Twirling Skirt Tutorial… educational motivation.

Twirling Skirt!

I love a sweet skirt, especially one that has all kinds of flouncy-ruffly-colorful-flowy goodness!  I just feel different when I am wearing one verses a pair of jeans, shorts, or a pencil skirt.  I almost feel like a little girl again, putting (more) flowers in my hair, running around chasing lightening bugs, or swinging at the park.  There is a different spring to my step, I just love it.  I do love the traditional tiered gypsy skirts, or a simple circle skirt… but something just screams AWESOME with a beautiful twirling skirt.  This pattern has been called many things over the years: Rhondo (Studio Tantrum design), Mermaid, Spiral (Simplicity), and corkscrew(!) but I think it is the most elegant twirling skirt.  So that’s what I call this pattern.

Am I the first to make this? Heck NO.  Is it a common pattern? NO.  But if you ask any one at the craft store if they can make it, they usually state they have a pattern some where.  Why then, do I ask you, are there so few out there?  Everyone comments on mine when I wear it, ask where I got it, and looks flabbergasted when I say I made it!  Besides myself, I have found only 2 other sellers who makes a version. Insane!

Now this pattern is not for the faint of heart, it has TWO pattern pieces that make up ONE MAIN PATTERN PIECE.  So most may say, wow I can do that.  First off, make sure you have a great working relationship with you surger, sewing machine, and your iron.  All three are very important.  Second, select a fabric that will not crawl away on you! You know which ones I mean:  satin, acetate, silk gauze, some velvets, etc.  Select a fabric that has a good drape to it, and not to busy of a print.  Most of all, select a fabric that will iron well.

For my example I have used a simple 100% cotton fabric with large geometric prints.  Obviously they don’t match, but they do compliment each other nicely.  Remember: the more striking the fabrics and their contrast to each other, the more it sets off the pattern of the skirt.  I have also sized everything to my 1 year old daughter, takes less fabric that way… But for myself (size 16 womens) it takes 4 -5 yards but you will have LOTS of left over in odd shapes.

Got your fabric? and all the fixings?  Good lets start.


The best part about a twirling skirt is you can determine how many arms of your spiral you would like.  My daughters in this example has 8 arms.  My personal skirt only has 5 arms.  You do not have to have even or odd numbers, it’s totally up to your favorite number.  Remember: The more arms you have in your spiral, the more seams you have to sew.

Take some measurements:

1. LOOSE waist (above the belly button) I took a tight waist and added 4 inches, since I like an elastic waist band, if you want a zipper or button waist, make the extra a little less.

2. Length (from waist to how long you would like it)

That is it.  Word to the wise:  if you are going floor length, make it out of muslin FIRST to test… you will have restricted leg movement on the top, thus the name MERMAID skirt)


Now determine how many “spiral arms” you want, then take your waist measurement and divide by the number of arms.  In my case this came out to (20″/8=2.5″) now add 1″ for seam allowance (2.5+1=3.5)  THIS IS THE WIDTH OF YOUR TOP PATTERN PIECE.


You now have the width and length of your first pattern piece.  Time to pull out your geometry skills.  On a piece of parchment paper draw out an arc, as pictured below highlighted in red, the LENGTH  from you measurements.   The sharpness of this arc will determine how sharply your skirt swirls, too sharp an arc and you get a pencil skirt silhouette and too wide you loose the spiral effect.  I traced a desert dish in this example…

Body portion of pattern Piece. The red line represents two things. The first is this curve determines the length of the skirt (you will add a little with the ruffle flounce, but not much). And second, the tighter the angle the LESS full the body of the skirt becomes.

The width (the straight lines at the beginning and end of arc) of this piece is determined from the little bit of math you did above (remember mine was 3.5″?). Draw your complete pattern out, so it looks somewhat like the above picture.


On to the flounce portion of the pattern, this is where you really get to throw your own creativity in!  The starting width of this piece is going to be IDENTICAL to the width of the Top pattern piece.  The length is also going to be IDENTICAL, the difference is you are going to taper one end down to a gradual point.  The sharpness of this arc ALSO determines how much flounce or frillyness your skirt will have.  The more arc the more flounce and the ruffles will stand up on their own.  The less arc the more gradual of a ruffle, creating more of a tulip shaped edge.  Both types are very sweet!

Flounce pattern piece. The red arrows show the different angles of that can be used on the flounce. The wider the angle, the shallower the ruffle. The tighter the angle the more ruffly the fabric becomes.

