Turquoise Sugar Plum

Many of my tutus are made for remote clients but the Internet, Facebook and email help to narrow the distance between us. This wee tutu started with a request to buy one of my ready made tutus which had, unfortunately, just been sold. So instead we embarked on a long distance design that was named the turquoise sugar plum. We were after something pretty but also with rich textures. To me that meant venise lace and rhinestones. First we chose the key fabrics, a bright blueish turquoise and a sparkly matching lace.

start ing

starting point

Ballet net is a wonderful fabric to work with because of the way colours can be blended and melded. To bring out some of the greenish tones in the turquoise I used a jade green as layer 3.

colours

ballet net in blue, turquoise and light jade

Each layer was 4 widths of stiff ballet net joined together and scalloped to give the edge a softer look. When they are all rolled up the colours can look a bit strong but they soften up when they are in the skirt.

starting point

8 layers lined up

colour line up

gathered and steamed

Steaming the layers before sewing them onto the leotard makes this job much easier. This part of the construction is referred to as “wrestling the tulle alligator”.

puff

tutu puff

The colours soften up considerably once they are in the skirt. Here are all 8 layers on the leotard before the second lot of steaming. I do love the transformation that takes place from puff-ball to soft tutu skirt. You can see the light jade layer in the skirt below.

steaming and ready for tacking

A light steaming reduces the puff before tacking

I usually tack my stretch tutus with a tagging gun. The tags are those little plastic things that you see price tags on. They are perfect for tutu tacking. I do like hand tacking though and find it strangely therapeutic so I often hand tack the top layers.

hand tacking

hand tacking

Sewing netting onto a tutu can be a bit mind numbing at times so after I’ve done a couple of layers I reward myself by doing a bit of embellishment. Venise lace is lovely to work with as it is knotted throughout the design so it can be cut up and rearranged (and yes the spelling is venise not venice). This piece below has been changed from the original triangular piece to better fit a small (girls size 8-10) tutu. For this one I decided on just rhinestones in a range of blues.

blinged up venise lace

embellished venise lace

The lace was trimmed and reshaped to fit into the very traditional triangular bodice design. Swooped arm frills with matching trim complete the Sugar Plum look. I just love the rich gold and the turquoise together.

bodice

quite different on a turquoise background

The tutu was completed with a plate matching the bodice fabric and a pretty sparkly lace. Lots more rhinestones complete the picture. I love rhinestones. I have ADOS … attention deficit … ooh shiny!

bling

and a pretty plate

pretty in the sunshine

I love the colours

And the whole picture. It was great fun making this sweet little tutu!

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I’m sure this will be lovely on stage

Midnight and Silver

A client and her daughter sent me a picture of a tutu they had been hiring for 2 years but was now too small. They both loved the tutu and  the dancer had received many compliments wearing it. At first they requested I copy it but I demurred. Although imitation may be the highest form of flattery I think artisans should respect their peers and simply be inspired by designs not copy them. So we talked through some ideas and turned the studio upside down looking at trims and decided on navy stretch velvet, spun silver appliqués and a cluster of blue and AB crystals.

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colour scheme

We decided on a plate covering 2/3 of the skirt with the floral sprays encircling the the skirt and a little of the appliqué on the bodice. This was going to be  a bit tricky because the sprays did not come in pairs so the bodice design would not be symmetrical. But there are ways around this when you are a determined tutuist! To start I just blinged up the appliqués to get to know them a bit better.

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AB crystals should be on everything

Then I started looking at how to turn this one-sided appliqué into a bodice decoration with a semblance of bilateral symmetry. I had to take to the appliqué with scissors to get what I wanted. Here are some shots of steps towards the final version.

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nope

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better

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balance without symmetry

And now for the skirt …

 

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Blue and black alternating layers

The original tutu had a navy blue skirt in a shade of net I had never seen. I tried to dye some net but came away with a lovely jacaranda colour to be filed away for another day. The next best was to order some navy net online. It arrived and the colour was almost right but the main issue was that it was quite soft. I now had no option but to alternate it with a stiffer net so I used black. The 2 colours together gave a pretty good match to the original and a bit more interest to the skirt without being a distraction.

