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.

Easy Does It

Let me start by saying: I have sewn myself a clown shirt.

It was unintentional, I assure you.  I set out to make an Alma blouse (one of Sewaholic’s new fall patterns, but if you’re reading a sewing blog, you probably already knew that!).  It looked sweet enough (I have a dearth of “romantic” garments in my closet, and sometimes, I really just feel like I’d like to wear something along those lines, but have nothing…so this blouse could potentially fill that gap!).  And I really liked their Crescent Skirt pattern, so I figured this wouldn’t be super difficult.  Plus (and this is really what sealed the deal), I found this really cute grey fabric with little red mushrooms all over it that seemed like it would make a very cute blouse.

I decided to actually make a proper muslin this time, since for one, I don’t really trust darts (I never seem to get them lined up properly on the first try) and for two, I’m still a bit unsure of my shirt sewing skills, and this one has a collar and facings and sleeves and a side zip oh my.  So a practice run was in order, especially since I knew I’d probably need to add a couple inches.  But in the spirit of making a useful object, I opted to use some stretch poplin in a nice bright turquoise from my stash.  (What’s that?  Using fabric I already own?!?  What what what?!)  I figured the stretch would be nice in case I accidentally made it a touch too small, it might still be salvagable.  Ha.  Not a problem in the slightest, as I’ll explain momentarily.

So I whipped out my trusty measuring tape and measured myself and decided to add a few inches to the largest size.  7 inches in the bust, actually, and 10 around the waist/hips area.  It seemed like a lot to add (considering I only added like 6 inches to the crescent skirt, and that fits pretty loosely (room for tucking in sweaters, I guess?), and these patterns are supposed to account for pear-shaped-ness really well) but I went with it anyhow.

Can anybody spot colossal mistake number one?  You, in the back!  Yes?  Indeed.  I mistook the body measurements on the size guide for finished garment measurements.  So I added waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much width to the pattern pieces.  Which is super unfortunate, because I followed these really awesome instructions from Casey’s Elegant Musings for grading up, which were way better than my usual slash-shoulder-to-hem-method (which usually makes the shoulders and underarms too big), and this post from Colette patterns for unevenly grading just the hips.  I learned so much!  And put it to use!  And was so, so wrong.  Ah, assumptions.

So I graded up the front and the back, and then remembered I also needed to enlarge the collar to fit the slightly wider neckline.  Easy peasy.  Took forever, but I had a Vampire Diaries marathon running in the background, so I didn’t really mind!

Anyhow, I sewed up the shirt following the instructions.  The only hitch was the collar + facings.  I really hate facings.  I’m not 100% sure they’re necessary, and they always seem to want to stick straight up, even if I under-stitch them.  Grrrr.  The darts (even the diamond-shaped ones!) were pretty easy (but I forgot to move the darts over after grading, so they weren’t really in the right place).  I also decided since it was just a muslin, and since the fabric has some stretch, that I would skip the zipper and just sew the side-seams shut.  I’d want some looseness anyhow for wearing so I could, you know, sit down and move and whatnot, so if I couldn’t get into it in stretch poplin without a zipper, I’d have problems when I used my real fabric.  (This was actually a great decision…you’ll see why).

So then I tried the muslin on.  It was miles too big.  A bit short, and a good fistful of extra fabric at each side-seam.  And the shoulders were a bit too wide.  I’m beginning to think I have somewhat narrow shoulders, because I had an extra inch and a half hanging over, and that’s about what I had added during my grading adventures.  But folks, the really distressing part: the collar.  I made view B with the swoopy Peter-pan-ish collar.  But instead of being a dainty little collar, it is HUGE.  Like 4 inches tall at the swoopy bits in the center front.  And on a bright turquoise shirt that’s four miles too wide, it was too much.  It was over the top.  My very helpful husband told me all I needed was a yellow flower that secretly squirted water at people.  So helpful, honey, thanks.

Oh, and the sleeves were really poofy like pretty pretty princess gown sleeves, because the sleeves are a bit gathered at the cap, but the shoulders were too long, so instead of having nicely gathered sleeves, I had comical Cinderella’s ballgown sleeves that stood up an inch or so from the shoulder seam.  And a collar that begged for a trick flower.  Sigh.

I took the side seams in by 2 inches on each side, and the shirt actually fit pretty well in the front then.  The darts were way too far to the sides, though.  I think the back darts could have been a bit deeper as it seemed to have a bunch of extra fabric in the center back, but again, the darts were way off to the sides, so maybe better dart placement would address that.

Here’s a picture of the offending shirt from the front:

And the back:

See what I mean about the collar and the shoulders?  Ack.  But the shirt is comfy.  I think I might make it with the shorter sleeves, though, as I liked it much better without the longer sleeves (plus, I’ll probably end up wearing it under a cardigan for the next several months, anyhow!)

I think I’ll need to re-do my grading though.  I thought about trying to transfer the changes to my existing graded pattern, but that just makes my head hurt.  So I will start over.  Sigh.  But this time, since I took out 8 inches overall (2 inches on each side, front and back, that makes 8 total, right?), I’ll just add maybe 2 inches to the existing pattern and see what that gets me. And of course, I’m going to do another muslin.  I’m a little scared to cut into my “good” fabric till I know I’ve gotten it right.

