cssa: inspiration

I am so excited about how many are planning on joining in this sew-along! I cannot wait to see the skirts that each of you make–it’s going to be so much fun!

Circle skirts are perhaps best known for their heyday in the 1950s, even though variations of the circle-idea had been around for quite some time. The one we’ll be making is based on those full-circle styles, and I suspect probably more than a few people will be making iconic versions based on 50s designs. But even if that look isn’t your style, the circle skirt remains a wardrobe classic and something that lends itself well to modern interpretation. You can capture different aesthetic looks just through choice of fabric and trims; try a richly-printed and bright modern quilting fabric for a thoroughly 2011 look. Or perhaps a soft green with darker soutache loops along the hem for something that speaks more of the 1950s. Below are some inspiration images I gathered to get the ideas flowing!

image credits (clockwise): Vintage Pattern Wiki | vintage handpainted skirt @thespectrum on Etsy | Vintage Pattern Wiki | Solanah showing off a fabulous vintage skirt.

image credits (clockwise): Vintage Pattern Wiki | Harriet from Bright Young Twins |50s applique skirt @ thespectrum on Etsy | Vintage Pattern Wiki.

image credits (clockwise): Vintage Pattern Wiki | Vintage Pattern Wiki | Solanah in a beautiful quilted circle skirt | Vintage Pattern Wiki.

Applique fanciful motifs on your skirt?

Playing with directional patterns such as plaids or stripes?

For more directional-play, try a border print?

Add rows of quilting (good tips here and here) or use a pre-quilted fabric?

Make it short and lined for style perfect for winter sports (or modern wear)?

Add oversized pockets (or more demurely sized) for stashing your belongings?

For drama add a shaped waistband?

Use a sheer or lace for a different look? (Create a opaque lining from the pattern and attach at the waistband.)

Sew on strips or individual sequins and beads for glamor?

Hand paint a single (or repeating) design or motif on the front or around the hem?

Use a vintage or modern embroidery design to add some additional flair?

I decided that embroidery would be the perfect thing to dress up one of my skirts—and quite apropos for the era! I based the bees off of a vintage skirt I had seen on Etsy some months before, and just freehanded the design. If you’re looking for vintage embroidery designs (free too!), I’d recommend checking out Hoop Love. There are several methods for transferring the design (to see suggestions I’d recommend reading the comments in this post); tracing and iron-transfer pen are my favorites. I opted for the latter in this instance since my fabric was a bit dense to use the tracing method (I used a Sulky iron-on transfer pen). I wanted the designs randomly placed, but did plot out the spacing and direction before transferring the design—using pins to mark the location of each.

08.18.11 | bee in my bonnet

To work my design I used fairly simple stitches: stem stitch for outlining, a satin stitch for the bee’s stripes, and backstitches to outline each of those stripes. The embroidery was time consuming (considering each bee is about 5” long and I had 9 bees on the skirt!), but well worth it. To finish the bees I added sequins and beads (the original had rhinestones, but those were a little out of my budget).

As long as your fabric is tightly woven and medium weight or greater, you shouldn’t need a stabilizer. If you do for the stitching process, consider a tear-away or wash-away stabilizer that can be removed post-stitching.

Are you planning any fun embellishment for your circle skirt?

August 26, 2011 · 46 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing · tags: ,

Catherine August 26, 2011 at 11:32

I love the idea of polka dot lace.

& your bees are lovely!


Tasha August 26, 2011 at 11:37

While I won’t be sewing along, I’m excited to follow this sew-along. Circle skirts just seem prime for sooo many fun techniques like you showed! My favorite vintage one that I once had (passed to me from my mom) was quilted satin with hand sewn on rhinestones! Sadly it was always way too tiny so I never got to wear it and finally had to face the facts and see it on its way out of my wardrobe. LOL I can’t wait to see what everyone does with theirs!


misc-maranda August 26, 2011 at 11:45

i have a couple vintage blouses that i don’t have anything to wear with, so for my first skirt i’ll probably go with something plain to match the blouses. but, i have lots of vintage ribbon in my stash that i’ve been saving for something fancy!


Lieke August 26, 2011 at 11:54

I think I’ll keep it easy, since it’ll be my first proper cirkle skirt! But if this works out for me, I see lots of possibilities. I really like trying embroidery and hand painting. The last one I already did once with a template and it turned out really nice!


