What Are Flounces And How To Sew Them?

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What are flounces?

Flounces, sometimes also called circle gathers, are decorative elements made from a circle-shaped piece of fabric. By straightening the inner (smaller) circle of the fabric or accommodating it to shape other than the initial circle, flounces are created (see the images below).

Flounces sewn to a straight fabric edge.
Flounces sewn to a curved fabric edge.

In this blog post you will also learn about:

Online flounce pattern calculator.

Most common use of circle gathers

You may not realise, but the most common use is in fact all types of circle skirts.

A half circle skirt is an example of subtle circle gathers, on the other hand, a double skirt is an illustration of more prominent circle gathers (see the images below).

White half circle skirt.
Half circle skirt.
White double circle skirt.
Double circle skirt.

Another great use is decorative skirt hems, sleeves, sleeve cuffs, or necklines. Actually, use them anywhere you like to. Or just use them allover a garment to create a design that stands out (see the image below).

How to create flounces?

Measure the total length of the area to which you want to sew them and you learn the flounce length. Next, determine the ratio and width of the flounces.

What is a flounce ratio?

Before you start, decide how subtle or prominent flounces you envisage for your project. I call this flounce ratio. A small flounce ratio indicates using a small fraction of the circle and small flounces. On the other hand, a big flounce ratio means using a bigger fraction of the circle and more circle gathers. This can be one whole circle or even several circles.

In the schemes and images below, you can see examples of the same length and width but with different flounce ratios. The flounce ratio directly affects the calculation of the flounces.

In this tutorial, I am going to show you flounces made by using different ratios. The length of the flounces will be 20 cm (7 7/8 inch) their width 5 cm (2 inch) (see the examples below).

Online flounce pattern calculator.

How to calculate quarter (1/4) circle gathers?

In quarter circle flounces 1/4 of a circle is being cut to make the flounces. These are probably the most subtle flounces. Calculate the inner (red in the scheme below) and outer (blue in the scheme below) circle radius according to this formula:

inner circle radius = (4 ⨯ flounce length)/(2 ⨯ π)

outer circle radius = inner circle radius + flounce width

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Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowance to the flounce pattern.

Quarter circle flounces.
Quarter circle flounces - side view.
Online flounce pattern calculator.

How to calculate half (1/2) circle gathers?

Calculate the inner (red in the scheme below) and outer (blue in the scheme below) circle radius according to the this formula:

inner circle radius = (2 ⨯ flounce length)/(2 ⨯ π)

outer circle radius = inner circle radius + flounce width

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowance to the flounce pattern.

Half circle flounces.
Half circle flounces - side view.
Online flounce pattern calculator.

How to calculate three quarter (3/4) circle gathers?

Calculate the inner (red in the scheme below) and outer (blue in the scheme below) circle radius according to the this formula:

inner circle radius = (4/3 ⨯ flounce length)/(2 ⨯ π)

outer circle radius = inner circle radius + flounce width

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowance to the flounce pattern.

Three quarter circle flounces.
Three quarter circle flounces  - side view.
Online flounce pattern calculator.

How to calculate full (1) circle gathers?

When you plan to make flounces from a full circle, consider whether it is necessary to add side seam allowances. If so, you have to add the width of the allowances to the calculation of the inner (red) circle.

The following formula contains side seam allowances:

inner circle radius = (flounce length + 2 ⨯ seam allowance)/(2 ⨯ π)

outer circle radius = inner circle radius + flounce width

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowance to the flounce pattern.

The following formula does NOT include side seam allowances:

inner circle radius = (flounce length)/(2 ⨯ π)

outer circle radius = inner circle radius + flounce width

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowance to the flounce pattern.

Full circle founces.
Full circle flounces - side view.
Online flounce pattern calculator.

How to calculate one and a half (1.5) circle gathers?

I would recommend sewing one and a half circle flounces from two 3/4 circles ( 3/4 + 3/4 = 1.5 circle). Adding the necessary seam allowances to connect the two pieces is easier than with one whole circle and an additional half circle (see the formula and scheme below). Also eventually adding seam allowance to the sides of the final flounces (beginning and end) is easier and does not require any special calculations.

inner circle radius = flounce length/(3 ⨯ π)

outer circle radius = inner circle radius + flounce width

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowance to the flounce pattern.

One and a half circle founce.
One and a half circle flounce side view.
Online flounce pattern calculator.

How to calculate double (2) circle gathers?

A double circle flounce is made of two circles, which are sewn together. The inner circle of each flounce is a half length of the whole flounce width.

Calculations for the inner radius of the circle will be different when you need seam allowance on each side of the final flounces (beginning and end). Again, adding a connecting seam allowance to each circle is necessary to sew the two together.

Formula without side seam allowances:

inner circle radius = (flounce length/2 + connecting seam allowance) / (2 ⨯ π)

outer circle radius = inner circle radius + flounce width

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowance to the flounce pattern.

Formula with side seam allowances:

inner circle radius = (flounce length/2 + connecting seam allowance + side seam allowance) / (2 ⨯ π)

outer circle radius = inner circle radius + flounce width

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

Do not forget to add seam allowances and hem allowance to the flounce pattern.

Scheme how to make double circle flounces.
Double circle flounces from the top.
Double circle flounces from the side.
Online flounce pattern calculator.

How to sew a flounce (circle gathers)?

Sewing is not difficult, still it may prove tricky. The fabric is cut in a circular shape, thus mostly on the bias. This means that when manipulating with the fabric, you can unintentionally stretch it and actually make it longer than the flounce length you measured initially.

The higher flounce ratio you choose, the trickier the sewing. Quarter circle flounces will be super easy, while double circle flounces may prove somewhat problematic when you work with a small inner circle radius.

First, finish all the seam allowances. Make sure you are not stretching the circular shape of the fabric while sewing.

Pin the fabric to the area where you intend to sew the flounces. Pin along the edge of the fabric (to read more about pinning, read my previous blog post). Sew the flounces and finish your project.

In the example below you can see pinned and sewn half circle flounces along a straight line drawn on a piece of fabric.

Pinning flounces to straight fabric edge.
Flounces pinned to fabric.
Flounces sewn to fabric.

What is the difference between flounces and gathers?

Unlike circle gathers, simple gathers are made of a straight piece of fabric, that is ‘squeezed’ into a smaller length than the original length of that fabric (see the images below). If you would like to learn more about gathers, please read my previous blog post.

Gathres.
Flounces.
Flounces.
Gathers.

Flounces are a simple yet smart decoration to any garment. Depending on the material or the prominence of the flounces, you can create either timeless classic or extravagant designs. Pretty good, isn’t it?


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