I’m always looking for new ways to add to the wardrobe I have available for clients to use during our portrait sessions and I’ve been pondering adding a series of tulle skirts to my selection to provide some more fun, romantic options for softer looks. I finally decided a couple of weeks ago that I was going to create a beautiful 6-layer Degas style classical ballerina tutu for my first attempt. I found a fantastic Tutu tutorial on Youtube by Anjou Clothing (who happens to be from Maine- it’s awesome to see such beautiful work from a fellow New Englander) and I chose to make an attempt at creating something similar with some of the tulle I purchased online in February.
The first step in the process is to pleat all 6 layers (of 128″ long) of the tulle, so that it is a neater gather at the top of the skirt. I spent a few hours a week or so ago hand pleating the tulle as she instructs in the first video (its a 2-parter), but hadn’t had the time to sit down and actually sew the 6 layers together. Finally I had some time on Monday to make the attempt to put the whole thing together. I cut out a piece of fabric for the waist band (I used a random piece of blanket edging I had lying around from a box of gifted craft items), and started the process by beginning to sew the first layer of tulle… about 3/4 of the way through my bobbin thread snapped and I lost all my pleats… I was horrified and realized that I had too much tension on my thread… so after making some adjustments, I set aside layer one so I could revisit the pleating and started on layer two.
Layer two was going fine until I finished, I gave myself a few feet at the end of the stitch so I could adjust the gathers, but it wasn’t enough room, as the tulle had bunched up significantly more than I’d anticipated… I lost about 6 pleats, so after re-pleating and restarting the stitch, I managed to save the layer before I lost any more. I was better prepared for layers three, four and five, and although I had some glitches, I was able to work them out with minimal hassle. At this point I realized that in my haste last week, I neglected to pleat layer six… So, needless to say, I decided that creating a four layer tutu would not be a bad first attempt, and setting aside layers one and six, sat down to start attaching the tulle to the waist band.
Pinning the bunched up tulle was a bit tricker than I had anticipated, and adjusting the gathered pleats to be even, sit relatively flat and also be the correct length for the waist band was a bit more time-consuming than I had expected. The first layer was easiest to add, since I didn’t have to worry about the other layers getting in the way, but beyond the pinning process, the sewing went much smoother this time around (I only had one tiny glitch where the tulle from an under layer was sewn into the waistband along with the layer I was currently sewing).
The final part of the process was adding the black satin ribbon waistband, which in retrospect, I should have pressed in half first before sewing it on, but was too distracted to get out the iron at the time. The waistband ended up being a bit ripple-y, due to the softness of the layers of tulle and the fact that I didn’t iron the ribbon, but it is easily covered by wrapping the excess ribbon around the waist, so I’m not too worried about it.
After about a total of 5 hours of work, I ended up with a lovely romantic black tulle tutu, that will be about mid-calf on anyone over 5’7″ and floor length on anyone shorter… it is a beautiful addition to my wardrobe and I can’t wait to get someone into it!
I hope to get a dress form soon, so I can take a better (not iPhone shot) picture to post in a gallery of wardrobe options… stay tuned for my next wardrobe additions which will include similar ones in pink and white, as well as versions for little girls (so we can do some ballerina and princess sessions in the next few months)!