Sapphire Blue Figure Skating Dress

Sometime things don’t go as planned. A friend of a former client ordered a figuring skating dress online and when it arrived it didn’t fit.  I received an email asking if I could make something in time for a September competition in Melbourne. Having got my rhinestone mojo happening with my last figure skating dress I said I’d love to help. Cheryll and daughter Chloe chose a beautiful sapphire blue velvet which has been of my most popular colours this year. First step was an elegant ad classic figure skating dress with dropped shoulders and a 2 tone skirt.

basic frame (424x640)

dress shell

The long sleeves have points with an elastic loop attached to keep the sleeves in place. I used some tea-dyed 6mm elastic so that it disappears on her skin.

glue trouble (424x640)

glue dilemma

Now in the world of rhinestones you’re usually a gemtac gal or an E-6000 gal. I normally glue rhinestones onto trim and rarely glue anything directly to a leotard. But this is ice skating and bling is integral to the costume. I used gemtac to glue rhinestones to the lycra of the recent Spanish figure skating dress I made but I was warned that gemtac and stretch velvet are not good friends. Here’s a little experiment with gemtac, gemstone glue and an epoxy that was lurking in the glue draw. While the gemtac was a little runny and did seep into the velvet the rhinestones held. The other glues were complete failures. I didn’t get out the brand new tube of E-6000 because it was too cold to have windows open to get the fumes out of the studio. I found that very gently lowering the rhinestones onto the gemtac was the best technique. Pushing them onto the velvet just forced the glue further into the velvet. However, it wasn’t successful in the acrylic jewels I used or the heavy teardrop shaped crystals so … I hand sewed them on! Lesson learned. E-6000 for the big guys and the pretty but  recalcitrant gems of unknown provenance.

starting out (640x424)

tentative first steps

I kept looking at the bare “canvas” of the dress wondering where to start. Once I got into the idiom there was no stopping me. I’d put the dress aside for the glue to dry and I’d see another spot for another row of rhinestones.

more sparkle (424x640)

more sparkle

We decided to pull the decoration onto the skirt as well. It gives a lovely effect with the glittery tendrils.

sparkle (424x640)

reflected sparkle

It’s so heard to show how beautifully sparkly the Preciosa AB rhinestones are but here is a cute little picture of the reflected sparkle inside my studio.

front (424x640)

front design

The tendrils trail across the front from a dense concentration of rhinestones on the front right. These continue around the back and trail out again in tendrils across the back.

back (424x640) (2)

back design

The whole right side of the dress is encrusted with rhinestones.

rhinestones around the side (640x424) (2)

side design

And the flowery tendrils also twine onto the nude mesh on the top of the bodice …

top of bodice (640x424) (2)

bodice detail

and onto the skirt

skirt detail (640x424) (2)

skirt detail

I definitely have my rhinestone mojo. Now for a ballroom dress!



Mint and SIlver Tutu

As the frenetic Sydney Eisteddfod season draws to an end after the mid year school holidays I still get a few tutus to do for regional eisteddfods that run in August and September. It can usually fit these in with not too much difficulty. I got a call from a client wanting a tutu in 4 weeks. I had a space on my schedule and actually got it done very quickly. They picked it up on Saturday and the young girl danced in it on the Sunday, not expecting the tutu to be available until late August!

When I spoke to them on the phone they were looking at a pink tutu but when they came for the consultation the mint tutu in the corner (for another client) changed their mind.


Silver and white corded lace

This lace has tiny holographic sequins all over it giving the lace a lovely glimmer on stage. To break up the colour a bit some green rhinestones will be perfect!

colour-graded skirt layers (640x424)

colour-graded skirt layers

While the mint colour is very pretty too much of it can be a little overwhelming so we decided to grade the skirt from mint to white. Again I had great fun dyeing the layers.

leotard (424x640)


Because the shortest layers of the tutu are white I matched the bottom of the leotard to the net colour. We don’t want to see a pale green bottom poking out of the white underskirt!

blinging up appliques (640x424)

blinging up the appliques

The lace we chose had these lovely individual pieces of cording scattered across it. Carefully cutting them out and trimming off the excess backing material yields perfect bodice appliques. A few green rhinestones and here we have a perfect match for the lace overskirt.

trying out placement (640x424)

trying out applique placement

This wasn’t my final design but I had to start somewhere. I play around with these until the design falls into place. Then I take a a fw snapshot to finalise the design. This is a good thing to do because the camera will see things you don’t. The I sew the appliques onto the bodice on one of these fabulous body boards. No more sewing appliques to the mannequin!

plate construction (640x424)

plate construction

The selvedge of the lace was neatly trimmed off and arranged around a net plate cut to fit the shape of the skirt. I cut down into the bottom of the lace and pulled a little piece forward so that I could curve the straight edge around. I then pinned it all in place and sewed it down with silver embroidery thread using a darning foot and dropping the feed-dogs. This is my favourite technique for making a flat plate!

side CU (424x640)

bodice detail

I decided the bodice detail needed to be longer, drawing the eye from the lace on the bodice to the overskirt and linking the two.

tutu side on (424x640)


The corded lace flowers look like they’re tumbling down. I couldn’t resist a rhinestone at the point of the embellishment.

plate CU (640x424)

plate floating on the skirt

This style of plate is clean and simple and gives a lightness to a tutu letting the skirt colours show through.

tutu (424x640)

finished tutu

And here is the lovely young dancer after performing brilliantly at her eisteddfod.


Sapphire and Gold

This beautiful blue velvet has had a lot of fans this season. Here is another tutu this time teamed with a beaded and embroidered purple lace.

starting point (640x424)

beaded lace

To bring out the purple in the lace I added 2 purple layers into the skirt but it needed a little something else to bring the blue and purple a little closer. I found a crimson net but it was a fairly soft polyester net. However, by placing it at layer 2 it didn’t detract from the structural strength of the skirt. If I’d needed an additional layer of this soft net I would have considered hooping the skirt.

skirt layers (640x424)

blue, purple and crimson net

Although the gold embroidery on the lace was a fairly light coloured we went with a strong yellow gold for the venise lace applique and trim. This bold colour added balance to the design. Blue and purple rhinestones were called for but I was careful not to cover too much of the negative space on the applique because I wanted the blue of the bodice to be clearly seen through it. Otherwise the bodice appliqe might just look like a beautifully shaped, sparkly blob.

venise lace bling (640x424)

embellished venise lace

I added a few small fuchsia sequins onto the bodice for little bit more pop! The gold metal beads tie the embellishment back to the colour of the lace. I use these little beads quite a lot.

detail (640x424)

bodice detail

The gold venise lace on the plate framed the edge nicely.

overskirt detail (424x640)

plate and overskirt detail

And I think the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

quarter profile (424x640)

luscious detail

front (413x640)

channelling my inner princess again