A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt – The Easy Way – With Rhonda Buss

As you move out of the beginner sewing phase, your mind will start collecting all of these wonderful ideas of garments to sew. One of my all time favorite garments is a full skirt. Full skirts are so glamorous to wear. They can be worn all year round and a must for any wardrobe. As you grow in your sewing skills drafting your own patterns is a natural step in your learning. This particular garment is easy to start with.

model lounging on bed wearing claire mccardells pink and white striped dress vogue 1952 richard rutledge1 823x1024 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

Dress by Claire McCardell

In this circular skirt tutorial Rhonda Buss of Rhonda’s Creative Life shows you how easy it is to make your own. This circular skirt tutorial is for wovens and a waist band and zipper will be needed in order for you to get in and out of the skirt (helpful!).

So, now let’s have Rhonda take it away.

Drafting The Circular Skirt

The circular skirt is a wonderful pattern to draft. It’s a pattern that is very straight forward and incredibly easy to draft. Only 2 measurements are needed for this skirt, the waist measurement and the length measurement.

This skirt can be drafted in 4 different versions. Your choice will depend on how full you would like your skirt to be. Below are examples of the 4 versions.

full circular skirt A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

This is a Full Circular Skirt. This skirt is one complete circle.

As you can see, the above skirt falls in many graceful folds. This is the Full Circular Skirt. This skirt is one complete circle.

three quarter circle skirt A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

This is the 3/4 Circular Skirt.

The skirt above still has many grace folds, but is not quite as full.  This is the 3/4 Circular Skirt.


one half circle skirt A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

This skirt is the Half Circular Skirt.

The above skirt is still rather full but has does not hang with all the graceful folds of the full or the 3/4 circular skirts. This skirt is the Half Circular Skirt.


one quarter circle skirt A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

The 1/4 Circular Skirt.

The final skirt pictured above is the 1/4 Circular Skirt. As you can see, it fits very close
to the hips.

At one time, drafting a circular skirt was explained using pi. No need to panic, no reason
to try and remember your grade school math!! The equations for determining the radius
of your skirt are quite simple. They are as follows:

Full Circular Skirt:
Waist Measurement minus 1″ and then multiplied by 1/6.
3/4 Circular Skirt:
Waist Measurement minus 1″ and then multiplied by 1/5.
1/2 Circular Skirt:
Waist Measurement minus 1″ and then multiplied by 1/3.
1/4 Circular Skirt:
Waist Measurement multiplied by 2/3. Please note that with the 1/4 circular skirt you will
not subtract 1″ from the waist measurement.

As an example, we will draft a full circular skirt using a 25″ waist measurement. Begin
by subtracting the 1″ from your waist measurement. The result will be 24. Multiply 24 by
1/6 or divide by 6 and the result will be 4.

Determine your desired length of your skirt.
On your paper, draw a right angle that is longer than your desired length. For my example, I would like the finished length of my skirt to be 25″ so I have drawn my lines 30″ long. This will give me plenty of room to draw in my waist and then the hem of my skirt.

0011 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

From the apex(the area where the 2 lines intersect)measure out on your lines 4″. This measurement was determined from the formula we used to determine the radius of our waist measurement for a full circular skirt. Holding your tape measure at the apex of your 2 lines, measure out 4″ from 1 line to the other. This will form the waist of your skirt.

0021 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

From the waistline that you drew in, not the apex of the lines as for the waist, measure down the desired length of your skirt from 1 line to the other line. This will be your hemline.

003 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

The final pattern is below. Please be sure to add seam allowances to the waistline and the side seam. The center front should be on the fold and for the full circular skirt, you will
cut 2. If your fabric is not wide enough for the center front to be on the fold, you will need to add seam allowance to the center front as well and then you would cut 4.

004 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

Below are examples of circular skirts.
The first skirt is a full circular skirt. As you can see it is quite full.

bwy A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss
The next skirt has an interesting detail. This skirt was made using a border print. It is quite easy to do.

