Lilac Tutus

Last year seemed to be the year of the Lilac Fairy. Here are 6 variations on a theme.

 

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delicate

This tutu was very pretty with pinks and mauves moving against each other in the skirt. The lilac corded lace spills onto the skirt where you can see the multiple skirt colours.

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Emily’s Lilac Fairy

This tutu was embellished with silver venise lace and rhinestones. The top layer of net is sparkle tulle and it is a little shorter than the next layer to give a soft colour shift at the edges.

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Lilac and white

This is a tiny little lilac fairy for a 4 year old. It is embellished with white corded lace, pearls and rhinestones.

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Lilac Fairy

This Lilac Fairy was made as a RTW tutu. It uses the same lace as the first tutu but I used the selvedge to trim the plate and it gives the plate quite a different look.

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White and Lilac

This tiny tutu uses the same lace as the tutu above but you can see on a white background it has a different effect. Compare it to the next tutu using the central motifs of the same lace.

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another lilac fairy!

 

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Three White Tutus

In September this year I had a rush on white tutus. Here are a few pictures of Paquita Etoile, and La Bayadere and the Snow Queen. I also made a Paquita Grand Pas but that will be the subject of a separate post.

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white on white

For the La Bayadere tutu I used white appliques on white lycra with crystal AB rhinestones and translucent sequins to highlight the white on white design.

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bodice detail

For the skirt I reprised the plate I used for the pale blue prizewinner tutu although I offset the petals a little differently.

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plate detail

The petals were constructed from tulle edged with white venise lace.

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La Bayadere

I used a heavy gold venise lace for the Paquita Etoile tutu and embellished it with gold and crystal AB rhinestones.

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bodice detail

To keep a nice long line through the tutu it’s important to continue the bodice colour down over the hips. That’s why a matching plate is often used. In this case there was no plate just a lace overlay. To effect the continuity of the bodice colour down across the hips I mounted the lace on soft white tulle that gathered tightly close to the bodice.

 

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lace overlay

The tulle gives a lovely soft look to the tutu.

 

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back detail

I had a special request to continue the detail around the back of the tutu as the dancer has  a lovely flexible back and we wanted to bring attention to it.

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Paquita Etoile

The Snow Queen tutu is the first asymmetrical tutu I’ve made for a long time.  The brief was to decorate the tutu with a swirl of snow across the bodice spilling onto the skirt.

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snow flurry across bodice

I used crystal AB rhinestones  on the silver venise lace.

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asymmetrical plate

The plate had a side swoop where rhinestones tumbled across the skirt. The red cast on the stones was just reflection of the early morning sun.

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plate detail

 

 

 

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Snow Queen

Dusty Rose Stretch Tutu

One of the reason I blog about my tutus is to help my remote clients see how out a design together from fabric choices and consultation about choreography, music and dancer’s personal style. It must be hard to try to develop a design with a person you’ve never met so I think the blog fills in a few gaps.

This post is about a pink tutu I put together for a client and her daughter in Victoria about 1000 km from where I live in Sydney. We went through a few different coloured pinks fabrics and laces but finally settled in this combination.

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Corded and sequinned lace

Next we decided on skirt colours. We decided on a white top layer grading down to a dark pink to match the leotard fabric. I do a bit of hand dyeing of net and I often dye a few extra pieces or experiment with colours ( or just make mistakes) which I stash away for future use. In this case my dyeing frenzies yielded great results.

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hand dyed net

And from chaos and experimentation comes order with the addition of a layer of glitter tulle for a bit of sparkle.

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pink clouds

Putting this skirt together was a dream. The different pink layers played against each other so beautifully. As i tacked the layer together the skirt’s personality changed. There are some things about make tutus I love and the transformation of a formless puff to a tutu skirt is a miracle of engineering!

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tulle lotus

My client just wanted a flat plate like she has seen on my lemon and lime tutu. The trick is to make a piece of linear scalloped selvedge curve around the tutu skirt. I had to judiciously snip out some pieces of the lace and bring the lace over to fill the gap. This creates a gentle curve. The arrangement at the sides is a little different because the curve is steeper around the dancer’s hips but with a bit of cleverness I can divert the eye from these differences.

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reconstructed lace as a plate

Corded lace lends itself beautifully to bodice decoration giving a rich textural feel to the embellishment. The lace had a lot of holographic flat sequins so it didn’t need much more bling. I added some pretty little flower shaped sequins and secured them with red AB seed beads to continue the textural feel. A few large rhinestones finished the look.

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textural embellishment

Using the lace as a bodice decoration ties it in perfectly with the flat plate.

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plate

And the whole effect was really very pleasing.

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another tutu floating in my garden

The studio cat was also pretty pleased … really he was!