Abby August 26, 2011 at 12:01

I love these photos! The black skirt in the roller-skating photo makes me think of a record, Salvador Dali-style. :) I’m thinking about quilting, or maybe embroidering, depending on the fabric I choose. Definitely in-seam pockets.


Halias August 26, 2011 at 12:09

Those are all fab skirts; I especially like the one with all the cats! For my own, I’m thinking a basic plaid suiting-type fabric, and maybe a detachable fabric belt. Something simple, for sure, since it needs to look “professional” for work.


Stephanie August 26, 2011 at 12:12

*sigh* Solanah has some of the most amazing clothes! I’m waffling between embroidered kitties or appliqued library books!


Erika August 26, 2011 at 12:19

I am hoping to be able to participate in this too! I have a really wonderful length of vintage fabric with a border print. I am probably going to have questions about how to use that, or if it’s possible because the print goes more than halfway up the fabric! But it’s ADORABLE and I was planning on eventually using it to make a skirt if I could figure out how.


Lauren August 26, 2011 at 12:29

Can’t wait to see your finished product of the bee embroidery! And I can’t wait to get started on the sew-along! I LOVE the blue plaid skirt pictured above and think this skirt would be wonderful in rich plaid colors. However, I think I’m going to keep it simple the first time through to get the hang of things! Thank you for taking the time out to do this for us!


Jenny August 26, 2011 at 12:50

Casey, you have me so inspired! I really cannot wait to do this, though, admittedly, am a little nervous on tackling drafting a pattern, but I know I’ll learn a lot. : )


Lucha Lovely August 26, 2011 at 13:04

Your bees are fabulous!!!!!!! I definitely feel inspired after this post!


Vicki Kate August 26, 2011 at 13:26

I want to use a plaid with teal in it… I’ve just got to find the fabric, and work out how much I’m going to need!


Elisabeth August 26, 2011 at 13:27

I think I like the one with the cats best!

I’m not able to join in on the sew-along right now :( but I’m glad you’re doing it because I’d like to make a circle skirt in the future and now these posts will be here as reference.


Rachel August 26, 2011 at 13:34

This is exciting :) I decided to make a pinterest board of my own inspirations- but I admit I love some of yours too :) Can’t wait to see all the results!


Dana August 26, 2011 at 13:45

This has got my creative juices flowing! I have so many ideas, it’s going to be hard to pick just one. :) I can’t wait to get started!


LauraD August 26, 2011 at 13:53

I’m afraid I have waaaay too much on my sewing list to join in, but I will be making a circle skirt–only it’s attached to a bodice! :) I’m using Moda girlie-girl fabric and making a 50s dress for the Bit. It’s got wide horizontal stripes and a pinafore over the top in a turquoise batiste!


Annika August 26, 2011 at 14:01

Hmmm. I’m thinking wool and a cross stitch rose….


Mariah Rose August 26, 2011 at 14:38

I’m planning on doing embroidery and some beading with 1950s/60s space themes. I was inspired by the book “Rockets Boys”, which takes place during the late 50s. I’m not sure what exactly the whole design will be (rocket? stars? moon?), but I’ll get to work on it.


Nathalie August 26, 2011 at 14:46

I’m really excited about this sew-along, although I’m not sure that I’ll be sewing along this time. I just had my baby at the end of July and am still running around with that baby weight. But I’m definitely going to follow along, since this is something I’d like to make in the future. . . And I love your sewing projects! In fact, I love them so much, you inspired me to try my hand at sewing again (my mother is so excited, lol!).


Jody August 26, 2011 at 15:37

I love all the ideas. I loved the idea of the bees, but when I was shopping for material for the skirt, I found the cutest material with LadyBugs to make a shirt. So instead of bees, I will be embroidering ladybugs. I hope they turn out as darling as the bees. Also looking forward to seeing everyones finsihed product!


Jesslyn August 26, 2011 at 16:56

My first choice is an exaggerated houndstooth print, then a plaid. I’m a little nervous to mess with patterns on my first circle skirt, but they’re the ones I really want to do!


Angelina S. August 26, 2011 at 18:47

Will you be going over 3/4 circle skirts and/or 1/2 circle skirts in your sew along or just the full? I want to make one but I don’t think I’m up to a full circle skirt. They seem very….much.


