How to Draft Circle Skirt Patterns for Figure Skating, Dance, and Cosplay

This morning, a reader posted a question to my Facebook Page (Costuming):

“Hi! Skate dress question for you… in the book you illustrate beautifully several options for skirts but don’t go into circle skirts much… unless I missed it. Any suggestions regarding figuring out sizing and how to cut them out?”

I started replying in a comment. After a while, I decided that a wall of text wasn’t going to cut it – this requires photos. So, here we are!

Before I get started, a bit of a disclaimer: This tutorial is going to be for a quick and dirty way to do it, with the most basic equipment possible. Just paper, a ruler, and a pen/marker is all you really NEED to draft a circle skirt. Much like most things with sewing – and life, I guess – there are optional items you could buy, that will make you life easier. After the base tutorial, I’ll discuss a few of them. Again – TOTALLY not necessary, just nice. If you’re going to be doing a lot of costuming, they will be items well worth the investment.

On that note, another disclaimer:

This site is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for the site to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites. While I’ll only ever link to items that I, personally, wholeheartedly recommend, I do need to put that disclosure out there!

Anyway, let’s get to the tutorial!



Before starting the drafting, you need to know:

– The hip circumference (which will be the actual hip measurement of the human, not the pattern (Use hip rather than waist, to allow the wearer to pull it on over the hips)
– How much gathering you want at the waist line of the skirt.
– Desired length of skirt at sides, front, and back (from the waist seam, not the actual waist).

When it comes to supplies, you will need:

Paper – I like wide craft packing paper (office supply stores), or rosin paper (home improvement stores).
A Ruler
A pen or marker

To Draft The pattern

Multiply the hip measurement by whatever factor you want for the gathering. For instance, if you want the gathering to be such that you have twice the fabric as the actual hip, multiply by 2. For 50% more fullness than if actual hip size, multiply by 1.5, etc etc.

Then, take that number and divide that by 3.14 – that gives you your diameter. Divide by 2, there’s your radius. As you’re not likely to end up with a number that’s nice to work with, feel free to round up to the nearest 1/4″. For the sake of example, let’s say you end up with something that ends up becoming 5″, after rounding.

Then, take a large sheet of whatever paper you’ll use to pattern – I tend to use really wide craft paper – and decide if you want to pattern with side seams (half circle) or not (full circle).

For a Half Circle Pattern

:

Fold the paper in half. The fold is your center line, either front or back – you’ll do this one for each.

You’re likely going to need to square one edge, from that fold, to work on. To do so, draw a line that is 90 degrees from the fold, as pictured. While I like to use a square rule for this – as pictured – you can always use a squared edge of something else to get that line started – even a piece of paper:

Once you have the line drawn, cut through both layers of paper, trimming the raw edge off the end. This new raw edge will become your side seam:

Measure out the radius measurement (5″, in this example) from the point of the fold, to both the folded edge and the raw edge:

You can measure out further points in between, as well – can temporarily fold the folded edge to meet the raw edge, unfold, and use that line as another guide to measure along. For the side with the two raw edges, I find it best to fold each layer in to the center, individually.



Connect all the dots in a smooth curve, this is now your waist line:

Then, starting at the curve you drew, measure out from that circle and mark the side seam length along the raw edge, and the center front or back measurement along the fold:

If these are the same, you can do the same as you did for the waist line – fold it in half one or more times, use the lines as guide on where to measure – always out from the waist line, not the folded center point.

If you’re doing a longer center measurement, you can do all the folds, but there will be more math involved.

For the fold that connected the center fold to the side seams – that is, the line halfway between the fold and the raw edges – mark a measurement that is halfway between the side and center measurements. So, if your side seam is 10 and your center is 15, this would be 12.5* Whatever number you come up with, mark that number next to the mark for the measurement, to keep track.

Then, mark other halfway points the same way. The fold line halfway between that first halfway point and the raw side edge will be the difference between those numbers – so in this case, 11.25. The one between the drawn midpoint and the folded center would be 13.75 in this example, etc.

