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Circle Skirt but Border-Print Fabric?

I see this question a lot online: “I want to make this circle skirt pattern but can I use this border-print fabric?”

  • or “Can I use a border embroidered fabric?”
  • or “Can I use lace fabric with a scalloped edge?”
  • or “Can I use a stripe and make it parallel to the hem?”
  • or “Can I edge a circle skirt with wide trim?”

Honestly the simple answer is “No, you’re better off with a dirndl gathered skirt pattern”. 

However, if you really want the clean flat lines of the circle skirt 
at the waistline, there is a simple hack for using a bordered print 
that combines the best of both worlds: circle plus gathered.

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For example in my last post  , a review of the Little Lizard King “Sorrento” circle-skirted dress, I mentioned that there is also a gathered skirt version, which is great if you have one of these fabric choices above. However the waist is elasticized, and it can be bulky to thread elastic through a casing made of already-gathered fabric. The easier-to-sew solution is to shorten the circle skirt part into a circle yoke, and make the bottom of the skirt gathered.

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I’ll cut up a mini-pattern so that you can visualize how a circle pattern (top paper) gets slashed-and-spread into a rectangle that works with border prints (bottom paper).

Start by dividing your skirt pattern length into thirds: the top 1/3rd will be the yoke and the bottom 2/3rds will be the gathered lower part of the skirt:

Draft in the seam stitching line for the circular yoke, and add seam allowance:

Cut off the yoke pattern piece:

Take the bottom skirt portion, and slash-and-spread:

….to turn it into a rectangle that works with border prints:

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That’s a mini-example of how slash-and-spread works in patternmaking. Going to your real pattern, you would create the yoke pattern in the same method as explained above:

To make the bottom skirt pattern, you don’t actually have to slash-and-spread (that exercise was simply to help you visualize what is happening in changing the pattern)….after you have removed the yoke from your skirt pattern, you simply calculate the rectangular gathered skirt pattern piece.

The LENGTH will be length of the remaining part of the original circle skirt pattern, plus seam allowance that was cut off from making the yoke pattern :

The WIDTH or “sweep” of the skirt is measured along the bottom edge of the circle skirt pattern:

Multiply the quarter-circle pattern piece bottom edge sweep by 4 to get the total width needed for the gathered skirt, and then make a note of the measurements on the yoke pattern:

In this case, size 6 Sorrento, the gathered skirt piece is 9 1/2″ x 120″. I was able to cut the gathered section in a single piece because I was up-cycling a vintage sheet:

If using a border print or scalloped lace, you will cut the gathered skirt section lengthwise, so calculate yardage by dividing the length by 36″. For example :

  • 120″ divided by 36 = 3 3/8 yds, so if your fabric has a single finished or border -printed edge, that’s how much fabric you need
  • If your fabric has two border-printed, or finished lace, etc edges, you can use half that yardage because you’ll use both selvedges

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Here are my pattern pieces cut out and ready to sew:

This is the dress bodice stitched to the circle-skirt yoke:

The waist gets elasticized for fit:

The bottom part of the skirt is stitched along the side seams to make a loop, and hemmed:

I always use a gathering foot for shirring, but there are many other methods:

Then you take the gathered portion:

….and pin to the skirt yoke (since I had just a single seam on the gathered section I placed it at the center-back of the skirt yoke), distributing gathers evenly:

Stitch the gathered skirt to the yoke, finish off the seam allowance, flip the dress over and top-stitch the skirt yoke:

And this is the finished dress:

Since the skirt hem has exactly the same sweep as the original circle-skirt pattern, the gathered version will automatically give you the same amount of twirl.

Simple hack, right? Happy sewing!

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