Now that you have your pattern pieces traced out, it’s important to put some working marks on them.  Things get confusing sometimes and it’s nice to have a quick reference.  First you want to mark which seams are being joined together!  I usually do an “A goes to B”  method, but do what ever floats your boat.  Second, AND MOST IMPORTANT.  Mark a grain line!  You want the grain line to run PERPENDICULAR to your waist seam AND your joining seam.  MARK IT OUT WITH A STRAIGHT LINE.  If you don’t things won’t sit, sew, or hang correctly.

Pattern pieces drafted out, make sure to mark grain/pattern lines and seams.

Next we cut out our pattern pieces anddry test them out.

pattern pieces cut out.

Make sure that your sew marks match up, and your grain lines are running PERPENDICULAR to your waist line and joining seam line.  As you can see the arc’s I have selected cause the pattern pieces to overlap.  This is why there are TWO pattern pieces.  If you pattern does not overlap, you can usually (!) join your paper patterns together with tape and cut out your complete spiral arm in one fell swoop.  But if your pattern pieces overlap, you get to cut out lots of fabric!


Time to pull out your fabric and get to cutting.  Remember how many spiral arms you want?  (8) in my case (x) 2 pattern pieces = 16 pieces of fabric cut out.  Phew… takes a bit of time!  If you decided to “make things quicker” by staking lots of fabric, double check that your pieces are all the same size!)  Make sure that you are lining up the correct grain lines and that you DO NOT ACCIDENTALLY FLIP a pattern piece.  Take the time and test each one after you cut.

Now that you have your pile of pieces, surge the joining seams ONLY.  Next sew the joining seams ONLY together.  In my case I end up with 8 spiral arms, NOW you can surge the entire piece.  (why now? and not before?  the surging over the finished edges of the joining seams helps to strengthen the seam and not create pulling when joining the arcs together with a straight stitch in future steps).

sample of pattern pieces joined to make one arm of the spiral, note how the fabric overlaps, in this design I should have a super duper flounce.

Here comes the fun yet harrowing part.  You get to join all the arms together.  Make sure if you are using different fabric colors/patterns to lay out the order you would like them.  You will be sewing the OUTER edge of one piece to the INNER edge of the next.  Start your OUTER edge piece about 0.25″ above the INNER edge, so when you open the seam you get a smooth waist line and not a saw tooth one.  No big deal if you forget, just looks neater with less steps.  When you get to the tail of each piece do not sew over your surged edge, there is a reason for this that will be explained later.

spiral under construction, it gets confusing but just keep adding each of the pieces.

After EACH AND EVERY SEAM IS SEWN, iron the raw edges to ONE side, do not split it open to create a flat seam this will only cause buckling in the fabric and the right side will look wonky.  If you are consistent with the side you choose, it helps with the drape of the skirt.

Once you have all the pieces joined together and you have completed the circle, you should have a beautiful raw skirt laying before you!

All the pieces are joined together!

This is where you can make sure that all your seams are correct, the placement of each color/pattern is how you planned, and that the length of the skirt is what you had planned.  You will also be able to see how the flounce is forming, as you can see my little sample will not lay flat due to the amount of ruffly-goodness:

super-duper flounce, the ruffles do not allow the skirt to lie out flat when on the table. This really accentuates the twirl effect.

Congratulations, you have made it to the final stages!  It’s time to hem, amazingly enough it’s not that hard, since the flounce edge that you are hemming is on the Bias, there is very little buckling of the fabric.  In this step your iron is your best friend.  Fold over the edge of your hem and iron. Once you have everything folded and ironed, sew with a straight stitch.  You will notice that where you left the seam open at the end of the spiral (ending your seams before the surge line) it allows the seams to fold over nicely.  You can trim excess “tails” off as you go.

Tada! your twirling skirt is ready to be attached, either to a simple waist band or as in my example a peasant top dress.

Instead of adding a regular waist band, I substituted the skirt in a peasant dress pattern. I then added a cute little belt and leggings.

Use your imagination, it’s a great pattern with lots of potential… my next step is a pair of bohemian pants :).



Glad  you now know how it’s made, but really don’t want to take the time?  Here are some links to some wonderful places to get a version of this skirt: (childrens, COMING SOON!)  (can order directly through the site) (adult, bellydance inspired) (childrens) (childrens)


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