When you’ve got that all sorted, connect the marks with a smooth curve:

Carefully cut the pattern out – through both layers of paper – and that’s a half circle pattern.

Repeat the process for the other half circle pattern needed, if that center measurement is different.

For a Full Circle Pattern:

Two ways you can do it, and which you pick will depend on the width of the paper you’re working with, and the length of the skirt you’re drafting.

1. Do the above directions, for both front and back. Mark “front” and “back”, tape them together.

This works best if you’re going to be doing a dance length dress, or if your paper isn’t wide enough to accommodate whatever you are doing. Also, this is the easier option if you’re dealing with center front and center back that are different measurements, IMHO.

2. If your paper is plenty wide to accommodate, you can do it all as one piece.

Start by folding the paper in half, long edge to long edge. This will be your center line, front and back. You can mark it as such – to keep track – if you like. Then, fold the fold over itself, dividing the paper in half again. This will form your side lines. Again, feel free to mark them at this point.

As pictured below, the edge closest to the bottom of the image is folded, and the fold extending up from it is the side line:

At this point, feel free to make as many interim -m and equal – folds as you’d like. The longer the skirt seam, the more folds will be helpful (as the distance between marks gets further in between, the further out you go from the center point.) Whatever you’re folding should be in half, and if there’s anything corresponding to that area that hasn’t been folded in half, it should be.

The goal is to end up with equally spaced lines. If you appear to be missing any, make whatever fold needed to add it in.

Once you’ve folded as many times as you’d like, unfold til you’re back to that very first fold. Have that center line fold laid out in front of you, across your work surface. Decide which side (out from the center point) will be the front of the skirt, and which will be the back – this is really only necessary if you have measurements that differ – and mark them as such.

Start by marking your radius measurement out from that center point, along the fold lines.

Connect them all with a smooth curved line. This is now your waistline:

From there, measure your center front measurement out towards the front side of the paper, on that part of the drawn waist line. Measure the center front back out from what will be the center back waist. Then, measure the side measurement from the point of the waist line centered between the other two folds, out from there (ie: directly out in front of you.)

Now, if this is an actual circle of a circle skirt – ie: side, center front, and center back measurements are all the same – you can go ahead and measure that distance out from the waist line, along all the folds. Connect all the marks with a nice smooth line.

If your circle skirt has different measurements for side and center front / center back:

For the fold line that is exactly halfway between the center fold and the side line, mark a measurement that is halfway between the side and center front measurements. So, if your side seam is 10″ and your center front 15″*, this would be 12.5″. Whatever number you come up with, mark that number next to the mark for the measurement, to keep track.

Then, mark other halfway points on THAT part of the skirt (between side line and the same way. The fold line halfway between that first halfway point and the side line will be the difference between those numbers – so in this case, 11.25″. The one between the drawn midpoint and the folded center would be 13.75″ in this example, etc:

Each time you are finding the halfway point between numbers, make sure you’re marking that distance on the fold line that is halfway between the two lines that provided the measurements you’re averaging from.

Once you’re done filling in all the lines on the front quarter of the dress pattern (The front half of the pattern, as you see it), repeat for the back half.

.

Connect all the points with a smooth, curved line, then carefully cut the pattern out, through both layers of paper.

* These measurements are random and – for most dresses – completely nonsensical. I just wanted to use nice, easy numbers to math with, it’s early in the morning 🙂

Important Note on Cutting the Fabric:

Whether or not you’re doing different measurements for the centers / sides, you’ll want to know where those points fall, when you cut the fabric.

If it’s all the same length – sides, center front, center back – you can mark the center points and the side points of the cut fabric with pins – this will be at the waistline, as the hem doesn’t really need to be divided/marked out**. This will help you evenly distribute the fullness when attaching your skirt.