001 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

Below is an example of how you would lay your pattern on your fabric with a border print. By placing the fabric so that the border print intersects the center front, the border print will drape once the skirt is sewn and form a “U” shape in the fabric. People will
wonder how you did this and they’ll think you are a genius!

border A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

An important aspect to remember about a circular skirt is that it is necessary to allow the skirt to hang for at least 24 hours before you hem it. As you can see in the picture below, the hem is very uneven. Once you have allowed the skirt to hang for at least 24 hours, you can then mark your hem, cut off the excess and hem the skirt.

002 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

Below is an evening gown made with a simple bodice and a half circle skirt.
008 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss Below is a picture of me in the dress.

P1040578 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

A pocket was added to the side seam. It makes the perfect place to hide a tissue! You can find more information on this dress here,

In order to give the skirt a little body, I added 2 layers of tulling underneath the skirt.

009 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda BussTo hem a circular skirt, I like to use 2″ wide bias tape. A lovely touch if you have enough fabric is to create your own bias tape from the fabric of your skirt.

binding A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda BussI do hope that you’ll give one of the circular skirts a try. Once you do, you’ll never buy another circular skirt pattern!

For more drafting ideas, visit my blog, Rhonda’s Creative Life



 A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt   The Easy Way   With Rhonda Buss

About Jill

I write for the Sew News and Creative Machine Embroidery blogs. I love sewing, vintage and would love to get a comment from you!
This entry was posted in Tutorials and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to A Tutorial On Drafting The Circular Skirt – The Easy Way – With Rhonda Buss

  1. KaSonia Robinson says:

    Hi, thanks for the lovely tutorial, I have made half and full circle skirts before, but only with 60′ fabric. I have 45′ fabric and i would like to make a floor length formal gown, somewhere around 41 in long. waist at 35in, would this be possible? Please help I am going to a wedding and I would like to make my own dress. Thanks for your time.

  2. Ochefio Elahi says:

    please , i want to cut the 1/4 circular shirt, will i be folding the material same with the Full circular skirt?

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  4. lawrencia says:

    What lining would be suitable for rayon fabric for a circular skirt. Thank u

  5. thankyou
    this post is great

  6. Livo says:


    Is there any rule regarding how many inches you must substract from the waist measurement? You said 1″, others 2″ and others even 4″, As I understood have to be done because of the bias stretch of the fabric.


  7. Jomy says:

    Wow!! Great tutorial. I was looking for the measurements of circular skirt for many days.
    The material with me is a net type material. So I bought same colored lining with satin fabric. Will it be nice to stich circle skirt with this material? Do I need to stitch waist band?

  8. Caroline says:

    Thank you so much for the simple way you’ve explained doing the different skirt styles.
    I have been looking for this for weeks!

  9. claudia Hill says:

    Thank-you so much, Rhonda. Your information was so helpful!

  10. Rhonda Buss says:

    Hi Claudia,
    First of all, you will not be able to cut the 3/4 or full circle skirt with only 1 seam as it will not fit on your fabric. It would make life so much easier if you could :)
    As for determining the yardage that you will need. Begin by drafting out the skirt. Once drafted, measure the length of the skirt and the width. If the width is more than 30″, half of 60″, you will not be able to cut the center front on the fold. If the width of the skirt is more than 60″, you will need 4 times the length of your skirt. So if the skirt measures 54″ from the waist to the hem, you will need 6 yards of fabric.

  11. claudia Hill says:

    I know this is a stupid question, but I could really use help determining how much fabric to buy. I want to make a floor length, formal gown for a young woman with 31″ waist and finished length 43″. The fabric is 60″ wide. Also, is it possible to make the 3/4 and full circle versions with only one seam? Thank-you so much for taking my question.
    Claudia Hill

  12. Tebogo says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. Is the Waist radius figures applicable for plus size skirts with a waist that’s over 38″?

  13. Melissa says:


    I would like to make a skirt similar to the above J.A. is wearing for my courthouse wedding. My concerns though are this – why do some circle skirts look graceful and full, but still flowing. Others look limp and lifeless? Is it the fabric, the layers, the size of the circle? All of the above? Also, if you were going to make a test run of this skirt, what fabric would you choose? Thank you for your help. I live in a small town with no fabric/sewing stores within hours. This is a daunting task. Ordering fabric over the internet isn’t helping much.

