When I made this skirt I looked for a tutorial, and although I found a good one for sewing the skirt to an exposed elastic waistband, I like a more finished look for the waistband. Once I figured out how to do this, it was so easy I thought I’d share my method. These are beginner-level instructions that require only basic sewing skills.
You’ll need three measurements: Waist, hip, and skirt length (from the waist to wherever you want the skirt to end). I think circle skirts look great knee-length, but I made my girls’ skirts a couple inches longer in the hopes that they’ll fit for a couple of years.
The waistband will be drafted to the hip measurement, since you want to be able to pull the skirt on over the hips. I have found that it’s good to add at least an inch of ease to the hip measurement to make it easy to pull on, and you could add even more if you want to leave growing room or are sewing for an adult.
Divide the hip+ease measurement by 2 and then by 3.14. This is your radius for the waist seam circle. (The formula is: the circumference of a circle equals two times the radius times pi.) You can convert decimals to the nearest fraction of an inch using this chart.
I used a computer program to draft my quarter-circles for the waist seam, but you can draft your own by measuring several marks from the corner of the folded fabric with a ruler and connecting the marks. Good diagrams of what I’m trying to describe can be found here and here.
Your square of fabric will need to be twice as wide as your radius+skirt length+hem allowance. (For example, for one of my skirts my radius plus skirt length plus hem allowance was 24 inches, so my fabric needed to be at least 48 inches wide and long.) Fold your fabric into quarters.
(I shifted my fabric to the side to conserve fabric.)
Important: DON’T CUT ON YOUR SEAMLINE. After you mark where you skirt’s waist seam will go, you’ll need to mark another line 5/8″ in from the seamline. That’s where you make your cut.
I used this fun bendy curve-drafting tool, purchased in a drafting supply store, to connect the marks for the skirt hemline. But if you don’t have one you could just eyeball the curve and it will be fine.
For the waistband, I wanted a 1″ wide casing for the 3/4″ wide elastic (this might be a bit generous, but it seemed to work fine) . 1″ doubled plus 2 5/8″ seam allowances meant I cut my waistband 3.25″ wide. The length of the waistband is the hip measurement plus ease plus seam allowances. I folded my waistband along its length and pressed a crease.
Now, on your skirt piece,stitch along the seamline, being careful not to stretch the fabric. Then clip the seam allowances, at about one inch intervals, to within a few threads of the stay-stitching line.
Divide the top edge of the skirt into quarters and mark them, then do the same to the edge of the waistband (on the side you didn’t press under). Match the quartering marks, pin them, then pin between them until the skirt seamline and waistband match smoothly. Sew the waistband to the skirt, right sides together.
Press the seam allowance toward the waistband. Fold the waistband over the seam allowance and pin in place. The turned-under edge should overhang the seam by 1/4″. On the outside of the skirt, stitch in the ditch of the seam to secure the waistband on the reverse side.
Cut your elastic to the waist measurement. Thread one end through the waistband. (I own several bodkins, but usually I just use a safety pin pinned through the end of the elastic to help maneuver the elastic through the casing.) Lap the ends of the elastic by one inch and stitch them together.
Now all you need is a hem!
I serged around the edge of the hem with the differential feed set to gather the fabric as much as possible. It didn’t look like it was making much difference, but when I pressed the edge under, the slight gathering made it fairly easy to press the seam allowance flat with a nice curved edge.