I also still want to have the curved collar going on, but I might just scale that down so it’s more like an inch at the widest.

Full Crescent Skirt

The crescent skirt that started slowly the last week of July came together surprisingly quickly in the end!  The scariest part of the project (so I thought) was the zipper, so I tackled that first off the bat.  It was a bit tricky since I used an invisible zip instead of a regular zip, but the zipper installation post on the sewalong is spot on!  I did end up with a bit of a gap when I got the thing installed, though:

Thanks to the miraculous powers of steam and general stubbornness, I was able to scoot the edges over to hide the zipper, iron it into submission, and topstitch it down before it got all uncooperative again!  Topstitching FTW.  The zipper was a lot easier than I expected, and sewing it first to the facing and then sewing that to the skirt proper worked much easier than I thought it would.

Ah, the facing, though…that turned out to be another can of worms.  You see, it turns out, seam allowance is somewhat important.  And by somewhat important, I really mean crucial.  CRUCIAL.  Especially when you need the facing and the waistband to be the same circumference.  So, my usual approach to seam allowance is pretty slack.  I do try to keep it close to what it should be, but I don’t lose any sleep over minor variations.  So I sewed my facing together (upside down the first time…sigh)…the seam ripper really is my friend…

So I re-sewed my facing, and sewed my waistband together, and when I went to put them together, it turned out that the facing was every so very slightly smaller than the waistband.  I discovered this while stitching in the ditch around the bottom edge of the waistband…I ended up with about an extra half inch of waistband.

Oopsies.  I picked out the stitches and tried again to sew them together again, but this time stretching out the facing to somehow accommodate my excess waistband…but since the pieces were interfaced, they didn’t stretch at all.  Hmmmm.  I tried making a pleat in the waistband to hide the extra fabric, but that gave me some odd high-hip baggage on just one side…it wasn’t a great look.

So I unpicked the waistband one last time and decided that if I stitched in the ditch down the center front and side seams of the waistband, it would tack the facing down so it didn’t flop about, and I wouldn’t have to worry about the different sizes.  It worked better than expected (I was getting pretty exasperated…by this point, I’d spent almost two hours sewing and unpicking and resewing this bit).  I tried it on, and the waistband fit really well,the facing seemed secure, and I said “good enough!” and topstitched around the top edge of the waistband.

Finally, time to hem!  My usual hemming m.o. is to turn up a quarter inch, stitch down all around, then turn up an inch and stitch down as close to the edge of the fold as possible.  That works great on skirts that are essentially rectangular pieces of fabric sewn into a tube…but this skirt has curved pieces, which made it difficult to turn up an even edge all the way around without getting wrinkly weird things going on at the hem.  Bah!  Maybe there is a sneaky way to do this that I don’t know (I’m sure there is), but I had a secondary problem, too…the skirt was in danger of being a tad bit short!  So I ended up doing a very shallow fold, stitching as close to the fold as possible, then trimming the strip of fabric between the stitches and the edge as close as possible to the stitches, then folding the line of stitching over once and stitching that as close as possible.  I think that should keep it from fraying, and it solved my length issues, too!

Overall, I really like the way the skirt turned out.  It was a bit of a pain to put together, but mostly because I can’t follow directions!  I would like to try making it in knit (could maybe do a pull-on version then, thought I’m not sure how to keep the waistband from getting all stretched out…maybe the interfacing would take care of that?).  Or maybe a woven waistband and a knit skirt?  We’ll see.  I also noticed that the gathers in the skirt are not exactly even in the front, so I’ll have to watch out for that next time.

And here’s the final skirt!

And the back…not too bad for my second attempt at a zipper, if I do say so myself!

10th grade geometry…

I find myself wishing, on a fairly regular basis when I’m on a sewing kick, that when I took geometry in high school, someone would have said “you know, kids, someday these skills you are honing will come in very handy, so pay attention you young slackers!”  Oh, wait, I’m pretty sure they did say that.  Oops.  Well, now I find I wish my geometry skills were a bit more polished than they are, especially since I seem to be doing a lot of grading up these days!  Not that this is terribly germane to the rest of the post, it’s just something that rambles around in my head when I’m sewing…

I made the mistake fabulous decision to visit my local fabric shop on payday and came home with a 2-1/2 yards each of this really spiffy fabric from the shiny new Tula Pink inventory!!

I cannot pick a favorite, and I barely have plans for all of it (dangerous business, this buying fabric without concrete plans for use…that’s the stuff stashes are made of, I fear!).  But I do have plans for the stormy blue swoopy swallow fabric!!  It is soon to be the Sewaholic Crescent Skirt, in fact!

