We recently saw a fantastic homemade tutu dress on our Facebook wall so we asked the creator if she'd like to do a tutorial for us. She agreed! Thanks Danelle!
Below are step by step instructions (with great photos!) on how to make a Tinkerbell costume. Keep in mind that this is a pretty advanced dress. Use the tutorial to learn the process and then adjust based on your skills. You can always change out colors to make a different character. You can use different sized crochet headbands if you'd like a different size bodice, and you can cut the tulle as long or as short as you'd like! Enjoy!
In this tutorial I will show you how to make a Tinkerbell inspired tutu dress, with little to no sewing at all! These dresses are fun to make (at least for me they are) and make great pageant costumes, Halloween costumes, photography props, or dress up clothes! The amount of time it takes to complete it will depend on how much time you are able to spend on the project. I have four children, so I don?t always get to work as long as I would like, so this dress took me about two weeks, working mostly at night once the kids were in bed. They are also pretty easy to make once you get your technique down.
Gather your materials - For this dress you will need:
1. Tulle - I like to use the small rolls of tulle because they are already cut to the perfect width. They are 6 inches (wide) by 25 yards (length). I usually use anywhere from 3 - 5 rolls of tulle per dress. I like to have at least two rolls of each color used in the dress. For example, this dress is green & yellow, so I bought two rolls of each color, making 4 rolls of tulle total. You can find these at craft stores.
2. An 8 inch crochet headband: These things are super stretchy! I've made dresses from these bands that can fit up to a slim 7/8 year old girl. You will need only one, but I like to have a second one to practice on or just as a spare in case something happens to the first.
3. Ribbon: Ribbon will be used to wrap the top edge of the dress and at the waist. Can also be used to make the straps of the dress. I usually use a 7/8" x 5 yard roll of ribbon. Smaller widths are good if weaving through the open spaces of the crochet headband, while the larger widths are good for wrapping & adding shoulder straps. You can use any type of ribbon you wish but do not use a wire lined ribbon, as the wire can stick out and poke your child. You will need two rolls of ribbon.
5. Fabric Glue: I like to use Aleene's Fabric Fusion. It is a permanent glue. Follow package instructions for use. Found at craft stores or maybe even Walmart.
6. Sewing needle and thread (optional)
7. Cardboard Child/Youth Shirt Form: This is a child sized cardboard cutout that looks like a t-shirt. You can find these at craft stores for around a dollar. If you are not able to find these, you can use just about anything that is round and kind of large. When I first started making these dresses, I used a glass ice tea container. I have also used a big stuffed teddy bear of my children?s. I have even seen people use shoe boxes! Be creative! Where there's a will, there's a way.
8. Embellishments: These can be just about anything you choose from rhinestone brooches, flowers, buttons, etc. For this project, I chose to use many different flowers from The Hair Bow Company in my chosen colors. I used crafting flowers, so I could glue them directly on the dress. You can always find flowers with small clips already attached but it can be hard to arrange them so the clips don't show. Plus, the clips will make the top quite a bit heavier. I also chose to sew on little bells to the bottom of the dress. This project has around 30 (yes 30) flowers attached and I bought two small bags of bells from my local craft store.
9. Flexible measuring tape to measure your child for a correct skirt length.
10. Pattern Cutting Board: Large cardboard sheet with measurement lines. Mine is 33 x 56 inches. I just happened to find this walking through Walmart one day for about $5.00. However I'm sure you can find them at a craft store as well. This isn't required but it makes measuring easier.
Now that you have all of your materials, Let's get started!
To start, you will need to measure your child from her natural waistline (just above the hip) down to wherever you want the dress to end. Or if the dress is meant to be a surprise, you could measure a pair of jeans or a skirt you know that fits your child well.
Place the crochet headband onto the shirt form with the seam facing you (the seam is your starting point and what will be the back of your dress) and keeping the "rows" as straight as possible. You can move the band back and forth to achieve this.
Measure and cut your tulle. To save yourself some time, I recommend cutting your tulle strips beforehand so they are ready when you need them without having to stop and cut a new strip every single time you need to tie one on. There are approximately 31 squares per row on the headband. If using more than one color, simply divide the number of colors by 31 to determine about how many tulle strips you will need of each color. Example: I had two colors so 31 divided by 2 is 15.5. strips of tulle needed per color. If you end up with a half number, don't worry about it, just cut an extra piece of tulle. For this dress, I wanted a whimsical feel (she is a fairy after all) so I cut my tulle into all different lengths. I chose to cut 17, 20, 22 and 24 inch pieces.
