Spanish with a twist of purple

I was asked to make a Spanish style tutu but not in the usual red and black. The young dancer wanted red and sparkly so it was up to Mum to find the non-Spanish element; purple! So we decided on a red velvet tutu with the top 2 layers of the skirt in red and the remainder of the skirt bright purple … and gold, lots of gold!

purple and red!

After scalloping the net and gathering it I like to steam it before sewing it onto the leotard. I stretch the gathered ruffle onto my ironing board and peg it onto a metal ruler. This makes the steaming much easier and quicker.

Steaming the net
steaming the net

There’s something really satisfying about cutting up the net, gathering and steaming it then lining it up!

layers lined up
layers lined up!

I do love multi-coloured skirts. Sewing 8 layers of netting all in one colour can drive me to distraction. This one was lovely to put together. The purple and red really played with each other. The photo below shows the effect from above and below.

underskirt in the mirror

Next step was to decorate a plate for the skirt with lots of rich ornate gold work.

gold detail on plate

And then brining the design up to the bodice.

Preciosa rhinestones

And putting it all together I think I managed quite a lovely non-traditional Spanish tutu.

tutu (2)
red and purple Spanish tutu


Aqua and Sea Green Tutu

A client fell in love with a beautiful French lace that I had in my stash so we decided to build a tutu around it. The lace is a beautiful sea green colour but when we teamed it with a matching bodice fabric it lost its pop. The colours of stage costumes need to stand up against strong stage lighting, so we were brave and teamed it with a bright aqua velvet. I’ve documented most of the steps in making this tutu as the young dancer wanted a pictorial diary. here’s what I sent her.

Consultations for a remote client often start with photos of fabrics and trim. I teamed the French lace with a few fabrics but this one bright aqua really seemed to work. A handful of diamantes and silver trimmings completed the concept.

colour scheme ideas
lace and bodice colour matched
Bodice colour blue against green lace

Either colour scheme would have worked well but the aqua with the sea green spoke to the client (and I was really pleased it did). The green lace would be gathered over a white skirt so the background green of the net would become clear on the tutu. So we agreed on the design and colours and made a start. Stretch tutus are great for remote clients as there is a bit more latitude in fit but still achieving the “second skin” look that ballet dancers wants from a tutu.

2. meet Abby
Meet my dancer!

I usually line my tutu bodices although it’s not really necessary for stretch velvet as it’s opaque.  However, for adolescents I’ll always line the bodice for added confidence. The velvet has been serge-lined with thin lycra that has the same level of stretch as the velvet.

3. lining the pieces
lined side bodice pieces

This tutu will have a white skirt so it needs white pants. The lining extends from the bodice and faux basque to make a one layer panty. The line of tacking stitches is the placement for the first row of tutu ruffles

Leotard sewn together ready for netting.

The next stage is sewing on 8-10 layers of gathered stiff ballet net in layers of decreasing length. The fastest and most accurate way to do this is with a rotary cutter and a self-healing mat.

8. Cutting the net
Cutting the net

Netting layers can either have a straight edge or have cut edges like scallops or points (dags). Tutus that represent birds often have dagged net edges while princesses will have scalloped edges.

9. Scalloping the net
Scalloped net
005 (4)

Then the net is rolled up and labelled ready to gather and the it’s time sew onto the waiting leotard. The first layer is not too hard but as you sew more layers on the giant puff-ball threatens to eat your sewing machine.

10. Net bundles lining up
net bundled up and labelled
016 (5)
untamed net

To tame the net once it’s sewn on the layers are steamed into a pleasing shape and then tacked by hand or using plastic gun tacks like the ones you find on clothing price tags.

011 (2)
Skirt steamed and tacked

The lace was gathered and sewn to the top layers of the skirt. The scalloped edge was perfect for the bodice decoration but with a little bit of extra detail added to highlight the shape.

007 (2)
extra beads on the French lace
beautiful French lace

Sometimes I will decorate the leotard before I attach the ruffles but in this case I wanted to see how the skirt looked before I decided on the bodice decoration … oh and I made a little tiara too with blue and green Czech crystals.

010 (3)

and finally the completed tutu

012 (2)
finished tutu

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.

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

Phantom of the Opera Ice Skating in action

I love getting photos of my costumes in action. Here is the lovely Caitlin skating as Christine to the Music of Night from the Phantom of the Opera. We had to be careful in the colour we chose for the costume as the ice can bleach colours quite a lot. A white dress would have disappeared into the ice so we chose a very warm buttery cream colour.

Ball-gown into ice skating dress
the lovely Caitlin


Giselle Finished

My Giselle romantic tutu is now finished and ready to go into my OTR folder. The shoulder straps will be tweaked to fit the owner with the option of some sneaky elastic at the should seam for a bit more movement if needed. The skirt has 4 layers of tulle, the top 2 bridal tulle and the 2 layers underneath a soft pastel blue. You can see flashes of blue as the skirt moves. I was pleased with the organza ribbon on the skirt as it lends a light touch. The final decoration choice was a last minute delve into my box of ribbon flowers and these pretty little carnations are perfect. I think they give a feeling of innocent village girl.

bodice and chemise

I decided that linear trim wasn’t the look I was after

Bodice detail
Carnations and brass ribbon guides
Pretty little peasant bodice

Romantic tutu

Giselle Romantic tutu – next stages

The bodice is almost finished, I’m just at the torturous stage of finalising the trimming so I’ve started putting the skirt together as a diversion. Noting like metres and metres of clouds of white tulle to inspire creative thoughts. I need something in my head while I gather otherwise I’d go mad. The bodice has been piped around all edges with blue satin to give a neat crisp edge. I don’t want a frilly Giselle. The photos below show the key construction steps. I’m in a quandary now as to how to decorate this? I am leaning towards minimalist but will definitely keep the brass ribbon loops. I think the  dirndl approach gives a grounded village girl look rather than a fairy tale effect.

last bit of piping
Piping is wide so it can act as a self facing too
front insert
Boning casing attached to the back of the front insert for spring steel boning
inside bodice 2
There’s a lot going on back here … boning casing for spiral steels added to bust seams
bodice with insert attached 2
Bodice with insert attached. I’ve gathered it so it looks more like a chemise.
playing with trim
Definitely will keep the brass fittings
Giselle skirt
… and the skirt …

Giselle Romantic Tutu

I’m trying a new pattern for the bodice of this romantic tutu, it’s another lovely pattern from Suzanne Dieckmann. It will be a faux corset top with lacing across the front. Decoration will be a work in progress. Skirt will be white tulle and baby blue dress net.

starting out
tools of the trade
Bodice pieces
Bodice pieces are all interlined with heavy cotton drill
centre and side back
Underside of centre back and side back showing drill interlining
centre and side front
Centre and side front will have spiral boning along bust seam
piping (2)
Wide piping can be used as a self facing
I love a piped bodice edge