This time of year I have a lot of YAGP tutus to make. Australian eisteddfods often don’t allow dancers to do variations unless they are competing in the elite level so it is nice to get requests from my American clients for variation tutus. It’s a fabulous excuse to while away a bit of time on YouTube watching ballet!
This little Paquita will have an ivory bodice and plate with swirls of gold corded lace encrusted with rhinestones and sit over a pretty overlay of champagne gold lace; but first, the construction!
The tutu is built on a lined lycra leotard. I will sew the pants up after I have attached all the net layers. You can see I’ve deepened the neckline a little to put in the powernet nude insert. This will give a more shaped neckline. I elasticate the top of the leotard before I put in the insert.
Once the inert is in place I zigzag the elasticated top edge.
Once the bodice is finished I work out the best placement for the appliques and then bling them up. I’ve used a combination of crystal AB and topaz rhinestones.
When the rhinestone glue has cured the appliques are pinned in place to the bodice stretched across a body board.
As you can see in the photo the appliques are sitting very flat across the bodice at maximum stretch. When it comes off the body board it looks a little crumpled but that just indicates that there is enough slack in the sewing to permit stretching onto the dancer.
In the picture below you can see I’ve added a few extra rhinestones, sequins and beads to fill out the design.
For the plate the appliques are machine- sewn as the lycra dos not need to stretch. I will attach the rhinestones afterwards so I don’t have to sew around them. I learnt that trick the hard way!
The next step is the construction of the tutu skirt itself. This tutu will have 8 layers, all ivory except for one layer of champagne net at layer #3.
Each layer is made up of a number widths of stiff ballet net which are scalloped to give a soft-looking edge to the skirt.
Each width is overlapped 1cm and then sewn together with a straight stitch and make one long piece which can be up to 7m in length.
To be able to manage these long lengths of net during the gathering process I roll them up.
Here are the 8 layers ready for the gathering process. The champagne colour at #3 looks a little dark rolled up but after it is gathered it will just add a warm golden blush to the skirt.
To make the gathering a smooth (albeit DULL) process I roll the long piece of net so that it will unroll from the top not the bottom. This way it doesn’t just unroll into my lap.
I feed fishing line through the cording foot, leaving the reel of fishing line on the floor. As the feed-dogs take up the net there is enough resistance on the fishing line for the net to automatically gather. I use overlocking thread for this. There’s no real need to use better quality thread here as the gathers are not under any tension.
I love this technique. Even if I run out of bobbin thread or if the thread breaks it won’t affect the gathering.
After gathering, I clip the net to a metre rule with pony clips, evening out the gathers. Then apply steam to flatten it out a little. It makes for much easier sewing if the net has been tamed a little first.
Yes, my OCD has kicked in here separating out my coloured glass-headed pins. I don’t want to lose any in the skirt so I have my pins separated so I can choose the colour with the best contrast. This layer is sewn on with a 4.5 x 3.0 zigzag is a good quality sewing thread.
When they have all been sewn on, starting from the bottom I tag layers 8, 7, 6 and 5 together. Here I’ve dropped down layers 4 and 3 and will tag them tag to layer 5. Finally I will drop down layers 2 and 1 (which are still held up by the wide black elastic) onto the pretty champagne coloured layer 3 and tag through layers 3, 2 and 1.
The plate had been prepared earlier so that the glue could cure but here are few photos of different applique placement.
I like the tendrils but I’m not sure how to use them. I didn’t feature the tendrils in the bodice design so I have to introduce them carefully.
The shape is nice but I just keep seeing a map of Australia.
A few more elements and I’m happy. The border seems heavy but it is going over a lace overlay so it needs a strong clear outline.
Once the placement was complete I machine stitched the appliques with metallic gold thread and glued on the rhinestones.
And behold, the completed tutu