Paquita Grand Pas Classique

I’m just about to leave for my holiday so I have a little bit of time up my sleeve to blog my last 2015 tutu . This one has quite a bit of detail so get ready to plough in.

starting point

starting point

This is white and gold tutu for Paquita. The accents are a dark gold and red.

decorated leo

decorated leotard

I build the tutu on a lycra leotard with a faux basque to resemble a classical tutu. I use Danielle Legge’s pattern which is available via her FB page or website. If you’re thinking of making your own tutu I’d urge you to use her pattern. It really is the best available.



Next I constructed the plate. Here I have placed the venise lace on the lycra plate. I sewed the lace to the plate with gold metallic thread. Once it was attached I glued on the rhinestones and then trimmed the lycra around the edges of the lace.

lace overskirt

lace overskirt

The plate was about 1/3 the width of the skirt. The lace overskirt filled the remaining 2/3 of the skirt. Here I have gathered the lace lightly to fit around the edge of the plate.

plate and overskirt

plate and overskirt

This tutu had 8 layers of net. Each layer has between 3 and 5 widths of net. I cut them on a self-healing mat with a rotary cutter and a quilter’s ruler. It’s the easiest and most accurate way to cut 60 linear metres of net. Each bundle is numbered as they are only about 2cm different in length and hard to distinguish at a glance. After the widths are cut I feather or scallop the edges if required by the client. For this one I scalloped the edges.

numbered layers

net bundles

The widths are sewn together to make long lengths that are gathered and sewn onto the lower part of the leotard.

sewing widths together

sewing widths together

I sewed the widths together from the outer edge matching the clipped edges. The overlap is about 1cm wide.

rolling net

rolling the net

When the widths are all sewn together I roll them up for ease of handling. When I gather them the roll unrolls from the top so that it doesn’t roll onto the floor.

sewing hoop casing

sewing the hoop casing

Because this tutu has lace right to the edge there is a possibility the net may droop after a few years due to the additional weight even though the net I use is very stiff. If the tutu does need a little bit of a pick up after a few years hooping can be inserted. This is much easier to do if the hoop casing is already inserted. I will do this for tutus with wide overskirts even if there is no immediate need for hooping. In this picture you can see a 5cm wide casing being sewn onto the middle of layer 4. The ruler and the edge 0f the pressure foot are the guides for placement.

hoop casing

hoop casing

If hooping were to be inserted it would be done just before this layer is tacked. The hooping wire is covered in light fabric to match the skirt and pushed though the casing.

net on leo

ready for tacking

Tacking starts at the bottom three layers. The remainder are held up out of the way with some wide elastic. The bottom three layers are tacked together. The next 2 layers are dropped down and tacked to the top layer of the first 3 that were tacked together. This is continued to through all the layers. The tutu is therefore constructed of groups of 3 layers of net tacked together which are internally attached to one another. This allows the tutu to move softly but without the layers fluffing up.

CU plate detail

plate detail close up

This photo shows the variation in the rhinestones I used.

plate detail

plate detail

The plate was sewn as close to the bodice as possible through the top layer of net. The very edge of the lace can either be sewn with gold metallic thread onto the top layer of net or tacked on using the same tags that are used to hold the tutu layers together.

bodice detail

bodice detail

The red and dark gold rhinestones add a warmth to the decoration.




Esmeralda Classical Tutu and Peasant Pas costume

One of my US clients sent me a box of beautiful fabrics and appliques to make her daughter an Esmeralda classical tutu and a Peasant Pas costume.


Indian appliques and dupioni silk

Both costumes were made from the emerald green dupioni but I slightly darkened the fabric for the peasant pas dress by overlaying it with fine black tulle.



The middle panels of this costume were made from beaded silk chiffon overlaid on the silk dupioni.