If you have different lengths, you’ll make your life a lot easier if you not only mark the points with pins, but also label them. I like to keep painters tape on hand for this, marking “center front”, “center back”, “side”, and “side” right next to the pins, as soon as the fabric is cut.

This is especially important when working with slithery, annoying fabrics like chiffon.

** Unless you need center/side points of the hem marked for a design element you’re adding to the skirt, such as applique. In that case, I recommend marking the points on the hem with TAPE, not pins. Pins are far more likely to come out, when you’re dealing with the fullness of the hem edge fabric!

Hope this helps!

Additional Product Recommendations

So, as I stated at the start, there are some products that make you life easier, or just make pattern drafting a bit easier / cleaner / more fun.

Square Rule

You can go small with this – for convenience and/or budget – or larger. Larger is great for when you’re dealing with dance length skirts. Here are two great examples of the type I like – the first is smaller (usually for leather work and such), the second is bigger, and usually used for home improvement projects.

Flexible Curve Ruler

This item is usually used by engineers, but it’s GREAT for the sewing room. I have two sizes, a short one (about 12″), and a longer one (about 36″). You can bend and curve these to come up with a nice, rounded edge to join the points, then use it to trace that line. It’s a lot nicer than connecting the points manually, and allows not only for doing so with fewer interim points, but to do more abstract joins. Want to scallop the edges, but still follow the averaged curve? This is the toy for you!

Listing from shortest to longest:

French Curves

This is more for general pattern making – especially applique design – but I figure I’ll mention it here, while I’m thinking of it. I am personally not great at freehand drawing curves, so these are great to work with. These come in sets of various styles, but basically similar.

To be honest, I usually just buy based on aesthetic – I personally like transparent, and lean towards blue or green. Here are a few different sets. The last one is a bit different, as a smaller version of some of the fashion curve rules I use. I have one of that type of set, and one like the first 5 examples shown:

Fashion Rulers

So this again is something not as applicable to circle skirts specifically, but very topical – also, the sets usually have a bit of overlap with some of the above items, so it’s good to buy them together to avoid double purchasing something you don’t necessarily need multiples of.

Full disclosure: The set I use is an expensive, aluminum set that I bought a couple decades ago – and I have no idea where from. It looks a lot like the last example listed here. So, these are very similar, but not *exactly* what I use. If anything ever happens to my aluminum set, I’ll be buying one of these as replacements! I’m hard on my tools sometimes, so I’d be going for aluminum again – but I get a ton of use out of them, and – like I said – they’ve already lasted me a couple of decades at this point. If you’re a home user – rather than a business- I think the plastic would be a great budget option!

Rotary Tape Compass

This one is a bit more of an investment – and a single purpose item – so I really only recommend it if you’re doing a LOT of circle skirts that are actual circles. You’d set the first measurement to the radius of the hips, then the bigger measurement would be the radius of the hips PLUS the measurement of the skirt from the waist line – you’d be measuring both of the lengths out from the same point, so it’s important to add that hip radius to the length measurement, when using this tool / method.

I think that’s it! I hope the tutorial and tool recommendations help you out!

Also, if you have any requests for future tutorials, feel free to leave a comment below!


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Figure Skating: How to Make Soakers / “Flingies” (Blade Covers)

With summer skating season coming up soon – or having already begun! – I figure it’s a good time for a quick, easy, and fun tutorial: Learn how to make your own blade covers!

These have different nicknames, depending on where you live. At my old rink, we referred to them as “flingies”, because we would amuse ourselves by flinging them at each other during the floods. Nowadays, they seem to mostly be called “soakers”

There are two main ways to make these, Basic – all terrycloth – is the most common style for purchase. For this blog, I’ll be showing you how to make the other style, which my favourite kind. These ones use two fabrics – a decorative one for the outside, and terrycloth for the inside.


My beloved custom Rose boots have uh.. seen better days!