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Tybalt, Photographic assistant

and then of course on a real dancer

 

Lovely young dancer

the smile says it all

Fuchsia Tutu with a Spanish Flair

I love it when clients want something outside of the square. Here are a few photos of putting together a traditional tutu in a beautiful fuchsia taffeta with a bit of a Spanish flair in the choreography and music. Instead of a rose in her hair she wore a pink and white peony

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Bodice with shaped nude insert

The client already had a fabric in mind and brought it along with her. Unfortunately it was a stretch taffeta so I had to stabilise it with iron interfacing. This meant there would be no stretch in the bias panels and too much stretch in the piping … but we managed! We were going for a design where the colour would sing so the bodice design was pulled back to simplicity; venise lace and a bit of bling.

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venise lace, rhinestones, filigree sequins and seed beads

A lovely touch to the skirt was the addition of a layer of soft fuchsia bridal tulle as the very top layer. It was 2/3 the depth of the skirt but cut into very long points to give a graded effect but not the smooth effect of ombre painting.

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top tulle layer

The plate echoed the design on the bodice and was decorated simply with rhinestones. We kept it very small, really just a hip plate to allow the colour of the bodice to extend to the skirt without overwhelming it.

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small tutu plate

I added some sleeves with the same trim and here we have the beautiful tutu.

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completed tutu

And it goes without saying that this looks so much better on a real dancer.

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The beautiful Jasmine

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strong colours are beautiful on stage

Mint and Gold Traditional Tutu

Sian and her Mum Carmel contacted me very early in the year to book a spot for a consultation. I love that sort of forward planning. It certainly helps me in this job! We went through a few colour schemes and had almost decided when Sian emerged from the stash with a pale mint brocade with soft gold threads through it. We matching this with a light gold venise lace trim. We toyed with the idea of a sparkle tulle under the ivory net.

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starting point

Sian wanted understated elegance with shimmer rather than bling so we decided on a simple bodice design but with a deep V nude insert.

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front point

To highlight the gold in the fabric the top of the bodice and the bottom of the basque were piped with gold but the bottom of the bodice is self-piped so there’s no interruption in line.

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basque piped with gold

deep V

Deep V piped with gold

The venise lace needed only a little bit of sparkle so I added some ss20 AB coated pale green rhinestones. I will embellish this with a little bit of hand-sewing and beads and sequins later.

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venise lace

venise lace decoration

venise lace and hand beaded embellishment

Instead of a traditional plate they wanted little trapezoid petals they had seen on one of New Zealander Janice Barnden’s tutus. Janice makes beautiful tutus so do look out for Pas de Basque tutus. I fiddled with a shape and proportions for a while and found that 8 petals gave a nice balance.

skirt petals

paper petal template

petals

petals aligned

They looked a bit lonely and sad so I jazzed them up with a little of the venise lace cut into small appliqués and given a bit more bling with some acrylic faceted and crystal rhinestones.

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petal bling

Next came the skirt. In the picture below you can just see the hoop casing on row 4. While this tutu will not be hooped, if over time the net softens the tutu can be brought back to life by inserting a hoop, which is much easier to do if it already has a casing.

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row 4 going on

I hand tack traditional skirts but plastic gun tacks will do exactly the same job. I guess I just like keeping old skills alive.  There are many ways to tack a skirt but I prefer the fluidity you get from individual swing tacks around the tutu. I do 4 rows of swing tacks … you get faster at it! The floor of my studio is covered with little thread tails though after trimming each hand tied knot. I guess there must be about 60-80 per row.

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tacking equipment and thread tails

Once the skirt is finished it’s time to put everything together. I hand basted the bodice to the basque and then sewed it doen by machine leaving the front point free. I placed the petals evenly around the basque and tacked them into place. I put the glimmer net under them to see how it looked and just lived with it for a couple of hours before I sewed it in place.

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glimmer net or not?

Sydney’s weak autumn sun managed to make the glimmer net sparkle (when the sun emerged!) and I decided it could stay.

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glimmer net at home

I think the oversirt adds a subtle interest to the tutu skirt and brings out the gold colour. It will look pretty on stage because the under side still has the strong ivory colouring.

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lovely deep V

I’m rather taken with this understated tutu. The brocade is lovely and has the softest gold touches to it with fine gold lurex thread through it.

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Hand beading

A tiny bit of hand-beading nicely extends the line of the venise lace and … it’s cheaper than therapy!

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completed tutu

I loved making this tutu.

 

Teal Velvet with Gold French Lace

I received a call a little while ago asking if I could make a tutu for a championship in April. My schedule was pretty full but with some tweaking I managed to fit this one in. After a bit of email tennis we came up with fabrics and design.

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Teal and Gold concept drawing

The hero of this tutu is the utterly beautiful lace from Recherche in Sydney. It has an ivory background with soft gold sequins and beads. It teams so well with the teal velvet  and looks beautiful over the light teal for the skirt.

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Lace and Velvet

The stretch velvet was ordered in from the US. We have such a limited colour palette for lycra and velvet here that tutu makers often have to look far and wide for less common colours. Stretch velvet is a polyester fabric so dyeing isn’t an option for strong colours either.

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Lace over teal net

The french lace will sit over the tutu skirt but instead of a solid teal skirt this one will grade from teal through paler shades to ivory. To get these colours I had to dye ivory net with an acid dye.

dye

Acid dyes are made for dyeing nylon net!

