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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!


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Pink/Gold shot organza tutu

Here is another pale coloured tutu to prove to myself I can work in subdued tones. This one is ivory satin with an overlay of pink/gold shot organza. I’ve just finished the decorations on the bodice.

a pair of  bodies

Bias cut panels will shimmer differently

The word bodice comes from the concept of a “pair of bodies” and here you can see that pair.

Lovely Ulster lace

Lovely hand-dyed Ulster lace.

gimp or gold and ivory braid

Should I go with this braid?

Absolute indecision

Or get lost on the confusion of my trims stash?

It took a while to decide on what I needed to get the look of textural confectionery I was after. The laces and braids on the side gave a lovely background but I was still stuck on how to embellish the all important centre front. I eventually remembered I had a bit of French lace stashed away that I hoped was the right pink. I snipped out a few little small bead and sequin pieces and placed these at the top of the pink embroidered applique I had in mind. All the pinks work so well together.

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Side of bodice showing Ulster lace and braids

And this is what I came up with. I’ve also adorned it with Preciosa rhinestones; ss30 Rose AB and ss20 crystal AB, ans some sweet little cup shaped sequins in pearlised white.


textured confectionery

Now for the skirt. I’ll use 9 layers of stiff ballet net and scallop the edges which will suit this fairy-tale style of tutu.


Net cut and scalloped

It makes it easier to sew the ruffles on if the sewing lines are marked, especially in such a little tutu where the distance between the layers over the hips is extremely narrow.


Lines are marked with different coloured thread

The magical part of the tutu is going from the dandelion puffball of netting sewn to the panty to the tamed flat tutu skirt that is so recognisable. The tutu layers are tamed but attaching layers to one another in such a way that they all pull together into a flat shape. For traditional tutus I will hand tack using individual knots. It’s time consuming but there’s a meditative quality about the work.


et voila! A tutu skirt!

The last stage is the skirt decoration which will imitate the bodice decoration. I have 4 large petals and 4 smaller ones to go in between. I think I’ll add the beaded french lace as I have a wee bit left.


final placement before sewing together


The braid and trim add nice definition to the bodice lines


The petals mimic the bodice design


I was aiming for “pretty”


Bodice decoration of french lace, Ulster lace, Czech rhinestones, embroidered applique and braid

Ivory Traditional Tutu

I’ve had a lovely piece of ivory delustred satin in my stash for a while now so finally decided I would make it up into a tutu … well actually 2 tutus; one in the plain satin and the other in satin with an overlay of pink and gold shot organza that was left over from another project. This post is just about the ivory tutu.

I’ve made lots of stretch tutus for young dancers but I thought I would try out a pattern I have for a girls’ size 10 traditional tutu. There’s obviously no need for spiral boning in a girl’s tutu except for a piece of flat boning in the centre front panel to keep the point of the bodice neatly tucked down. It’s removable anyway so it’s up to the dancer whether it stays in or not.

I’ve finished the bodice and basque but haven’t yet decided on the decoration yet. I’m thinking about just keeping it a textural design in ivory with perhaps some beading or rhinestones. I have a lovely large venise lace “collar” (can’t imagine an outfit with such a collar) that would actually sit rather beautifully on the top of the skirt with the excess decorating the bodice. This is still a work in progress and I will leave it for a week while I finish my daughter’s Year 12 Formal dress. The tutu skirt will be ivory but I might sneak a little bit of apricot or champagne coloured net in there.

Bodice and basque

Bodice and basque ready to be sewn together

I love the look of piped edes on traditional tutus. One day my OCD streak will get the better of me and I will work out a way of putting them onto my stretch tutus!

Suzanne's lines

This lovely pattern comes from “Tutus that Dance” by Suzanne Dieckman.

These patterns go together so beautifully and have beautiful line. I’m a self taught costumier and a good pattern is a wonderful confidence boost to reinforce … Yes Barbara you can do anything!

The point of the bodice site just on the piped edge of the basque

The point of the bodice site just on the piped edge of the basque

The mannequin is a little small for the bodice. I’m not sure how I will decorate this but I will start with some venise lace and see where I go from there.

venise lace 2

Ivory venise lace over ivory satin

The panty has been sewn to mark out the attachment for the layers of netting. There’s not much room of the hip to squeeze in 10 layers so the lines help me from going astray.


ready for gathered net

I have finally decided how to decorate this little tutu after seeing the beautiful work of Louisa Ruthven. I’m usually not a fan of sequins but when they are richly encrusted as an embellishment I think they are beautiful. This bit if hand beading took a while but was better and cheaper than therapy. I’m very pleased with the result but will leave it for a couple days before I decide if I’m done.


Pretty encrusting of sequins, bugles and seed beads

The basque is sewn on after the top 2 layers of net have been attached. The top two layers have their seam allowances pointing up. Thereafter, the seam allowances point downwards.

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basque sewn onto top of panty

┬áThe Petersham ribbon has been sewn on as a waistband and elastic has been added to attach the bodice to the basque at the centre. I don’t sew down the point.

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steamed untacked skirt

I like to steam the layers before I tack the skirt. It helps give the right shape to the skirt.

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simple elegance

The beautiful lines of Suzanne Dieckmann’s pattern don’t need much adornment.