you should help? thanks!

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Thanks! 🙂 I think with circle skirts in general it’s a good idea to either have a top that ends at the waist-level or a top that gets tucked under the skirt waist.

  4. Great tutorials! I love making circle skirts, and I’ve wanted to make a maxi version but it requires so much fabric. Now I’ve happen to come over nine meters of a narrow lightweight cotton I want to just make a giant skirt out of for fun and thought I’d make a 1.5 circle. My math brain simply died trying to figure that out. But I feel like maybe I can follow your calculations for a 3/4 but half them… maybe? What do you think? Would it make sense to do 1/4 waist (rather than 1/2) divided by 3,14 and then add a third of that calculation?

    • shapesoffabric Reply

      Thank you! 🙂 I’m glad you find them useful. I think you could use the 3/4 circle skirt calculation, as that would be the closest to 1,5 circle. I have never tried it, but what you say sounds correct: just divide the original (half) waist measurement in 2. That’s how you do when you make a double circle skirt, too. 🙂

      • Rebecka Straahlen Reply

        Took me a while to get the skirt to the point of being able to try something on, but I’m almost finished now. Just the 10m hem left to do!
        Anyway, either I made a calculation error or the waist stretched (like I said, I’m using lightweight cotton, so it shouldn’t be any crazy stretching but some is to be expected since I’m cutting half circles) Because I ended up with a waist that’s about 20% bigger than it should be! which is quite a lot. But, turned out great anyway cause it just meant I could add a few pleats in the back which looks super cute.

        • shapesoffabric Reply

          Wow, that’s an impressive amount hem! I’m sorry you encountered problems with the measurement, but it’s good that you found a way to make it work anyways, 🙂 Stay stitching the waistline immediately after cutting helps with the stretching problem. Otherwise just check the measurement at the pattern-phase with a tape measure so you get everything right before cutting.

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