The Donna Skirt: Marking and Preparing the Hem of a Circle or Flared Skirt

The process for marking a skirt hem is best done by marking up from the floor to the height of the hemline. This is the technique I will show using a dress form. It’s not a problem if you don’t have a dress form. I will briefly show how a hem can be marked by lying the skirt flat on the table.

The key to getting an accurate hemline is to check the results after pinning and basting by: (1) laying the skirt flat and spread out on the table or floor; and (2) trying it on and seeing how it looks from different angles while standing in front of a full length mirror.

1. Begin at Center Front since that is the length that is used when the pattern is drafted.

Adjust the dress form to stand at the height you will have when wearing the shoes for the outfit. Use a tapemeasure. Here I have started the tape measure two inches above the bottom of the skirt because that is where the hemline will be.

Pull tightly down until the tape measure touches the floor. Mark that point with a pin. This will give you the measurement called “Height From the Floor”. For The Donna Skirt 21″ is the Height From the Floor measurement.

2. Continue pinning around the skirt always making sure that the measurement is always the same. Sometimes there may be slightly more fabric at that point. This happened towards the side seams of The Donna Skirt because they fell on the bias and stretched while being allowed to hang for 72 hours.

2a. Photo showing how the depth of the hemline is slightly deeper towards the side seams because of the settling of the fabric on the bias.

3. An alternate method to mark the hem is to lie the skirt flat on a table or the floor (use a cutting mat underneath). With a tape measure mark downwards from the waist to the end of the skirt the total length of the skirt.

3a. For example, the total length of The Donna Skirt is 26″. So begin with that Measurement at the waist.

3b. From the end of the skirt measure upwards the depth of the hem and mark with Tailor’s Chalk. Here the depth is 2″.

4. After the hemline is measured and marked using either method, pin up along pins or chalked line.

5. A flared or circle skirt will have a lot of fabric that needs to be evenly distributed at the hemline. Some sewistas recommend using a running stitch at the edge and pulling slightly to gather in the ease.

I was taught to pin first at the side seams then at the center point. After that pin up between the middle of each side seam and the center point (Center Back or Center Front). Then carefully pin the ease and distribute by hand. Use as many pins as needed.

6. Before basting spread the skirt out on the table or the floor. Make sure it is even at the waistline. Then check that the hem is the same at front and back. The ends of front and back should meet. You can also try the skirt on to get a quick look at how the hem appears.

7. Baste close to the edge of the hem and remove pins as you go along.

8. Prepare to steam press the hem and shrink out the extra fullness. First, insert brown paper strips between the hem and the skirt. Hold iron above the fabric and release a shot of steam. Do not actually put the iron down on the fabric. Pat in place. Repeat going around the skirt always putting the brown paper between hem and skirt.

9. Let the skirt hem cool off after steam pressing. The next step is to even out the hem. Notice how the hem lies flat after steaming. It is not necessary to use gathers to distribute the east. Using a clear plastic ruler and Tailor’s Chalk, mark upward from the hemline the depth of the hem.

Trim along the marked line.

10. At this point you can pink the edges and run a straight stitch near the pinking. This is a very basic finish and can be used to then catch stitch the hem to the skirt. I prefer to use the bias organza hem tape for circle and flared skirts since it is a very pretty sight when the skirt hem flutters in the breeze or you twirl around to show off the skirt.

11. Pin the edge of the organza hem tape to the edge of the hem. Pin along the chalked in line and then baste. Leave the basting near the fold of the hemline in place.

12. When the hem tape completely encircles the skirt remember to create a little fold at one side seam so that the hem tape can be hand sewn closed once hemming is complete.

Stitch the hem tape by machine.

The preparation is complete. Next, sewing the hem in place.

Please Note: I had originally estimated a 2″ high hem for the skirt. After considering the benefits of using a wide bias organza hem tape I decided to make the depth of the hem only 1″ by trimming away an extra 1″ from the edge.


2 thoughts on “The Donna Skirt: Marking and Preparing the Hem of a Circle or Flared Skirt

    • I’m so glad you like it, Norma. I’m going to put the last installment up this weekend. Then slowly hem the dress over the holidays. Should be up by 1st week of January 2014. Overall it’s very easy to make. Just need to adjust the waist. I found that the pattern drafting instructions added a little too much ease to the waist.


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