Ursula the Sea-Witch

I love character tutus. It means you can step away from traditional colours and designs. I was very pleased to be asked to make a tutu for a dancer playing the character of Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid. I immediately thought of a rich green velvet for the bodice. My client agreed and we built the rest of the tutu on that. But there was a little twist. They wanted the same tutu to be suitable next year’s competitions as a Spanish tutu! The plan is that we’ll lift off the “seaweed” from this tutu and replace it with heavy gold-embroidered appliques to give a bit of an Esmeralda look to the tutu.

starting point (640x424)

starting point for the sea witch

But here’s the little twist. They wanted the same tutu to be suitable next year’s competitions as a Spanish tutu! The plan is that we’ll lift off the “seaweed” from this tutu and replace it with heavy gold-embroidered appliques to give a bit of an Esmeralda look to the tutu. We’ll return to this next year.

alternative (640x424)

alternative embellishment for 2015 Spanish tutu

The dancer is quite tall and rather than modifying one of my existing stretch patterns I decided to try the Jalie 2915 tutu pattern. I’ve made it up before and found it a little long in the body so instead of a faux basque I just kept the lovely lines and made it a Russian bodice.

trim placement (424x640)

Jalie 2915 bodice

We chose this gorgeous black venise lace as the embellishment because of the wave pattern. I know no-one in the audience will see it but the dancer will know it’s there.

wavy trim (640x424)

venise lace trim

The difficulty with using this trim is that it is just yardage rather than a mirrored pair. You can make this work with a bit a clever cutting and replacing. I could have used a reversed piece but the bobbin thread on the back was very matt compared to the top thread that had a glossy finish. The trick is to fool the eye with just enough business that the pattern is obscured but the overall effect in strong.

iridescent rhinestones (640x424)

cutting and rearranging pieces

I made the design busy by using 4 different types of rhinestones, iridescent blues and greens in 3 sizes and my old standby crysatl AB.

russian bodice (424x640)

not symmetrical but still balanced

I think I managed to wriggle my way around this bit of tricky trim.

gathered edges (640x424)

gathered edges of net

To embody the idea of the deep ocean the skirt grades from navy blue for the shortest layers up through to turquoise for the top layer. The top layer was also cut a bit shorter than the second layer to have the colours bleed together at the outer edge and a layer of black tulle with green glitter with deeply gathered edge was used as an overlay. The black tulle intensifies the colour of the top layer.

ready to tack (424x640)

ready for tacking

I hand dyed the layers between the navy and jade. Ballet net colours are a bit narrow. I like to use hand-dyed net as a point of difference.

tagging (424x640)

tagging gun

I generally gun tack a skirt and although coloured gun tags are available they are mostly too long for skirts and my preferred gun tags (15mm) only come in white or translucent. This means I can sometimes I can outsmart myself with fancy colours in the skirt.

nail (424x640)

gun tags need some help


After tacking this skirt I carefully went around and painted the small tag with some of these lovely nail polishes I scrounged from my teenage daughter’s room. Problem solved!

underskirt (424x640)

you can just see the tags

Here you can see the grading of the skirt from navy to turquoise. The tags are only just visible in the navy section. They are a bit easier to see at the edge of the skirt where the net fans out more. But always remember the 5 metre rule. If you can’t see it at 5 metres, it’s not there!

tentacles (640x424)


The inverted scallops on the plate represent Ursula’s 8 bejewelled tentacles. The edge of the plate is decoration with the same rhinestones as the bodice.

tutu (640x424)

lovely sea green tutu

It’s quite a sparkly tutu. here is a  close-up of the rhinestone embellishment with tiny little rhinestones I bought by mistake (a good mistake I think!), some ss20 crystal AB, ss20 iridescent and ss30 iridescent.

embellishment 2 (640x424)

2 rhinestone embellishment

And no tutu is complete without a tiara

tiara (424x640)

tiara in blues and green crystal


2 thoughts on “Ursula the Sea-Witch

  1. Baaps says:

    This is absolutely Stunning! I love it 🙂

    • The creative process is a bit of a roller-coaster sometimes plagued with self-doubt and cascades of second guessing. There were moments when I would look at the individual parts of this and wonder if the client and I had done a bit of artistic over-reaching but when I put the final layer of black glitter tulle onto the skirt I remembered the creative vision we’d had when we first discussed it … then a sigh of relief.

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