Apricot and Gold Aurora

I’ve had a groundswell of Auroras this year, in all their glorious girly pinkishness. It was almost enough to make me consider frocking up myself (nope, still in jeans and a t-shirt!). My client brought along some fabric she had found and some ideas and we set to work. First there was the dyeing of the net to a lovely soft colour. While good quality net comes in about 30 different colours subtlety of shading is not one of the characteristics!

hand-dyed net

I dyed the net to be the same soft colour as the bodice and then because she is a Princess I simply had to scallop the edges of the net. The knickers had to match the net so I toyed with a few variations of pink and ivory poplin and voile until I came up with the best match. You can just see the pink liner peeking through. It gave the perfect blush to the ivory to match the net. The lines on the pants are my sewing guide for the 10 layers of net.

Knickers with sewing guide

I made up the bodice to fitting stage and then worked out my placement of venise lace. There are about 3 different motifs in this design cut up and rearranged. Once I’d finalised the design I photographed it as a record and then decorated it with pink and apricot rhinestones.

placing bodice decos
applique placement

After the fitting I finished the bodice and sewed on the appliques. Here it is sitting against the pretty dyed net all steamed and ready for the next stage of skirt construction.

bodice decoration
lots of different pinks and apricots

Because we wanted a detailed baroque look, we decided on 8 small petals around the hipline instead of a solid plate. Each petal was lined with interfacing and the appliques were machined on with gold metallic thread. If you bling them up first you have little choice but to hand sew them on … ask me how I know! Sometimes I still get carried away and  forget and bling them first. Then I smack myself in the head or say bad words. The petals were then edged with gold trim and THEN blinged.


The inner edge of the petals were clipped to fit the hip-line and hand-sewn onto the piping of the basque. I find the piping really useful as an anchor point for the plate.  I don’t sew the plate (or petals) between the basque ans the top layer of net as I like to wiggle things into place when the skirt is finished.  This is because the  hip-line is more of an ellipse than a circle so clipping for the curve at the front and the back is much shallower than for the petals at the side. It also means that it’s easier to change the decoration on the tutu at a later stage. Petals are great because you can position them either side of the centre back and you don’t have to make a placket for the back opening.

sewing on petals
sewing on petals

After sewing on the petals I gathered some light gold lace and tucked it up underneath the petals and stitched it down. Then I stitched the petals down over the lace into the skirt and finally sewed down the lace to keep it in place.

petals 2
overskirt detail

And there you have Aurora, the second one for the year!











Lilac and Blue Romantic Tutu

Romantic tutus are lovely soft floaty confections. Generally they are made for Giselle and Swanhilda variations. Occasionally, however a request arrives for a romantic tutu that takes advantage of all those swishing layers of tulle. Multicoloured skirts in a romantic tutu have a gorgeous life of their own creating beautiful washes of colour.

starting point
blue-mauve shot dupioni for the bodice

Once we’d decided on the blur-mauve shot dupioni for the bodice the rest of the colours fell naturally into place. The precise shades of tulle weren’t available do I got out my dye pots and started dyeing!

top tulle layers (424x640)
top tulle layers

The skirt has 4 layers. the top 2 are tulle and the colour statement needs to be made clearly here. The next 2 layers are dress net which is soft but still with a little body. I discovered by accident a few years ago that nylon net from Thailand softens dramatically with dyeing or washing which makes it utterly useless for classical tutus but perfect for romantics< for this tutu I dyed it pale lilac.  The bottom layer was American diamond hole net which has perfect body for the lowest layer of a romantic tutu.

pinning on bottom layer (640x424)
American diamond hole net for bottom layer

The basque is similar to the basque on a traditional tutu but the net is attached from the waist and then in 2.5cm intervals below that. Each layer is therefore 2.5cm longer than the one below it so that all layers are the same height from the floor.

layers (640x424)
skirt layers

Once the skirt was complete I put the bodice together from some lovely blue and mauve shot dupioni silk. Silk is beautiful to sew with. In the picture you can see the silk bodice pieces serge lined to cotton drill.

bodice pieces (640x424)
bodice pieces

The top and bottom edges of the bodice are piped for a nice finish. There is spring steel in the centre front, and spiral steel boning in the bust seams and side seams.

placement (640x424)
starting to play around with flowers

The flowers were a lovely mixture of mauves and blues. Silk flowers from craft shops are perfect for this and they dye beautifully. I mixed some ribbon roses and ribbon carnations in there too.

bodice CU (640x424)
hand beading

I added some beading and sequins as well. I think they look like dew drops.

et voila  (424x640)
I think she’s really pretty!




Miettes Qui Tombent

Miette is one of Sleeping Beauty’s fairies. The name means ‘falling breadcrumbs’ and comes from an old Russian tradition that spreading breadcrumbs on a girl’s cradle will bring her children when she marries. White is appropriate for this tutu but as it will be on its way to the Prix de Lausanne 2015 we thought a “special” white fabric would be a good choice.

embroidered tafetta (640x424)
Embroidered Taffeta

I cut the pattern pieces and serge lined them to a strong backing fabric. there was a lot of “de-beading” required to get these pieces under the presser foot. I also had to find areas of the fabric to take the bias trip from for the piping. I love the look of a piped bodice.

very CU bodice beading (640x424)
bodice detail

Even though this is just a plain tutu, Olivia wanted something a little special on the bodice just for her so I did a bit of therapeutic hand beading. Although this can’t be seen from the audience it adds texture and I’m sure it delights Liv.



attaching bodice to basque (640x424)
bodice pinned to basque

As you can see I have my coloured pins ready for this job with my white pins outs of harm’s way! The basque and bodice can either hand sewn or machine sewn together. Due to the beading and sequinning on the fabric I though hand sewing would be the best option! I also sewed the basque to the tutu skirt by hand in this case.

