A 1/4 circle skirt made easy

This post provides lots of information about drafting your own quarter circle skirt. You can use a calculator to work out the radius (I’ve given links to some good ones below), but be sure to read this entire post for useful information about grainlines, how to produce separate pattern pieces if you want side seams or you are working with a directional print, and inspiration as to how you can use a quarter circle skirt in your design and sewing process.

By Hand London created this cool circle skirt calculator app for web use to help work out the measurements for a self drafted skirt for a full circle, half circle and quarter circle skirt.

1/4 circle skirt
1/4 circle skirt, this example has no side seams and is a single pattern piece with a seam up the centre back.

Half and full circle skirts are everywhere on the web but I don’t see many quarter circles.  It really is a very easy way to get a nicely fitted dart-less a-line skirt, so I don’t know why they are not made more often.  I guess when people think “circle skirt” they go for the full and fluffy appeal of the half or full circles.

I’ve been meaning to make a quarter circle skirt for ages and decided to give the Circle Skirt Tool a test while I was at it, using a very lightweight 21 pinwale corduroy from fabric.com.

You just enter your waist measurement into the tool, choose what type of circle skirt you want, choose the length you want and click “Do the Maths”.  The tool them calculates the two radius measurements (waistline and hemline) and works out how much fabric you need.  For the quarter circle it calculates it as a single piece with only one centre back seam.  My measurement meant I could fit my skirt on a 43″ length of standard 45″ width fabric.

So it was just a matter of sewing up the back seam, adding a zip (I used an 8″ standard zipper in stash and used a lapped zipper method as I love that look).  I finished the waistband with a bias trim and finished the hem just by folding it over twice and machine stitching on the right side.  A very very easy and quick make.

The Circle Skirt Tool calculated accurately according to my measurements and the resulting skirt fits like a glove.  Just remember that if you want the skirt to have a bit of ease or sit a bit lower to adjust the waist measurement accordingly.

The corduroy has a nap though, a bit like velvet, so at the centre back the seam on one side is on the straight grain and the other side is cross grain, which makes the two sides look slightly different at the back.  That’s something to think about if you decide to use the calculator to make a single pattern piece especially if your fabric has a nap or a print that’s directional.

An easy way to fix this is to fold your finished pattern piece in half so it is now an 1/8th of a circle, and add a seam allowance along one side (the app has already calculated the outside seam allowance so you just need to add a seam allowance along the fold line).  Draw in new grainlines and use the halved pattern piece for front and back, and you now have side seams.  I have attempted to show this in the graphic below:

Convert Quarter circle skirt into two piece pattern

I feel that moving the grainline to the centre of each pattern piece results in a nicer hang to the garment.  If you just fold your pattern piece in half so that the two side seams line up with each other and crease it down the centre that will give the exact straight of grain for the new grainline.  Another lovely option is to cut it on the bias, a good tutorial on how to do this is from Threads Magazine here.

What grainline you choose can be influenced by your pattern print (for example, if you are working with stripes, cutting on the bias with a centre front and back seam results in a lovely chevron effect as you can see in the maxi dress example below). It can also be influenced by the drape of your fabric, and whether you want a flowing soft look (bias) or a more structured look (straight).

Some other examples of the 1/4 circle skirt are maxi dresses – it makes a particularly lovely maxi length, which I used in my Vogue 1027 Maxi Dress.  Its also a good choice if you want a dartless slightly fuller than straight but not too full skirt and so I used it for for my 1960s Vintage Lace Dress.

Two examples of 1/4 circle skirts
Two examples of 1/4 circle skirts

Other online tools that assist in calculating the radius and fabric length for circle skirts are this calculator here and it also gives the formula and a schematic here or you can use this calculator I’ve embedded here, which allows for a 1 cm seam allowance and 2 cm hem allowance:

Circle Skirt Calculator

If you would rather just refer to a list, I’ve done the calculations in inches for the waist radius for you, with an allowance of 5/8″ seam allowance. If your measurement falls outside this range, you can use the links above to get a more accurate radius measurement.

For a 1/4 Circle Skirt
Waist Measurement (in)
Cut your
Waist radius (in)
2616 1/4
2716 3/4
2817 1/2
3018 3/4
3119 1/4
3320 1/2
3421 1/4

I’ve been on a skirt making frenzy the last couple of months as I have been rushing to repopulate my wardrobe with stuff that actually fits due to slight weight gain.  But I think I need to attend to making some nice tops – blouses and tees for a bit – so I have something me-made to wear with my skirts.

*This post has been edited April 2016 and July 2019 to include additional clearer images, add in additional calculator tool links and the text has been edited for clarity.