How to Make a Very Full Tutu

October 25, 2011 · 34 comments

in How-To, Making Stuff

Any costume-making procrastinators out there? No? Just me? Don’t fret. Halloween is still almost a week away. Not enough time to get something shipped in the mail, but plenty of time to make a tutu. This week for How-To Tuesday I’ll be showing you how to make one. This tutorial features a tutu-making process that makes an especially full skirt, unlike some of the other “knot a strip of tulle around an elastic waistband” methods. It takes a bit more time but isn’t difficult; you can easily do it while you watch TV.   This method is also no-sew (unless you find sewing easier than hot glue, as I do).  Let’s get started!

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What you will need to buy at the store is tulle (pronounced “tool”). Tulle is basically very fine mesh fabric. The finer the mesh is, the softer and looser it will be. The longer the skirt is, the less stiff it will be also. So you could make two tutus with identical amounts of fabric, but if one is several inches shorter it will stick out to the sides further. Just something to keep in mind.

You have two options for your tulle: precut tulle that is sold on rolls or tulle that is sold on bolts which you will have to cut yourself.  Some stores carry hardly any colors of precut tulle (Hobby Lobby generally has a large supply, if you happen to live near one), which will leave you with tulle that is sold by the yard on bolts.  This is almost always cheaper, with this tulle costing between $2-4 per yard.  You’ll have to cut the tulle into strips but that’s not difficult. If you’re in a hurry and don’t mind the extra expense then go for the tulle on the rolls.

You’ll also need:

embroidery floss in a coordinating color,

ribbon for the waitband (1.5″-2.5″ wide). Measure the waist then add 18″ in order to make it long enough to tie the ends.

any additional ribbon (optional).

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I wanted to make my daughter’s tutu very Halloween-y and the orange tulle just wasn’t showing up against the black. So I added a few strips of solid organza instead (organza is fabric that is very light but a bit stiff. Often it is sparkly too) and several strips of orange ribbon. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors and fabrics. Tutus are meant to be fun and different!

The tricky part is figuring out how much tulle you’ll need. It will depend on how tall the child is and how long you want the skirt to be. It’s a good idea to make the tutu 3″-4″ longer than you think it needs to be (If you want the tutu to be 12″ long then cut the strips to be 15″ or 16″ long). Once it starts puffing out, it will seem a lot shorter. Remember you can make the skirt shorter, but you can’t make it longer.  Arabella is 10 years old and wanted the tutu to be mid-thigh length (about 20″ long). I ended up using 5 yards of fabric (about 3-4 rolls if you’re using pre-cut). If you’re doing a skirt for a girl that’s under age 6, two rolls of pre-cut or 2-3 whole yards should do just fine. I made a much shorter tutu for Ada. It’s the same amount of tulle, but cut to only be about 14″ long.

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If you are using tulle yardage, I recommend cutting strips that are 4″ wide. I like thinner strips because they help the tutu pouf out a lot. To cut the tulle you’ll want long strips that are the proper length of the tutu. So if you would like a 15″ long tutu, add 3″ (so you’ll need 18″ long strips).  Cut the tulle every 18″.  Once you have these really long 18″ strips, you’ll roll them up the long way. Then cut them every 4″. It’s way easier to cut tulle when it’s rolled up.

 

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Pre-cut tulle is 6″ wide. That’s fine. It’s not a huge difference. You’ll unroll the tulle cut each strip to the proper length as you go.

Now you’ve got a giant pile of strips.  Tutus that are flat across the bottom look a little dull to me. I cut the edges of my pieces with an angled edge along the bottom.  You can cut several at once to make it go faster. The edges don’t need to be super tidy, so if some are sloppy, don’t worry about it.

 

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Now it’s time to assemble your tutu!  You’ll need your embroidery floss for this. Cut a piece that’s about eight feet long.  Fold the embroidery thread in half.  Make a knot about four inches from the folded end.

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You’ll want to hook this loop to something while you’re attaching the pieces of tulle. You can place it over a doorknob, or something like that. Or you can do as I do–hook it over your toe. Kind of weird, but it works well.

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You’ll want to tie a big, loose knot in you thread. Place a tulle strip inside the knot about 1/2″ from the end and tighten the thread. Tighten it really, really well. Now tie another loose knot and repeat with another strip. They should be nice and snug up against each other. Cram as many pieces of tulle as close as you can. The closer they are, the fuller the skirt will be. You’re going to do this about a million times more.

