I have been very busy lately and I’m still catching up with posts. Here are a few pictures of my black swan that was made for the lovely Mandy in Malaysia. The tutu was black velvet and black net with silver filigree embellishment and lots of rhinestones.


Plate representing feathers

The net was feathered as is traditional for bird characters.



The full effect of the bird design can be seen most easily from above.




Ivory tutu with Vintage Recherche lace

No progress shots with this one I’m afraid. Suffice to say the tutu was built around the beautiful vintage lace from Recherche Dance Fabrics in Sydney. This tutu was to be added to my RTW page but it sold within 2 days of posting it on my FaceBook page.


central portion of lace

I used the tendrils of gold from the very centre of this scant 1 metre piece to embellish the bodice. I have added a few Preciosa rhinestones to secure the cut ends of the lace. It’s remarkable what can be done with a small piece of lace. I still have enough lace left for one more tutu. It features different motifs so will produce quite a variation on this tutu.


bodice decoration

The tutu had quite a journey. Within a few days of posting it was on it’s way to Victoria and then shortly afterwards made its way back to New South Wales for the Sydney Eisteddfod, and then home again to Victoria. The young dancer needed a new tutu for her variation with only a few weeks to find one. This was the right tutu at the right time.

skirt detail

skirt detail

As the lace was quite elaborate I thought the best treatment was to simply float it across the skirt and not both with a plate.


Encrusted with jewels

A very pretty tutu


simple elegance

Ivory and Champagne Bell Tutu

Most of the tutus I make are traditional classical tutus with a relatively flat skirt. There is, however,  a  style mid-way between classical and the long romantic style; the bell tutu. The skirt is a little longer than a classical tutu and more loosely tacked.

This bell tutu has an ivory bodice and plate with gold embellishment and a champagne coloured skirt. The net has been feathered to assist the colours to blend. Usually tutu skirts are lighter than the bodice but a slighter darker skirt can look really lovely. I planned an elaborate plate to fool the eye a little.


ivory, champagne and pink net

I used gold venise lace to trim the plate. I removed the solid line from the trim so I could bend it around the curves of the plate.


venise lace

Here you can see the trim pinned to the plate. I inverted one of the heart-shaped pieces in the apex of the plate scallops to define the shape.


pinning on lace

I extended the plate into points with venise lace and gold glitter tulle.


plate points

The venise lace and points were sewn on by machine with gold metallic thread.

points attached

plate ready for rhinestones

The bodice was decorated with similar venise lace and encrusted with rhinestones. Bodice appliques were sewn on by hand on a body board to accommodate the stretch fabric.

bodice detail

bodice detail

The champagne coloured skirt looks quite pretty with the elaborate plate decoration.

skirt detail

skirt detail

The bell skirt was steamed into a soft shape. You can see here is slopes down more steeply than a typical classical skirt.


bell skirt

I was very pleased with this pretty bell tutu.



Copper Velvet and Gold

I made a troupe of autumn tutus a while ago in gold, burgundy and copper coloured velvet. I always loved the rich copper colour so when I was asked to make a Spanish tutu without the signature red and black I thought of this beautiful copper. The other part of my brief was to make the tutu suitable for non-Spanish music too.

starting point

starting point

I teamed the velvet with a soft sequinned lace, embroidered appliques and rhinestones.

sequin or embroidered lace design


I made up the leotard first and sewed the appliques onto it. The rhinestones had been glued on the previous day so that the glue was cured. The nude insert is made from a double layer of  sheer crystal lycra with the stretch running downwards.

bodice decorated

decorated bodice

The appliques fit neatly onto the 6 petalled plate. I added some smaller appliques to join the larger ones.


baroque style decoration

The rich Baroque style appliques hint at the ornate style of Spanish costumes. Adding a matching rose as a headpiece and the picture will be complete. There is no need to shout “Spanish” too loudly if the choreography and music speak for themselves.

skirt detail 2

skirt detail

The pretty apricot lace lends a delicacy to this tutu that will give it an opportunity to convincingly dance to non-Spanish music.