Now this step is important, so try to remember. No matter what length you want, when measuring it out you MUST double that number to obtain the correct length and to accommodate the knots you will be making in them. Example: You want a 14 inch skirt, so you must measure out and cut 28 inches of tulle. Using the measuring board, measure out and cut the tulle to your needed length. Leaving that strip in place, take the bottom edge and fold it in half, making sure your edges are lined up with the top edge and are as even as possible.
Still keeping the strip in place, go back to the original length (ex:14 in) and pinch the sides together, bringing them in towards the middle. Now holding at the pinched area, pick it up and match up the ends, making sure they are as even as possible, and form a loop at the top.
Starting at the seam, place the loop under that first solid square and up through the empty square above it (you'll have to forgive me for the picture, I forgot to snap one when I first started so it's not at the seam but this pictures shows what you need to do)
Folding the loop towards you a little, pull the ends up through the middle of the loop and pull it back down towards you to make a slip knot. Pull tightly to secure but not so tight that it folds in on itself or you can't undo it if needed. Repeat all the way around the entire band until you're back at your starting point. The first layer is done, now to make a second layer (which helps make the dress extra full and less see through ) repeat the steps all over again using the squares directly above the ones you previously knotted. *Note: If using more than one color, remember to alternate your color pattern. I wanted a mostly green dress because this is supposed to be Tinkerbell, but I wanted a little bit of a different color to help break it up and give it a little dimension so I chose to do four greens, two yellows, so 4, 2, 4, 2 on the bottom layer and 2 (yellow), 4 (green) 2, 4 on the top layer. Choose any pattern you want.
Once the skirt is tied on, take a roll of ribbon and completely unwind it. Take an end and place it under the first knot on the first layer (bottom layer) of your skirt and push it up through the empty space above the first knot on the second skirt layer (top layer) and pulling all but about 12 inches or so through. Taking the long end, wrap it over the knot by placing the end under the first knot in the second row, up through the space above the top knot, back down and under the third row knots, up through the fourth, etc., remembering to keep pulling the length through until it is snug but not tight over the knots before starting the next row. Continue doing this until you reach your starting point again. Then tie both ends together into a small tight knot. Tie the ends into a bow, cutting off the excess ribbon. Save your scraps! You may need them later. Unfortunately, I don't know what happened to the picture for this step, so I had to take a different one, using scraps so that's why the materials are different from the ones used on the dress.
The skirt is finished for now. The bells get put on last, if you choose to use them. Keep the dress on the shirt form at all times.
Now it is time to construct the top of your dress. I usually refer to this as weaving because that's basically what you'll do. To weave the top of your dress, you will need a LOT of tulle and it must be one solid length. To do this, I go to my living room and find the longest point in the room and start at that wall. I place the start of the tulle on the floor and hold it down with a heavy object such as a book and then roll it out across the entire length of the room, and fold it back over and roll back to the start. I do this at least two or three times to ensure I have enough. It's always better to have too much than not enough and run out in the middle or almost at the end of your project. Trust me, okay!
Once you have your massively long piece of tulle, you will need to take an end, match up it's edges to each other and twist it as small as you can get it. If you tug gently on the tulle in opposite directions, it will stretch, which can help twist it smaller but don't tug too hard or you'll rip it. Take your dress and with the seam facing you, insert the twisted end under the first solid square on the SECOND row from the top edge of your crochet band. That first row will be wrapped once weaving is finished. Tie into a knot as tightly as possible without tearing the tulle.
So many people just leave the crochet band alone and this results in having little bits of skin showing all over. While it may be okay for an infant since they are tiny and the band doesn't stretch as much on them, I don't feel that it is appropriate for older girls, since the band does stretch a lot more on them, showing more skin. So I knew I wanted this top to have a more solid appearance. To do this, I took the end of the super long tulle strip and counted down five or six EMPTY squares, inserting the end into that empty space and out through the empty space below it, pulling the entire length through until it was able to hold shape while not being too tight or loose. Too tight will cause the dress to twist and too loose will cause it to look sloppy. Now at this point, you should be about the middle of the band. Take the end of the tulle strip again and insert it in the empty space directly above your wrapped waist, and out through that first bottom space in the following row. Now you'll be starting your second row, so count upwards to your desired number and insert the end through the empty space and out through the one above it. Remember, you are working in a up and down motion, so try to keep track of your rows and be sure not to miss any of your pattern because it can throw the whole dress out of whack! Keep doing this until that entire one half back side of the dress is weaved. You may also want to do one row on the front like this. It will basically be the side of the top. The front of the dress will be weaved differently.