The costume was finished off with a hip scarf made from crimson sari silk embroidered with gold medallions.


peasant pas costume

The off-the-shoulder sleeves, faux chemise and overskirt were silk chiffon. The underskirt was 3 layers of fine tulle. The tulle was sewn in 4 gores per layer to reduce the amount of bulk at the waist.


tutu bodice

Accompanying the emerald dupioni was some forest green silk chiffon. I used this as a ruched chemise on the top part of the tutu. To add a little more drama I sewed a scattering of green seed beads across the bodice.


plate detail

The Indian appliques that I was sent were a very pale gold. The green silk was such a strong colour I thought it needed a little something to balance the the design. A robust yellow gold trim did the trick.



A scalloped ivory skirt finished the picture.

And here are the 2 costumes together.


classical tutu and peasant pas costume

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.


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.


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.


plate detail

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


La Bayadere

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


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.



lace overlay

The tulle gives a lovely soft look to the tutu.



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.


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.


snow flurry across bodice

I used crystal AB rhinestones  on the silver venise lace.


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.


plate detail





Snow Queen

Gold Fairy Variation tutu

The Sleeping Beauty is a favourite ballet with a multitude of characters telling the story of the enchanted sleeping Princess Aurora. Among the jewel fairies in Act III is the Gold Fairy.


Starting Point

The lovely young dancer this costume was made for has a beautiful olive complexion and dark hair. The apricot lycra she chose was a perfect palette for the gold decoration.


steamed ruffles waiting to be attached

The ivory skirt was given a lift by adding apricot net at layer three. This gives a soft blush to the skirt without making the whole tutu too much of one colour. You can also see some subtle glimmer tulle at layer 2.


baroque gold

The embroidered gold appliques added the right amount of Baroque charm to the tutu.


plate trimmed to appliques

The matching plate was about 1/3 the width of the plate. This proportion of thirds is more pleasing to the eye than diving the skirt in half. Fifths also work quite nicely too. The appliques had a lovely shape which I wanted to make the most of so I trimmed the lycra as neatly and as close as I could. But remember, perfect clipping is not really necessary as this is a stage costume so the degree of perfection has 5 metres to attenuate.


lace edge

A wide band of intricate gold lace mounted on fine tulle was added as an overskirt to the plate. This made up another third of the top of the skirt.


skirt detail

The combination of ornate appliques and lace band give the tutu a rather grand appearance.


bodice detail

Teamed with the bodice decoration the whole effect is rather stately but still delicate.


Three Pretty Bluebirds

During the last half of the year I am often making variation tutus for YAGP. Here is a selection of tutus that could inspire any young dancer to be Princess Florine.


bodice decoration

I had only a small amount of this lace left so I had to be creative in making a balanced design from it. The bodice decoration here is augmented with rhinestones, seed beads and sequins.


plate detail

There wasn’t quite enough lace to reach the edge of the skirt so I introduced a little window of glitter net as a design feature. I think it is issues like these that inspire my creativity the most.



The window effect is quite pretty I think. I blinged it up a bit with lightweight acrylic rhinestones.


finished tutu

Et voila … net to the edge of the skirt to give a soft romantic look.


Bodice decoration

This was a combination of a light blue lycra and a darker lace. I wanted to keep the design as a light tracery of lace so that it would not look too heavy against the pale blue.


plate detail

I added some crystal AB rhinestones for a bit of extra glimmer. The tiny flat sequins on the lace accommodated the real sparkle and flash.


completed tutu

I really like who this one turned out. I’ve since had quite few requests for a reprise of this style.


silver and blue tutu

And finally a sweet little blue and silver tutu with a scalloped plate and lace overskirt.


plate detail

The peaks of the scallops were embellished with rhinestones as a focal point.


delicate and pretty

And there we have it. Three Princesses in blue.

Paquita Cupid Variation

This time of year I have a lot of YAGP tutus to make. Australian eisteddfods often don’t allow dancers to do variations unless they are competing in the elite level so it is nice to get requests from my American clients for variation tutus. It’s a fabulous excuse to while away a bit of time on YouTube watching ballet!