    • Jill says:

      First off that is an amazing look. The reason that particular skirt looks so beautiful and graceful is that the fabric is chiffon or georgette and by the looks of it there is multiple layers of it. But, you’ve answered your question. The flowing nature could be due to the size of the skirt and how many layers, also in one photo there was pleating in the back of the skirt. The fuller skirt you like should do the trick. If you made a pencil skirt out of chiffon of course it wouldnt swish like that. It looks like possibly 3 layers are used but it might not all be the same fabric. They may underline it with an organza or something else. I just made a dress with silk crepe and a chiffon lining and it drapes and feels so great and that was just two layers.
      These types of fabrics can be very difficult to work with. But it can be done! If you are using a chiffon try working with a synthetic (polyester rather than silk) It will cost less and synthetics usually behave better. As for online choices you usually can find a synthetic version in white in stock to use as your test. I found a white chiffon at a fabric store called Hancocks in the spring time. The other store we have in the area is JoAnn’s but I don’t recall seeing a chiffon but I wasn’t looking either ;)

      When I cut out slippery fabric such as this I put down a flocked material like a picnic table cloth with the fuzzy side up, then lay the chiffon down, then place the pattern down. Cut through all layers (not the table cloth). I use this method a lot and have very little distortion due to the slippery fabric. I don’t use a rotary cutter which is what most people tell you to use. The reason I don’t use it is because my cutting mat will not accommodate such a large area to cut, so I have to use my dining table and good old scissors.

      The other alternative is if there is a dry cleaning/tailoring/seamstress in town you could ask if you could use their space to cut out you garment.
      I’m emailing this to you as well. Sometimes people don’t have the (email me replies checked).

      Let me know how it goes!

  14. Eryena says:

    Now I could imagine how my skirt will looks like :D
    thanks for sharing

  15. Mimmie says:

    Thank you so much for the tutorial, I have been scouring the internet trying to find a ‘pattern’ for a full circle, maxi skirt when the width of the fabric is only 45. I am using a gorgeous silk chiffon and I need to piece it together in order to get my desired length, all I have been able to find is how to make it all from one fabric by folding and cutting then I don’t end up with a maxi skirt, I barely get it to my knees. I am fairly new to this sewing thing although I love to do it, I am just beginning to teach myself how to use patterns .
    Thank you though, I think I understand the concept now, I will definitely be following your blog.

  16. shannon says:

    question… I am not sure if I have missed it in the directions or not, but i was wondering how the top of the circle skirt was completed. Should I be cutting out a waist band or just folding the top down to finish it.
    This pattern is exactly what I was looking for. I am so thankful you took the time to post it! ;-)

    • Jill says:

      Hi Shannon,
      This is Jill here, but I would make a waist band for more support. And depending on the fabric used, if you are using a heavier fabric then I would definitely make a waist band. But, if this is a casual skirt made with a light weight fabric then you could get away with out a traditional waist band treatment. Can you post a pic of your skirt? I could forward it to Rhonda if you’d like.

  17. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for posting this! How did you finish off the side seams? Also, did you add a yoke?

  18. fay says:

    What are types of materials that u would use

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  21. Jill says:

    Cennetta, that Anthropologie skirt is beautiful. I hope you make it.

  22. Cennetta says:

    Thank you for the helpful details on how to draft a circular skirt. This is on my list to do for summer skirts. I love this Anthropologie skirt. http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/product/shopnew-clothes/28337640.jsp Your circular skirt pattern is exactly what I need to make my own skirt for a fraction of the cost. Thanks again.

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  24. Rhonda Buss says:

    Hi Pleinair, sorry for not getting back to you sooner. Yes, you will basically have 3 layers for the 3/4 circular skirt. If you cut 3 pieces, the seams will not fall at the side seam. Take a look at the full length skirt I did in the stripe. It is a half circle skirt. The fabric has a nice drape, but is not lightweight. I did add a layer of gathered netting to give the skirt a little more body. I hope I have helped. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  25. Jill says:

    I’m going to have to have Rhonda answer this one. My math is horrible.

