Reversible Double Layer Wrap Half Circle Skirt Tutorial

Say that ten times fast!

I wanted to put together a short tutorial on how I made the wrap skirt (you know, before I forget and then decide to make another and have to do all the maths again–aaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!).  So mostly, this is for my own (future) peace of mind, but feel free to try it out yourself if you’re so inclined!  Keep in mind, as this will be a wrap skirt, and thus infinitely adjustable, perfect accuracy is not a huge deal.

(Not my image, but this is an example of this type of skirt).

Step 1 – Determine your “wrapped waist measurement”.

The first thing you need to do is figure out how big to cut your skirt pieces, right?  So find your waist measurement (wherever you want the waist to hit, not necessarily your true waist), then figure out how far across your body you want the skirt to overlap.  I’d suggest 10″ for size S, 12″ for size M, 14″ for size L, and 16″ for an XL.  But this is just a guideline based on a guesstimate.  This is a pretty good amount of wrappage (i.e. from hip to hip at least), so if you’re short on fabric, or don’t want that much overlap, adjust accordingly.

Alternately, you can also determine how much overlap you’re comfortable with by measuring the front of your body where you’d like the overlap to land…I’d go with this method, personally.

Now take your overlap and double it, then add to your waist measurement.  So for a person with a 30″ waist who’s adding 14″ of overlap, that means your wrapped waist measurement is now 58″.

STEP 2 – Determine your “waist radius” based on the wrapped measurement.

Prepare for a modern marvel, seriously.  OK, kids, go to Google.  Type in “circle calculator” and BAM!  A handy dandy widget pops up and–get this–someone will now do the math for you!  Make sure it’s set to solve for the radius, plug in your circumference (that’s your wrapped waist measurement), and BOOM!  The calculator will give you a radius measurement…now since this is a half circle skirt, you’ll need to double that number to get your waist radius for pattern-making purposes.  So for our example, the calculator gives us a radius of 9.23 inches, which I doubled to  18.5 (as it’s a wrap skirt, I rounded up a smidge for simplicity).

STEP 3 – Determine the skirt length.

I went with a standard 24″ length on the longest layer, and 20″ on the shorter layer.  You can also measure from your waist to where you’d like the skirt to hit, subtract 2″ (for the waistband width), then add 1″ (for seam allowance & hemming). On the skirt I made, the longest length to cut was 25″ (24 -2 + 1), but since I ended up doing a very narrow hem, it could probably have been a little shorter…just remember you can always make it shorter, so measure conservatively.

Also determine how long you want the shorter layer to be.  I went with 20″ finished (so 21″ to cut), so it was only about 4″ difference between layers.

STEP 4 – Draw your pattern on paper.

Here’s where having a couple rolls of crap wrapping paper really comes in handy!  You need to make yourself a big ol’ compass before you start drawing (that way you can make a proper circle, easy peasy).  Take a length of string/twine/ribbon–anything that doesn’t stretch–and clip a safety pin to one end.  Measure the string to be the length you need for your waist radius and tie a knot to mark the stopping point.  Now take your wrapping paper and lay it out–if it’s not quite wide enough for the whole pattern, tape a couple pieces together.

Starting at the top corner (make sure both edges are squared off), hold the knot down at the corner.  Insert a pencil tip into the little ring on the safety pin and draw a quarter circle from one edge to the next.  (Red line below.)  The distance from the corner to the line (at any point) should be your waist radius.  Double check before moving on.

Now, measure along the string from the first knot (away from the safety pin) till you reach the length of your short layer.  Re-knot your string and repeat–draw another quarter circle.  (Green line below.)  The distance from the corner to the line (at any point) should be your waist radius + the short layer length (including seam allowances).  Double check before moving on.

And finally, measure from the second knot along the string till you’ve added in the additional length for the longer layer (in this case, 4 inches).  Re-knot your string and draw a final quarter circle.  (Blue line below.)  The distance from the corner to the line (at any point) should be your waist radius + long layer length (including seam allowances).  Double check before moving on.

Cut the pattern out along the red and blue lines and viola!  Pattern complete!

STEP 5 – cut out your fabric.

Now, I used a really floaty, chiffon-style fabric and it was a pain to work with.  If you’re using similar fabric, buy some spray on stabilizer and apply liberally before cutting…make your life easier!

STEP 5.1 – Cut out your long layer.

To cut out your fabric, start with whichever fabric will be your longest layer.  Fold it into a square just a little bit bigger than your pattern.  Set one edge of your pattern along the fold (doesn’t really matter which unless your fabric has a directional pattern), and trace or pin, then cut.  You should end up with a half circle of fabric.

STEP 5.2 – Cut out your short layer.

