top of page

Workroom Wednesday

I know, I know, I need to stop with the alliterating titles. You can blame my Year 9 English teacher for my guilty love of alliteration.


I've been pretty absent from the blog for the last couple of weeks, and I want to be able to say that's going to change, but to be honest - it'll probably just get worse. See, the third year of university is like a whirlwind of readings, assignments, essays, (and in my case) translations that never lets up. So the regular Tutu Tuesday and occasional #ThrowbackThursday look into the archives are about all I can manage.

But that doesn't mean I haven't been working on things for the studio too! Just not the blog.... So I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what I have been working on. Which is...


For last year's end-of-year studio concert, I spent the three weeks between coming home from uni and the day of the performance sewing up a storm. I made Russian costumes for G4, Arabian costumes for G3, skirts, and shawls/headscarves for G2. I also sewed ribbons onto the maypole which Dad made for Intermediate Ballet, and, in one of the weirdest things I've ever done in ballet class (which, if you know me, is saying something), I stood on a chair holding the ribbons and pretending to be the maypole so the girls could practice. But I digress.

G3 Ballet in their Arabian costumes

The point is, as awesome as it was to be making costumes (finally!), another week or so would really have calmed the pressure a bit. Keep in mind I'd also spent the previous month hand-embroidering the kokoshnik headdresses for the Russian costumes as well. So I thought: this year, let's get started a little earlier.

Okay, a lot earlier.

It had always been the plan to add to the Russian costumes. I had just enough burgundy fabric for another two tops and a kokoshnik, bringing the tally up to a nice round 6 full costumes. So that's what I started with, making the two extra tops a little bigger than the others to be on the safe side. It got rid of some fabric from my (rather extensive) stash that I otherwise wouldn't have had a use for, and I picked up some lace/gold braiding for cheap at the hospice and at a Spotlight sale. Whether or not those costumes are used this year, I consider that a win (at least for my storage space).

Last year's G4 girls in Russian costume

The next stash-buster was the four Naiad dresses for G5 Ballet. For this, I wanted Greek chiton-style dresses made from 4 different shades of blue chiffon. Fortunately, I knew I had about a metre each of light blue, sky blue, navy, and teal chiffon. Except I couldn't find the teal, no matter how many times I rifled through my extensive fabric collection and made a mess in the lounge. Never mind: a quick trip to the hospice and the chiffon overlay of an old ball gown solved the issue. The dresses went together fairly quickly, French seams and simple hems. Getting the right drape of the neckline was harder, and I may have to add some gathers to the shoulders if it turns out to be too low on girls. But no matter. Doing the bulk of the sewing now means I have more time for fitting issues and - best of all - decoration! Unfortunately, the Naiad costumes are back in New Plymouth and I don't have a picture of them; eventually they'll have decoration, silver embroidery and green beads I rescued off an old scarf from the hospice, gold ribbon to cinch the waist, and maybe leaf trim if there's enough of it (and I have enough time!).

My next project is a bit different. Tutus! Eight of them to be exact. I only have to make one tutu base, however, because in order to save money (tutus need a lot of tulle, so it gets expensive pretty quickly), over summer I salvaged the bottom halves of our original white tutus. They got replaced about four years ago, but Alison likes to keep things just in case, which in this instance paid off. I'd always wanted to make tutus, but there were two problems: 1) expensive, and 2) I didn't have a pattern! I could take a pattern off a pre-existing tutu, but then I'd have to grade it to get different sizes (and my brain still can't fully understand grading patterns). But, also over summer, I happened to go to Spotlight (which, in fairness, I do a lot), and whilst flicking through the pattern catalogues, I found this:

The Holy Grail of costume patterns. For years, the ultimate in costume patterns was McCall's 7990, a tutu pattern brought out in association with American Ballet Theatre. The only problem was, it was out of print. The few original patterns still sell for high prices on sites like Ebay, but for those of us with limited funds, that was pretty out of reach. Until, quite by chance, I spotted the reprint with a different pattern number; I only recognised it by the drawings. Unfortunately, the adorable children's version hasn't been reprinted, but frankly, I'll take what I can get. So off I went home with my prize, my slightly bewildered mother wondering what she'd gotten herself into.

Well, you're about to find out.

The original 7990 pattern

I simply had to use this pattern this year, and Intermediate Ballet seemed like the perfect candidates (or should that be victims? hmm). I used the yoke pattern for the overlays and and bodice pattern went together beautifully on my mock-ups, which I tried on the girls over the last break.

Here's the fabric I started with:

I bought the pink and gold organza and the pink and gold satin at a lovely fabric shop in Lower Hutt which was having a half price sale (I believe it was Moreland Fabrics) and the online fabric store Backstreet Bargains (bless them), the blue satin came from Spotlight, the blue organza and the purple satin from the hospice, and the purple organza from the haul of curtaining fabric that a friend of Mandy's donated to the studio. The lining (not pictured) came from the hospice.

I have hemmed the overlays yet, but the bodices went together pretty well and I tried them on the girls last week - only three needed altering, so I reckon that's pretty good. Here's me trying one on Amber:

Now, you might think that's enough to be getting on with, but apparently I'm a little bit insane, so I'm also making costumes for Advanced Ballet. And in my customary use-a-pattern-for-something-other-than-what-it-was-intended-for way, I'm using a shift dress pattern; with a cinched waist and some changed up necklines, it'll serve another purpose.

Here's the material for Flora, and the meander trim I spent the mid-year break sewing on by hand (white stretch satin, Spotlight; white chiffon and curtain netting, Hospice; flowers, Aliexpress; ribbon and pearl beads, local dollar store):

For Diana (blue satin and chiffon, Spotlight; sequins, local dollar store; diamante brooch, Aliexpress):

For Hebe (green satin, The Fabric Warehouse; green chiffon, The Fabric Store, nail polish - there's a reason, I promise - and ribbon, local dollar store; leaf trim, Aliexpress):

And for Cupid (pink satin, Backstreet Bargains; pink georgette, Spotlight; gold ribbon and bells, local dollar store; gold lace, Aliexpress):

You can probably guess from the names that the costumes have something to do with a specific ballet, and if you've been avidly reading my old #ThrowbackThursday posts you might even guess which one. If so, kudos to you, but I won't write the name here and give the game away too soon.

So that's that! There's your peek at what I've been up to (going some way to explaining both why I've been absent from the blog of late and why I keep turning up to dinner covered in thread and little bits of organza. My friends are used to it now). If you want to see the finished costumes, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until December (yes, I am that organised this year. Hard to believe, I know).

Thanks for reading!

- Selene

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
bottom of page