Burgundy and Plum tutu

This may just be my favourite tutu of the year! I love strong colours and this tutu ticked all of the boxes. I was actually sad when Sandra came to pick it up!

net rolls

net colours

Now while these colours look a little like a football jumper when they’re just sitting on my work bench, see what happened after they were gathered and steamed.


sunlight catching the colours

And from above you start to get an idea of how the skirt will really look!


skirt colours

It’s quite a transition from looking at a roll of net to the actual effects of the colours in an eight layer skirt.


adding lycra pants

The bodice fabric was a closer match for the plum coloured net but we wanted the bottom ruffles to be burgundy so the pants had to be a different colour. I made the pants separately and overlapped them on the wrong side of the velvet and zig-zagged them on. You can see this technique more clearly in Matilda’s Garden tutu.

cutting insert

cutting insert

Once the leotard is made up I use a french curve to deepen the front V for the insert. Note the smooth gradation from the original shape. The purple line indicates where I will finish the elastic.


deepened V

When the elastic has been sewn on I fold it under and baste the unelasticated section in place with a piece of crystal lycra filling in the gap I have created (see further down).

placement 1

Applique test 1

At this point I see how the applique will fit and what I could do to improve the shape. This applique is too big so I’ve cut a few bit of it off and moved them around.

placement 2

Applique test 2

Here you can see I’ve snipped off a few little pieces and added them to the top of the bodice. I’ve also cut off the little bunch of leaves from the bottom as I had another idea for the bottom of this.

placement 3

Applique test 3 and final

The little bunch of leaves has been moved to the centre of the applique and a new bottom point has been added. The bottom point is from a piece of venise lace I will use for the plate. Once the design is finished I apply the rhinestones and then sew the blinged up applique to the leotard bodice.

rhinestones on applique

Rhinestones on applique

The rhinestones are not just for sparkle. By choosing stones that match or complement the underlying fabric you bring more of the “negative space” though the design making it less blocky and more delicate.

pinning on venise lace

Pinning venise lace onto plate

The plate is a simple circle to take greatest advantage of the outline of this gorgeous lace. The edges of the plate was simply overlocked but it could be left untreated as this fabric does not fray. Once in place I machine stitched the lace to the plate using gold thread in the needle and burgundy thread in the bobbin. I use Kingstar metallic thread as it is tough and not temperamental.

decoraed plate

finished plate

I decided the original lace needed a bit more shape as I wanted to divert the eye away from the circular shape so I cut some little hearts out of another lace I have. I quick email discussion with my client and we decided to amp things up a  little more and added the beautiful purple french lace motifs to the plate. From the audience perspective this will add sparkle and texture to the plate.

plate detail

plate detail

And here, against the sumptuous colours of the skirt you can really see the final effect. I loved watching these ideas come together!

bodice detail

bodice detail

The stones of the bodice were a mixture of burgundy, blue, purple and even a tiny bit of green. Crystal AB rhinestones were added for a bit of ballet glimmer.


finished tutu

I was definitely in LOVE when it was all finished. Folks who visited the studio while it was in residence felt the same. My daughter would pop downstairs just to look at it. Sigh. Yes, this is why I make dance costumes!


Matilda’s Garden tutu

Matilda is 8, turning 9 in August and wanted a green, purple and gold tutu with butterflies. She’s a completely delightful and engaging wee thing and quiet decisive in her tastes. We had a brief chat and quickly decided on colours, trim and embellishment. I eventually made a small change to give the embellishment a pretty lightness.

starting point

staring point

Once I’d made up the bodice I laid out the trims we had decided on but the venise lace motif was a bit too heavy so I swapped it for some gold corded lace I had used on a tutu last year. There was just a little of it left; no mirror pairs so had to make do. The aim was to fill the gaps with flowers.


corded lace on bodice

In this photo you can see where I have zig-zagged on the mauve pants (to match the net) and the basting line to indicate the first layer of net. The raw edges are completely hidden by the net on the front and on the inside by the lining. The flowers disguise the fact that the corded lace embellishment is not symmetrical.