There’s a little bit of trial and error with these dyes but perseverance gives good results. Really dark colours are generally not attainable but strong colours are easy and then getting shades is just a matter or timing. For very pale shades I let the dye bath temperature drop a bit.

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drying net

The net is cut to lengths before dyeing but not clipped until later. I love the look of clothesline full of varying shades. It looked so pretty shifting around in the breeze. 

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Colour grading from teal to ivory

These look very pretty together but from here things become  so much more fun. Making a tutu skirt  can be dull dreary work when the skirt is a single colour. With one or two colours it’s fun but with 8 different shades it’s exciting to put each layer on! Each step is a joy. Here are the layers all lined up. A friend suggested they look like a cloud scape.

graded colours teal to ivory

ballet net cloudscape

Here is the net steamed and piled up like a cloud on the windowsill of my studio

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lovely clouds of netting

 

leotard

leotard

The stretch velvet leotard is lined with ivory lycra that extends below the hip line to form the panty. The panty colour matches the lowest layer of the skirt.

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sewing on the layers

There are 8 layers sewing on from longest to shortest. In the photo above there are still 3 layers to sew on. Putting this under the sewing machine is the stage known as “wrasslin’ the tulle ‘gator” leading to scratched left forearm and muscle spasms. Tutu makers are easy to spot because of their left arm rash and overdeveloped biceps.

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tutu puff showing graded layers

Once it’s all on there is a puff to tame. The netting is sewn with the seam allowance facing downwards which gives the tutu its “spring”. Steaming will soften the net to allow it to be pulled into shape before tacking which maintains the shape.

steamed

my friend “Steamy””

These steamers are often advertised on late night telly as the alternative to ironing. I wouldn’t know; I don’t iron but they are perfect for tutus.

tacking

tacking

To tack the tutu the layers are all tied up out of the way and the bottom three layers (6,7 and 8) are released and tacked together. The layers 4 and  are relased and tacked to layer 6 and so on. In this way the layers are tacked together but still free to move over each other. I make fairly fluff tutus, not the sharp flat Russian style skirts.

hooping equipment

hooping time

The lace overlay for the skirt is very heavy so I thought it would be best to hoop the skirt. The skirt hooping is a plastic coated double steel ring. To make it disappear I covered it with some light poplin the same colour as the hooping layer. For this tutu it is layer 4.

hooping

hoop casing

I will put a hoop casing into layer 4 of a tutu if the net is a bit soft so that a hoop can be added at a later date in case the netting fails. Some net is much better than others. I rely on the strength of Italian net. The hoop casing is just a strip of netting about 10 cm wide placed in the middle of the layer. In this picture you can see the hooping (covered with matching fabric) inserted into the casing. I usually tack both side of the hoop to keep it stable.

trimming the lace

trimming the lace

The beautiful lace had to have a 2cm wide strip debeaded so I could sew a gathering line across it to attach it to the skirt. Even then there was still a danger of stray beads flying off into my eyes while I sewed. It’s been a long time since I wore safety glasses (1982 Chemistry at Macquarie University).

safety gear

safety gear

cut up appliques

bodice decoration

The french lace has a number of sprays of sequin and bead flowers that can be trimmed and hand-sewn onto the bodice. Similar pieces were sewn ontp the velvet swoop sleeves for continuity across the shoulders.

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finished tutu with sleeves

Tutu will be winging its way to Victoria on Monday!

New Fabrics for 2014

After a brilliant holiday in Indonesia and Malaysia I’m almost home to start on 2014 tutus. I’ve spent a lovely peaceful day by the pool at my brother’s house in Perth uploading photos and checking emails then I’m off home tomorrow. Here are some photos of the lovely fabrics I picked up in beautiful Surabaya. I can’t wait to work with clients to come up with some artisan tutus.

black, red and gold spanish style lace

I can see this black, red and gold lace in a Spanish tutu

blue french lace

Baby blue beaded french lace

chantilly lace

Lovely chantilly lace adds a lightness to a tutu or can be used as a base for more embellishment

copper gold panelled lace

These panels will look fabulous around a skirt plate

coral and red french lace

This coral and red french lace was quite a find.

dark gold sequin lace

I love this light embroidered net with tiny little sequins. I bought a few colours because it will be very adaptable.

delicat copper lace with tiny sequins

Lovely, delicate copper lace with tiny sequins

green and gold corded lace

I’m hoping this will work for my lime and lemon tutu after the original fabric was sold out

light gold panelled lace

More panelled lace but this time in a lighter gold.

olive and brown lace

Another Spanish tutu I think with some unusual colours

pink french lace

Pretty beaded french lace

plum french lace

This is a \n exquisite plum coloured french lace with iridescent black beading.

selection of chantilly laces

What’s the collective name for chantilly lace … a swathe?

silver white embroidered lace

Elegant silver white embroidered lace

white sequin lace

Lovely light lace which will be very versatile.