Merry Christmas from… my skirt!
When Technicolor Cutie announced early in December she was going to do a Christmas novelty felt circle skirt sew along, I knew I was IN. It was just the excuse I needed to be ridiculous during the holidays, and I love to be ridiculous during the holidays. I think she ended up getting delayed with the sew along but I plowed on full steam ahead because I just couldn’t stop myself once I got started!
I wouldn’t normally sew a skirt with craft felt. But sometimes there’s just something so novelty, so kitschy, so wonderfully silly and retro and ridiculous, you put aside your normal tendencies and you just GO for it. This, my friends, was one of those times.
I used “premium craft felt” from JoAnn, which is a whopping 72″ wide. Judging from a couple of 1950s patterns in my stash, that width of felt was available back then for such silly circle skirt making, too. I’m short, and didn’t want to completely swim in this heavy felt skirt, so I went for a 23 1/2″ length, figuring I could cut it down even more if it felt like I was wearing a Christmas tree skirt. (Let’s face it: I’m wearing a Christmas tree skirt.)
I used her original circle skirt tutorial for the math for the skirt, but because I wanted to be really really sure before busting into the felt, I backed it up by running my measurements through the By Hand London circle skirt app.
Including an outer waistband piece and a 23 1/2″ long skirt, I only needed about 60″ of fabric, so just over 1 1/2 yards. I bought a whole ton extra because I do, in fact, need a literal Christmas tree skirt for our actual Christmas tree, but considering the fabric was on sale with a 60% off coupon, that’s basically the cheapest novelty skirt ever.
Back to the math for a sec: if you’re one of those types who’s never satisfied with directions unless you understand why you’re doing something (not just how you’re doing something), you might be like me and feel suspicious that circle skirt instructions leave you with a radius to cut your waist from, but don’t actually tell you what the circumference of that circle is… and that circumference is actually the waist measurement. Okay there are seam allowances to think of, but if you still feel a bit iffy or don’t trust your math, plug the radius into a circumference calculator like this one, and it might give you a bit more peace of mind.
Working with craft felt as a garment fabric is one part awkward, one part hilarious. When you’re trying to wrangle a mountain of thick felt you find yourself asking “What the hell am I doing?!!” once or twice. Like when you’re trying to stuff it in your sewing machine to topstitch the zipper. Just… ridiculous!
But I did try to treat it like I would a normal project. I staystitched the waist to prevent stretching (since a full circle skirt has a good bit of it on the bias… not that craft felt even really has a grain…?!), and did a center back seam with a zipper, stabilizing it with fusible knit tape like I would any zipper.
The center back was the only skirt seam, and technically wasn’t even fully needed… I could have done like Missy’s original tutorial and only sliced open for the zipper and inserted it, figuring that with all the folds from the full circle you wouldn’t notice the pucker it would cause under, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So instead I suffered through pressing the seam allowances open carefully without scorching the felt fabric. Loooots of steam, a press cloth, and a point presser/clapper! But any old heavy object or your fingers to press open and hold the seam until it’s cool works great, too. The felt was actually quite easy to sew and the topstitching sank into it beautifully.
Because I’m holding the damn thing up in every photo so you can see the candles, I realize I don’t have any good shots of the skirt hanging nicely (so you get the below where my face is blurry, doh), but it lays magically, even with no crinoline underneath. And I was wearing one, but mainly just “because” as it didn’t really do anything. This skirt can literally stand up on its own!
Tooootally not kidding. Here’s the skirt on my ironing board. Told you!
I went with a two-piece waistband that I fashioned from a waistband I use on a lot of things, to cut down on bulk. Due to thickness, I made the inside waistband out of quilting cotton, but I interfaced it with firm fusible weft interfacing. I was really worried about the weight of the skirt hanging off the waistband so I wanted it as firm as possible but not bulky like the felt on the outside of the waistband. I wasn’t sure exactly about extra stabilization, so I inserted some rayon seam binding (which is not stretchy) into the waist seam as stay tape. It’s very thin but stable so I figured it could only help.
Not that I have any photos of the waistband as I wore the skirt with a belt, but it all worked great and it seemed perfectly capable of holding up the heavy skirt.
To come up with the felt appliqué design I looked at lots of vintage felt craft images on Pinterest and the like. Sooo much inspiration! My main idea was to alternate between a set of two candles and hanging ornaments, which I drew and cut out of paper (twice in fact, after I decided the scale was too small the first time). Then I cut the items out of wool felt and craft felt, depending on what I had in each color.
I even started to lay that out in felt and paper on the skirt, which you can see below (the holly leaves were stand-ins for ornaments, by the way).
I kind of decided it was a bit much, though. Not necessarily to look at, but all that appliqué and hand sewing. And with a December 19th holiday party as my deadline, at that. So I settled on three candles, and I LOVE them!
Each candle is hand stitched together first, and then they were hand stitched to the skirt. Each holly leave has a line of 4 or 5 sequins (sewn in place by a bead), and the berries are little red pom poms.
I rarely want to undertake specialty projects, I’m generally all for sewing for “real life” things. But I’ve been doing a lot of felt Christmas crafting anyway this season, so a felt circle skirt seemed like a perfect crazy holiday project!
I paired it with a vintage black velvet top adorned with rhinestones and went simple (errrr, simple-ish) with everything else: a wide patent belt reminiscent of Santa Claus with this outfit, gold bow earrings, gold glitter flats and a vintage watch.
Oh and a gold hair flower, of course!
