What is tulle? Tulle conjures up a flurry of netting, ballet dancers and bridal parties. This fabric mesh originated from Tulle in France and has graced many special occasions over many years. It adds an air of magical femininity to all kinds of special costumes and wedding veils. Tulle can be made from silk, nylon, rayon or polyester.
What is Tulle
Tulle is a soft, light, fine netting fabric made from man-made fibers such as nylon and polyester or natural fibers such as silk or rayon. Most common in fabric shops today is polyester tulle which is inexpensive and comes in a myriad of colors. The netting or tulle has a distinctive hexagonal shape.
Tulle fabrics can vary in the weight and the hole size of the mesh. Tulle can be sheer or semi-opaque depending on the weight and the size of the holes. The holes mean it is rarely, if ever totally opaque unless you use numerous layers or some kind of lining. Some tulle has sizing chemicals added to it and this makes it stiffer.
Tulle can be embroidered for a more decorative effect and can come in bolts as wide as 108 inches (2.75cm) or as narrow as 6 inches (15cm). Wider tulle is often folded double on the bolts. Narrow tulle for crafts comes on a small pre-packaged roll.
What is Tulle vs Netting
Tulle and netting are quite similar and at times the terms are used interchangeably. Tulle is softer than netting and slightly more expensive therefore better suited to clothing. Netting is best for cheaper crafts that require and extremely stiff fabric. Tulle has smaller holes and is designed to be layered.
What is Tulle - Properties
The beauty of tulle is it is strong, flexible, and comes in various bright colors. Tulle is known for its crisp feel which gives body to costumes and tutus. Cheaper tulle can be scratchy while more expensive tulle is often soft on the skin. If you are going to be sewing clothing, run the tulle along your skin first before purchasing it.
What is Tulle - Uses
- WEDDING GOWNS AND VEILS are one of tulle's most popular uses.
- EVENING GOWNS can be made entirely or partially with tulle. Tulle can be used not just in the skirt but also in bodices and sleeves.
- DANCE COSTUMES are layered with tulle to create softness and whimsy.
- PETTICOATS get added fullness from tulle and because it is lightweight.
- CRAFTING - Tulle is very versatile and even turns into art decor bows and gift wrap. Tulle finds its way into the craft arena by making hats, dolls, fabric flowers, pom poms, bows and chair décor at parties.
- FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS - Tulle can be used to tie a bow at the base of floral arrangements to add flair or femininity to a simple bunch of flowers.
- TUTUS - Ballet tutus would never be the same without tulle and this fabric can be added to dress sleeves, to the yoke and collars too.
- LININGS - Tulle makes a useful lining and is often used under beaded fabric or lace to give more body to the decorative top fabric.
- OVERLAYS - A tulle overlay on dresses and children’s party dresses always looks charming.
What is Tulle - Types
There are several different types of tulle.
- Silk tulle is the softest and most delicate of tulle fabrics. Expensive and not common, it is made of 100% silk. Upmarket wedding dresses and evening gowns may have silk tulle.
- French silk tulle is very soft and light. Several layers of French tulle add fullness to a garment without the extra weight of other fabrics.
- English silk tulle is heavier and stiffer than nylon or polyester tulle and more durable. It is suitable for tulle embroidery.
- Italian silk tulle is a coarser silk tulle.
- Micro tulle has the smallest holes and is used for some woman’s clothing and mosquito nets.
- Bridal illusion or Illusion tulle is a polyester and nylon blend and mostly used by brides for wedding veils. It is a more economical form of tulle and effective for large projects. Illusion tulle keeps its shape and designers prefer to use it as it holds a fancy design better.
- Stretch illusion is a stretch tulle with spandex blended into the fabric. This makes it suitable for dresses and dress lining.
- Glimmer illusion is a shiny tulle fabric and also known as sparkle illusion.
- Nylon tulle is economical and readily available at fabric and craft stores.
- Polyester tulle is quite stiff and lends itself to craft projects.
Sewing Tulle Tips
- MARKING - Transferring pattern markings is difficult on tulle. The best suggestion is to use a fabric marker or pins to transfer pattern markings. Tailors' tacks can also be used.
- CUTTING - Cutting with a rotary cutter is a good option for accurate cutting out of the pieces.
- THREAD - A polyester thread is best and strengthened threads are recommended. These are stronger and less likely to snap.
- SEWING - Sewing at a slow pace helps prevent puckering or pulling.
- Sewing with tulle can be made easier by using tissue paper under the stitching lines.
- The transparency of the tulle means the seam will show through. Cutting the seam close to the stitching and using a zig-zag on the edges can help to make the seam less noticeable.
- Narrow French seams can be used in some instances.
- GATHERING - Tulle can be hard to gather by normal methods so use the cord method. Read my article on how to gather tulle using a zig-zag stitch over dental floss.
- FINISHING - Tulle does not fray so the hem can be left as the cut edge to the end of the garment.
- HEMS - A decorative edge can be created with ribbon or a rolled hem looks very professional along the edge.
- STRETCH - Sewing stretch tulle requires a narrow zig-zag stitch to allow for the stretch of the tulle and prevent the stitches from snapping. Read how to sew stretch fabric.
- LINING - If you would like to line your tulle garment it is best to choose a good under fabric like a poly-cotton or a satin. The fabric will be visible through the tulle so good quality is important.
Caring for Tulle
It is important to remember to hand wash tulle with gentle detergent and always check the laundry symbols on the tag. Manu tulle items will have dry cleaning recommendations especially if the tulle is combined with embroidery or beading. In these cases do not attempt to wash the item yourself.
This fabric does not like to go into the washing machine. Its delicate fibers will get damaged and tulle is very sensitive to heat so avoid the tumble dryer or hot water.
To iron tulle, have your iron on the lowest setting, and do not let the iron rest on the tulle. A pressing cloth should always be used between the iron and the fabric since most synthetic fabrics will melt. Keep the iron moving. and don't let it stop in the one place for too long.
Alternatively, if your tulle is badly creased hang it in a hot shower room and the steam will automatically help the wrinkles to come out of the tulle. Tulle may need professional dry cleaning if it is very badly creased.
What is Tulle EMboidery?
Hand embroidery on tulle is beautiful. It gives an almost floating or invisible stitched effect. It has its challenges, however, due to the translucent and fragile nature of the tulle.
Stitches that are filler stitches work well on tulle. When you are using a hoop be sure not to overstretch the tulle on the hoop. You need to be gentle with all the stitching and not pull too tight.
What is Tulle - In Conclusion
Now you know what is tulle you will realize it is really so much more than a meshed fabric useful for draping. It is a frivolous kind of fabric but has so many different options for clothing, craft and décor. Tulle can take the lead in classical ballet or be turning heads as a beautiful veil on a royal occasion. Tulle is a delight for the creative crafter and the everyday seamstress. Tulle, being French is part of our joie de vivre – joy of life.