First, you’ll need to figure out what size you’ll want for your pattern pieces. The size of the pieces of fabric you will use depend on the size of the blade. If you have an old pair of flingies hanging around, you might want to take them apart as a pattern. Feel free to play with the sizing, but as examples: (more…)

Pina Colada Muffins

When I about 11 or 12, I spent a summer at the CalAlta Figure Skating Club in Calgary. Loved the rink, had a really nice coach…

… but the rink and the coach aren’t what inspired this blog entry. It was the giant muffins that they sold there.

I’m pretty sure they were from Costco.. each was way too big to be eaten in one serving. My favorite was the pina colada muffin, which I’d never seen before then. Upon my return to Winnipeg, searches of Costco failed to turn up these muffins, much to my dismay at the time.

Anyway, last weekend I woke up from a dream about those skating days, and with the muffins included. I decided to design a recipe around the idea of them. I wouldn’t be going for authentic, as their muffins were actually pretty dry.

So, here we are. Moist, tender pina colada flavored muffins! One of the tweaks I made to the source content was to top the muffins with coconut flakes prior to baking, which would allow them to toast up in the process. Pretty AND tasty!

Pina Colada Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups coconut flakes (sweetened or not), divided
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup coconut cream (Canned type, not milk replacement type)
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup pineapple puree*
1 tsp. rum extract

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners, or spray with baking spray.

In a large bowl, combine flour, 1 cup of the coconut, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In another bowl, combine eggs, coconut cream, melted butter, pineapple puree, and rum extract. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture.

Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.) Divide batter between 12 prepared muffin cups, filling each to almost full. Sprinkle remaining coconut over muffin batter in cups.

Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm. Makes 12 muffins.

* For pineapple puree, I drained a 20 oz can of pineapple chunks, then pureed the chunks. You can use crushed pineapple if you would like, just drain it really well first!

“Breakfast of Champions” – Then and Now

Time for an obligatory Olympics themed post!

I used to skate – a LOT. Started with figure skating (ice – freeskate and synchro), dabbled in speed skating (ice), then cross trained on roller figure skating (old school quad skates), and inline speed skating (roller), and played a bit of roller hockey (inline). Not Olympics for me, but I did compete in a lot of it – local and local-ish (As far as Alberta, ND, and MN) competitions in figure skating, went to nationals for roller artistic (figure skating on quad / inline skates), did some races on inline speed skating, and ALMOST got to go to Canada Winter Games in ice speed skating – missed it by only ONE spot! (And the person who got that spot was a fellow figure skater that I’d JUST convinced to get into speed! UGH!)

I hope such jockishness doesn’t take away my nerd card!

Anyway. When I was 12, I went to summer skating school for the first time. Every morning, we’d get up early, I’d make a quick breakfast, and we’d hit the road. I ended up creating a meal that would become my daily staple, which I referred to as my “Breakfast of Champions”. (Well, sometimes I’d say it with a bad french accent and call it “Breakfast Des Champignons” in Franglish, and then laugh to myself about how there were no mushrooms in it!).

I would take a packet of no-name, curry flavored Ramen type noodles, break it up, pour the flavor packet over it, along with the water from a can of cheapo shrimp pieces. Top with just enough water to barely cover it (I liked it SPICY, not diluted!), and cook only till the noodles started to soften a bit. Add the shrimp, cook another few seconds to warm them up. Toss in a handful of small cubes of mild cheddar, stir once (get the cheese warm, not melted yet), and strain the soup off the noodles. Dump the noodles in a bowl, add a couple Tbsp of sour cream, and stir for a creamy noodle dish. It had fat, carbs, a bit of protein… was quick, cheap, and easy, and warmed me up from the inside. IE: the perfect start to a few hours of skating!

Yes, I realize that I was a bit odd for a 12 year old, looking back on it.

Anyway. With all of this Olympics talk, it brought back memories of that favorite breakfast. I decided to make a slightly more healthy, adult version of it last night: The ramen was swapped out in favor of brown rice (slower burning carb, and gluten free!), the sour cream for unflavored Greek style yogurt. The soup packet – which was super high in salt and other crap – was swapped out for soup stock and spices. Canned shrimp was replaced with a bag of frozen shrimp – a little luxury that I was NOT able to have as a kid! (Certainly not daily!).

