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Circle skirt construction. Sewing math.

Circle skirt construction is pretty easy you just need to know a little bit of geometry. One simple formula how to calculate the radius knowing the length of a circle is all the math you have to know.

Sewing is not complicated too. It requires few pieces and basic techniques, making it is a good exercise for beginners.  If this is your first time I would advise you to begin with a paper pattern. For experienced sewers this step can be skipped, you are welcome to do the markings straight on the fabric.

Circle skirt construction math.

To make this pattern you will need only two measurements –  waist girth and the length of your skirt. This will allow you to calculate the radius of the circle.

Full circle skirt construction diagram

Often the design calls for less folds then the full circle gives. In this case a circle skirt is made not  in 360°, but less – 270°, 180° or 90°, depending on how many folds is needed. On the other hand for abundant fullness a circle skirt can be doubled – two circle skirts sewn together (don’t forget to halve the waist girth of each).

How to calculate the waist radius for each type of circle skirt.

  • Full circle skirt (360°)

    Full circle skirt construction formula


  • 3/4 circle skirt (270°)Full circle skirt construction formula


  • Half circle skirt (180°)Half circle skirt construction formula


  • Quarter circle skirt (90°)    Half circle skirt construction formula


Now, when you know how to make a pattern, I would like to give just a few points on laying it out and cutting fabric for each type of circle skirt. Folding the fabric is the key:

  • For the full circle fold the fabric twice. If the fabric is wide enough you can make a skirt without seams. If not, there are alternative ways of cutting your fabric.Full circle skirt pattern layout diagram

Layout options for narrow fabric.



  • For the 3/4 circle fabric is folded the same way as for the full circle. The extra quarter is removed after the skirt is cut, leaving sufficient seam allowances.Full circle skirt pattern layout diagram


  • Half circle skirt pattern needs only one fold of fabric.Half circle skirt pattern layout diagram
  • Quarter circle skirt pattern is usually layered on a straight grain, but can be cut on bias for the more tailored look.Half circle skirt pattern layout diagram

 Cutting the fabric.

Lightweight woven fabrics are the most common choice for this skirt. The soft folds along the hem without much bulk around the waist line characterizes this skirt fit. It can be made in any length but may be limited by the width of the fabric. However there are ways around this problem. If your fabric is not wide enough,  you can make your circle with two halves (don’t forget the seam allowances). If this is not an option you may consider a 6, 8 or 10-wedge skirt, it will give you a similar look.

Finishing the waistline.

A circle skirt is usually finished with a waist band. The width and style of it is entirely up to you. Typical methods include:

  • Elastic

Comfortable to wear and simple to make; it often used in kids clothing. One thing you should remember though!  Leave enough ease along the waist, otherwise how will you put it on? As a general rule add 15-20cm to your waist girth measurement before calculating the radius.

  • Zipper

Gives the skirt a more tailored, “grown-up” look. If you go with a welted or exposed zipper, the skirt doesn’t need seams at all.

  • Facing

Waistbands are not the only way to finish a circle skirt. You can cut a facing using the top of your skirt as a guide.With this method you can use the centered zipper technique, or go with the hidden zipper method.

Hemming your circle skirt.

The circle skirt has a curved hem, this limits the methods it can be finished with. There are however quite a few hemming techniques you can rely on.


There is one problem with the circle skirt that occurs most often – uneven hemline. This happens because the fabric stenches significantly on bias and doesn’t have any stretch on a straight grain. The parts of the skirt cut on straight grain will be the most stable, those that fall onto the cross grain can warp a far bit. The portion of the skirt that falls on bias will be the least reliable and may stretch after a wash or two. It all depends on the fabric! If you suspect that this will happen to your skirt, I can recommend a small trick. Finish the waistline but leave the hem unfinished. Wet the skirt throughout, peg at the waist and drip-dry it, letting the fibers settle into shape. When the skirt is dry, carefully measure the desired length. Mark and cut the excess fabric where it stretched, evening out the hem. That should do the trick. Your skirt should be the same length now and won’t give you trouble later.  Finish the hemline in any way you want.

Crcle skirt construction infographic

Useful sewing techniques:

Centered zipper technique

Hemming the dress

Exposed zipper method



16 thoughts on “Circle skirt construction. Sewing math.

  1. Well explained…

  2. Hello,
    How much fabric is needed for a full circle skirt if 42” length and 26” waist.
    The fabric is 45” wide.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Poonam,
      With dimensions you’ve provided I can suggest following options:
      – if the skirt must be seamless you may consider to cut it 2 inch shorter. You can try different measurements here I find it a very useful calculator.
      – if you don’t mind the seams you will have more flexibility lengthwise. I can advise three common way to lay out your pattern Start by making your paper pattern, then try different ways to lay it out. When you are satisfied, take your measurements. This way will give you exact fabric length for your project.

  3. Thank you for your excellent post. I am making my daughter a full circle skirt for her ballet class. The traditional character skirt has a waistband and placket and is made from woven fabric. I tried several online circle skirt calculators and made some test skirts but the waistband was either too big or too small. I figured that it was the placket throwing out the circle skirt maths. Lucky for me your circle skirt maths formula worked. However, wanting to understand why it worked (when other formulas failed) I am wondering why you need to minus 2 from the waist measurement (waist girth – 2). This is the only difference I can see from the other circle maths that I tried (and tried, and tried). Again, thank you. I am so glad I found your webpage.

  4. This is a very well explained post! I would suggest adding how to calculate how much fabric is needed for each skirt.

    1. Will be happy to… As soon as have a little less on my plate I’ll put some infographic together.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. Thank so much for sharing.

  7. Interesting I would like to hear more from you. Thanks

  8. I am having a problem with my circle skirts, when I wear them the back is always shorter even though the length is the same right around, how can I adjust this? I like this app it’s very helpful and easy to understand.

  9. Why does this pattern call for subtracting 2 from the waist measurements?


    1. Average stretch compensation.

      1. Stretch of the skirt fabric? Or stretch of the top fabric? If the fabric is not a knit does that still apply? I am using a cotton lawn fabric for the skirt of the dress I am making. The top is hand knit with a linen yarn.

  10. Thank you for explaining the skirt layout. The best I have seen.

  11. Danke für die hervorragende Erklärung! Einfach aber genau,da komme selbst ich als Anfänger mit klar!

  12. Please, this (waist girth – 2), is it 2 in or 2 cm?

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