Sewing with Tulle Adventure
I recently needed a gift–a quick, and dirty gift, an inexpensive gift. Providence happily provided inspiration for a full-length tulle skirt, via a Dior ad in Vogue magazine. A quick Google revealed RTW designer prices in hundreds of dollars. Another Google found tulle fabric in 54″ and 108″ widths priced in the $2-$3 range; add in the fabric store and credit card discount, and I was a happy camper set to begin my sewing with tulle adventure.
Now that I look back on the misadventures, that RTW price looks pretty reasonable.
Decided to make it a full circle skirt rather than gathered to eliminate bulk at waist (granted, tulle is not by nature a ‘bulky’ fabric) and I wasn’t too excited about gathering yards and yards into a 28″ waist. FYI: this was a gift so not my waist measurement–don’t I wish.
Circle Skirt Patterns
There are lots of online calculations for circle skirt patterns–1/4 circle, half circle, full circle. Unfortunately, most require a zipper. I substituted hip measurement for waist.
Why Hip and not Waist Measurement?
Tulle doesn’t stretch. A circle same size as waist will not fit over hips or even shoulders.
Here is my pattern based on hip measurement instead of waist measurement recommended in most circle pattern calculators. Everything else is the same in the online calculations.
Just substitute Hip Measurement for Waist measurement Hip measurement + 2″/6.28 = waistline/hip radius
Unfortunately making the pattern is the easy part, just be sure to check and recheck your calculations. My length mistake was to add the hip radius to the skirt length; that’s why it was too long.
How/When to Wear Tulle
Trials and Tribulations of Sewing with Tulle
I pride myself on having extensive sewing knowledge and experience; not so much with tulle but how hard can it be.
Pride Goeth Before a Fall
I chose a shiny, fine mesh tulle in nylon. This was a skirt, not a bridal veil, so didn’t need silk illusion. I ordered it online for quick pickup at the store; had a deadline of two weeks. I am nothing if not optimistic.
The online store only had the 54″ width which meant I could only get a half circle from a width and would need to sew two seams to make a full circle–ten seams as decided to make the skirt of five layers for luxurious fullness. As I said, I am optimistic!
Tulle Sewing Issues
- tulle mesh catches to itself making folding and layering a time-consuming task in frustration.
- nylon tulle, even fine mesh, is a bit stiff and expands to take up the available space, especially under the presser foot.
- BAD NEWS–cutting a straight edge; GOOD NEWS–edges stick together so won’t be able to see jagged edges.
- Rotary cutter probably better for cutting straight edges.
- Nylon fiber is tough on rotary cutter blades; have a supply on hand.
Trouble, Trouble, Trouble
The first indication of trouble came when trying to fold the tulle into a manageable size to cut pattern in layers. As a long skirt, the circle pattern had a diameter of 96″. And the fabric width was 54″. The goal was to fold the fabric to fit a 1/8 circle pattern–that was my first mistake. Should have made a 1/4 circle pattern. Did I mention mesh sticks to itself?
How NOT to work with 13 yards of tulle
- Fold edges together and smooth out; did I mention…yes, mesh sticks together!
- Work with smaller increments of fabric; divided 13 yards (amount calculated to make five circles/layers of skirt) into one circle lengths, fold smaller amount of fabric; did I mention…
- Match selvedges and shake out to align edges; did I mention…
- Spray fabric with spray starch–can’t say it helped.
- wash hands and cutting board (thank goodness it hadn’t been spread on floor before spraying)
- let dry
- try folding again
- oh what the hell, it’s good enuf
- cut–halfway thru the cut, realized hadn’t folded accurately and circle was too short on one layer
- Take a break and go buy more tulle
- Have the store cut individual pieces to fit circle size
This time I went to the store and found 108″ wide tulle’ YES, no seaming to make a full circle. Had tulle cut in individual lengths and went home with three pieces to cut three one-piece circles. All that was needed was maybe one fold and ready to place pattern and cut.
Are you familiar with fabric store cutters cutting to EXACT size without considering off-grain fabric due to bolt winding and previous off-grain cut? Yep, all three cuts were 1″ short. How bad could 1″ be; don’t want it dragging on the ground anyway. As I have said–multiple times in this blog–I am nothing if not optimistic.
Managed to get one two-piece and one four-piece circle from the 54″ widths–later discarded the four-piece circle; surprising how much seams show even thru multiple layers. And got two full circles from the 108″ width. Decided five layers was overkill and three was quite enough. Anyway, wasn’t going back to that store again after the cashier, who was all of 15, gushed that she just ‘loved, loved’ sewing with tulle.
Lots of scraps, well yardage, of tulle left over for next vacation with the Grands. Come to think of it, will stuff it in the suitcase for the May visit; no sense in keeping all those wonderful tulle adventures to myself, and still have some life lessons to impart for the daughter–like how small tulle scraps are invisible on floor, they are slippery, they clog the vacuum, chew toy to dogs and cats, midnight urping of said dogs and cats.
Finishing Tulle Skirt
By now it’s past Birthday date but she’s out of town. Whew! 😥
Arranged layers over shoulders of mannequin–only thing tall enuf. More wrangling. Did I mention mesh sticks together? Under layer is a knee-length circle of tricot with raw-edge hem; it doesn’t ravel.
The waist is finished with elastic. Can you possibly imagine inserting a zipper in tulle? Why ask for more trouble.
The waist circle is measured to the hip measurement to allow for use of an elastic waist finish, e.g., step into skirt and pull over hips.
- use a stretch fabric, for the elastic casing; I used stretch velour, or could have used tricot, same as the underskirt fabric. Cut it 3-4″ shorter than skirt waist; check to make sure casing fabric will stretch to hip measurement. Width is twice the elastic width plus seam allowances. Sew into tube.
- Mark casing and skirt waist in quarters. Match/pin casing and skirt at markings.
- Stuff the tulle off to the left of the presser foot or on your lap, and stitch casing to tulle with casing on top; stretch casing to fit skirt.
- Good luck with this process as you will need to continually adjust the bulk of the fabric. I finally stuffed the skirt ends under my leg–this was a loooong skirt.
- Insert elastic and finish as usual.
It’s now two weeks past the deadline but we can’t connect for one reason or another. Another ‘Whew’ 😥!
Might as well give the skirt a test drive. Held it up to me as couldn’t begin to get it over these Motherly hips and OMG! The length… Not too short–too long, which is almost as bad.
So I separated each layer–thanking my prescience for downsizing to three layers, wrangled the hem edge into some semblance of matched cut edges, pinned, marked new hem, cut with scissors–jagged edges be damned. To use a rotary cutter, would mean moving skirt several times to fit on cutting mat. Had learned my lesson and wasn’t risking disturbing those semi-matched edges. If anyone can see those hem edges, they should be arrested for looking up my daughter’s legs.
Tulle Sewing Tips
- tulle does not ravel so no hem is needed, actually preferred.
- stitch seams with narrow zigzag or a two-thread serger rolled hem.
- does not need pressing; actually preferred. If necessary, use low temperature as nylon is heat sensitive.
- Storage–twist into long roll and store in a drawer. Tulle and wrinkles are best friends.
Looking forward to your comments…
as long as it is not how you just ‘love’ sewing with tulle and can’t image why I had all these issues.