Ivory, gold and champagne

This little Paquita will have an ivory bodice and plate with swirls of gold corded lace encrusted with  rhinestones and sit over a pretty overlay of champagne gold lace; but first, the construction!


tutu leotard

The tutu is built on a lined lycra leotard. I will sew the pants up after I have attached all the net layers. You can see I’ve deepened the neckline a little to put in the powernet nude insert. This will give a more shaped neckline. I elasticate the top of the leotard before I put in the insert.


powernet insert tacked and pinned in place

Once the inert is in place I zigzag the elasticated top edge.


insert sewn in place

Once the bodice is finished I work out the best placement for the appliques and then bling them up.  I’ve used a combination of crystal AB and topaz rhinestones.


rhinestones on the appliques

When the rhinestone glue has cured the appliques are pinned in place to the bodice stretched across a body board.


motifs pinned in place

As you can see in the photo the appliques are sitting very flat across the bodice at maximum stretch. When it comes off the body board it looks a little crumpled but that just indicates that there is enough slack in the sewing to permit stretching onto the dancer.

In the picture below you can see I’ve added a few extra rhinestones, sequins and beads to fill out the design.


bodice decoration

For the plate the appliques are machine- sewn as the lycra dos not need to stretch. I will attach the rhinestones afterwards so I don’t have to sew around them. I learnt that trick the hard way!


motif placement

The next step is the construction of the tutu skirt itself. This tutu will have 8 layers, all ivory except for one layer of champagne net at layer #3.


scalloped layers

Each layer is made up of a number widths of stiff ballet net which are scalloped to give a soft-looking edge to the skirt.


Sewing the widths together

Each width is overlapped 1cm and then sewn together with a straight stitch and make one long piece which can be up to 7m in length.


rolling up the net

To be able to manage these long lengths of net during the gathering process I roll them up.


8 layers

Here are the 8 layers ready for the gathering process. The champagne colour at #3 looks a little dark rolled up but after it is gathered it will just add a warm golden blush to the skirt.


gathering the roll

To make the gathering a smooth (albeit DULL) process I roll the long piece of net so that it will unroll from the top not the bottom. This way it doesn’t just unroll into my lap.


fishing line in the cording foot

I feed fishing line through the cording foot, leaving the reel of fishing line on the floor. As the feed-dogs take up the net there is enough resistance on the fishing line for the net to automatically gather. I use overlocking thread for this. There’s no real need to use better quality thread here as the gathers are not under any tension.


self gathering net

I love this technique. Even if I run out of bobbin thread or if the thread breaks it won’t affect the gathering.


unsteamed net

After gathering, I clip the net to a metre rule with pony clips, evening out the gathers. Then apply steam to flatten it out a little. It makes for much easier sewing if the net has been tamed a little first.


steamed net

Once all the net has been steamed it’s time for sewing on the skirt … but first let’s admire this DSC_0140beautiful display of steamed net layers.



Yes, my OCD has kicked in here separating out my coloured glass-headed pins. I don’t want to lose any in the skirt so I have my pins separated so I can choose the colour with the best contrast. This layer is sewn on with a 4.5 x 3.0 zigzag is a good quality sewing thread.


layer 1 pinned on


When they have all been sewn on, starting from the bottom I tag layers 8, 7, 6 and 5 together. Here I’ve dropped down layers 4 and 3 and will tag them tag to layer 5. Finally I will drop down layers 2 and 1 (which are still held up by the wide black elastic) onto the pretty champagne coloured layer 3 and tag through layers 3, 2 and 1.


tagging the skirt

The plate had been prepared earlier so that the glue could cure but here are few photos of different applique placement.


nice tendrils

I like the tendrils but I’m not sure how to use them. I didn’t feature the tendrils in the bodice design so I have to introduce them carefully.


a bit more detail

The shape is nice but I just keep seeing a map of Australia.


final design

A few more elements and I’m happy. The border seems heavy but it is going over a lace overlay so it needs a strong clear outline.


front of place with rhinestones

Once the placement was complete I machine stitched the appliques with metallic gold thread and glued on the rhinestones.


corded lace appliques over embroidered lace

And behold, the completed tutu


finished tutu


on the steps in the back garden



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.

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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.

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!


