Pavlova Wrap Top and Circle Skirt

I was a tardy participant to the recent Pavlova 30 Minute a Day Sewalong held by Steph from indi pattern company Sewing Cake.  She recently released a vintage inspired wrap top and circle skirt pattern called the Pavlova.

Full circle skirt in wool and wrap top in jersey knit, both from Sewing Cake Patterns

I have never made a circle skirt before.  I always considered them too bulky for my pear shape and feared they would make look hippy.  Then Steph posted this version in softly draping woolens using a windowpane wool suiting and I really loved it.  I also really liked how the pocket looked in this type of fabric.  I decided I could make it work for me as long as I had a waistband that defined my waist and also got the length right to elongate my legs.  After all, getting the fit right creates a marvelous optical illusion it we do it properly!

So bear with me through a rather detailed post as I really wanted to record the details for my future reference and personal use.  Lots of construction photos and notes, which I love as I find them really helpful.

The Fabric

After reading about the quality, service and cheap shipping over at, I found this wool suiting that looked like it might work. Also, it was on sale for only $3.49/yard and was 60″ wide.  Shipping to Australia was a mere $15.00.  So I purchased 2.5 yards and was stunned when it arrived (along with some other goodies) in something like a week.  I highly recommend this site to Australian readers.  It really is good value and worth considering if we can’t find what we want locally.

The suiting is much lighter in colour in real life, with a tweedy black and ivory base with gorgeous lines of blue, pink and yellow running through the fabric. I actually really love it. The colours running through it are all colours I love to wear and make it such a versatile base that will work with so many different looks.

I rummaged in my stash and found some ivory merino knit and also some other lightweight coloured knits.  The advantage of running a week behind in the sewalong was that I was able to see the other projects and observe the issues that others were having, which was wonderful as it really helped me.  It is such a wonderful resource to have the input of so many sewers and I always follow the flickr feed closely.

The Pavlova Top Notes

So first up was the top.  I intend to make this up in the ivory merino to fully copy/imitate the Wintry Pavlova look but I decided to do a trial run on the top and used a bright aqua blue knit for my first pavlova top.  It worked beautifully and actually looks great with the skirt. That was an accident on my part but I do find when I buy a fabric I love it automatically seems to co-ordinate with everything else I have.

The lapped neckline finish was much easier to do than I anticipated.  The trick is to closely follow the instructions and match the pictures exactly, and it came together like a dream.

The rest of the top worked up quickly, the most time consuming part was using fusible stay tape on all the seams and then top stitching. I also managed to squeeze this top (size 30) out of 1 metre of fabric.

Pavlova Top Errata

There was one point where the instructions tell you to gather between two notches for bust shaping.  I wanted to point out that the size 30 does not have any notches so this instruction does not apply for this size.

There is one other errata when sewing up the neck facing where you are told to stitch TO the dot.  It should be TOWARDS (as in: in the direction of) the dot.  This is mentioned by Steph in the Sewalong post for those steps,

My Personal Adjustments

The only other change I made to the top was I trimmed off the back “muffin” cover.  I found it fiddly to tuck in and I intend on either wearing this top with a sufficiently high waisted skirt for it not to be needed or as a ballet style wrap over a singlet top with jean.

Next time I will pivot the shoulder darts forward about 1/2″ to account for my forward shoulders and perhaps make the front part maybe 1″ longer.

The Pavlova Skirt – A full circle skirt with seashell pocket

OK, now onto the skirt.  I got rather carried away with the skirt.  The fabric was lovely to work with, it pressed really well and despite being rather heavy, still had lovely drape.

Sizing and Cutting Out

After reading on the Flickr Group pages that many of the skirts were running large I cut two sizes smaller than my size.  I am normally a 27″ waist.  I cut a 25″. I also eliminated the front and back seam and cut my skirt on the fold and moved my zipper to the side seam.  To reduce the waist stretching out I stay-stitched the waist as soon as it was cut out and eased it in a bit.

The Waistband & Side Zipper – My Personal Adjustments

I used my favourite waistband which is from the Burdastyle Jenny Skirt.  It is a two piece waistband with shaped side seams.  The zipper is inserted running right up the top of the waistband on the side and gives a great fit and a clean look.  I used an invisible zipper which was a bit tough to get it close on the waistband seams.

Seam Finishes

I used Hong Kong seams for the side seams.

Hong Kong Seam Finish

On internal seams (eg: the pocket seams and the waistband) I catch stitched the seam allowance to the organza underlining.  I was basically practising some techniques I have learnt from the Craftsy Couture Dress course.  And then I decided it was fraying so terribly and to reduce waistband bulk I would use my lining fabric to face the waistband so I catch stitched the seam allowance to the organza and then attached my lining by hand.

Because of how I did the waistband and also because I wanted something silky not rough against my skin and to reduce the bulk in the waistband, I faced it with my lining fabric.  Because I was really getting into the whole handstitching thing I did this by hand.

The Shell Pocket

When I started the pocket, by this stage I was in love with the organza on the waistband so I decided to underline the pocket pieces as well.  The wool is a fairly loose weave so this way I can be confident that the pocket won’t distort from use.

Pockets underlined in silk organza and pin tucks done
Completed sea shell pocket from the right side. I really adore how this turned out but it does require very precise sewing.

To avoid bulk I sandwiched my pocket piece in between the top band front and facing

Pocket band with seams catch stitched before facing applied by hand

A peek inside the pocket band.  I hand stitched the lining to the pocket so I could be sure the lining was not seen from outside. Plus by this stage I was addicted to catch stitching so I did it inside the pocket as well.

I attached the pocket by hand because I didn’t want a topstitched look for this fabric.  I used a double thread for strength and reinforced the top corners so the pocket was firmly attached.

Fell stitching the pocket to the skirt with invisible hand stitches

The Hem

The hardest part of sewing a circle skirt is all in the hem.  It is a CHALLENGE to get the hem straight.  I had the awesome secret weapon of my mothers amazingly accurate eye.  I put my skirt on and she adjusted the hem by eyeballing it.  We worked out that the last time I stood on a chair while she levelled my hem was about 30 years ago! When I was 12! But Mum certainly hasn’t lost her skill.  Thanks Mum.

I hand stitched the hem and did a simple double fold hem.  I thought that would add a bit of body to the hem.  I found I had to stitch quite loosely so I didn’t get a ridge line.  This fabric was great to hand stitch.  I wasn’t trying that hard but my stitches just completely disappeared into the fabric.

I am very happy with the finished look: the top and skirt work so well together or as separates.  The minor issues with the pattern are all well and truely made up for by all the extra information and advice on the website.

Wool tweed circle skirt and knit wrap top