I decided to add about 8 inches to the skirt.  I found an excellent tutorial that Patty has whipped up over at the Snug Bug and basically followed it to a tee (and I agree, you probably don’t need to grade up the skirt, just gather less…but I did it anyway because, you know, if I can complicate life somehow, why not?!).  The folks over at Sewaholic also have a super helpful series of sew-along posts for this pattern!  I have learned so much just reading through those (like french seams for pockets…I’ve looked at the diagrams for french seams in my ancient reader’s digest sewing book and always come away very daunted and a bit confused, so I’ve never done french seams…but the sew-along post makes them super clear and they really don’t look that hard!)  Unfortunately, I had already sewn my seams when I found the bits about french seams, but I foresee them in my future…a lot…because I really hate the look of raw edges inside a garment…even if they’re supposedly “finished” with a zigzag.  And I’m too lazy/cheap to finish them all with bias tape binding.  But next time, Gadget…french seams!!

Progress on the skirt has been a bit slow since I started it at the end of the weekend and have worked on it in bits and pieces on weeknight evenings (always following the “no sewing after 10pm” rule!).  So here are some progress pics!  I’ve got the skirt sewn together except for the back seam, and the waistband is attached to the skirt.  Next up is the zipper and the waistband facing!  I’m a little nervous about the zipper (I have yet to install one I really love, but if this one turns out as promised, it’ll be great.  And if not, I suppose I can handsew it in place instead).

Paper Hats!

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming (remember that Sorbetto top? Yeah, that’s tabled) to bring you a pair of kidpants.  We’re heading to MO for Labor day weekend to hang out with an old college roommate and her kiddo (and hubby), so I decided to make a pair of pants for the kidlet.  I found some adorable fabric that has directions for making paper hats, and an orange remnant to use for trim:

I used the flat-front kidpants tutorial over at Made, which was wicked easy!  I did shorten them a bit (since the tutorial is for a 3-year old’s pants, and the kidlet in question is just over a year).  I also cheated a bit and use d the Gymboree size chart to adjust the waist (yay for actual measurements in inches and not poundage…who measures kiddos in pounds for clothing?!  EVERYONE apparently…which is absolutely unhelpful for those of us trying to sew kid clothes long-distance…admittedly though, we may be in the minority there…)

They went together really fast.  First I sewed the crotch together on the front and then the back, and then I sewed the front and back together at the inseams.  Next up I sewed the legs up the outside seams and turned my waistband down far enough to accommodate the elastic (just in the back).  That took some ironing magic, since all the front wanted to do was pucker!  I threaded the elastic through, sewed the sides down, and then sewed the waistband down in the front (it puckers a tiny bit, but no tucks, thankfully!).  The only thing that gave me much trouble was remembering which side was up since the unhemmed top and the legs were pretty much the same length!

Putting the orange cuffs on was definitely the hardest part, since it wasn’t in the tutorial.  I folded my long orange strips in half and then turned the edges under and sewed them down on the inside of the leg, then folded them over the bottom of the leg and sewed (a nice straight seam!) around on the right side.  Sounds easy, but figuring out which side to sew first and how to keep from sewing the legs shut at the same time was tough!

All in all, I think they turned out really well!  And so cute!  Now let’s just hope they fit!

You are getting sleeeeeeeepy!

So the skirt I mentioned last post is complete! I used quilt-weight cotton (or so they told me it was at JoAnn’s Fabrics). This is the fabric for the outer bit:

20110728-014617.jpg

And this fabric for the lining:

20110728-014633.jpg

Seriously, my eyes swim if I stare at that print too long, but it’s super fun and I can’t wait to hypnotize other people wear it around! It doesn’t look too crazy from a distance, but watch out up close!

20110728-014710.jpg

I used a free pattern from Anna Maria Horner’s blog (find it here) for the skirt, which is basically two long rectangles sewn together, then sewn to lining, then hemmed. Then you sew 4 channels for skinny elastic (hello waistband!) and thread elastic thru the channels with safety pins. Worst 2 hours of my life. I kid you not, it took FOREVER to thread all that elastic thru! And my thumbs are sore today thanks to it!

I can’t decide if I love this skirt to bits or just mildly like it–right now I oscillate between the two extremes. (Maybe when the traumatic elastic threading memories die away I’ll settle on a sentiment?) It was very easy to make (assuming you can sew straight lines over and over and over again). Even the lining attachment process was less onerous than I was afraid it would be (though ironing the seams flat was key, I think!). I do think there’s waaaaay too much fabric here though–it’s a VERY full skirt, and if I don’t smooth down the sides, it has a tendency to puff out and make me very wide!  (See what I mean!)

20110728-025233.jpg

Also, the pattern called for more elastic in the waistband than I ended up using…when I first tried it on (before sewing the elastic down–so glad I thought to try it on first!) it barely stayed up at my hips and was impossible to wear at the waist. So I lopped a good 6 inches of elastic off and it sits quite nicely at either my hips or my waist now.

OK, so overall, I think I do love it, but it might be relegated to being a weekend skirt thanks to all the uber puffiness (OK, that, and it ended up being about 3 inches shorter than I meant it to be thanks to some guesswork when I was buying fabric…turns out I should measure, THEN buy yardage–who’d have guesed!).

I also bought fabric enough to make a second of these skirts, but I think I’ll hunt around for a different pattern (maybe try my hand at an A-line?) instead, so stay tuned!