decorated bodice

decorated bodice

The skirt was a mixture of mauve and light purple net and a layer of glitter tulle.


gathered and steamed net

The original plan for the plate was venise lace, butterflies and flowers. As you can see in the photo, it’s pretty but a little stark, so I introduced a little of the corded lace onto it and added some rhinestones to bring a bit more purple through the gold lace.


first version of the plate

The final version of the plate has a lovely delicacy about it.

plate detail

plate detail

I was very pleased with this rather whimsical little tutu. It’s very sweet and age appropriate.

bodice detail

bodice detail

The addition of the green butterflies just makes me laugh every time I see them remembering my funny little conversations with the charming Matilda.

tutu front

finished tutu




Emily is not only a talented ballerina (Apricot and Ivory Traditional tutu 8th April 2014) but a very strong and accomplished contemporary dancer. I was asked to make a Cirque de Soleil style unitard for her Spider contemporary piece. I foolishly didn’t take any photos during construction but I’ve recently received photos from backstage at the eisteddfod.


Spider unitard

The back is deep wide and open. I used a glittery black lycra for the contrast trim and a heavily sequinned motif on the front. There are long stripes on the front of the legs and underneath the arms. I designed the black shape on the back to make her look like a B&W version of the Australian red back spider.


unitard back

And what does a dancer do backstage waiting for her call? Method acting!


spider on the wall

Bright Pink and silver

I’ve made a few costumes for little Roisin so I was very pleased when her Mum asked for a tutu for her. To choose the best colour we had great fun wrapping her in swathes of lycra like some sort of ballet super hero. She has a lovely warm complexion so this bright pink looked lovely against her skin and it was an instant winner.

starting point

starting point

Roisin and her little brother Sean went through my rhinestone box and chose some pretty stones. I let then choose a few to take home as well!

sewing on bodice appliques

sewing on bodice appliques

The rhinestones were glued to the lace applique and allowed to dry overnight. I stretched the leotard onto a body board and sewed then appliques on. You can see the centre seam here. The original pattern doesn’t have this but I like to put one in to help with applique alignment.

pinning on appliques

pinning on appliques

For the plate, the appliques are sewn on first and then the rhinestones are added. The plate appliques can be machined on as the plate fabric is not stretched. This saves a lot of time.

machine sewing appliques

machine sewing appliques

I used a metallic thread (Kingstar) to sew on the appliques with a polyester bobbin thread in a matching colour.

plate detail

plate detail

A small piece of pink lace completes the plate and we have a pretty little tutu.

finished tutu

finished tutu

Emerald Velvet and Gold

This tutu brought together my favourite applique, beautiful emerald green velvet and a new shade of net I fell in love with at Dani Legge’s tutu course in Woodend earlier this year.



Layers 1, 3 and 5 of the skirt were a warm champagne colour withe remainder ivory. I use stiff ballet net that is imported from Italy. I find it has plenty of body and keeps its shape well without hooping or hand-pleating.


champagne and ivory net

I trimmed the applique a little to fit the inverted scallops and played around with a few other appliques to fill in the gaps.

playing with trim 1

playing with trim

When I was happy with the arrangement I overlocked the edges and then placed the appliques in their final position. While these are iron on appliques, the glue isn’t really strong enough for a reliable attachment, so I pressed them lightly into place to save using pins and then zigzagged them on with gold embroidery thread. I was careful not to let the iron mark the velvet.

playing with trim 2

final placement

After the trim was in place I glued on rhinestones and started putting the skirt layers on while the glue dried. When the skirt was finished I cut an ellipse from the centre of the skirt 2cm smaller than the high hip measurement. I clipped the inner circumference and sewed the plate to the top layer of net as close to the bodice as possible. This technique gives a neat finish and a flat plate. I use a curved upholstery needle as I’m sewing into a more or less flat surface.

attaching plate

attaching the plate

Just a sprinkling of rhinestones and the embellishment is complete.

skirt detail

bodice and skirt detail

The beautiful subtle colour of the skirt complements the richness of the bodice and plate.


finished tutu

and a lovely emerald and gold tiara to match