  26. pleinair says:

    :D and yes, i put Rhonda’s blog to my radar of course :D

  27. pleinair says:

    Hi. me again:D
    Today i tried to sew the half-circle skirt with an unused fabric that i found at home, since the fabric was very light weight material, the folds didnt come out as flattering as the above pics:D then also i wanted to try 3/4 circle skirt, but a question bugged me, for half circle skirt, when I cut the fabric, it was folded once. So i measured the radius according to calculations and cut it like a quarter circle and when it’s unfolded it became a half circle as expected. But if i try to cut the fabric again with 1-fold fabric, and cut it according the 3/4 circle measurements, then wouldnt it be a half circle with a smaller radius (so like for a smaller waist)? should the folding of the fabric be 3 layers for a 3/4 circle skirt? thanks..

  28. Jill says:

    Oh, and gabardine would be very hot in August.

  29. pleinair says:

    OMG thank you~thank you~thank you, for the fast replies from both of you. I am new to this things and i cannot explain that skirt to people around me;D i want a similar skirt for my friends wedding, so it should be looking cool and wedding appropriate. A friend of mine recommended to me a thick material like gaberdine/gabardine i don’t know in detail when it comes to fabrics but may be a thick fabric would not be good for a wedding in August. I like silk taffetas actually maybe i am using the wrong term here, but in my country they call it taffeta it has some sheen like satin but also has twill looking weave in itself. Maybe that would be more lightweight for summer. I will first buy a cheaper fabric and try to sew the skirt then I will try with the actual fabric i think:D Thanks for the 24 hour waiting tip btw, so when I sew the joint at the back, i should wait for 24 hours before sewing the hem, did i understand correctly? (sorry english is not my native language)

    Thanks for the post. I will be always looking to this site from now on:D

    • Jill says:

      Yes, taffeta would be beautiful. And, it’s a good idea to use a cheaper fabric as a test as you said. And, you are correct in sewing the seam at the back and then wait 24 hours to sew the hem, let it hang from a shower curtain or up high so it doesn’t touch the ground.

      And, be sure to put Rhonda’s blog on your favorites too! She’s got tons of helpful advice and projects! http://rhondabuss.blogspot.com/

  30. Rhonda Buss says:

    Hi Pleinair! Jill forwarded your question to me. The skirt in the picture is a half circle skirt. As for the fabric, I would use a fairly stable fabric as the bias will stretch even more in a full length circle skirt. The description of this skirt talked about the fabric being cut out. I think an eyelet or even a lace would look lovely. Once you have the skirt together, be sure to allow it to hang at least 24 hours, if not more before you hem the skirt. Good luck!

  31. pleinair says:

    hi. great post, thanks. and it’s a recent one i feel so lucky to find this post :)

    what kind of fabrics would be best for circle skirts? I want a similar one to a maison martin margiela maxi skirt (link: http://www.lyst.com/clothing/maison-martin-margiela-white-perforated-a-line-maxi-skirt/) ? and couldnt decide if the one in the link a full circle one or half ? any suggestion :(

    • Jill says:

      That’s a beautiful skirt by Maison Martin Margiela. I can’t be sure what type of fabric it is but is does seems to have a bit of weight. Depending on your skill level you could use a cotton which would be easy to sew, or a slinky fabric like rayon, silk or crepe backed satin (my favorite) which might be a bit more difficult. I think any fabric is good for a circle skirt, it depends on what and when you are wearing it. Summer would be perfect for lighter weight materials and very twirly. It kind of looks like a half. Let me get Rhonda in on this!

  32. Colleen says:

    Great tutorial. I am thinking of some fabrics in my stash to give this a try. Thank you!

  33. Mary says:

    Great job as always, Rhonda!

  34. Martha says:

    What lovely skirts and the use of border print – perfect!

  35. Susie says:

    Great final product – hard to believe its so simple! Gorgeous dress, Rhonda! Thanks for the tutorial.

  36. Love all of these skirts, and that evening gown is so pretty! I’ve been wanting to make a circular skirt out of sweater scraps, but haven’t gotten around to it yet! :/ Thanks for this post, it’s very helpful! :)