Wednesday, 27 July 2016


This photo was taken and retouched by the fantastic Martin Dürr, thank's a lot!

Today I want to show you one of my favourite projects from last year! Don't worry, I will talk about my current projects soon, but due to time issues (exams) I will discuss an older project this week: my appliqued felt circle skirt. I had such a good time drawing, cutting and handstitching the appliqué, it turned out to be one of the most fun projects in 2015! Unfortunately I have worn it only once (twice!) since, but not without experiencing a funny story...

You are probably aware of the 'typical' pink circle skirts with poodle appliques, even here in Germany it's probably one of the most well known garments of the 1950s, although it seems to have been mostly an american thing. There is even a short Wikipedia article about it!
Juli Lynne Charlot was the creator of the (in)famous poodle skirt. Apparently she made her first felt skirt with a christmas motive in 1947 because she couldn't sew! I recommend reading the wikipedia article as well as it's sources like the newspaper article from 1953  and this blogpost   as well as this one. I didn't do extensive research on the history of poodle skirts yet (!), but it was a real thing in the 1950s and isn't merely a cliché formed decades later. Well, I still believe it's importance and spread of use is a little exaggerated today, especially when it comes to poodles on a pink ground...

Felt skirts today
Quite a few people did pretty reproductions of appliqued felt skirts and I got inspired by different tutorials, but most of them used modern polyfibre felt as well as modern motives and sewing methods like an elasticed waist. Which is totally fine, but I wanted to go further down the historical road.
After considering my options I decided to take the plunge and try to make an 'historically accurate' felt skirt. To be honest I am not sure if you can call a 1950s repro historically accurate, but I wanted to create a skirt that looked like something made back then! 
I didn't have access to study an original one, but fortunately there is etsy. Yes, etsy – many sellers take very good close-ups with detailed descriptions, I found several offers for felt skirts that showed the inside as well as close-ups. It seems there is quite a market for these skirts, the ones made by Juli Lynne Charlot are sometimes sold for more than € 500!
I would have loved to see a tutorial from the 1950s, many of the skirts where homemade, but I couldn't find one, neither online, nor in my magazines. If you know something please tell me!

Sorry for the color issues! BTW: In the background you can see 3m of felted and pressed wool cloth hung to dry over my paravent that will soon become my next 18th century jacket.

Sewing the skirt
As a fabric I used a fabulous felted cloth made from 100% wool I found on ebay. The blue is very, very dark, almost black, rather thin (1mm) and soft to the touch. Unfortunately I didn't take photos during the construction. It was actually quite simple: the pattern is a standard circle skirt with a high, scalloped waistband. Most of the time you see either simple felt waistbands or even simpler ribbon ones, but there are also more elaborate versions.
Juli Lynne Charlot herself seems to have preferred a wider, quilted waistband with a lapped zipper in the center back (although it isn't felt) but there are many creative variations from other designers. Here you can see a nice inside view and here is even more inspiration. Due to the weight of the wool the waistband clearly needed to be reinforced, a reps lining would have been nice but also very fuzzy with the scallops, so I decided to cut two layers of the wool and sandwiched an interlining between.
I let the hem drop for a week (never underestimate the bias drop! People say you should hang it for a day, but in most cases that won't be enough – it should be at least three days! Trust me, I learned it the hard way...). Next I cut the hem with my rolling scissors in a wave-like pattern. It's a detail you see surprisingly seldom, but I think it's perfect for my skirt design.
Please excuse the less-than-perfect photos, I am fiddling around with my new camera!

This is probably the best photo colorwise! Can you see the tiny stitches?

Construction details, left: the left side of the applique, right: my lapped zipper. 

The applique
And now the fun part: the applique! I just knew I needed a carousel horse. Look at this example or this one or this girl's skirt. I used a 1950s wallpaper as inspiration and re-drafted it into a rising horse. I have never been good at drawing, but I sketched so many horses in my life it's probably the only thing I can draw...
I made a life-sized pattern, cut it up and chose fabrics from my stash, most of them pure wool, but the red and green are a polyfibre felt I had in stock. I'm not happy about that, I wanted a pure wool skirt, but you know, on a student's budget... I stitched the applique to the felt by hand and it was done!

The first outing
The first time I wore the skirt was for a photoshoot. Herr Igel thinks it isn't suitable for everyday life and although I mostly ignore such comments I stuck to his advice in this case – mostly due to the fact that it looks best with a voluminous petticoat underneath. I don't like wearing those to the library, and my appartment is way to small to walk around in a large crinoline comfortably.
But when I wore the skirt for a photoshoot and on the way back home I enjoyed one of the best experiences I ever had in public transport. I sat at a train station, in full shooting make-up, wearing a crinoline, staring tiredly at my phone. From the corner of my eye I noted a guy, most likely my age, fiddling around with a bunch of roses. After a while he approached me and said „I most likely won't see you again, but I would regret not giving such a beautiful woman a rose“. He gave me a beautiful pink rose, turned around and walked away. Just like that.
He did not ask for my number, he did not ask for anything else, he just wanted to give me the rose and tell me I was beautiful. I was stunned and felt incredibly flattered – and I especially appreciated his nothing-is-asked-of-you attitude! It's very rare these days to be approached like that.

Well... Horse or Dog?
The blogpost was planned to be published last week. Inspired by my own text ;) I decided to give it a second outing, just for fun, to university. I really enjoyed wearing it! The day was rainy, but I was happy to wear a woolen skirt which protected me from the water. Unfortunately, when I arrived I realised the downside of pure wool: The skirt smelled. Like a wet dog. Wuff.
It wasn't too bad, I just have a very good nose, but unfortunately I will now need a 1950s rain coat with a wide skirt! ;)  Please enjoy my super-professional insta-selfie from when I was still dry:

By the way, the jumper I am wearing was once awful and had a V-neck. It found it in a thrift store and liked the color as well as the material (high quality 100% merino yarn). I bought it, cut it apart, and used the original hem to create a new neckline and a 3/4 sleeve. It's one of my favourite pieces, I wear it all the time when it's cold outside, for example on christmas eve! And yeah, that's a felt apple on my head.

By know I have managed to write two pages about a simple appliqued circle skirt - I hope there are people who are as interested in the details of a felt skirt as I am, but it's also fine if you just want to look at the pictures ;) 
There will be picture-clad posts just to show off and other ones filled to the brim with costume neediness. But please don't hesitate to tell me your honest opinions and make suggestions about what you want to see or read here!

1 comment:

  1. It's lovely and it suits you so well. I like the way you did the horse, it looks so precise (I'm impressed by you stitching, it almost looks invisible.. Such a nice work !)