Now it is time to weave the front of the dress. For the front, I knew I would need more of the solid squares to show so I would have something to glue the flowers onto, making them more secure than trying to glue them to tulle alone. To do this, I took the end from the long piece I've been using and simply weaved in and out of every other empty space, pulling the length through, before moving onto the next. Do this until the entire front of the dress is done, except for that one last row, which needs to be weaved the same way as you did on the back. Remember, this is basically the side of the dress. Flip dress over and finish weaving the back, ending at your starting point. Tie the end into a tight knot next to your first one.
Once this is done, you can wrap the top edge of the top the same way you wrapped the waist, using the little space above the top of the tulle weave. Now for that fabric area across the back of the dress. To hide this, I pretty much wrapped it the same way I did the waist and top except I used two separate long pieces of ribbon and wrapped only the "lower" squares all the way across the one side and then wrapped back across using only the "upper" squares until I reached the center again and then tied the ends into a bow. See the above picture of the back. Notice how the squares looked kind of stacked? One higher row, one lower.
Once the top is weaved and wrapped, you can now add your straps. For this you can use your ribbon, tulle, or buy a couple yards of fabric trim like I did. With the front of the dress facing you, decide what kind of straps you would like. Two shoulder straps, one strap, a halter? Once you know what you want to do, decide where you should place them. Usually only one or two spaces from the sides. For shoulder straps, all you need to do is tie one end into a knot onto the front of the dress and then again onto the back of the dress, making sure you're keeping it even on both sides so the straps line up correctly. If you're unsure how big to make the straps or are unable to measure the shoulder (to measure take your measuring tape and, starting at the top of the armpit crease, drape back over the shoulder down to the top of the armpit crease again.) just tie on two separate longer pieces of ribbon and tie into a bow on top of the shoulder. That way it is possible to shorten or lengthen if needed. Just cut off excess ribbon length once you find your desired length.
For a halter type of strap, locate the middle space in the front of the dress and insert the ribbon into that space, matching up the ends until the ribbon is an even length and tie into a knot to secure, leaving ends loose so they can be tied behind the neck. Cut off excess once you know your needed length. Now, if you're like me and chose to use the fabric trim, you will more than likely have to do a little bit of sewing. Don't be nervous! It doesn't take much skill and you won't have to sew a lot at all. And it doesn't have to be pretty either because you won't even be able to see it if you can find matching thread color. I don't own a sewing machine, so if I need to sew anything, it has to be done by hand. You could try gluing them together but I'm not sure how it would work since I haven't tried that before. Fabric trim comes attached to a strip of tulle. You will need to cut off the excess but make sure you don't cut the thread that is holding it onto the tulle or it will come apart.
Thread your needle using a long piece of thread and tie a few knots to secure it to the needle. Taking about two or three inches of the end of the fabric trim, insert it into your chosen space and place it against the long side of the trim. So the trim should be touching backside to backside. Holding in place, insert your threaded needle into the back of the trim, pushing out towards you, pulling length of thread almost all the way through. Leave some hanging loose. Then take your needle and insert it again, this time through the front of the trim, out through the back, making sure to pull your length through so that it begins to get snug around the trim but don't pull it too tight or you'll snap your thread. Just keep doing this over and over all over the area your sewing until it is secure. Repeat on both sides of dress. Your dress should now be fully constructed!
Here's the fun part. Embellishments!! For this, I chose to cover the front completely with flowers. I first laid them out and arranged them to how I wanted them to look. I place a sheet of wax paper under the dress to prevent gluing it to the cardboard form. Then I figured out which square would be the best choice to glue my flower on to, making sure that I had some petals hanging over the edge. Once you find your square you want to use, add a generous glob of glue directly to that square and another glob of glue directly onto the middle of the flower bottom. Place flower on top of the square, pressing down for a moment and place a few sewing needles or straight pins on each side and through the middle of the flower if possible to hold it in place while it dries. Repeat with the other flowers until the front of your dress is covered as you wished. Let dry over night for best results.
Now flip your dress over to the back. Do you see that empty looking row between the top and the wrap on the waist? We're going to hide that using small flowers. I glued them the same way as the flowers on the front, except I glued a flower on to every other square, making sure the petals were close enough to hide the space between them.
You are now on the final step. Sewing on the bells. If you choose not to have any bells, your dress is now finished. I threaded a needle, twisted the end on a strip and inserted the needle through the twisted tulle, through the bell opening and back again, pulling your thread enough so that it tightens and secures the bell to the end of the tulle. Tie a knot or two and cut the thread. Place your bells randomly or on to every strip if you wish.
Congratulations! Your Tinkerbell tutu dress is now done! Add a pair of fairy wings and a wand to complete the look.
Amazing, right? Feel free to leave questions, praises, or thoughts in the comment section below. We will answer what we can, and contact Danelle for help if we can't figure it out! If you'd like to get in touch with her about ordering a custom tutu dress, leave a comment below and we can hook you up.