Wish I could have gotten a photo of the whole ensemble with my outwear, which featured my amazing vintage black wool princess coat, but this time of the year is just the pits for photos. As it is, I had to make a mad dash to move our kitchen table out of the way just as dusk was hitting to get these… and then take it all off again until we actually went out that night. C’est la vie.
Well, that’s the Christmas scoop on this skirt. I felt magically festive when I got to wear it, and it might have to make another appearance on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, too!
I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season! xx
felt circle skirt – made by me
1950s velvet top – Small Earth Vintage
patent belt – Vivien of Holloway
bow earrings – Kate Spade
gold glitter flats – Nine West
vintage watch – a gift
Gads, that’s fantastic! Maybe I’ll attempt something like this next year. A skirt that can stand up on its own seems like a strong-willed thing…I like it! Nice work and happy holidays!
Thanks, Jeanine! It’s definitely a strong-filled thing… not quite sure how I’ll store it over the year, ha ha! Happy holidays!
Nancy Hooker says
I have made felt poodle skirts before. They are really fun and very retro. The owners use heavy straight pins on wire hangers to hang their skirts. Seems to work fine. I did not keep mine as I was way too heavy to make it look good-all you could see was this heavy lady in a poodle skirt! Not very pretty!! It was fun to make and fun to wear!
How fun! This year I’m not making anything new for Christmas but I might have to give this idea a go next year!
Thanks, Stephanie! It was a lot of fun to do, definitely think about it for next year! 😉
Amanda Thomas says
So cool and festive! Really digging it!
Stacey Golladay says
You inspire me to sew! You do amazing work. I’d wear everything you have ever blogged about. Where does a 41 year old “never done this before” gal start? Last time I touched a sewing machine was HomeEc back in Middle School, ahem…87! I have just gained a sewing machine and table from the passing of a grandparent. Does a circle skit sound like a good place to start? Merry Christmas!
I was where you are earlier this year! I too haven’t looked at a sewing machine since middle school (i’m 39) and I got one for my birthday earlier this year. I started out with circle skirts. I then moved on to making quilts for Christmas presents for family. I just finished my novelty circle skirt last night. I used green cotton fabric and made poinsettias out of red felt around the bottom. Good luck and Happy Sewing! Merry Christmas!! 😀
Stacey Golladay says
It’s a Christmas Miracle! Holiday joking aside – your saying there is hope…yesssss! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Blessing to you all year long!!
So nice of you to say, Stacey! I didn’t start sewing again until I was an adult, and just kind of dived right in. You could always look for a class at a local fabric shop, or there are many online classes, I bet Craftsy.com has some very basic ones! I’d say though if you’re itching to do it, do it! Age and experience is no limit! Merry Christmas!
wow, wow, wow, with such a great skirt, it could be Christmals the whole year round.. very very nice and it suits you fantastic..
Merry Christmas from Switzerland, Christa
Thanks Christa, happy holidays!
I love this so much! I made myself a silly Christmas skirt too with some retro-looking wreath fabric from Joann (just finished this weekend in time for the holiday). I thought it was pretty festive, but this is a real knockout! If I didn’t already have one outrageous holiday skirt, I’d be tempted to whip this one up quick before Christmas Eve. 🙂
Thanks, Lisa! Your skirt sounds great! 😀
It turned out absolutely adorable!
Thank you, I’m very pleased with it!
Miss Fairchild says
This is so adorable. I would love to do something fun like this for Christmas…but given it’s super hot here wearing felt would kill me. Need to think of some midyear holiday to make one for!
Felt would definitely make it difficult if it’s warm by you for Christmas! You could do felt applique on a cotton skirt, though! 🙂
This is gorgeous! I love how clean your cuts and stitches are! It’s perfection!
You’ve outdone yourself! I think the skirt looks great with your hair! I’d love to see the whole ensemble some time.
Thank you! 🙂
Wowzers, this is the most perfect Christmas skirt ever, its epic!! I hope you both have a wonderful Christmas!! x
Thanks Wendy, hope you had a wonderful Christmas!
Really , quite fetching! You win the prize for a terrific Christmas outfit. By the way, your hair continues to look great too.
Thank you! I appreciate it– for the skirt and hair. 😉
Jan Marriott says
you could not get more Christmasy than that!
Thanks, it does feel perfectly Christmasy! 🙂
OMGH! I love it!! I want to make one now. Beautiful! Merry Christmas!
Thanks and Merry Christmas!
Thank you! 🙂
I made a red felt circle skirt this year too! I hand cut a green tree and used vintage bias tape as garland and some old beads to make lights. Hand beading was surprisingly relaxing. I’ll have to see if I have a good picture of it. I went with red shoes, a matching red felt bow for my hair, a wide black belt and a white collared shirt. I felt like Mrs. Claus!
Sounds super fun!! I agree, the hand work is very relaxing!
Jessica Cangiano says
Absolutely, joyfully gorgeous skirt! From the vibrant hues to the classic imagery, this is an unforgettable piece and awesome way to celebrate the season through your wardrobe.
Big hugs & happy Christmas wishes!
Thanks, Jessica! 🙂
I hope it pleases you to know that I had a felt circle skirt – with a felt appliqué poodle on it! in about 1959. I think I wore it to our Sunday School Christmas party. I remember loving it, but not wearing it past then. Not sure why… But it is VERY 1959, so your skirt took me back a lonnnnnng ways. Fun! Nice work, too!
Happy to hear it brought you back fond memories! 😉
This is just so fun and festive!
I just found this, and since the dress I ordered didn’t fit I may give this a try! Would you be willing to share the dimensions of your candles and holly leaves? Also, how did you attach the Pom poms?