Kristin August 26, 2011 at 18:50

I definitely want to do some embroidery on my skirt…I’m not sure what yet, but something on the whimsical/novelty side like bees. =)

I would also love to use some rickrack, though. Who knows, maybe I’ll make two skirt?


Littlefoot August 26, 2011 at 19:22

I think I’m going to keep mine plain. I really like the black mini one with the red inside. So at the moment I’m leaning toward a black skirt with a red petticoat… I also like the idea of a check or plaid fabric too! Hmmm decisions! :)


puppyloveprincess August 26, 2011 at 20:26

i love the cats the best. novelty prints are my favorite!


Clare August 26, 2011 at 20:30

I’m not normally a massive circle skirt fan, but your post on different inspirations reminded me of some panels of pre-printed circle skirt I have in my stash. It’s this amazing 50s fabric I picked up at a crazy fabric warehouse that’s been open for EVER in Melbourne. It comes with two half-circle panels, plus printed strips for the waistband, and printed bits of trim for pocket edging and a collar on the matching blouse you’d presumably make. I can’t remember how many panels I bought. If it was only a pair, I might avoid cutting the fabric up, but if I bought four, I might join in the sewalong, albeit with a slightly different project to everyone else!


Shawna August 26, 2011 at 20:53

I’m thinking of going with a layered or lined skirt with a pretty sheer fabric on top of a bright yellow or a deep purple to make it fun but still simple.


bonita August 26, 2011 at 21:41

~ * ♥ * ~

I am so inspired by all the lovely embroidery I have been seeing lately that I think I want to have a go at it. Plus, this is the perfect project to get me started… Now I just have to find a design I like!

bonita of Depict This!
~ * ♥ * ~


Lauren August 26, 2011 at 23:27

Hey! I recognize the poodle skirt vintage pattern! I think I added that to the wiki :)
LOVE the kitty cat skirt! I want one :)
Thanks for all the inspiring images and good ideas, Casey!


Shawnta August 27, 2011 at 00:47

I want to do something with the waistband, maybe attach ties that can be made into a bow or a wider and shaped wasteband.


Gina August 27, 2011 at 11:47

These are great ideas, I need to think about what I have in my sewing drawer. I have always stayed clear of very full skirts because I thought I would look fat in them. I am going to try it. Now for the right material! Thanks Casey! I love your sew a longs!


Tanya August 27, 2011 at 12:15
Jo August 27, 2011 at 17:26

Ohh, how inspiring! I definitely need to brush up on my sewing skills! <3

Lost in the Haze


Lysh August 28, 2011 at 03:29

The 1940s are more my era (pre the new look) but there are some cool circle skirts here. Love the very first one with the cats!


KatyDidStitches August 28, 2011 at 10:35

Casey, I would love to join in. I’m not new to sewing…but I AM new to blogging…and this will be my first sew-along! I plan to make a Winter skirt…woolen tweed…lined…with a velveteen applique around the hem. I hope you don’t mind having “a woman of a certain age” following along. This looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun!



Anna August 28, 2011 at 18:09

How exciting! Thanks for doing this!


Rosy August 29, 2011 at 07:39

Of course, Solanah love cats!! So I think finally I paint my lap …. So much inspiration here …


Danielle August 29, 2011 at 10:55

Thanks for the link to hoop love! I was thinking I wanted to do either embroidery or applique and was looking for some inspiration :)


Blanka August 29, 2011 at 13:46

I love circle skirt… and I love the idea of embroiding some nice small bee or dragonfly on it.


Kirsty Hutchison August 29, 2011 at 16:14

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this website, but http://www.spoonflower.com is a fantastic place for fabric! Lots of different weights as well. I’m really looking forward to this =)


allexaU September 4, 2011 at 03:50

I really love the idea of putting different style to your skirt. I also love the embroidered on it and the flowers too.


Chris Wheeler November 3, 2012 at 22:40

I love the one with the cats! I am a crazy cat lady! I won’t be able to do the sew along, but I am so happy I found this site! I have been looking for circle skirt and other vintage fashion patterns. I just like to be little different. With all these ideas, I realize I can make a number of skirts that are unique to me.



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