Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

I’m keeping it simple this week with a circle skirt, that classic no-pattern-needed darling. I actually learned about circle skirts before I learned about stay-stitching, which is why one of my earliest sewing struggles involved repeatedly trying on a circle skirt with widening seam allowances AND an increasingly loose waist, two things that seemed mutually incompatible and almost sent me around the bend. Heed my warning and stay-stitch the waist curve!


I don’t generally wear skirts but I like circle skirts. They’re fabric guzzlers, sure, but with a little careful laying-out, you can definitely reduce fabric waste.   

By the way, I know this is practically sewing internet sedition, but I think the BHL circle skirt calculator is lousy. If your waist is over 30” in circumference and you want a skirt longer than a mini the calculator will announce that IT CANNOT BE DONE. HUMANKIND HAS NOT YET WROUGHT A FABRIC WIDE ENOUGH TO CONTAIN YOUR MAJESTY.

But, I mean, it can though. And it’s not hard. Unfortunately I don’t have a better solution available than just doing the math! But dare I whisper: math is fun?!


Mine is a full circle skirt, and the finished length is 26”. My waist is about 31.5” at the moment; your longest possible skirt length would vary based upon that measurement, your fabric width, and your preference.

No pattern means no helpful pattern envelope, but I like to use Photoshop to figure out my fabric requirements.

Circumference = 2πr, so 31.5 = 2πr, 15.75 = πr, and 5 = r (or definitely close enough for me). First I draw a half-circle with a radius of 5 inches, centered within a half-circle with a radius of 31 inches (my desired skirt length plus my waist radius). I then create a Photoshop document that’s 44 inches tall, to represent the width of my fabric, minus 1” for seam allowances. I duplicate, flip, and arrange my skirt pattern pieces, then add a few extra inches for a waistband. When I check the image size of the Photoshop document I now know I’ll need 112 inches – a.k.a. about 3 yards – of fabric for my circle skirt! Well, almost. I’m 4” over, but I’m definitely willing to make my waistband narrower, or cut it in multiple pieces, or on the cross grain, to avoid ordering an extra yard. When shopping locally, I’d buy the extra 1/8th yard or whatever.

Circle context.jpg

I still have to add seam allowances, but I’ll do that when cutting. Don’t forget to add SA to the waist curve too, which will actually make the hole smaller. It’ll work out though.

I like to use the selvages as my side seam allowances, because they’re stable and already finished, which skips a step. Plus, I’d rather install a zipper on the selvage instead of the bias any day! Even if I was somehow cutting this in a single piece I’d try to place my zipper on the grain or the cross-grain, to reduce buckling. Brace yourself for my best-ever invisible zipper, by the way. It’s…fine.


The waistband is slightly longer than the waist opening and closes with a hook and bar. I didn’t worry about pattern-matching, obviously, except across my pocket openings. For some reason when I decided to add slash pockets I used quilting cotton for the pocket bags instead of self-fabric. That reason is lost in the mists of time – I sewed this before 2017, the first year I maintained a sewing spreadsheet! I don’t mind the rabbits peeping out, though!


 The hem is finished with bias tape, with one edge hand-stitched, BY FAR the easiest way to finish a circular hem in my opinion. I used yet another quilting cotton here! Scissors this time. One presumes pre-2017 Lia was enjoying herself.


The fabric is Robert Kaufman Mammoth flannel. I generally don’t consider myself a fangirl but I looove Kaufman fabrics. The Mammoth flannel becomes less soft and plushy after pre-washing, but it’s still warm and vibrant and easy to sew. It’s cotton, so I dry it on the hottest setting the first time, to get any shrinking out of the way, and warm after that.


There’s not much to say about the fit – if you can measure your waist, you can fit a circle skirt. I like the proportions of a half-circle skirt, even an elegant quarter-circle, but for wintertime warmth and hip accommodation, you can’t beat the whole pizza.


This is what happens when you have a drippy nose but need to take blog pictures!


Oh, and this is what happens when you go for a winter walk and drink a white hot chocolate from Burdick’s and then try to twirl for blog pictures – you get dizzy and your insides say “EXCUSE ME?” and then you don’t want to twirl anymore. So no true twirly pics. But the hot chocolate is worth it!  

Wishing you some time to practice gratitude this week (and of course lots to be grateful for)! If you live in the United States of America, perhaps consider supporting a Native organization on Giving Tuesday. Thanksgiving is weird, but I hope you have a good one!

Pattern: Circle skirt, no pattern

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 31.5” waist

Supplies: 3 yards of Robert Kaufman Mammoth flannel in Plaid Scarlet, estimated $30 (pre-2017, so no notes); invisible zipper, hook and bar closure

Total time: Pre-2017, unrecorded

Total cost: $30.00?

4 thoughts on “Don’t Reinvent the Wheel


    You just won the internet and now you’re my favorite.


  2. Love this! As usual!! And indeed, “does not compute” should not be an acceptable answer from a supposed circle skirt calculator if your waist is above the lofty length of 30″


    1. Thank you! Though I might be unfairly slamming the calculator – I’ve never tried with a waist smaller than 30″, so it could be lousy at any size! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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