Back in the autumn last year I went to what has been affectionately nicknamed ‘tutu school’: Two weekends in a row playing with net, cotton, and lycra. I ended up with a lovely purple net and floral silk long skirted tutu (aka a Romantic Tutu) and a lilac leotard.
Well that got me hooked on tutus, and so I booked onto the next course in January 2013, which was learning how to make a plate tutu (a sticky-out tutu to you and me).
Well, January finally arrived, and so did the snow. I was crossing all my fingers and toes for it to thaw enough for me to be able to make it to London, and it seems I’ve amassed some good karma somewhere along the line, because I managed to make it. Woop!
Ever since I booked onto the course I’d had it in mind to make a ‘Firebird’ tutu – in shades of reds, oranges, golds, yellows. I wanted it to look vibrant and, well, firey! Plate tutus are normally made using net that’s a bit stiffer than the standard dress net. That’s quite a bit more expensive than the standard stuff though, so for a first attempt I decided to stick with the cheaper option. Afterall, my first tutu was unlikely to need to survive the years of dancing a Royal Ballet costume would need to!
The first step when making any tutu, Romantic or Plate, is to sit down with a sheet of paper and do a few calculations: first of all you need to decide how many layers your tutu is going to have. I decided on 11 layers for my plate tutu – 10 is the number you would expect on a practice tutu, anything more can be a stage costume. I didn’t feel like I would learn more from going up to 12 layers, and I was keen to get as close to completion as possible in two weekends, so 11 layers was a pragmatic choice.
Next, if the tutu is going to have more than one colour of net you need to decide which layers will be which colour, and then add up the amount of net you will need for each of your colours. Then, finally, you can go and buy your materials…
As well as net, a tutu is made from a material called bobbinett (which you make the knickers from – the net is sewn onto the knickers), cotton drill for the basque, elastic, hooks and eyes, and bias binding. Once I’d amassed all the kit it was time to get going on the construction!
I made the knickers from bobbinett in the first weekend of the course (using the pattern made for Darcy Bussell, no less!), and marked the lines where I planned to attach my net. I then spent the week between the two weekends of study cutting my net and sewing as much of it together as possible. Although most of it is not super difficult to make, a tutu is time consuming, so I figured it was worth putting some hours in outside class time.
Much cutting, sewing, gathering, and stitching, and two more days at college later I ended up with a flame coloured tutu!
With a sunshine coloured underneath:
I did have to do a fair bit of finishing off at home after the course had finished, but it was so much fun to make that I’ve already bought more materials to make another Plate Tutu. I’m going to give the stiffer net a try this time, and make a snowy white ‘Swan Lake’ tutu. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes! I’d really like it to be this lovely (but I’ll definitely need more practice I think!):
I’ll be heading back to Tutu School in May to learn how to make the bodice. I’m counting down the days!