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Fairy Doll variation tutu

I seem to be living in a cloud of pink and white lately. I’m not really a pink person so I called on my inner princess to help with this one for YAGP in January. In this Fairy Doll tutu I’ve used 3 quite different pinks; salmon pink, soft baby pink and bright pink. Well perhaps there are four as the salmon dupioni is shot and has two colours depending on how you view it. We started with a few ideas that grew and changed.

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starting point

Many Fairy Doll tutus have exaggerated decorations and big puffy sleeves but we decided to keep things relatively low key and just focus on colour and sparkle, but not forgetting the obligatory bows! I made these in bright pink so they would be a focal point of the design.

Fairy Doll Sketch 001

initial concept sketch

To avoid a pink overdose I decided on a crisp white skirt but with a layer of pink to give the skirt a soft pink blush. The edges of the net was scalloped. I don’t use a template for this because … well, life is too short. I just fold the net 3 or 4 times, secure with a large quilting pin and cut through all layers with shears. As I tack the skirt I will trim up the occasional wonky scallop. I’m most careful, of course, with the top layer of net as it is most visible.

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scalloped layers

I sew the top 2 layers on seam allowance upwards. This means putting layer 2 on first. Here you can see pink layer 2.

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layer 2

Here you can see my 3 pinks in the bodice. The bright pink really pops as the corset lacing. The centre side panels are embroidered taffeta with a few sequins. They show up orange here but are much more subtle than that. I’ve used the ruched bodice effect again here. It’s one of my favourite styles.

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putting the faux corset lacing on

The plate is made up of 12 petals, 6 in the salmon silk and 6 in the embroidered taffeta. Gold venise lace, white and gold braid and AB crystals rhinestones complete the picture.  Bright pink bows will adorn the junction of the petals.

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I have attached little puffed sleeves to the tutu. I threaded the elastic through a casing and sewed it securely to the front but have left is adjustable at the back for the dancer to make the final adjustment after she’s danced in it a little. Tutu bodices will stretch a little when warmed up and hooks and bars may need some final tweaking.

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elastic left for dancer’s adjustment

The bright pink really brings the decoration to life. You can see the dupioni shows up as 2 different colours here. I like daylight photos as they give a a bit of an idea of how the colours will change under stage lights.

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plate detail

bodice detail (640x424)

bodice detail

I think she is quite a sweet confection.

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Fairy Doll variation tutu



Giselle Romantic Tutu

Here are a few pictures of a little Giselle romantic tutu that was made for a dancer from Hong Kong. She will wear it in Paris YAGP in late October. We wanted a bright blue for this young dancer. This embroidered taffeta was perfect. I teamed it with ivory tissue silk for the bodice top, sleeves and overskirt.

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embroidered taffeta

I used Tutus That Dance corselet bodice. I love that these patterns now come in student sizes.

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lower bodice

I piped the inside of the insert to make it easier to attach. I just stitched in the ditch. In the following photo you can see the “chemise” inserted. The chemise insert is a piece of ruched tissue silk mounted on cotton drill interlining.

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chemise insert

The upper bodice was made of cotton drill and covered with ruched tissue silk as I did with the warm cream traditional tutu. This picture shows the silk gathered top and bottom on fishing line. Steaming it sets the rough pleats which are much easier to handle than gathered fabric.

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gathered silk over drill upper bodice

In the following picture you can see that the tissue silk sits nice and flat after it has been steamed.

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bodice pieces coming together

The skirt was made of 1 layer if tissue silk as the over skirt, 1 layer of soft bridal tulle and 2 layers f soft dress net (not stiff tutu net). They are sewn onto a basque much the same as for a classical tutu but the seam allowances all point upwards.

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gathered tulle going onto basque

When the skirt is finished I hand sewed the bodice to the basque through all the skirt layers by stitching in the ditch through the bodice piping. Not only does piping give a lovely finish but it is very handy for sewing into to attach separate pieces.

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hand stitching the bodice to the skirt

The bodice sits beautifully on the skirt

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bodice detail

and the finished tutu!

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off to Paris!