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layers waiting for steaming

The original tutu was a very flat pancake tutu that some people (not me … ahem) refer to pejoratively as “flying saucers”. As the Ballet School principal favoured this type but my client liked my relatively “fluffy” tutus we compromised on a flat fluffy that was steamed 3 times and tacked tightly. It isn’t parallel with the floor, doesn’t show as much derrière as a flat tutu but it should pass muster. I’m not a fan of alien space craft as dance costumes unless there’s a good reason! You can see the tutu skirt in the background. It’s less fluffy than my usual tutus but still has a lovely slope on it.

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decorating the plate

The fun part is decorating the plate. I had already blinged up the appliqués and finished the bodice decoration so putting the plate together was a lovely finish. Then out into a break in Sydney’s welcome wet weather for a quick photo.

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Midnight and Silver finished!

Aqua and Sea Green Tutu

A client fell in love with a beautiful French lace that I had in my stash so we decided to build a tutu around it. The lace is a beautiful sea green colour but when we teamed it with a matching bodice fabric it lost its pop. The colours of stage costumes need to stand up against strong stage lighting, so we were brave and teamed it with a bright aqua velvet. I’ve documented most of the steps in making this tutu as the young dancer wanted a pictorial diary. here’s what I sent her.

Consultations for a remote client often start with photos of fabrics and trim. I teamed the French lace with a few fabrics but this one bright aqua really seemed to work. A handful of diamantes and silver trimmings completed the concept.

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colour scheme ideas

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lace and bodice colour matched

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Bodice colour blue against green lace

Either colour scheme would have worked well but the aqua with the sea green spoke to the client (and I was really pleased it did). The green lace would be gathered over a white skirt so the background green of the net would become clear on the tutu. So we agreed on the design and colours and made a start. Stretch tutus are great for remote clients as there is a bit more latitude in fit but still achieving the “second skin” look that ballet dancers wants from a tutu.

2. meet Abby

Meet my dancer!

I usually line my tutu bodices although it’s not really necessary for stretch velvet as it’s opaque.  However, for adolescents I’ll always line the bodice for added confidence. The velvet has been serge-lined with thin lycra that has the same level of stretch as the velvet.

3. lining the pieces

lined side bodice pieces

This tutu will have a white skirt so it needs white pants. The lining extends from the bodice and faux basque to make a one layer panty. The line of tacking stitches is the placement for the first row of tutu ruffles

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Leotard sewn together ready for netting.

The next stage is sewing on 8-10 layers of gathered stiff ballet net in layers of decreasing length. The fastest and most accurate way to do this is with a rotary cutter and a self-healing mat.

8. Cutting the net

Cutting the net

Netting layers can either have a straight edge or have cut edges like scallops or points (dags). Tutus that represent birds often have dagged net edges while princesses will have scalloped edges.

9. Scalloping the net

Scalloped net

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trimmings

Then the net is rolled up and labelled ready to gather and the it’s time sew onto the waiting leotard. The first layer is not too hard but as you sew more layers on the giant puff-ball threatens to eat your sewing machine.

10. Net bundles lining up

net bundled up and labelled

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untamed net

To tame the net once it’s sewn on the layers are steamed into a pleasing shape and then tacked by hand or using plastic gun tacks like the ones you find on clothing price tags.

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Skirt steamed and tacked

The lace was gathered and sewn to the top layers of the skirt. The scalloped edge was perfect for the bodice decoration but with a little bit of extra detail added to highlight the shape.

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extra beads on the French lace

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beautiful French lace

Sometimes I will decorate the leotard before I attach the ruffles but in this case I wanted to see how the skirt looked before I decided on the bodice decoration … oh and I made a little tiara too with blue and green Czech crystals.

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tiara

and finally the completed tutu

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finished tutu