Oh, it hit the spot this morning, as leftovers. I am banging this blog entry out as we’re about to hit the gym for the first time in forever, so I’m hoping that the effects – even psychosomatic – are the same as my old “Breakfast of Champions”! This is NOT high cuisine, mind you… just slightly more healthy / less trashy than my old favorite!

This dish takes about 6-7 minutes to make, assuming that the rice is cooked ahead of time. If you have less time than THAT in the mornings, it also reheats very well – maybe even better than fresh!

Curried Shrimp “Faux-sotto”
Makes 6+ servings

2-3 cups chicken stock
3 tsp hot curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 lb bag shrimp, thawed and peeled
1/2 cup unflavored Greek style yogurt (or sour cream)
1 cup cubed mild cheddar cheese (around 3/8″)

In a large pan over medium heat, whisk together 2 cups of chicken stock and the spices.

Add brown rice, stir well. Once the chicken stock is almost completely absorbed by the rice and everything is hot, add shrimp. Continue to cook, stirring, for another minute or so.

Remove from heat, stir in yogurt until well distributed and creamy. Sprinkle cheese in, stir quickly and serve. (Ideally, the cheese will remain cubed long enough to serve – in the original dish, the goal was melty chunks of cheese, not cheese melted throughout!)

Enjoy!

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National Home Economics Day

This morning, one of my favorite tweeps (and a recent guest poster here!), Mairlyn Smith posted a link to her blog entry today – “Celebrating World Home Economics Day”

I had no idea that there was such a thing as World Home Economics Day. Not that it surprises me or anything, I just hadn’t given it much thought. As I read Mairlyn’s blog entry, all sorts of warm, fuzzy memories about Home Ec class came flooding back.

Now, as I’d mentioned before… for the most part, my school life was an utter nightmare. During Jr High – the Home Ec years … well, those were the worst years of my school career. Pretty sure I managed to be harassed and bullied by every degenerate in the Fort Garry School Division – it wasn’t fun.

Home Ec day was my favorite day of the week, and I’m pretty sure the only thing that kept me sane. Once a week, we would all spend the afternoon at the nearby high school, which had an entire wing for Home Ec and Shop. I LOVED it! I loved learning all kinds of new skills – silk screening, wood working, etc – as well as “honing” existing skills. (more…)

Toronto Star – Spandex queen makes snug, sexy fit

Toronto Star, June 26 2003
Spandex queen makes snug, sexy fit
BERNADETTE MORRA

Most women would find a full body wax less painful than shopping for a swimsuit.

Marie Routhier completely understands.

The former figure skater’s physique changed dramatically after a car accident six years ago sidelined her with a back injury.

Routhier redirected her passion for the sport into creating costumes for skaters, wrestlers, synchronized swimmers, body builders and fitness competitors. Now she’s making a splash with men and women of all shapes and sizes who are simply frustrated with store-bought suits.

“It’s a matter of fit and choice,” Routhier believes. “If someone has a long body or their hip size is different than their chest, this is the answer.”

From full-coverage maillots to skimpy bikinis, custom orders are all sewn to the client’s exact specifications, no matter what their proportions. Figure concerns can be camouflaged and the design options are limitless.

She’s done striking Canadian flag one-piecers, a funky boy-leg camouflage-print suit and a racy Toronto Maple Leafs-theme bikini. An Inuit-inspired collection with glacial and Northern Lights motifs was designed for the gold-medal winning national synchronized swim team. And Routhier did a series of superheroes for the Guelph synchro team.

“I hand-painted the Hulk’s abs on to nylon tricot spandex. That was really fun,” she chuckles.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 12 years old. It’s like breathing to me,” Routhier says in her topsy-turvy Mississauga home/studio. Throughout her teens, she made costumes for herself and her skater friends, experience that proved key.

