Tiny Tutus

Occasionally the dancers I make tutus for are very tiny. Here are 2 tutus both size 4; a tiny Aurora and a tiny Bluebird.

bodice decoration

This little one has a Russian style bodice with an ivory centre panel, pink middle front panels and the rest of the bodice is a lovely soft apricot.

gold lace overlay

The overlay is 2 types of embroidered tulle sewn together with gold thread.

tiny little aurora

The little blue bird has a hand dyed lace overlay.

ribbon roses

The corded lace motifs were cut from the lace and spangled with rhinestones before being sewn onto the bodice.

bodice decoration

Both of these tutus were so tiny they were only just big enough to fit onto my smallest mannequin.

tiny bluebird


Tinkerbell Bell Tutu

I have just finished my YAGP tutus from the year with lots of Bluebirds and Paquitas. Now it’s time for another character tutu: Peter Pan the Ballet.

initial sketch

We decided to go with a clear bright Kelly green and to emulate Tinkerbell’s fairy skirt the plate will be 3 rows of petals is increasingly paler shades of green over a green skirt. The first thing I did was dye some of the net and trims. One day I will wear gloves when I do this.

fairy hands

The top layer of the skirt will be soft tulle so I dyed it a soft green. I also took the opportunity to dye same trim for the plate.

selection of dyed trim

I tested a few different trims them selected about 6 types that worked well. I didn’t use them all but they have been stashed away for another day. And here is some soft tulle blowing gracefully in the wind.

hand dyed tulle

To give the skirt the soft bell shape half of the net needs to be fairly soft so I alternated my usual stiff Italian net with American diamond hole net. To give a lovely light top the uppermost top 2 layers are tulle and glitter tulle.

DSC_0011 (2)
clippings from the feathered net

Below you can see the difference between American diamond hole net (left) and Italian stiff net. You can see the Italian net has a hexagonal shaped hole and thicker filaments. The diamond hole net is lovely to handle, pleats well and comes in a broad range of colours but I’ve found I need to increase the amount of net in a skirt and or hoop it to keep the shape I want. However, I think it is perfect in bell tutus when alternated with stiffer net.

I used the same number of layers as I do for a classical skirt but added 5cm to the overall skirt length as the angle of the skirt makes the diameter look smaller. I also tacked it more loosely than usual using 25mm tags.

diamond hole net and stiff ballet net

The best pattern I have ever found for stretch tutus is Dani Legge’s. It’s reliable, has a perfect fit and it completely adaptable. There are a few imitations of it around but Dani’s tried and true pattern has been delivering the goods for over 20 years. I recommend you have a look at her FB page and website:

Tutus by Dani

Tutus by Dani – Facebook

cutting the pattern pieces

In this picture you can see on the left that I had added a seam allowance to centre front instead of cutting it on the fold. I like the look of a centre seam and it helps in keeping decorations evenly centred. A basting stitch is the alternative.

flat lined bodice pieces

I flatline all my pattern pieces with the overlocker (serger) before I sew them together. I generally use a lightweight swimwear lining as it gives the opacity I want without the reduction in stretch that flatlining with lycra will give. The beauty of the stretch pattern is that it will grow with the dancers for up to 2 seasons. However, for older dancers who would like a firmer fit, flatlining with lycra or powernet is a very good option.

applying elastic

For a snug fit around the top of the bodice I attach elastic with a zigzag stitch (4.5 x 3.0), fold over and zigzag a second time. This tutu just has a sweetheart neckline with no insert, so I started the elastic at one side of the neckline where I had unpicked the centre seam a little. If there had been no centre seam I would have just clipped the centre for a flatter finish.

first zigzag folded over at centre front

You can still see the faint green tinge on my fingernails! I leave the elastic long so that it is easier to pin the front down flat and then zigzag over it for the second time. As you can see the elastic has pulled the fabric in a little so when I zigzag for the second time I stretch out the elastic so that the  fabric is in its relaxed state as it is sewn. Once it’s sewn down I trim the elastic.

centre front

All of my green rhinestones came out for this job. I don’t get to use green very often. Apart from Esmeralda there aren’t too many green tutus called for.

bling time

Here’s a sneak peek at the beaded design. I start with a basic design, photograph it in case the studio cat decides to jump onto the table,  then start applying and tweaking as I go. These will all be hand-sewn.

initial design

After the beads are all sewn onto the bodice and the easltic straps have been sewn on I start to attach the net. Below you can see the basting line where the first layer is attached. The basting stitches are removed as they will restrict the stretch of the tutu.

stitching line
placement for first layer of net

Subsequent layers are sewn on under this, spacing them very closely over the hip flexor and more widely at the front and derriere so that the audience doesn’t see too much of the panties.

tacking (2)
ready for tacking

This tutu has 9 layers. I usually tack in 4 rounds 9 ,8, 7 + 7, 6, 5 + 5, 4, 3 + 3, 2, 1 to give a a fairly flat tutu shape but as this needs a softer more drooping skirt I tacked in 3 rounds with wider spacing and 25mm tags.

tagging gun
Tagging gun and green tags

I used green tags throughout except for the top round where I used very fine translucent tags so they wouldn’t show on the top of the skirt. They are slightly visible on the underside but at audience level they can’t be seen.

tags on lowest round of tacking

Once the skirt was attached to the bodice it was time to work on the plate

bell skirt
soft bell shaped skirt

You can see the lovely soft bell shape of the skirt. The softer net doesn’t push upwards as strongly as the Italian net so with a bit of steaming it was quite easy to get this lovely shape.

8 pointed plate

Tinkerbell’s iconic costume has a little petalled skirt. I decided on 8 petals to give a fine look that could still be discerned well from the audience. To grade the colours I overlaid the lycra with green net and tulle.

petals for rows 2 and 3

Because the skirt has a soft slope to it I needed to construct the plate on the skirt so that it would sit nicely.

sloping plate
petals pinned together

Handsewing? Not today sweetheart. If it can go under the presser foot it does. Dance costumes may look like haute couture from a distance but they are robust functional pieces of “active-wear”, even if they are fairies!

no handsewing
putting the plate together

Now it looks a bit lumpy underneath but it much easier to put it together this way and trim afterwards than try to perfect all the individual pieces. My plates are generally elliptic rather than circular so that makes for calculating some odd angles.

underside of plate

A little bit of careful trimming gives a flatter underside. Invest in a pair of applique scissors. They are perfect for this type of job.

underside trimmed
trimmed underside

The next stage was to apply some rhinestones to the plate for a little more definition and sparkle. I let the glue cure overnight and then attached the skirt.

The inner edge of the plate is clipped to about 1cm to fit around the top of the skirt and it hand-stitched onto the net with a curved upholstery needle as close to the bodice as possible. The outer edge of the plate is loosely tacked to the skirt so that it sits securely and doesn’t flap around.

And there we have it; a Tinkerbell tutu! Many thanks for Rebecca and Leah for asking me to make this. It was a perfect way to end the year

bodice detail
bodice detail

When too many rhinestones are never enough. These are mostly acrylic stones but what they lack in sparkle they make up for in texture. They look like droplets of dew on the bodice.

plate detail

Up close the colours in the skirt are quite clear. At a distance they will blend more and the glitter tulle will sparkle beautifully. The underskirt is made up of alternating rows kelly green and forest green.

completed tutu

if you compare this picture with the one above without the plate you can see how important a plate is to a tutu and how it defines it. As you can see the addition of the plate has made a real difference to this tutu.

Tinkerbell in the garden

And finally, I can’t resist a picture of Tinkerbell in the garden nestled int the bougainvillea.