 

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Keep tying tulle strips until the skirt is the proper length. If you run out of embroidery thread it’s no big deal. Just get another section and tie it onto the loop on the original skirt, right up againt the original section. It will all look like one continuous skirt once its finished.

Once your skirt is the desired length to wrap around the waist, it’s time to add the ribbon. You can either sew the ribbon on or use a glue gun.

If you’re using strips of ribbon as trim on the skirt, you’ll want to cut those first. Cut them to the desired length and glue them onto the waist above the threadline. Once these are in place, you’ll need add the ribbon for the waist. Just glue or sew slightly below the thread line all the way around.

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Voilà! You’re tutu is finished! Have fun watching your girl dance around!

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Maggie October 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm

So cool! My little one would love a skirt like this to wear every day. I think I need to make one of these. Thanks for posting the awesome tutorial!

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HHH@HH May 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

wowowow are you sure she is ten she looks 7 lool my little sis is 9 how much tulle do i need

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Arianne October 26, 2011 at 9:30 am

I’m pretty sure that’s way too much math for me to ever make one of these.

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-MMM- October 26, 2011 at 10:55 am

Love ya, but I’m going to pass on the Tutu. (Already have a closet full)

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-MMM- October 26, 2011 at 10:55 am

Maggie: Great tututorial.

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Leah October 26, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Thanks so much for the tutorials! My daughter will be thrilled if I start making multiple tutus for her. I had no idea how easy they are to make.

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Tiffster October 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Okay, the picture of your foot is a little strange.

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Jasmine July 11, 2012 at 11:21 am

Could you make this a full length skirt for an adult to have a cute long witches skirt? Or would there have to be another procedure?

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Hildie July 13, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Jasmine, this works for any length of skirt, in any size. You’ll just have to make the tulle strips longer and connect more shorter sections together. Obviously it will take longer but it’s not any harder. Good luck!

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Mia October 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Quick questions. What can I do to keep my tutu for balling up? My daughter keeps tugging at her skirts.

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Hildie November 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Mia, what do you mean by balling up?

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Mia Williams November 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Like crumbling up! When she sits down it will not fall completely. What can I do to keep it straight and hanging.

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tiaragore November 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm

love it

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Shay January 25, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I am make a tutu for a 5 and a 2 year old how do I know how long t make them. Also how wide should my tulle pieces be.

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Hildie January 30, 2013 at 9:58 am

Measure the girls’ length from their waist to as long as you want them. Then add 3-4 inches. They’ll pouf out when they’re made and will seem shorter.

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Mary N February 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Love the how-to!! You’ve made the directions very clear, however… I’m trying to determine how much tulle I’ll need. Approximately how many strips are tied off per inch around the waist?

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Hildie February 19, 2013 at 11:18 am

That’s the million dollar question Mary. Unfortunately it’s really hard to say depending on how wide the tulle is, if it’s very fine or more coarse, and if it’s the kind of tulle sold on rolls (easier to work with) or on bolts (cheaper). I’d say it’s much better to err on the side of more vs. less. If you buy rolls you can hopefully return the extras. If you buy too much yardage of tulle you’re stuck with it but it’s super cheap so it’s not such a big deal. Sorry I can’t be more specific but there are a ton of variables. Saying that, I will tell you that when I make a tutu for one of my girls (size 6-8) I get about 5-7 yards (and each yard is 60″ wide). Hope that helps!

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Mary N February 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Thank you for your response… I’ll give it a try! My daughter is a size 7/8 so your answer is very helpful :)

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Melissa February 22, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Hi! I know this is a couple years old so I hope you answer me. I really want to make my flower girl’s dress for my wedding and I will be using this tutorial because it is the best I have seen! Does the skirt tie around the waist with the ribbon or do you attach the two ends together for her to pull up like a normal skirt?

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Hildie February 23, 2013 at 9:10 am

Hi Melissa, of course I still answer comments! I make the ribbon ends longer (each end should be about 18″ longer to make a nice bow with long ends. It can always be cut shorter but it cant be cut longer!) so that they tie in back; that way there is no need for elastic. The puffiness of the skirt camouflages where the skirt comes together so you don’t have to worry about any panties showing (given that the skirt is the right length around the waist, of course.)

Good luck with the wedding! Oh and make sure the tutu stays hung up, you can’t iron tulle (it’ll melt) so if it gets wadded up on the floor you’re out of luck.

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Nancy S. March 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm

If u want your finished tutu 15″, couldn’t the 4″ strips be cut in lengths of 36″, folded in half then tied on? Seems like it would be twice as full with half the knots.