For the shorter layer, trim the pattern piece back to the green line, then repeat the step above.  You should now have a half circle of fabric about 4 inches shorter than the first one you cut.  (To re-use this pattern, keep track of both pieces and just lay them out together for future long layers.)

STEP 5.3 – Cut out your waistband and ties.

When all is said and done, you will have a single continuous piece for your waistband and ties, so this needs to be about twice the length of your wrapped waist measurement (so it can wrap all the way around and still have enough length to tie off).  For our example skirt, that’s 116″, or a little over 3 yards.  If your yardage isn’t long enough, you can sew strips together to achieve the length you need.  For the waistband/ties, cut from each fabric a rectangle 5″ wide by however long you need it (I went with 108″, which was a little shorter than twice the waist, but that was all I had fabric for, and it worked just fine).

STEP 6 – Assemble the skirt.

Now you get to put it all together!

STEP 6.1 – Hem the skirt pieces.

There’s a loooooooooot of hemming on this puppy (circle skirt, you know?), so let’s get that out of the way, shall we?  Especially since every edge but the top waist will be exposed.  I tried a few options and didn’t particularly like the machine finished (either serging or using my shiny new rolled hem foot).  So I hand sewed that little beast.  All.The. Way. Around.  (Yes, both layers).  It took me about 6 hours (thankfully, Netflix exists).  There’s a great tutorial on hand sewed rolled hems here.  She’ll even walk you through getting around the corners.  However you do it, hem the sides and bottom edges of both skirt pieces.

STEP 6.2 – Create the waist band/ties.

Take your reeeeeaaaaaaallllly long strips of waist band (one from each fabric).  Working with one at a time, fold in half, wrong sides together, and press.

Now lay the two strips on top of each other, raw edges on opposite sides. (I did this so there would be a selvage edge reinforcing the inside of the waistband along both the top and bottom edges once it was assembled.  If you don’t care about that or don’t have selvage edges, lay them however you’d like.)  Find the center of the waistband on one side and mark it with a pin (green mark below).  Now measure half the distance of your wrapped waist measurement on either side of the pin and mark those ends (red marks).  Do not sew between the pins, this is the part where you’ll attach the waistband to the skirt.

Starting a few inches past one marker pin and sew your waistband pieces together all the way around to just before the other side of the pins (basically in a giant, partly-open-sided rectangle, see blue line above).  I used a half-inch seam allowance, which means my waistband turned out 1-1/2″ wide in the end.  If you want a wider or narrower band, adjust the width you cut above in step 5.3.  If your fabric is likely to fray, go back and overcast the edges to finish them.

Turn your waistband piece right side out (clip corners to reduce bulk) and press.  When you get to the bit you didn’t sew shut, turn raw edges up 1/2″ toward the inside of the waistband (as though it were sewn together anyway) to create a clean fold–this’ll help when you’re attaching the skirt.

STEP 6.3 – Attach skirt to waistband/ties.

If your fabric is likely to fray, overcast the top edges of your skirt to finish them.  Lay your skirt pieces out so the top edges line up.  Make sure you like the arrangement of the layers (is the “right” side where you’d expect it to be?).  If your fabric is really slippery, baste the layers together along the top edge.

Slip the top edges of the skirt pieces up into the waistband (where you left the gap).  Make sure there is about 1/2″ of skirt up inside the waistband, and make sure the waistband edges are folded to the inside by 1/2″ (or whatever seam allowance you used in step 6.2) where they meet the skirt (this is the “fake” seam you pressed after the rest of the waistband was sewn together).  Basically, you should see no raw edges.

Pin skirt/waistband securely, then topstitch all along the top skirt edge (about 1/8″ to 1/4″ from the folded edge of the waistband piece (orange line below).  Backtack at each edge of the skirt for extra security.  When you reach the far edge of the skirt piece, continue topstitching all the way around the waistband/ties.

STEP 7 – Final touches.

If you used a fabric stabilizer, be sure you wash it out before wearing!  Clip any loose threads, and go wear your fabulous new skirt!

* And, like the lazy blogger you know I am, I didn’t think to take a photo of the skirt before I mailed it off to my sis-in-law.  So while you have zero proof this actually works, I promise it does!

**Oh, and a note about fabric.  Circle skirts are fabric hogs.  For this skirt, I started with about 3 yards of each fabric, and I didn’t have a lot left over.  I used fabric that was 54″ wide and folded it in half cut edge to cut edge (not selvage to selvage as is usual) because then I got 54″ by 1.5 yards to work with, and the skirt pattern fit fine.  I took the strips for the waistband from a selvage edge after I’d cut out the main skirt pieces.  If you’re using narrower fabric, ymmv.

Against the Grain

Some random off-topicness for you today.  As my hair gets longer (approaching waist now), I find myself finding wonderful new ways of putting it up out of my way.  I’ve progressed from pony tails to buns held with sticks, and I recently made a fork!  Yes, for my hair.  Out of wood, no less (and a decommissioned watch movement, but that’s just for decoration)!

It’s been ages since I did any woodworking of any sort (there was that one picture frame my dad helped me put together in college (because my Chat Noir poster absolutely needed a spray painted gold picture frame, dammit).  And that’s about it in recent memory.  My family is pretty handy and includes a few carpenters, so I’m passingly familiar with wood working stuff, but out of practice, shall we say?

Turns out, my hubby is also interested in wood working and has picked up a nice assortment of tools over the years (I knew we had them, but if pressed to find and/or use them?  Meh.)  Oh boy, I’m digressing in the midst of my digression.  So.  A few months ago, John acquired some 2×2 bits of bloodwood.  (Can we just ooh and aaaah for a moment?  It’s soooo pretty!).

And so I when I decided to make a hair fork, naturally, I appropriated one (actually, I think I traded a few jars of pickles for it…I think we’re square?).  I traced out the general shape of it and (with John’s help) used the table saw to cut a “blank” to then shape.  This went pretty well, but getting the center bits (between the future tines) was a bit of a challenge.  The router spit my first blank out, ripping off the most of one side in the process.  (Not cool, router…you can see the failed blank next to the almost-finished fork below.)

I finally ended up gingerly slicing the center bits out with the table saw instead, which…worked…but…I feel like there must be a better way?  Once I had the general shape set up, I started sanding with a Dremel.  Holy bananas, that is one cool tool.  Just using different sized sanding drums, I got the fork shaped and pretty smooth all over.  I did use a cylindrical hand rasp for the inside curve at the center (it’s a bit narrower than the Dremel head), but man oh man, Dremels are effective!

Once I got the shape, I sanded like crazy with finer and finer grit paper (sneaky trick, for sanding curvy areas smooth, wrap the sandpaper around the long neck of a screwdriver for easier sanding and less finger pinching!).  And John helped me use a Forstner bit to hollow out the spot for my watch movement…I was a bit unconvinced of my ability to drill straight down and stop before I got all the way through!  Not to worry, though…bloodwood is super hard, so the drilling was slow going after all.

I used mineral oil to seal the wood (so it’s not waterproof, but wow does the oil make the bloodwood shine!), then used some e-6000 to epoxy the movement into its slot.  The hardest part of the whole thing?  Letting the epoxy dry undisturbed for 72 whole hours.  Gah!!

Here’s the back side (and the un-attached movement):

I’m pretty thrilled with how it came out, and I already have plans for another one…bwahahahahahahahhahaha.

Jalapenos, or What to do with Impusle Buys

We were strolling around the farmer’s market last weekend when the intense and fervent notion to make jalapeno dill pickles struck. Great timing, no?  Actually, I’d been kicking the idea around ever since my cousin had made a batch a couple weeks ago and graciously sent me the recipe, but I hadn’t mentally committed to the task until I spotted them: two adorable buckets of perfectly sized cucumbers nestled under a table in one of the veggie stalls.  A good mix of sizes, but not too big.  And at 10 bucks a bucket, how can you go wrong?!  Especially when the same stall is selling jalapenos that look amazing!?

You can’t.  It’s a scientific fact.  So of course I bought both buckets.  And the jalapenos.  John was making some “let’s be reasonable” noises that I promptly/foolishly tuned out.  Truly, the man has a better sense of scale than I do…I see two buckets of cukes and think “let’s MAKE ALL THE PICKLES!!!!!!!”.  John sees me see two buckets of cucumbers and realizes this means “we will be making ALL THE PICKLES UNTIL WE CAN PICKLE NO MORE”.  And that this is usually slightly more work than I’m willing to admit.  OK, always.

Moving on.

As usual, making the pickles was a team effort.  John washed cukes, I sliced, we both packed jars.  These are basic dill pickles with a quarter jalapeno added to each (pint) jar (and a few boiled up with the salt brine for extra kick!).  We used my family’s tried and true cold-pack/inverted jar method…definitely not sanctioned by the USDA, but we have many surviving pickle eaters, so I’m pretty OK with it (based on that observation, plus knowing that the pH of the brine is outside the threshold for botulism growth).  We packed the raw cukes and seasonings into hot jars (I run mine through the dishwasher and leave them in it till we’re ready for them–easy peasy), poured boiling brine over the contents, and then plucked a lid out of the pan of boiling water on the stove, screwed it down, and inverted the jar for a couple hours.  When you turn the jars upright, they should have sealed.  Any that don’t seal go straight into the fridge.  The rest get to hang out until Thanksgiving (well, traditionally, anyhow–we always crack into the summer pickles that week).

