I #lovemnwinter! Today, I love winter fashion.
I love biking in the winter. To enjoy biking on a brisk, ten-degree morning it helps to be well dressed – there is no bad weather, only bad clothing, right? I also love retro fashion and looking great while biking so I am always on the look-out for how to combine comfort and warmth with looking amazing. This year’s great discovery has been the wool circle skirt. Even in below zero temperatures, I am cozy and stylish in heavy wool with a pair or two of fleece leggings underneath. With some basic sewing skills and equipment, you, too, can be warm and stylish! This is a how-to about sewing your own skirt.
This article assumes you know how to operate a sewing machine and have basic sewing skills.
- About 2 yards heavy wool (This is expensive. I get mine at SR Harris and wait until they have a coupon. Joann Fabrics offer lots of coupons, but do not have the selection of quality wool that SR Harris does. I have also had good experiences with www.fabric.com.)
- About 2 yards lining fabric. I recommend polyester/acetate lining available in the lining section of the fabric store
- A 7-9 inch invisible zipper
- A 1 to 1.5 inch button
- To be extra fancy and retro use a horse hair hem. Ten yards of horse hair (don’t worry – this isn’t actually made of horse hair. It is a plastic mesh that used to be horse hair in days of old.)
- Horse hair hem gives your dress added shape and structure – a little of that poof seen in old skirts. You can also use regular hem tape available in the notions section or forgo the hem tape and just turn up your hem.
Measuring and Cutting
First, measure around your waist. Retro clothing generally fit at the natural waist, not lower on the hips like today’s clothing does. Measure where you want the skirt to sit on your body. Your natural waist is where your belly button is or the narrowest part of your torso. Then decide how long you want your skirt to be. For winter warmth and retro style, mine fall to about three inches below my knee. Get a friend and a measuring tape. Stand up straight and have your friend measure from your belly button to where you want the skirt to fall. Add one inch to this measurement for your ½ inch seam allowances.
I used this handy Circle Skirt Calculator to figure out my waist radius, which is half the diameter of the circle that will become your skirt waist opening. Mine is 4.5 inches.
Using the diagram from the calculator, lay out your wool on a large table. Measure and mark the distance of your waist radius along the fold and down the selvedge edge from the fold. I like to pin my measuring tape to the point and use that to mark a quarter circle between the two markings. This is your waist. From that same point, measure your waist radius plus the length of your skirt plus the inch seam allowance. For me this is 4.5 + 24 + 1 or about 30 inches. Mark another, larger circle of this radius from the same point that you did for the waist. Cut along both circles you drew.
Lay the half circle you cut on top of the remaining fabric, fold along the fold, and use that to cut a second half circle. Do this with your lining fabric, but make the circle about two inches shorter. Finally, cut out a waist band. For a 2-inch-wide waist band, cut a 3-inch-wide by your waist circumference plus 3 inches for a 1-inch seam allowance and 2-inch tab for the button.
Now, lay one side of each half circle right sides together and sew that seam. Press. I recommend finishing the seam edges with either a serger or a zig zag stitch on a regular machine. Do the same with your lining. Then, put the right side of the lining on the wrong side of the skirt, lining up the waist. Baste the lining to the skirt in the seam allowance. At this point you will have a two big circles (wool and lining) that are sewed together at the waist and one side. We will close the circle next.
Finish the raw edges of both the skirt and the lining by either serging the edge or using a zig zag stitch. Put in your zipper using your favorite method. I will not explain how to do that, as it depends on the kind of zipper you have, but I like this tutorial for an invisible zipper and this one for a regular zipper. Sew the remaining side seams of both the lining and the skirt. I like to keep the lining separate from the skirt, but do what you want. Now you have a circle! Try it on to check for fit.
Add the waistband.
Fold the waistband in half, right sides together. To make the corners nice and neat, first sew one short side (width). Then for the button tab, sew down the short side, pivot, and sew about two inches along the raw, open side.
Trim the seam allowances, turn out, and press. Press up a little less than half an inch on one side of the waistband. Take the raw edge of your waistband that you did not press, leaving the other raw side free, and pin it to the raw waist of your skirt on the right side. Make sure to line up any side seams and have the button tab aligned with the zipper. Ease in any extra material and baste. Check to make sure and lies nicely and sew seam. Clip seam allowances.
Fold over the pressed edge to the inside of the skirt and pin in place. Stitch in the ditch (meaning your stitching line from the other side of the waistband) or hand sew waistband in place. Sew on the button under the button hole tab on the waist band.
Hang your skirt overnight. This is annoying, but important. The skirt is cut on the bias of the fabric and the weight of the skirt will cause the fabric to stretch. If you do not hang it overnight and just hem it, the hem will be uneven after gravity takes its toll.
After your skirt has hung overnight, check to make sure the circle is still even. Carefully trim where it might be uneven to insure the hem is even.
If you are not using hem tape or horse hair, press up half an inch along the hem of both the lining and the skirt toward the inside, then press up another half inch and sew the hem.
If you are using hem tape or horse hair, pin the tape so that the skirt edge is at about the middle of the tape. Sew the tape to the skirt along the inside edge of the tape. Fold to the inside so that the other side of the tape (the side you did not sew to the skirt) is about half an inch from the fold. Pin in place. Sew along the tape on the side you did not sew before. There is your hem! Do the same with the lining. Do not use horse hair on the lining, just use regular hem tape.
Now you have a fabulous and warm skirt to wear out in the cold. Just make sure to sit on your skirt and do not let it cover your rear light.