Pale Mint Brocade Traditional Tutu


Pale and pastel-coloured traditional tutus are very popular but I always like to sneak a little bit of extra colour into them. For this pale mint brocade tutu I decided to highlight the mint colour in the skirt and enhance it with a little glitter tulle.

net clippings

And if you’ve wondered how I get all those layers (up to 10) onto a tutu it’s a combination of determination, brute force and sewn on guidelines. I alternate the thread colour so I can tell where I’m up to.

sewing guidelines



After clipping the net I sew the widths together; 5 for the top two layers, 4 for the next 2 and 3 each for the remainder. Then I gather and steam them.

layer 3
layer 3 is mint

Now, while this layer looks like a very strong colour, 2 layers of white above it and 7 layers of white below it will dilute the colour beautifully. Positioning is important.  If you put a strong colour at layer 2 you get more distinct radiations of colour and at layer 4 the effect is too light.

The mint brocade was teamed with silver venise lace. I cut up a few motifs to give a long decorative style for this Russian bodice and toyed with a few placements. When I was happy with the placement I got to work with the rhinestones.

placement ideas

To bring the pale green out of the fabric I used a combination of stones and pearls that had a green base.


bling time
rhinestones and pearls

It looks a very different applique once the stones and pearls are attached.

finished applique

For the plate, the appliques are cut and arranged first and then sewn to the plate.

plate decos
plate appliques

Once they are sewn to the plate then I attached the rhinestones and pearls.

ready for glueing

The rhinestones add a lovely definition to the plate decoration as well as subtle ballet glimmer. You can just see the glitter net showing through.

plate detail
plate detail

The bodice decoration had a lovely mixture of green stones and peals as well as a few little green flower shaped sequins.

bodice detail
bodice detail

I was very pleased with the final design and loved the glow of pale mint in the skirt.

finished tutu












The peasant costumes in ballets are lovely, whether they have large fluffy skirts, tiered Spanish skirts, or like this one, a low profile full circle skirt that stays close to the dancer’s legs. Here is the starting point for a very pretty Swanhilda costume.

starting point
braids and flowers

Sometimes the decorating ideas will change as I move trough the construction phase. The white braid for example didn’t make the final cut and some other flowers were introduced, discarded and then reintroduced. I’ve learnt to let go of ideas!

bodice for fitting
bodice ready for second fitting

The first fitting for a bodice uses a calico (muslin for US readers) mock-up of the bodice to which I make changes and then translate to a pattern for the bodice. The bodice is then made up with it’s drill lining but with no piping or other finishing. The second fitting helps take account of the thicker fabric and the drill lining. After this I add piping and boning. The third and final fitting is at completion and is basically for finalising the hooks and bars.

bodice opening for insert
bodice opening for faux corset insert

This bodice will have a faux corset insert so the centre front needs to be opened up and trimmed away. The piping allows me to sew attach the faux corset insert by stitching in the ditch. The corset insert should look like the corset is laced over a soft chemise. For this effect I gather tissue silk over the insert. This type of silk is not very expensive and I try to always have some on hand. I think it is superior to using polyester as it sits flatter when it is steamed or ironed.

tissue silk and silk crepe de chine

The tissue silk is for the ruched corset insert and the crepe de chine for the arm puffs as the tissue silk is a bit too light for the puffs.

gathered and steamed silk sewn onto insert

The excess silk is trimmed off the insert and it is stitched into the bodice opening. Now comes the fun part, starting the placement of decorations.

trying out ideas
design ideas

I thought I’d add in some other ribbon flowers to bring out the apricot colours in the bodice but they started to shout to me so I swapped them over for the original colour. You can see below the crimson ribbon flowers work much better with the dusty pink ribbon roses and still gives a point of interest to the design.

corset laces
corset laces

I also solved the perennial problem of trying to line up the laces on a faux corset by using a gimp trim that I could thread the laces through; instant symmetry … YAY me!

arm puffs

Some cute little arms puffs and an apron completed the picture.

skirt nd apron detail
skirt and apron detail

The skirt was a simple full circle of creme georgette over 2 layers of soft bridal tulle. The skirt had a lightly gathered overlay of embroidered organza. Both top skirts were circular to minimise bulk at the waist and both were completed with a rolled hem using woolly nylon in the upper looper for a soft but defined hemline.

bodice detail
bodice detail

I finished off the top of the chemise with a pretty green and pink braid that I carried all the way around the top of the bodice.

Pretty Swanhilda












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!











