Circular skirts are very versatile and can be made in a variety of fabrics, but they can be a little difficult to hem. When fabric is cut on the bias, it tends to stretch. With a circle skirt, this is the case for certain areas of the hem, while other areas will be on the grain of the fabric. This will cause some parts of the skirt hem to stretch, but not others. This creates a really uneven hem. In this article, I'll show you how to easily achieve an even hem on circle skirts or any other garment that has a bias hem of the fabric.
Some fabrics will be more likely to stretch than others. You may notice a more irregular hem with a drapey fabric like the heavy crepe fabric I used here. More stable, tightly woven fabrics, like cotton lawn, may not stretch as much. No matter what fabric you use, the hem of a circle skirt will likely become a little uneven. For this reason, it is very important that you hang up your finished skirt or dress and let gravity pull the hem down. You need to let it hang for at least 24 hours for the hem to fall completely. It's very difficult to leave your project hanging when it's so close to being finished, but you'll be very disappointed if the hem drops any further after you've finished sewing. I've actually had ready-to-wear skirts where the hem became a little uneven after hanging, so it really can happen to any of us!
Supplies Needed to Hem a Circle Skirt
- Circle skirt or dress (or any bias cut skirt or dress)
- Dress form or mannequin
- TIP: If you don't have a dress form, you can also ask a friend to help you!
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing machine
- Patchwork foot #97D Or Patchwork foot #37 (or reverse pattern foot #1 / #1D will work if you don't have a patchwork foot)
- Optional Border stitch foot #ten / #10D
Preparing the hem
Before hemming your circle skirt, it is important to let the skirt hang so that the fabric can fall and stretch along the bias. If you have a dress form or model, put your skirt on it and try to be patient. If you don't have a mannequin, you can also use a hanger. The key here is to make sure the fabric of the circle skirt doesn't sit on the floor. Let the skirt hang for at least 24 hours…or longer if the fabric is really drapey and heavy. (I promise this is the hardest part…I know we all just want to wear this item of clothing!)
Determining Skirt Hem Length
After letting the hem of your skirt hang loose, you will notice that it looks very uneven. This heavy pancake fell so much in just a few days. Some fabrics will shed less, but most will need an evening, even if it's a small amount.
The first thing you'll want to do is decide on the final hem length of your skirt. You can try on your dress or skirt to decide where you want your final hem to fall and add 1/2″ for hem allowance. Because I'm tall and I like my skirts to be longer, I always find the shortest part of the skirt hem and even the skirt up to that point.
Skirt hem marking
After deciding on the final length, you will want to measure the distance from that point to the ground. You can do this in different ways. Using a yardstick or yardstick will be a great tool to mark the hem at the same distance from the floor. (You can even put a piece of tape on it so you don't even have to pay attention to the measurements!). If you don't have it, you can even just put a piece of tape on a broom handle or something similar. If your dress form has a hem gauge like mine, you can adjust it to achieve the correct skirt length. I always make sure my hem is marked right in the little cutout near the edge.
Once you've determined where your hem is relative to the ground, it's time to mark your hem. With your skirt or dress on a dress form, you can measure yourself from the floor and score. If you don't have a dress template, this is where you'll need to ask someone to help you mark the skirt while you wear it. To mark the hem, you can use pins or a marking tool like chalk or a water-soluble pen. My favorite method is to do this with pins: mark the hem by placing pins all around my skirt at the level you have determined from the floor, parallel to the floor. You can also use a marking tool here, but I prefer pins because it's difficult to write on the fabric without it being on a table or hard surface.
Cut excess fabric from the hem
After you've marked your hem all the way around, step back and make sure it's even. You can even try on the skirt or dress to see if this line is even all the way around. (If someone helped you mark the hem, thank them for helping you and tell them they did a great job!) When you are happy with how the hem is marked, it It's time to cut off the excess fabric. Using fabric scissors, cut off the excess fabric at the line you marked or just below the pins.
Once you're done, it will look like you've removed a ruffle and your hem will be straight all the way around. You can remove all those pins to prepare the hem!
Mark the hem fold line
When hemming a large circle, a very narrow hem is usually the easiest solution so you don't fold as much fabric into a smaller space. (Damn pesky curves that always make things complicated!) I like to finish these skirts with a folded hem at 1/4″ and then another 1/4″. This small hem allowance can be difficult to fold accurately without burning your fingers. Before ironing, sew 1/4″ all the way around the hem of your skirt. This will give you a seam line to bend over and will make the process much easier. I like to use a Patchwork foot #97D for this step because I can use the edge as a 1/4″ guide. There are other 1/4″ feet that will work too, like the Patchwork foot #37 or you can use the Reverse Pattern Foot #1 and the 1/4″ stitch guide on your needle plate.
Ironing the hem
After sewing 1/4″ all the way around the hem line, you can fold the hem onto the wrong side of the skirt along that line and press. Fold the hem inside out again 1/4″ and press. This will bring the seam line to the wrong side of the skirt, enclosing the raw edge between the fabric. Be patient here and don't be afraid to use steam if your fabric can handle it! Pin the hem along the way to prepare for finally sewing it in place.
Sew the final hem
After pressing, you are finally ready to sew the final hem. I like to use the #10D Edgestitch foot for this. To do this, align the foot bar with the folded edge of the hem on the wrong side of your fabric. Move the needle to the hem so you can sew right next to the fold. I like to move my needle three places to the right. (If you don't have an edge stitch foot, you can use reverse pattern foot #1 instead.)
Finally, sew the hem all around.
Now that you're finally done, try on your skirt and give it a good spin! That’s what circle skirts are for!
I hope this has given you the motivation to try a new skirt or dress project and the confidence that you can achieve an even hem! I can't wait to see what you create!