Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sew Grateful 3: Button-up Front (or back!) Circle Skirt Tutorial

As most of you know, I'm pretty new to sewing my own clothes, so the thought of writing my own tutorial seemed a bit daunting.  However, I figured that if can do something, so can anyone!  My tutorial is for a simple circle skirt-with a twist!  The edges on this skirt are finished with contrasting bias tape for both simplicity and style, and is closed with an adorable line of buttons up the front (or the back--you choose)!
Front buttons!

Back buttons!

If you've never made a circle skirt before, you'll have to do a little math.  Don't fret! It's very simple, and will leave you with a smile, not a headache!

Measuring and cutting the skirt piece: 

You will need:
  • Tape measure
  • Ruler
  • Calculator
  • At least 1.5 yards of fabric.  You will need extra if your waist measurement is much larger than mine, if you are tall, or if you would like your skirt to be long!
  • Scissors or a rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • Butcher paper/craft paper or a marking pencil/pen/chalk
1.  Measure your waist (or wherever you would like your skirt to sit) and subtract 4 inches to counteract bias stretching*.  Then divide that number by 6.28.  This number is your radius measurement.  For example, my waist is 28 inches:

28 - 4 =    24   
               6.28  = 3.8

So, my radius measurement is 3.8 inches. If your number is in between inch markers, you can round it up or down to the nearest half inch.  3.8 inches rounds up to 4 inches.  (If I were 3.6, I would go down to 3.5)

**A note about bias stretching: 
All fabrics stretch when cut on the bias, to counteract this, you have to subtract a few inches from your waist measurement, otherwise your skirt will be huge!  If your fabric stretches a lot, you can always move your buttons over to make the skirt tighter.  If it is too tight, you can make your hole bigger by cutting some fabric out of the waist.

2. Determine how long you would like your skirt to be.  Measure the distance from your waist to the spot on your leg that you would like your skirt to end.  Add your radius measurement to that number.  This is your length.

I wanted my skirt to be 16 inches long, so:

16 + 4 = 20

My length is 20 inches.

**You don't nee to worry about adding a hem allowance because we are finishing this with bias tape.  If you'd like to hem it instead, them be sure to add on an allowance, otherwise your skirt will be too short.

3. Now, it's time to start marking and cutting!  You're going to want to fold your fabric in four (fold it in half, selvage edge to selvage edge, then in half again--it should be more square than long skinny rectangle) before you start marking and cutting.  Alternatively, you could draw your measurements out on butcher paper or craft paper and trace them onto your fabric. 

4.  You are going to make two sets of curved lines: one with your radius measurement, and one with your length measurement.

For the first line, use your radius measurement.  Starting at the top corner, make a marking every few inches.  Connect the dots into a quarter-circle.  This will become the waist of your skirt.

Repeat this process, this time using your length measurement.  This will become the hemline of your skirt.

When you are finished cutting, you should end up with a big circle with a hole in the middle.

Keep going, you're half-way done!!!

Assembling and finishing the skirt:

1.  Gather your materials.

You will need:
  • At least 8 buttons
  • At least 1.5 yds. of fabric
  • At least 6 yds. of bias tape
  • Pins
  • Scissors
1.  Cut all the way through one side of your circle.  If you are using fabric that looks the same or similar on both sides, it's also a good idea to mark one side as the inside, and one as the outside.

2. Take out your bias tape.  Iron it so it is flat if you are using store-bought tape.

3.  Start with the two straight edges of the skirt (where you just cut) the circle open.  Unfold your bias tape, and attach it to the inside first.  I put a pin every 5 inches or so, but you could do more if you want to!

 4. Flip the skirt over to the right side and fold down the bias tape.

5.  Top stitch the bias tape to the skirt.  Go slow, and try to make it as straight as possible!


6.  Attach the bias tape to the waist.  Repeat the same process on the inside as you did for the edges.  Go very slowly--remember this edge is curved!  When you get to the ends, leave a little extra length of tape, about 1/2 inch.

7.  Fold the edge of the bias tape in so that there will not be raw edges exposed when you top stitch the right side of the skirt.  Flip the skirt to the right side, and top stitch the bias tape.  When you get to the end, ensure that the bias tape stays folded inward on both sides and completely encases the raw edges of the bias tape on the sides of the skirt.

    8.  Repeat for the bottom of the skirt.

9.  Try on your skirt.  You should have enough extra space at the waist for a 1in. overlap on each side.  You may have more or less, depending on the stretch of your fabric.  If you do, be sure to account for this before you sew on your buttons and make your button holes!

10.  Make your button holes and sew on your buttons.  I put one button every two inches down the left side of my skirt.  You could do more or less, it's up to you!  If you are using fabric with a pattern, be careful to match up the repeat of the pattern as you sew on your buttons.
Check out that plaid matching!

10.  Try on your skirt, twirl around, and take lots of pretty pictures!
Don't forget to twirl!

If you would like to show off your skirt on my blog, send me a picture at and I will post it!  If you have any questions, you can also leave me a comment or e-mail me, and I'll do my best to help!

Thanks to Debi at My Happy Sewing Place  for hosting Sew Grateful Week!  Be sure to check out her blog for all the other great tutorials and free patterns from other bloggers!


  1. Cute skirt, and I really like the bias binding! I've never made a circle skirt using plaid, but I love the way the design falls on your skirt.

  2. So cute! Thanks for the tips, I have a pattern, but this will help out a lot. And I do believe that it is required by law to twirl when you have on a circle skirt :)

  3. This was the first thing I ever made in plaid, and I love the way it turned out. You should try it out!