Grey Velvet with French Lace

Tutu design can sometimes get you into a bit of a rut so it’s nice to be nudged out of that with clients’ lovely ideas. While this design was quite simple the colour choice was surprisingly refreshing. The young dancer is about 15 and she chose an elegant soft dove grey and teamed it with an understated silver French lace I’d had stashed away.

lace CU
silver and grey French lace

French lace is very expensive and also quite heavy but with a careful approach you can avoid the high cost and weight. While it may seem a travesty to cut this up is really does reveal a huge range of possibilities. Usually the lace selvedge will be scalloped and heavily beaded and can be quite lovely as a plate. However, it also has a number of motifs in the centre that can be cut out as the background fabric is nylon net and won’t fray. This lace had mirror pairs of motifs.

mirror pair
Mirror pairs of motifs

I used 5 of these to decorate the bodice, 2 pairs across the top and a single motif I trimmed to appear bilaterally symmetrical. Any cuts through beaded sections were sealed with Fraycheck. I also extended the motifs around the back of the bodice to give a little interest to the back. I decorate the bodice before I attach the net as it’s veru difficult leaning over a full tutu skirt to try to sew things onto the bodice. In the photo below you can see where I’ve zigzagged the velvet bodice onto the white knickers as the bottom rows of the skirt will be white.

decorated bodice
decorated bodice

The plate was embellished with 6 mirror pairs giving a complex edge that looked like the plate had been frosted with ice. The underlying plate shape was 6 round petals. I didn’t finish the edges at all as the fabric doesn’t fray and it wouldn’t be seen. The is not haute couture! Otherwise no one could afford a tutu!

CU of decorated plate
placement of motifs

After deciding on the general placement of the motifs, I hand-sewed (Oh yes … too many seed beads to use a machine!) them to the plate.

decorated plate
Plate decorated with french lace motifs

You can see the inner circumference of the plate is an ellipse as that is more accurately the shape of the dancer through the plane of her hips. The plate itself is a modified circle. Sometimes I will create an elliptic plate if the trim is linear but elliptic plates make the regular placement of motifs a bit tricky.

net FX
Grey and white net layers

I wanted a translucence in the skirt rather than a solid grey colour so the top 4 layers alternated between grey and white. The remainder of the skirt is white. With the white underneath the grey took on a slight lavender effect.

three quarter

Close up you can see a little of the net around each motif but these disappear at about 2-3 metres so I didn’t trim too closely. I certainly don’t want beads spilling off the costume onto the stage. The edge of the velvet plate is sewn loosely to the top of the skirt as is the lace edge.

finished tutu

And you can see here that the net backing certainly doesn’t show up and the whole effect is quite ethereal.








Baroque Aurora

It’s important in any field to keep refreshing skills and learning new ways to do things. To this end I spent a week in Victoria’s beautiful Woodend at a tutu seminar run by the wonderful teachers Helen Rodwell and Sylvia Heather of Sew Classical Tutus. I also stayed on for a couple of days to lend a hand to the very talented Dani Legge, who has been my tutu mentor for many years, while she ran her stretch tutu class.

Tutu classes are hectic. While you’re concentrating on your tutu you keep an ears and eyes open for what others are doing and drop everything to watch a demo; hence no progress shots with this one, just some pretty pictures.

three quarter profile (424x640)
the inner princess triumphs again!


As this was to be a ready to wear tutu I chose a design that would have wide appeal and could be used for a variety of variations or solo pieces. The 12 piece bodice has three colours, ivory silk centre panels, pale pink middle front panels and apricot brocade for the remaining 8 panels.

textural detail (424x640)
textural embellishment


I was keen to enjoy the embellishment on this tutu and did a lot of hand beading as well as cutting and rearranging venise lace appliques. There are about 4 different gold colours on this tutu but they have blended well. I was chasing a rich, ornamented baroque look with a strong textural focus.

bodice detail 2 (424x640)
pinks, golds, yellow and aurora borealis colours

The final touch was the brocade plate with a light gold lace overlay. Bright gold did not suit the overlay so I tried a beautiful coffee-gold venise lace I’d had stashed away. Being at tutu school meant I could traipse around the classroom asking for advice and comments! Thanks to everyone who helped me with the decisions!

plate detail 2 (640x424)
and another “gold” to add to the subtle depth of colour

I had a wonderful time at the tutu seminar; I worked hard, unpicked things, talked tutus, laughed, talked more about tutus and gushed at other folks’ beautiful creations. If you read my blog because you want to want hints on tutu, leave the pets, kids and spouses at home and do a course!


front (640x424)




Floral Sydney

One of my daughter’s friends stayed over during the week. She’s a young designer trying to find her way. Well she found her way into my studio and I gave her free rein to go through my stash of trims, beads and treasures. As she rattled off ideas I quickly wrote them down. There’s nothing like a set of new young eyes to see things I hadn’t seen. So I gave her a tricky brief; give me a strong spring pallet on dark lilac coloured lycra. A client is after a robust spring coloured tutu for choreography set to Strauss’s Spring Waltz. Ella Charlotte came up with this beautiful colour scheme. To me as a (former) botanist this is Jacaranda, Illawarra Flame and Silky Oak, three trees that are all in flower in Sydney in late spring /early summer. A glorious riot of colours.

Sydney Spring Flowers