Today I thought I’d show you an easy way to how to sew tulle and how to gather tulle to make a pretty tutu skirt. If you have ever sewn tulle before you’ll know that gathering tulle or sewing tulle using traditional methods can be hard work because of the volume and thickness of the fabric you are working with. Use this easy method of how to sew tulle and how to gather tulle to solve common problems so you can get on with sewing a pretty tutu skirt.
What is Tulle?
Tulle is a light netting fabric used to make tutu skirts, dance costumes, wedding dresses, veils and makes great hair accessories and hairpieces. Another common use is in bridal decorations and home decor.
While you can get silk tulle, it is more commonly found in synthetic nylon or polyester fibers which is very economical to buy.
If you look closely at the mesh you will see small hexagonal shapes which give the fabric a soft, airy and floaty appearance. On the bolt, tulle is often folded in half due to its wider widths. This makes cutting much easier.
Tulle vs Netting
Tulle is softer than netting and is more often used in clothing whereas netting is used for crafting purposes. You can use the same tips and tricks I give you in this article for both fabrics.
How to Sew Tulle - 5 TOP TIPS
Most likely when you are sewing tulle, you will be sewing through several layers at once which is what makes it a little more challenging. Tulle seams are a little harder to sew than those in woven fabrics due to the mesh fibers and slight stretch factor, but with a few adjustments, you will be able to get great results.
Here are my top 5 tips on how to sew tulle:
- Use safety pins
- Switch to a zig-zag stitch for seams
- Replace your sewing machine foot
- Don't iron tulle
- Leave hems raw
Tip 1 - Use Safety Pins
When sewing tulle, pins will fall out easily so instead, secure seams temporarily with safety pins.
Substituting safety pins is very useful when you are working with or needing to cut numerous layers at once as it will hold everything in place.
Use the smaller sized safety pins so they won't leave any marks in your tulle,
Tip 2 - How to Sew Tulle with Zig-Zag
Sewing tulle seams with a straight stitch will often result in skipped and broken stitches that won't last through numerous wears and washes.
This can be solved by stitching side seams with a very narrow zig-zag stitch.
Test a scrap using a width of 1.0-2.0 and a length of 3.0. Give the tulle seam a gentle pull and see if the stitches pop. If you are still having a problem, try widening the zig-zag slightly.
Further Reading: Sewing Machine Stitches
After sewing the seam, go back and neatly trim the seam allowance to ⅛ inch to ¼ inch (3-6mmm). Because of the sheer nature of tulle, you will be able to see the seam through the fabric on the right side.
If you don't like how a regular side seam looks, then consider using a French seam where the seam edges will be hidden. This is a good method to use on children's tutu's where a scratchy seam may irritate their skin.
Further Reading: French Seams
Tip 3 - Replace your Foot
If you are finding your tulle is not feeding under your presser foot or catching in the dog feed below, try switching to a Teflon sewing foot.
Another alternative is placing a piece of clear tape under your all-purpose sewing foot. This will enable the tulle to slide underneath the foot more easily.
Tip 4 - Don't Iron Tulle
Tulle, of course, is completely synthetic and will melt if you put the iron directly on top of it. If you need to get wrinkles out, use a clothing steamer or your regular iron with a thick pressing cloth on top.
Leaving the tulle to hang while you have a long, hot shower will help too as the steam gets to work on stubborn creases. What a good excuse to relax!
For very delicate or expensive tulle, you may even consider dry cleaning to get out any wrinkles. Embroidered and beaded tulle can get very expensive so you will want to protect your investment.
Tip 5 - Leave Hems Raw
There is no need to hem tulle as it does not fray. This means it is important that you cut the hems neatly without any jagged edges.
Use a sharp pair of fabric shears to get a nice clean edge.
A rotary cutter, quilting ruler and cutting mat can be used to get perfectly squared edges. You will need a new sharp blade to cut through several layers. Don't make it too thick.
Design Idea: If you need a little weight to your hems, consider stitching some ribbon along the edge. You will often see this technique on ballet costumes. You can use matching ribbons or a contrast ribbon for a pop of color.
How to Gather Tulle
Gathering tulle is much harder than gathering woven fabric. Normally you would stitch two rows using a long basting stitch and pull the bobbin threads to gather.
Using this traditional method on tulle generally results in broken threads and major frustration. Instead, use the gathering with cord method to save time and get much better results.
More Articles On Gathering
- How to gather by machine
- How to gather by hand
- Shirring (sewing with elastic thread)
- Gathering with a serger
- How to sew ruching
- Gathering with cord
- Gathering with elastic
- How to gather tulle
- Gathering foot
- Gathering Fabric
How To Gather Tulle Using Cord:
Step 1 - Locate Cord
Before you start learning how to gather tulle, rummage through your bathroom cupboard to find your dental floss.
Dental floss generally works better than string as it is slippery so pulls through the zig-zag stitches very easily.
I like to keep some green dental floss in my sewing supplies and this color contrasts with most fabrics. You will only have a choice of green or white so choose a color that will show up on your fabric.
If you don't have any floss you could also use crochet thread or other thin but strong thread.
Step 2 - Cut Cord
Cut your dental floss at least 4 inches (10cm) longer than the width of the item to be gathered.
Step 3 - Zig-Zag Over the Cord
Put your machine on a very wide zig-zag stitch. I set my width to 6.0 and my length to 3.0.
Leave a tail of 2 inches (5cm) and then start to zig-zag over the floss.
Be careful not to catch the floss in your zig-zag. This is really important as you want to be able to pull the cord through later.
Also, be careful that you don’t pull the end of the floss too hard so that it pulls through. I like to stop after I have sewn a few inches and twist the end around a safety pin so there is no danger of it pulling through.
Go all the way to the end, once again leaving a few inches hanging off to finish.
Step 4 - Pull the Cords
To gather, gently pull the floss through the zig-zag stitches and you will easily gather your tulle. If you have used dental floss, you will be amazed at how quick and easy this part is.
Secure the ends together by tying a knot. You now have easily gathered your tulle! That much easier than regular methods wasn't it?
I assume you will next be sewing the gathered tulle into some kind of waistband. If the dental floss is going to cause a problem with bulk, you can remove it later (after the waistband is attached) by cutting the knot and pulling it back through.
If you have some extra tips or other great ideas for gathering tulle please comment below.
How to Gather Tulle with a Ruffler
A ruffler can be used to gather tulle. If you haven't seen a ruffler before it is a strange-looking presser foot that gathers and pleats automatically. And yes it is quite large!
I have a full tutorial on how to use a ruffler.
When using a ruffler you don't have the same control over the amount of gathering produced. It has settings you can adjust for the amount of gathering produced but it is still a little hit and miss and you need to estimate the amount of gathering.
Cut your tulle widths wider than you need and then cut down to size after the ruffler has worked its magic. A ruffler is a good option when you are gathering tulle that is in long strips such as that used in bridal reception decor rather than for skirts.
It also works better on slightly thicker and stiffer tulle or netting than on fine versions.
How to Sew Tulle - Projects Using Tulle
Free Tutu Skirt Pattern
Now you know how to gather tulle and how to sew tulle, try it out on my free tutu skirt sewing pattern. This skirt is ideal for your little princess and comes in girls sizes 2 to 10.
Adding Sequins and Rhinestones
After you have finished sewing tulle and making something amazing, why not add some bling!
Here are some tutorials from my blog: