I make a lot of stretch tutus for people all over the country who might not have a tutu-maker close by but it’s very special when someone chooses to drive for 4 hours from the NSW Central West for a consultation. So, a couple of weeks ago I welcomed Alison and her daughter Eloise into my studio … not forgetting Grandma who came along as well!
They were pretty keen on a strong colour and design, nothing frilly and no sugarplums but some definite sparkle. We looked at a few colours and Eloise chose a beautiful turquoise velvet and some old gold venise lace over a white skirt with blue undertones.
The white skirt was given a bit of life by having turquoise netting at layer three. To give it a little sparkle I put a layer of glitter tulle into layer 2. All the layers were feathered like the glitter tulle below.
The bodice pieces are all serge lined with lightweight 4 way stretch lining fabric. I use Caress liner from the fabulous Eclipse fabrics in Queensland. Much of my matt lycra comes from there as well. They have some beautiful colours other suppliers don’t stock.
One of my favourite steps in the process is sewing in my label on the back seam. It’s a little moment of reflection on how wonderful it is to be part of the ballet community making beautiful dance costumes to delight dancers and to thrill audiences.
You can see here the bottom part of the leotard is white to match the skirt colour. The back pieces and the basque are cut a little longer than where the first row of netting is attached and just zigzagged over the panty pieces. The seam is hidden in the net so there is no need to finish the raw edges.
While I’m making up the leotard the rhinestone glue is drying on the bodice applique. Once the leotard is finished I attach the shoulder elastics, the blinged up applique and finish any hand beading. I do this over a bodyboard so the leotard is stretched, mimicking the shape when it is on a real body. This is very important as the appliques are non-stretch. Once the leotard is finished the 8 layers of net are attached.
I love using venise lace (not Venice lace). It is made with a knotted stitch so it can be cut up into interesting shapes. I don’t like heavy lines in my embellishment so I often cut off the top anchoring row of the lace like in the picture above. To decorate the deeply curved lines of the plate I cut the lace so there was only one anchor point between each motif. That allowed me to curve it around the plate easily. For the plate the trim can be machine stitched on with a straight stitch. There’s no need here for stretch. After the machine stitching, then I bling! It’s very hard to stitch around rhinestones! I learnt that the hard way.
Little fluttery cap sleeves complete the design. I sew a piece of narrow skintone elastic to the sleeves to go around the bicep. This keeps the sleeves secure when the arms are in fifth position and allows them to return nicely when the arms are lowered.
I embellished the venise lace with blue and blue-green rhinestones with a sprinkling of crystal AB rhinestones for a bit of extra sparkle.
You can see in the finished tutu that the skirt takes on a beautiful blue tint with the turquoise layer of netting 3 layers from the top. And the feathered edge adds a lovely contrast to the roundness of the embellishments.
Eloise and her Mum will drive down from Orange again during the school holidays to pick up the tutu. Until then it has pride of place in the studio where it is being admired by other young dancers coming in for consultations with their Mums and Grandmas.