In the beginning of this year I decided to publish a series of posts where I show how I create designs inspired by different geometric shapes. I got the idea from Pattern Magic (books by Tomoko Nakamichi); There’s a chapter called Playing with Geometrics with designs based on the square, triangle, and circle.

Well, I have already presented the square and the triangle, so now it’s time to see designs inspired by the circle! In this case, it’s more like half circle or parts of circle though.

The designs come from my Instagram. Some are older, some are more recent. The idea is to show how you can create designs based on a certain shape.

Due to the curved shape of the line, the techniques are a bit limited. It’s mostly layering.

Circular Layers

Here’s a piece from years ago. I placed these layers on a bodice back because it has a smoother surface than the front side. All the three groups consist of layers. I think it looks more interesting and has more texture this way. An alternative would’ve been to simply make it flat with normal seams.

I drafted the pattern like this.

  1. The waist dart gets absorbed into the lines. I modified the armhole shape a bit.
  2. Here I’ve rotated the dart to draw the last curved line of this group.
  3. The colored areas are the facing pieces of layers 2-4. The first layer is so small that it will simply be cut twice. The original piece actually had wider facing pieces, but I think it’s better to make them like this instead.

You can then draw the second group starting from the base of the layer number 4 facing. Make sure that there’s a right angle at the c-back so that the pieces won’t have angles when cut on the fold.

4. Draw the facing pieces for the remaining layers 5-7.

Then you can trace the pieces like this. Each layer starts at the base of the previous layer’s facing. The example shows how to trace layer number 3 and its facing piece.

Notice how the dart is still there (piece 4). It will remain hidden just underneath the edge of layer number 3.

The zipper in this case would be at the side seam because otherwise you’d need to break the design.

I’d also add a flat layer underneath, like the lining piece here above. That way you can stitch down the layers to prevent them from collapsing. In this case stitching the layers just at the edges won’t be enough.

Layered Neckline

This is a more recent design inspired by the circle. I wanted to create some kind of a necklace effect.

The layers could be done without the vertical seams, too, but I thought it makes a nice addition to the design and creates a continuity between the “necklace” and the bodice. There would also be more coloring options if I were to use colors.

  1. As for the pattern, I first divided the basic bodice into panels, absorbing the darts. I placed the seams in a way that would work with the “necklace” as well.
  2. Then, I drew the three layers around the neckline, making sure that the shapes would coincide at the panel seams. I named the panels A, B, and C. There are 4 layers in each.
  3. As you know, each layer will need a facing. I cut the first layer twice instead of making a separate facing piece because I was going to also finish the neckline with the same piece. However, if you have a lining, it’s easier to just create a facing piece also for the first layer.

After this, you trace the pieces. It will be handy to use the letters and numbers to know which piece goes where.

Here are panel A’s layer pieces. The example shows how to trace the layer 3. These will be cut on the fold. Trace the other pieces in the same way.

Layered Skirt

Another design inspired by the circle using the layering technique. This time the layers are intersecting. I used two colors to create these fan-shaped patterns.

I drew the pattern onto an A-line skirt. Here’s how to get to the A-line skirt if you have the basic skirt block.

The idea is to unite the front and back pieces at the side seam by adding just enough flare. You’ll want to keep the amount of overlap at the top of the side seam minimum so that the skirt won’t become too tight around the hips.

Once you’re done, you can draw the intersecting layers. The first layer doesn’t have a facing piece because it’s quite narrow as it is and it’s easier to just cut it twice. From layer number 2 on, draw facing pieces, too. From layer number 3 on, the layers start at the base of the previous layer’s facing.

My skirt is about knee length and I got to 7 layers.

Step number 4 shows how to trace the lining/facing piece that will finish the edge of layer number 7 while at the same time providing a base where you can stitch down the layers so that they won’t collapse.

Here are the final pattern pieces. There will be a seam and a zipper at the c-back. Mark notches in the center of the top edge of pieces 2, 4, and 6, as well as the lining piece.

If you want both front and back of the lining on the grain, you can separate the piece in the center and add a side seam.

Sculptural Panel Skirt

This skirt has been featured in another tutorial, too. But it definitely belongs here. It has alternating curved shapes at the top and bottom sections.

To create the pattern, you’ll need to divide the basic skirt into quite a few panels. I’m showing just the front piece here.

There are 10 panels. Measure the original waist dart width so that you can then divide it between the seams, like this:

The bottom curves start at the hipline. Draw another guideline somewhere below that; it’s where the curves of the upper section end. There should be a bit of an overlap.

Then, draw the curved shapes for the panels. It’s probably easier to draw all the curves going in one direction first.

Notice, that you skip a line each time. The curves are added to every other seam, alternating between the top and bottom sections.

Remember to also leave out the darts. Otherwise you’ll end up with a waist that is too wide.

Then, draw identical curves on the opposite side of each line. These seams will be sewn together, so the shapes should be identical.

