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Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – The Hollings Skirt

hollings circle skirt

Six days to publication and time to meet the third project in Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – the Hollings – a circle skirt.

Hollings was the main campus I was based at during my Fashion degree at Manchester Metropolitan University. It was always a hive of activity with fabulous industrial quality facilities; I still dream about the industrial irons and ironing boards and the brightly lit final year studios. I vividly remember going there for my interview to get onto the course in 1996 as a very naive 23 year old who was leaving a full-time job and had never lived away from Sheffield. I’m so glad they offered me a place, I never looked back and loved the 4 years I spent there.

toast rack buildingHollings is fondly known locally as the toast rack; an iconic bit of 1960’s brutalist architecture. Sadly the building was sold by the university in 2014 and is set to be turned into…….yes you guessed it, expensive luxury flats.

The circle skirt is an exercise in geometry, it’s easy to draft to your own and that’s exactly what I show you how to do in the book; there’s no pattern for the Hollings skirt, but a set of step-by-step instructions for how to draft your own pattern based on your waist measurement. I show you how to draft your skirt to fit your fabric, how to make a dipped hem skirt how to draft an elasticated waist skirt as well as one with a fixed waistband and zip fastening and how to calculate how much fabric you will need (in a word – a lot!). I show you how to draft a full circle skirt in the book, that is a skirt that if laid out on a flat surface would form a circle. It’s also possible to draft 3/4 circle and half circle skirts in a similar way that use less fabric, but that’s maybe something for a future blog post!

The most iconic skirts that we probably all think of when we think of circle skirts are those from the 1950’s, worn with ankle socks and net underskirts for maximum volume and shape. These skirts were probably inspired by the full skirted looks of Christian Dior’s iconic “New Look” style from the previous decade, but the circle skirt was a simplified, more economical version that women and girls could create for themselves at home.  The couture New Look styles used lots of pleats and gathers to achieve their full silhouettes, but the humble circle skirt was made from often just one or two pieces of fabric.  Many girls and women made their own circle skirts in the 1950’s and one variation became known as the poodle skirt, so-called thanks to the creations of a Juli Lynne Charlot; originally a singer who started making circle skirts onto which she appliquéd images of poodles! Often made in wool felt which was easy to sew and easy to use as appliqué, the idea was adopted by younger teenage dressmakers who sewed their own circle skirts which they then made their own with appliquéd motifs that often travelled around the skirt in a kind of “story”. It was the era of the teenager and the perfect garment for customising and truly “owning”. I love this idea just google “storyline circle skirt” and admire the wonderful images that come up!

storyline circle skirtsSource: Google image search

hollings circle skirt

A knee length circle skirt in a solid colour fabric is perfect for everyday wear. A shorter length version in a printed cotton with an elasticated waist will be easy summer holiday wearing and what could be more dramatic than a floor length circle skirt for special occasions? So decadent and my personal favourite way to wear a circle skirt, although I decided to give mine a twist with a raised front hem. It’s also the perfect skirt for a side seam pocket. The easiest type of pocket to have a go at if you have never attempted pockets before. In the book I’ll show you how to make side seam pockets that won’t drag your skirt out of shape.

in-seam side seam pocket

A circle skirt works best in densely woven fabrics so that the hem can’t drop out of shape. Crisp cotton poplins and chambray, lightweight denim, satin and crêpe are all ideal. The skirt works well in solid colours or abstract prints, but isn’t ideal for one-way prints or stripes as the positioning of the pattern pieces on the fabric can result in one-way prints looking lopsided and stripes being distorted.

Watch out for skirt number 4 tomorrow!

I’m now taking pre-orders for signed copies of the book. You can order yours hereNOTE: You will be charged when you place your order, but your book won’t be sent until publication day on 25th October.

All photography is by Julian Ward © Cico Books with styling by Rob Merrett. Illustrations are by Wendy Ward.