She learned not to use invisible zippers in her sports designs because they might pop and she guarantees her seams will not rip. “When I was skating, I was vicious on seams. I really abused my costumes because my style was more athletic than ballet. If it can stand up to me, it can stand up to anything. Even my wrestlers never have a problem.”

In addition to her custom designs, Routhier offers some ready-made styles including a Pride Day collection. The rainbow flag bikinis and pink triangle trunks for men are priced from $67.50 to $75 with 10 per cent going to the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research. Custom swimsuits usually ring in between $100 to $150.

Orders for both can be place through Routhier’s Web site, http://www.queenof spandex.com. Or call 416-732-8783.

The Women’s Journal Coverage – Teen Designer: From Barbies to Beauty Queens

The Woman’s Journal (Oregon), May 1999

Teen Designer: From Barbies to Beauty Queens
By Peggy Padgett

A woman who finds her true vocation- whether by luck, application, or process of elimination- is lucky. A woman who finds her true vocation at an early age, like Marie Routhier, is perhaps even luckier.

Routhier, owner of Marie Routhier Designs in St.John’s, Newfoundland (Canada), remembers making extravagent ball gowns for her Barie dolls when she was a small child in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This is perhaps not so remarkable- many an amateur seamstress has gotten her start making outfits for Mattel’s dream queen. But Routhier has never stopped.

When she took up figure skating as a schoolgirl, she began to design skating outfits, both because she wanted better-looking outfits than her family could afford, and because she could design outfits that were more comfortable and flattering than ones she could buy. Her success did not go unnoticed. Routhier says that by the time she was 11, “People around the rink really liked what they saw and started ordering. Between the ages of 12 and 15, I was taking orders from all over Manitoba.” As well as elsewhere in Canada and the U.S.

When Routhier quit skating at 15, she quit making skating outfits as well. But some of the women who had bought her skating outfits were graduating from high school, and Routhier began designing their prom gowns. Again, the excellence of her designs caught others’ notice.

“Design was something I’d always done,” she says. “Everyone I sewed for would be impressed with what I’d do, and would subsequently tell me so. It was just the natural choice for a career.”

It’s a career that shows every sign of success. Since Routhier moved to St. John’s last year, a local bridal salon has picked up her design line, and other salons are expected ot follow suit. One of her bridal gowns was recently featured on the cover of the Newfoundland Herald’s spring bridal supplement. This would be an achievment for any designer, it’s especially impressive for a woman who will turn 20 at the end of May.

Routhier credits part of her success to Isabelle Fry, owner of a modelling agency in St. John’s. Fry has mentored Routhier, and introduced her to the Canadian beauty pageant industry. Routhier’s designs have found enthusiastic acceptance there as well. This year, she will be the official eveningwear designerfor the Miss Teen Newfoundland and Labrador pageant. For the teen pageant, Routhier is custom-making gowns for the 32 contestants (using the same style but a different colour for each), as well as others in the pageant.

“It’s an exciting industry,” she says, adding, “I’m hoping that the pageants will lead up to doing gowns for awards shows [such as the Oscars], because that is partially the reason I started.”

Looking at Routhier’s designs (which you can do by visiting her website at www.marierouthier.nf.net), it’s easy to see why people are so enthusiastic about her work. Routhier says she’s been told that her gowns make the wearer “feel like a princess”, and that is certainly what these beautiful, extravagent designs suggest. Even better, Routhier’s designs work for those of us who don’t have perfect size-6 bodies. She understands how to create designs that flatter a wide range of shapes and sizes.

Routhier’s success, like all successes, has had its price. To acheive so much at such a young age, Routhier admits that she “never really got to be a teenager.” But given Routhier’s family background (which includes an abusive step father and an unsupportive mother), it’s possible that her teen years would have been problematic in any case. It’s to Routhier’s great credit that she has managed to use her gift and her ingenuity to transcend the barriers that lay between her and her dreams.