Flames of Paris

Most Australian eisteddfods and dance competitions don’t ask for variations but I do get a lot of requests for variation tutus from the US. Flames of Paris is very popular.

I used a Dani Legge’s peasant pas dress pattern for the bodice and attached the skirt at the high hip rather than the waist. The slightly bell shaped tutu has a layer of white and silver chantilly lace that I used as the foundation for the blue and red ribbon trimming.


Flames of Paris

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.

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.



Paquita Bell Tutu

I haven’t made a bell tutu for a while so it was lovely to get a request for one. They are made in a similar way to classical tutus but the layers are about 5-6cm longer, made with softer net and tacked more loosely so the layers float up and down a little. My client liked a Bolshoi tutu she has seen so we used that for inspiration. Here are our starting points.


Spanish tutu

concept sketch

starting point

rose lace and burgundy velvet

rhinestons on venise lace (640x424)

rhinestones on venise lace

pineapple trim (640x424)

pineapple trim

For stretch tutus I use a brilliant pattern developed by my friend and fellow tutu-maker Danielle Legge of Tutus by Dani. I transformed the pattern from a faux basque bodice to a Russian bodice and put a faux laced corset panel into it. The lacing is made from narrow strips of black lycra cut with a rotary cutter for nice smooth even lines. I just zigzagged them into place.

lacing placement (424x640)

lacing placement

The tutu skirt has 7 layers of net alternating between tulle and stiff ballet net. It is loosely tacked with 25mm gun tacks to give a soft flowing effect to the skirt but still keeping the layers attached to one another.

steamed tutu (424x640)

Russian bodice with faux corset lacing

The skirt decoration was a flat net plate decoration with 3 concentric rings of gathered lace. Because I was using lace fabric and not wide lace trim I finished the cut edge of the lace with narrow black venise lace.

top layer (640x424)

top layer of lace

For the very top layer I mounted the lace on a narrow band of black tulle for a neat finish as this will be seen. I did eventually cover it with a bit of pineapple lace but I could have just neatly folded it under and stitched it down.

top layers (424x640)

pinned layers

Here is the plate with all the layers pinned placed over the skirt to see if there needs to be any last minute tweaking. The layers were then sewn down and the red pineapple lace trim applied so it just peeked out from under each layer.  Excuse the terrible blue nail polish! I had been painting white gun tags to match the blue/green net of the sea witch tutu and I got carried away!

tagging (640x424)

catching the ruffles

The tiered ruffles need to be controlled a little so I just tacked them down from underneath the plate with my tagging guns and some lovely fine gun tags a recently found. Thanks to Karen Jackson for this fantastic technique of attaching and catching things!

front (424x640)

Draped sleeves

Instead of the sleeves just starting at the shoulder, I’ve brought them around to the front and popped a rosette on the bodice as a focal point to break up the black of the sleeves.

back (424x640)

sleeves across back

And brought them across to the centre back. I guess they are more of an off the shoulder flounce than sleeves.

front 1 (424x640)




Bell Tutus

Bell tutu

Bell tutu

Tutus come in three basic shapes and sizes. The iconic classical tutu is relatively flat, perhaps with a slight slope depending on preference and generally has about 10 layers of stiff ballet net; the calf length Romantic tutu made up of 4 or 5 layers of soft net; and the bell tutu which is about half way between the 2 in length and made of about 6 layers of stiff and soft net giving a softer tutu with an obvious slope.