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Friday, April 27, 2012

Tutu dress








Back in March, I found a super cute tutu dress for my daughter at, of all places, Costco. It was under $14, so I bought the pink one. Does that surprise anyone? However, as I looked at it the second time she wore it, I thought, “I can make this myself!” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend $14 on an outfit, but it was the challenge. I figured since tutus are so popular right now that I could easily find instructions online for a dress similar to this, so I headed to pinterest.com. I was disappointed to find no DIYs. Instead, I found pictures of dresses you could buy similar to this one. Well, I could easily duplicate it… once I learned how to sew a skirt onto a shirt successfully. My previous projects have taught me that some ideas aren’t as easy as they look. See, I’m learning!

 I did find a very informative blog that taught me how to gather the material, which is critical in making the tutu fluffy. After all, what princess wants a flat tutu?  After reading the instructions, I knew I had better practice on some fabric scraps first because something told me this is one of those activities that looks easy when performed by a professional but will be a challenge for a beginner. Thank you, Ashley, for this wonderful tutorial: http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2010/03/sewing-tips-part-6.html.

Have you ever gone to the trouble to make fried chicken? (Bear with me, I’m not totally digressing.) Your kitchen gets coated in flour, your countertops smeared with oil and grease, and the finished product still doesn’t taste as good as the local fried chicken joint. Sure, you made enough chicken to serve six for half the price, but it took you several hours of prep work, cooking, and cleaning, so was it really worth it? Well, that’s exactly how I feel. I love that tutu dress I bought for my daughter, and so does she. In fact, she picks it out to wear every time it’s clean. I tried to duplicate it, but right now I feel like the duck in the children’s book Duck for President. I’m beat, and I have a much-less-than-stellar dress to show for it. Meanwhile, I am covered in pins, fabric scraps, and purple tulle. Here are some pictures and what NOT to do:

As you can see, there is simply no room for the tutu to flow. I put the jean leggings on underneath because the skirt fit so tight that it wouldn't stay over her diaper. What went wrong? I found instructions for a similar skirt where you sew fabric to a t-shirt and layer it with several rows of ruffles, but my attempt was a complete failure. I knew I could just go back to Costco and buy another dress because they had them in about half a dozen colors, but I'm stubborn. I knew I could get this right, so back to the fabric store I went though I decided to put this project on hold and create the much easier, much faster no-sew tutu and my fun flowing skirt before returning to this one.  

This time, I decided to attach the tutu skirt to a onesie so I wouldn't have to worry about bloomers. That's one complaint I have about the Costco dress, and I am in no way ready to try to make those myself. I opted for the pink onesie and pink tulle since I had already decided to make the no-sew tutu out of purple tulle. Using my new-found knowledge of circle skirts, I had the idea to make a circle skirt to sew the tulle to.

Supplies:





o     Onesie
o     3/4 yard dark pink tulle
o     3/4 yard light pink tulle
o     ½ yard pink polyester charmuese fabric
Step one: I had to create a pattern for the circle skirt. Using what I learned from my half-circle skirt, I decided to make two half-circles and sew them together. Yes, I could have cut one large circle, but that would have required me to buy a full yard of fabric. Since my daughter’s skirt needed to be much smaller than mine, I got away with using four sheets of paper taped together for her pattern. To determine the radius, I measured her waist, which after a big lunch and with her dress on, came to 21 inches. I then applied the formula: r = c/2pi. R = 3.34. (In other words, 21/ 6.28=3.34) Using my pen and measuring tape, I measured out and marked 3 1/3 inches in about six spots from the lower left hand corner of my paper. Then I connected the dots.
 
Since I wanted the skirt to be 8 inches long, I added an additional inch for hemming and followed this formula: r + 8 + 1 = 12.34. I then measured that distance from my lower left hand corner about 10 times and connected the dots. 

Step two: I folded the fabric in half and cut it to create two rectangles of fabric. I had to make sure both will be big enough. I then folded them in half once more and pinned to the pattern. This would allow me  to create two half-circle skirts. Then I sewed the two sides together to create a full circle skirt.



Step three: Now I was ready for the tulle. Since I bought the tulle by the yard instead of in spools, I needed to measure and cut it into six-inch wide strips. To do this, I folded up the tulle until it was about two inches wide, measured it, and cut it. This was much easier than trying to cut straight lines across inches of tulle. Next, I headed to the sewing machine to gather those ruffles. Making this was probably my favorite part of the dress.

To gather it, I followed Ashley's directions (see link above), but I didn't even have to pull on the thread to create the ruffle, as I sewed the tulle through the sewing matchine, it naturally drew together to create the best ruffles. I alternated between light and dark pink, making a total of six rows of six inch-long strips. I didn't keep track of the measurements of each strip, but none were long enough to go all the way around the skirt, so I lined up the strips on my pink circle to determine their placement, making sure I had enough tulle to completely encircle each row and keeping the ends along the same side hem lines as the skirt itself.
 
Step four: Pinning & Sewing... I pinned down the top row and sewed it on, making sure to sew just below the stitching I had that created the ruffle because I knew I'd want to pull that out later. Once I finished the row, making sure to do a back stitch at the beginning and end, I pulled out the thread used to gather the fabric together for the ruffle. This required my seam ripper, scissors, and some careful tugging. Basically, I'd pull on one of the two threads, and the tulle would tighten to make a very tight ruffle. Then I'd snip that piece and straighten the tulle back so the thread would come lose.  I then repeated this process for each row. When I would sew the next row, I'd have to fold back the top row of tulle to keep it out of the way, but this wasn't difficult. I didn't make it all in one day as I never had enough time, but I would do a couple rows here or there. It was a very time-consuming skirt, but I don't know exactly how much time was consumed since I worked a little one day and a little the next.   
 Step five: I was ready to attach the tutu to the onesie. After having my daughter try on the onesie, I determined where I wanted the tutu to go. Since I knew I couldn't try pinning it while a 20-month-old was wearing it, I pulled it off and measured each side of the onesie to ensure a straight tutu. Hers was going to hit 4 1/2 inches from the bottom on each side. After pinning each side, I put in two pins on the front and two more on the back. Then I flipped the tutu up and sewed it on. Once I was finished, I flipped the tutu back down and had a lovely straight and clean line where the tutu attached to the onesie.   





With all the pink, it's hard to tell, but the top is the tutu pinned upside down. The bottom is the actual onesie.

Step five: I let my little princess try on her new dress and asked her to pose even though she was still eating her tortilla, but she didn't mind. The girl loves being photographed. I snapped one of her crawling up the stairs, not because I wanted a booty shot but so you could see the tutu ruffles better.




Was all this work worth it? I can't really say since I still prefer the store-bought one. I doubt I'll make another one since it is so time-consuming and since the store-bought one was so inexpensive and well made. I know because I have to wash it at least once a week. This will make for a fun alternative when the original is in the dirty laundry at least. And in case you want to view more photos, click here: update on tutu dress/onesie.

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