handsewing bodice to basque (640x424)
handsewing bodice to basque 

I don’t sew the bodice all the way around but leave the point free. I attached elastic stays from the centre panel to the waistband to allow a little bit of movement for deep back bends.

internal elastic stays (640x424)
internal elastic stays

The centre front seam is boned with spring steel. This keeps the point firm and only allows movement backwards and forwards. In the photo below the steel has been cut. The bottom one has been filed down a little to remove the sharp edges that can work their way through the boning casing. After this I dip the ends in a plasticiser that creates a much softer edge and stops rusting.

flat steel (640x424)
spring or flat steel

The bust seams (and sometimes the side seams) are subject to more varied movement than the centre front seam so they boned with spiral steel that allows movement from side to side as well as back and front. For the nerdy science types out there (that’s me!) spiral steel is, in fact a flattened double helix.

roll of spiral steel (640x424)
Roll of spiral steel

The ends have four sharp points so they need more than filing and a bit of plastic. I think the hardest part of boning a bodice is getting these little aluminium caps on.

spiral steel (640x424)
capped spiral steel

Bodice complete now it’s fun time with the skirt. I used a mixture of ivory, cream and white net in the skirt. Even a plain ivory skirt needs a bit of life!

ready for tacking (640x424)
steamed and ready for tacking

Tacking starts at the bottom with the first three layers tacked every 5 cm or so with an individual loop or gun tack. Then the next 2 layers are dropped down and they are tacked together into the top layer of the first three tacked layers. This is continued to the top. It means the layers are all working with each other as well as within their own little groups and creates a live skirt. There are lots of other ways to tack that will result in different styles of skirt.

first three layers for tacking (424x640)
elastic holding untacked layers

We decided on a just a small hip plate to keep the decoration minimal. I used the motifs in the fabric for each of the 6 petals.

plate petals (640x424)
plate petals

And then I finished them neatly with self piping. there were no mirror images in the fabric but the design is elaborate enough to compensate for the lack of symmetry.

plate petlas piped (640x424)
piping adds a lovely finish

I added the petals to the top of the skirt and then added the basque as I wanted to feature the piping on the basque.  Alternatively plate or petals can be added later which makes it easier to remove them if the tutu is to be “reinvented”.

petals attached (640x424)
petals attached

You see here the piping is clearly visible and adds to the finish of this simple elegant tutu.

best basque detail (640x424)
basque and plate detail

The beading brings in a little bit of pink and gold to the tutu.

best bodice detail (424x640)
bodice detail

Here is the completed tutu

front (640x424)
Miettes Qui Tombent 

… and of course a little coaching from her ballet mentor Lucinda Dunn before the trip to Switzerland

Olivia Betteridge with Lucinda Dunn















Apricot and Ivory Traditional tutu

Sydney is a big place and when people come all the way to see me from outside the metropolitan area for a tutu I’m pretty amazed at their dedication to their art. Recently I had 2 Mums, 2 dancers and a gaggle of young hangers-on visit me from Wollongong. They were Carmel and her daughter Sian and Sam and her daughter Emily. I’ve just finished Emily’s tutu and will start on Sian’s this afternoon … stay tuned for that one too!

Emily wanted a 2 coloured tutu with the top of the bodice in a light colour and the rest in  pastel. I let Emily go into my fabric stash to choose a main fabric. She came out with a beautiful apricot brocade which I teamed with a warm ivory Thai silk. Sam (I think) had already eyed off a textured ivory lace on the shelf and the 3 fabrics went together beautifully. How does that happen? These 3 fabrics had lived peacefully in my studio for some time and had never “met” one another. I was very pleased that Sam and Emily introduced them.

1. apricot and ivory (678x1024)
Brocade, silk and embroidered tulle lace

The first stage is cutting up the toile to create the corselet bodice AND adding the new seam allowance.

2. corselet bodice (1024x678)
toile cut into corselet and bodice

This went together beautifully. I think I’ll make this up again and let the lines shine through and not use trim. But the trim was beautiful when it went on.

3. bodice front (1024x678)
bodice lines

The lace is beautifully sculptural and I managed to put a tiny unobtrusive dart into it to make it curve around the bust. The next step was trying out placement of the venise lace.

11. pinning on venise lace (1024x678)
lace placement on bodice

Once the bodice was sorted out and decorated I started on the skirt. Rather than a solid ivory skirt I suggested some apricot layers. The apricot net I had in my stash had too much red in it so I hand-dyed some net with Dharma Trading Saffron Spice acid dye. It was a perfect warm apricot colour.

4. two layers of apricot (1024x678)
steamed skirt layers

I initially thought layer 2 and 4 could be apricot but the colour was too strong so i just left it at layer 2 and the apricot peeking through was lovely and soft.

6. layer 3 (1024x678)
layers 1,2 and 3

With each layer the decision to add just one layer of apricot was clearly to right one.

7. apricot layer in skirt (1024x678)
lovely soft apricot and ivory colours

The skirt plate needs to tie in the decoration on the bodice so I repeated the venise lace on the plate. We decided inverted scallops would suit the lace best. To extend the lace along the points I cut a small heart shape out, turned it upside down and added one of the little leaf.

12. rearranging trim (1024x678) (2)
rearranged venise lace

I blinged up the venise lace before it was hand sewn to the skirt before the bodice and basque were sewn on.

10. skirt plate (1024x678)
skirt plate


The tutu came together beautifully. There are also little lace arm frills as well but they are so hard to photograph!

029 (678x1024)
bodice detail
14. Skirt (1024x678)
finished skirt
020 (1024x678)
finished tutu