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Hildie March 6, 2013 at 9:42 am

That might work. I’m not really sure. If you feel like making one and trying out your hypothesis, let me know how it looks!

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cass March 4, 2013 at 4:25 am

Hi first off I want to say thank you for this tutorial:) I used it to make an adult tutu actually lol for a themed party I’m attending! I’m surprisingly proud of it lol however my dillema is that it is all finished and way to long on me lol like mid shin and I really need it more like righ above the knee. Do u know any tricks to shortening it or do u think I will need to individually cut each strip shorter? Haha that sounds tedious:) lol but worth it. Thank you so much for your time :)

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Hildie March 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

Good job on the tutu! My best guess would be to cut a few strips at a time. It will take forever to do each one individually but there’s always the quandry when you have to fix something homemade: do a quick job that might not look as good or do a really nice repair that will take longer? I guess that depends on how often you’l wear it or how much you care. Good luck either way!

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Andrea April 5, 2013 at 7:21 am

I am making a tutu to go over a dress for my 2 1/2 year old for a wedding she is in next month and want to make sure it is snug so she doesn’t “loose” it. Do you think that if I sewed the tulle to elastic with the top bunched together that I would get the same effect? This tutu looks amazing and I want to get the same look! Thank you in advance

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Hildie April 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Really, the skirt should be plenty snug if you tie the knot well. I’ve had my daughters wear their tutus to Halloween parties and trick-or-treating and they’ve never budged. If you want to try sewing it to elastic you can give it a try, but that sort of thing usually ends up being not worth the effort. Good luck!

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Laticia April 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Hi,
Should I be making double knots between each piece of tulle or only one (crossing the floss) before attaching a new piece?

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Hildie April 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Hi Leticia,
I usually do a double knot but a really snug single knot should be OK. If the tutu will be for a little girl you might want to stick with double knots to keep things in place. Good luck!

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Luce May 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Hi, I am looking at making my flower girl dresses too and trying to decide the best way to do things as I want to sew them to a smock/bodice style top.

This looks like it bunches less than doing the double length slip know style on elastic but do the strips not fall out of the ties at all? I can imagine my god daughters pulling strips out as they walk down the aisle!

Any thoughts / tips? Thanks!

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Hildie May 15, 2013 at 6:21 am

Luce, as long as the knots are tied snugly, they won’t fall out. Now, if your flower girls are bored at the reception and spend the entire time tugging on the strips of netting, they might come loose. But I imagine they’d just untie the skirt and run around bottomless before they do that! Good luck with the wedding!

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Kathi June 21, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Hi Hildie,
I have been searching for a tutorial for a tutu that wasn’t tied to elastic or ribbon but yet used the strips of tulle. I wanted something that was not so bulky at the waist and I think your tutu pattern may be exactly what I have been looking for!!

My daughter really wants her flower girl (my granddaughter) to wear a tutu for her wedding, but also wants to tie a sash around her waist to match the bridesmaid colors, and I just could not see it happening with the bulk of the tied skirts but I think that with your pattern it might work.

My plan is to make a dress and wrap the tutu around the waist of the dress and then tie the sash over the top of the tutu. I would like to know have you ever tied a sash over the top, if so how did it work? Have you ever made the skirt to exactly fit the waist and put a flat hook at the back instead of tying with the ribbon ends? Do you think it will stay closed if I do this? Also, do you typically sew your ribbon waistband – is that what you did with the orange and black one? Sorry for all the questions, my mind is working overtime on this project!!

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Hildie June 24, 2013 at 10:51 am

Hi Kathi,
Hope I’m not too late to answer your questions! Since the ribbon on my tutu is sewn on, I think any sort of matching ribbon would work. You didn’t say how old your granddaughter is but if she’s quite young, a narrower ribbon will probably be needed than with the older girls. I think sewing on a ribbon will work way better than just tying one over the top. As long as you sew slowly it shouls look fine.

Also, I don’t know that a hook and eye will be sturdy enough. I like to tie the ribbon really snugly so it stays put. Good luck and I hope it turns out beautifully!

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Kathi September 21, 2013 at 10:22 am

Hi Hildie,
I never thanked you for your response to my questions a few months ago, although late I wanted you to know I appreciate it! I have started to “build” a trial tutu and so far I am quit please with the results ,the volume of the skirt is perfect, soon I will adding the ribbon waistband, can’t wait to finish it!

Can you tell you me why we can’t see your pictures anymore? If I click on the box where the pictures were it directs me to photobucket but there are no pictures available there and go figure I didn’t print anything months ago.

Thanks Again,
Kathi

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