Tag Archives: learn to sew

Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – The Fallowfield Skirt

fallowfield pencil skirt

Continue reading

Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – The Finsbury Skirt

finsbury bubble skirt

Continue reading

Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – The Rusholme Skirt

rusholme a-line skirt

Continue reading

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.

Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – The Granville Skirt

granville skirt

Seven days to publication day and here is the second project in Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – the Granville, a wrap skirt.

Granville college (which sadly no longer exists) was where I did my A-levels in Sheffield and more significantly, was where I first learnt the wonderful art of pattern cutting. I was taught what I like to think of as all my good habits during that time many of which I still use and have passed on to my own students, by a fabulous teacher called Mary Braddock. Here’s some of the work I produced during that time aged just 18 under Mary’s watchful eye.

Variations of wrap skirts have been worn for generations by both women and men in different cultures around the world, just a few examples are the the Dhoti worn by men in India and the Sarong and Lungi worn mainly by men but also sometimes women in hot regions from the middle east to southeast Asia and of course, don’t forget the humble Scottish Kilt!

The Granville is more than a length of fabric though, it’s the perfect first skirt project; there are no zips to worry about and that A-line shape makes it both flattering and forgiving on the fit.

granville wrap skirt

For such a seemingly simple skirt there really are lots of different ways to make the Granville; there are three different lengths, it can be fastened with self-fabric ties, using ready-made tape as ties…….

granville wrap skirt


granville wrap skirt

or simple D rings.

granville wrap skirt

The inside of the skirt can be finished either with a facing or completely lined which then means you can make a completely reversible skirt.

It’s also the ideal skirt to try your first patch pocket and add the apron styled deep pocket band across the front.

granville wrap skirt

The Granville skirt looks great (and is easiest to sew) in mediumweight woven fabrics such as denims, linen, cotton/linen blends, corduroy, cotton chintz, cotton poplin, and lightweight wools.

Watch out for skirt number 3 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.

Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – The Roewood Skirt


Let me introduce you to the first project in Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – the Roewood, a jersey pencil skirt.

It’s called the Roewood after one of my first schools in Sheffield. We didn’t actually do a lot of sewing in that school, but it was around the time that I started making clothes at home on an old Singer hand crank sewing machine. It was the 80s and my dressmaking of choice was simple batwing tops in an array of lurid coloured cheap cotton from the local market. After the first few I started adding bow ties to them in matching fabric. Thankfully I have no photographic evidence of these creations!!

The Roewood is a great introduction to working with stretch fabrics and an ideal project for beginners as it’s easy to fit and quick and easy to make. If you already know me and my work you’ll know what a fan I am of working with knitted fabrics so won’t be surprised that this is the first skirt in the book.

beginners guide to skirts

This skirt has an elasticated waist and you can progress from making the simplest plain version in any length then move onto some simple colour blocking and fabric mixing and then adding a flattering ruched detail to the side seams.

The Roewood skirt works in a wide range of knitted fabrics from single jersey to ponte roma, but you could also try it in a loopback sweatshirt (or French terry) for a casual sporty skirt, or a cut & sew knit (or sweater knit) for a snuggly winter maxi skirt in the longer length. If it’s your first time with knits choose ponte roma; it’s great fabric to wear and easy to work with.

Watch out for skirt number 2 tomorrow!

Good news, my stock of the book has now arrived and I’m taking pre-orders for signed copies! You can order yours here. NOTE: You will be charged when you place your order, but your book won’t be sent until publication day on 25th October.

Want to spend a day making a Roewood skirt with me at MIY Workshop in Brighton? There are still places available at the class on Sunday 6th November, full details and how to book here.

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

Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts – A Journey

skirt project names

I began with these 8 basic skirt shapes for “Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts” that I designed to suit all levels of sewing ability, shapes and tastes; from an easy pull-on jersey pencil skirt to a full-on girly bubble skirt.

I am a firm believer in making everyday clothing; a wardrobe of core basics that fit you well, that are comfortable, that suit you and that you wear again and again. You don’t need boxes full of different patterns, you just need to find a few good adaptable styles that work for you, that you enjoy making and stick with them.

I hope you enjoy your sewing journey. You can share in a bit of mine with the story behind the names of the projects; they’re named chronologically after places that have been significant during my career so far.

Over the coming 8 days until publication day on the 25th I’ll be writing a blog post for each of the skirts in the order that they appear in the book; where the name came from, a bit of background about the skirt style, what skills you can learn when making the 3 different variations of the skirt along with some styling and fabric ideas.

I hope you’ll join me!

DIY Bobbin Holder

diy bobbin holder

Do you have to fight your way through a tangled nest of threads at the bottom of a box or drawer every time you need a bobbin?

Life’s too short, find some toe dividers and make your own bobbin holders! Keeps your bobbins neat, tidy, you can see what colour thread is on them and they then fit easily into your portable sewing kit. Lots of my MIY Workshop students have started bringing bobbins to class like this.

Want tips, special offers and first dibs on new patterns? Join my newsletter here.

Want to join one of my classes at MIY Workshop in Brighton? Join the MIY Workshop newsletter here for advanced booking onto new classes.

Trailer for Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts on YouTube

So, this is a a new and strange experience for me! Cico came to MIY Workshop at the end of August to do some filming for my new book “A Beginner’s Guide to Making Skirts”.

We had a fun-filled day and packed A LOT of filming in. It actually surprised me to find that I really enjoyed filming these videos; I’m not a natural-born public speaker, in fact I’ll avoid it if I can which many people find odd and tend to say things like “But you teach, how can you not enjoy public speaking”. I think they’re two completely different things; in public speaking the emphasis is solely on the speaker in a one-way relationship with a role almost as an entertainer, whereas teaching is very much a two-way relationship.

With that in mind I approached this filming as a teacher and rather than being on my own “performing” for the camera, I simply imagined I was teaching a class and talking to students. Hey presto, I was relaxed, calm and didn’t even need a script!!

Watch out for more videos over the next few weeks with lots of useful sewing technique tutorials.

The book is out on the 25th October (less than 5 weeks!) and you can pre-order your copy here. I hope you enjoy the video.

PS. for all my northern friends in the UK, I had no idea my accent had morphed so much, I’ve no idea what’s happened to it and my beloved Grandad who after I’d lived in Brighton for around 5 years accused me of “talking all lah di dah” would be choking on his tea……

A Tour of MIY Workshop

If you’re even half as nosey as I am you’ll like this.

Here’s a short video from my YouTube channel that gives you a little peek inside MIY Workshop where I teach all my classes and do my sewing. As I  don’t have space for a sewing machine at home, all the magic happens here!