Here’s how you trace the pieces. As an example, I’ve colored pieces number 1 and 7. It helps if you manage to follow the original (straight) panel shape.

The back piece will be done in the same way, which means that after you’ve cut the fabric, you’ll have 40 pieces to sew together!

I made this skirt also for a photoshoot some years back.

Raglan Sleeves with Panels

Similar panels will also create cool raglan sleeves! This piece is from about 5 years ago. I found it in my stash and thought it needs to be included in this post.

The edge of the front sleeve pretty much follows the raglan seam shape. I just shortened the front bodice piece to create that empty space.

The bodice pieces have also been divided into panels absorbing the darts. The original raglan pattern needs to be quite fitted. Otherwise, you can adapt it at this phase. You might need to take in at the top of the front panel seams to remove neckline gaping.

The front and back sleeve both have 3 panels.

Just like with the previous design, you then draw the curved shapes around the sleeve panels, on both sides of each seam.

I made the central panel the highest. It’s where the front and back sleeves will be sewn together. Try to make the curves as identical as possible.

Trace the 6 panel pieces of the sleeves. Here above, you can see the piece number 2 as an example.

These are the final pattern pieces:

Textured Bodice with Panels

With Tiny panels I must add! This was a crazy design, I admit. I guess somebody had some extra time on her hands. More is more and all that. 😀

This is based on the dartless bodice block where I had included a small dart to reduce the armhole gaping. It’s divided into these undulating panels.

But first, I divided the area by drawing straight lines that acted as guidelines, so that the panels would be as symmetrical as possible. The little dart gets absorbed into a panel seam.

I also enlarged the neckline. The first panel is placed in the center, so I extended the bodice slightly to the left to include the whole panel width. The armhole shape will change, too.

The dashed lines in the center of each panel help to draw the subsequent tiny panels symmetrically. Whereas the horizontal lines are where the tiny panels will be.

This is where the design becomes a bit messy. These are the tiny panels. I made them highest at the widest part of the undulating panels and they become gradually smaller towards the narrowest point.

I used a template to make it faster to draw the shapes.

After you’re done, you might wonder who’s going to trace all these pieces…

Well, the good news is that you don’t actually need to trace them all, because a lot of shapes repeat, so you can use the same pattern piece to cut several sections. This of course doesn’t change the number of pieces you will then need to sew together (I think it’s over a 100).

I numbered the lines and named the undulating panels A, B, C, and D. Once you’ve traced a piece, you then go see which other pieces will have the same shape and write the names on your pattern.

You could always make a less time consuming version of this by not filling the whole bodice with the texture.

Circular Accordion

This is the only design where I included the actual whole circle. It has alternating flat sections and accordion pleat sections with a seam in the center of the bodice that divides the circle into two halves.

  1. First, you draw the circles onto the bodice. There are 3 circles. This is an asymmetrical design so you need the whole bodice.
  2. Then, you add the accordion pleat shapes, alternating between the left and right halves. I adapted the bust darts so that the dart points match with the seams. As the left and right sides are different, also the dart lengths are different. The dart tips end up at the inner edge of the accordion pleat pieces; one becomes longer and the other one shorter.

3. Here’s how to trace the different pieces. The narrow half circles are for the accordion pleats. You cut 5 of each accordion pleat pieces to create 3 pleats.

The half circle after the pleated section begins at the base of the pleat (like when you do layers).

The half circles that have the accordion pleats are attached with a normal seam to the flat section before them.

The outermost sections (number 4) turn into a strange shape when you close the darts, but it doesn’t really show in the final 3D piece. Just re-draw the lines around the closed darts to remove angles.

These are the final pieces. The accordion pleats create a lot of bulk at the c-front seam, so, use a lightweight fabric.

Bonus Idea: Rounded Boxes

The square and triangle designs all included some kind of box shapes, so I was thinking that the circle should also have a box design. This is what I created.

As a shape, it’s more limited but definitely has some possibilities.

There are no angles to be pressed and the central piece is completely straight. Instead, you have the lateral seams that are rounded and force the fabric to form this rounded box shape.

Here’s how I drafted the pattern. I rotated the bust dart to the side. This time I didn’t want to absorb it into the seam, because it would’ve distorted the boxes.

I divided the center front evenly into 5 sections like this. The uppermost piece was the widest. Then, I separated the side panel.

To create the box patterns, you need to measure the sides of each little piece.

The height becomes the width of the lateral piece. Then, you only need to decide on the height of the box. That will become the height of the lateral piece. Draw one rounded edge.

I made the uppermost box also the highest. As a reference, it’s 8cm high here. Box number 2 being 7cm high, 3 is 6cm, and the last two are 5cm high.

Measure the edge of the lateral piece, leaving out the bottom. This will become the length of the central piece of the box. The width is the same as that of the original section.

Mark notches in the center of the lateral pieces and the central pieces to make it easier to sew them together.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little round up of designs inspired by the circle that concludes the series of geometrical shapes. Check out the previous two parts as well, if you haven’t seen them, yet.

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