Unfortunately, 28 pints of jalapeno dill pickles only used up about half of my jalapenos, so now I get to make more jalapeno stuff!!  (Did I say unfortunately?  I lied.  This is an awesome problem to have!!).  I think I’ll start with a batch of jalapeno mint jelly, and maybe follow that up with some straight up pickled jalapenos.  A further testament of my love of Small Batch Preserving–they’ll both be small batches, but it’ll be nice to trot them out when we need a tiny reminder that winter isn’t endless!

Hemming and Hawing

Alright.  I admit it.  Just overcasting the edge of chiffon looks kind of terrible once it’s been through the wash.  The skirt I’m (re)making for my sister-in-law went through the wash to get rid of the stiffener, and I wasn’t really thrilled with the hem when it came out.  I mean, it’s passable.  It’s not going to fray.  And I love the magenta thread.  But…it looks pretty sloppy.  I had some trouble keeping the stitches even on the bias-ey curves, and the corners, and it shows.

Especially on the curves.

And since my rolled hem foot was a failure before I went with overcasting, my options at this point were pretty limited.  So I sucked it up and decided to do a rolled hem (yes, on both layers) by hand.  Sooooooooooo much hemming, I know.  But you know what?  It looks amazeballs by comparison.

There’s still a few peeks of magenta overcasting in some places (this is my first time doing a hand-sewn rolled hem), but I’m getting steadily better.  I found a great tutorial on YouTube, and I’ll have ample practice; I made it about 1/3 of the way around the first layer last night (in the span of two episodes of The Killing. On a side note, how did people sew before Netflix & YouTube?)


Have you ever plopped down in front of your laptop in utter defeat, listlessly googling for the answer to all your problems?  Or at least the current problem of sewing this uber fiddly fabric into something with flat, non-lettuce-y seams?  No, that’s just me?

OK, well, I’m going to let you in on my little secret anyhow.  My sister-in-law has this skirt.  And it’s a really cool, double layer half circle chiffon wrap skirt (say that 10 times really fast?) in super floaty, fun fabric.  And she’s worn it to pieces.  So I took a look at it, saw it was a simple half circle skirt with a waistband that extends into really long ties, and foolishly said “I can totally remake that–just pick out fabric!”  (I’d like to tell you I’ve learned my lesson, but I’d probably be lying).  So she picked out two gorgeous fabrics and I drafted a pattern (if you can call it drafting) based on the first skirt and cut out the pieces. Easy peasy, right?

Ha! Hahahahahaha.

Then I attempted to actually sew the fabric together.  (Well, I started with the hem since approximately 110% of the skirt is hem).  And I got lettuce edges.  Holy bananas.  Even if I basted and then came back with smaller stitches–seems like smaller stitches were particularly lettuce-inducing.  And every tip I find for sewing chiffon says to use small stitches.  Or hand sewing.  Now, I’m no mathlete, but even I know that would be a LOT of hand sewing.  And I’m pretty lazy, it turns out.  So no dice.

So there I was, slumped disconsolately in front of the lappy, googling my heart out.  And that’s when I found this.  And I could tell we were soon going to be BFFs.

Spray on, wash out stabilizer.  Now, technically, I believe you’re supposed to spray it on before you cut, but, um…I looked at my skirt pieces in all their already-cut-outedness and realized that was not happening in this case.  I plowed ahead anyhow.  I laid each piece out as flat and well-aligned as possible (really, trying not to warp the bias-y bits), and lambasted it with my trusty new arsenal, then hung the pieces over my clothesline to dry and stiffen.

Kids–this stuff works.  It’s amazing!  Instead of overcasting my way into scallopy lettuce edges and letting my sewing machine eat fabric like there’s no tomorrow, I got lovely, overcast edges.  Lovely.

I will admit, it did not play nicely with my rolled hem foot (which was what I was hoping to use)–the stiff fabric just didn’t roll evenly, so I gave up on that.  The overcast method is obviously what was used on the original skirt, so after fiddling with stitch width and length and using ungodly amounts of magenta thread, I figured it out.  Mostly.  There’s a few places I may try to re-overcast (is that a thing?) before I declare it done.

But I’m really happy with the way it turned out (especially after washing the stiffening stuff out–it really does wash right out!).  And I think I’ll put a little tutorial together so that the next time my sis-in-law commissions a skirt, I don’t have to do all that pesky math again.  Because I’m pretty sure circle skirts are actually Dante’s 10th circle of hell, reserved specifically for people of average math skills.