How to Make A Dress With A Tulle Skirt

As you readers know, altering garments is my focus, not constructing them.

But, I just got a great question from a reader and I would love your input in helping her.

I’d love your thoughts on the tulle (netting) fabric. Do you have some tips on how to expedite the process and make that skirt bottom look even without a lot of heartache? Do you use a rotary cutter or what is your secret? Thank you ahead of time! Linda

Here is what she wrote:


My daughter will be wearing this C version (green full length dress in the photo above) and I have been asked how much it would be for me to do all 8 dresses. I’m a little concerned about the skirt material.
I’ve made tutus for dance costumes, but not for dress. I would love any hints or advice you can give. I have no idea what to charge above materials, so if you can, give me a suggested $ amount to ask for. Because it’s for a wedding I’m a little nervous. I sew well, I just haven’t worked with this style.
Thank you, your blog is fantastic for referencing “how to” do different projects.

How To Shorten Spaghetti Straps

Let me show you how easy it is to shorten the spaghetti straps on your dress.

This is a prom dress whose straps were too long for the customer:

On this dress, there are four straps on each side.

But, the technique is the same whether you have one strap or several.

Not only did this dress need the straps shoretened, but they are spread too far apart, so we’ll fix that problem too:

I almost always shorten the straps from the back of the dress.

This is the first time I’ve shortened from the front in a long time.

I like to shorten from the back because it just seems easier to get into that part of the dress.

Ok, now let’s get started.

First, turn the dress over and look at the lining side where the straps are sewn in:

Do you see the stitches that are to the left of the point of the seam ripper?

You don’t need to take these out.

But if you had some of those stitches where the straps go into the dress (to the right of the seam ripper point in the photo), you’d need to remove them first.

Take out about two or three inches of stitches.

On this dress, the manufacturer, stitched a few stitches in the dress to anchor the front to the back:

If you have some like these, take them out

Next, turn the dress inside out:

This is the lining side of the inside of the dress.

Flip it and you’ll see the facing side.

Yours may or may not have facing.

This facing feels alot like paper.

Facing is a narrow strip sewn to the top of many dresses to add stability to the dress.

In the photo above, do you see the white areas near my finger?

These are the ends of the straps sticking up.

I only take out enough stitches so that I can easily pull the straps up.

Sometimes, the straps will be sewn a second time to just the dress fabric:

Use your seam ripper or a small pair of scissors to take out just enough stitches.

Gently pull those straps up until you have taken up the full amount of what you need to shorten the straps.

In this case, the customer needed the straps to be 3 1/4″ shorter than they were.

So, I measured the 3 1/4″ from the original seam line on the strap, to the original seamline on the dress.

Do you see how I did that in the photo below?

The spot where the blue guide is, is where the seam allowance is on the dress.

You may want to pin the strap down in place so it doesn’t slide around while you’re putting the whole thing under your presser foot.

This is the time to move all the straps close together (if you have more than one strap) and make sure there is no gap between them.

Now just stitch over the original seamline, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seam:

Double check your work by turning the dress right side out and making sure the straps are not caught in the seamline or twisted.

If you have a problem, just take a few stitches out again and adjust the straps and resew the seam.

Once the straps look good, turn the dress inside out again and stitch another row of stitches 1/8″ away from the first stitching line.

This will anchor those straps in well.

Trim the straps if you need to.

See how the straps are much closer together now?

You’re finished!

Wasn’t that a piece of cake?

Be sure to use the sewn in ties on the inside of your dress to hang your dress with. (This dress has lacy ties)

If you hang your dress from the spaghetti straps only, they can easily stretch out over time, especially if the straps were made from the bias of the fabric.

Enjoy the party!

Altering a Bubble Dress and Other “Closed” Lined Garments

This year, I’ve seen alot of Bubble Dresses for Prom and Homecoming.

Here is one I altered yesterday:

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They have lots of pouf all over them, don’t they?

The hem and the lining are usually sewn together at the bottom of the dress.

So, instead of opening up the hem area, I leave that alone as often as possible.

So far, no one has asked me to hem a short bubble dress.

I have had to hem a bubble bridal gown.

Say that fast three times!

But, on this gown, I needed to take in the bust area at the side seams.

So, instead of opening up the hem area and doing the alteration from there, I opened up the lining on a side seam about two inches longer than the area I wanted to alter:

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On this dress, I needed to take in the side seams from the top of the bust down to the waist.

Once I had the side seam opened, I reached in and turned the dress inside out. That made it possible to take in the side seams.

To do that alteration, read this post.

You can do other alterations as well, like this post on hemming the bubble dress, but this is the most common one I do on formal gowns.

Once I finished altering the dress fabric and the lining, I folded back the edges of the opening and stitched it closed:

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I sew the stitches very close to the edge so that I don’t lose any noticeable width in the lining.

And that’s all there is to it!

I use this technique when I am working on any garment where the lining doesn’t hang loose. In men’s jackets, I tend to open up the sleeve area because it is more hidden than the back or sides of the jacket. The same is true for women’s jackets. On jackets, I tend to do alterations such as shortening sleeve length, taking in the center back seam or shortening the jacket’s length.

I like this technique because it saves alot of time and I don’t like to hand sew something together if I don’t have to!

Rolled Hems

This is a close up of a rolled hem:

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You’ll find them on prom dresses, wedding dresses, casual dresses, skirts and men’s shirt tails. In fact, they are found on all sorts of garments made from all sorts of fabrics.

You can make a rolled hem “by hand”. You simply press up 1/8″ along your hemline with a mini iron (or a regular iron)  and then press up another 1/8″ and stitch it all the way around.

However, I can’t seem to do this well. My pressing job doesn’t look quite professional enough and I tend to stitch a crooked line.

You may have better success than I do at it.

Since I am usually sewing these for a customer, I want it to look professional, like they just bought it off the rack.

So, I prefer to use a rolled hem foot to do the work for me:

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(Don’t put the rolled hem foot on your machine just yet.)

First, I have the customer try the dress on and I mark the hemline with pins.

Then, I press the dress along  the fold that I just made with the pins.

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Once you press the hem on the fold, cut the fabric 3/8″ outside the fold (toward the original hemline).

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The amount may vary from the 3/8″ depending on your rolled hem foot.

I have tried cutting it 1/2″ and it is too much fabric for the rolled hem foot to handle and the frayed edges stick out and the hem looks awful.

Cutting less than 3/8″ means you won’t have enough fabric to successfully roll  it.

Experiment on a scrap piece of fabric until you have the amount that works best for you.

You don’t need to finish the raw edge.

Since you cut off the hem edge, you cut off seams. Go back and reinforce each seam edge using your regular all purpose foot.

Just sew a few stitches into the seam and then backstitch and trim your threads.

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Now, put the rolled hem foot on your machine.

To sew the new hem, I start at a seam.

You’ll need to take the cut edge of the hem and turn it up to meet the fold. Then, turn it up one more time on the fold. In other words, you are going to turn up the raw edge twice and place a pin in it to hold it until you can sew it.

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Put this pinned section under the presser foot, put your needle down into the fabric and then drop the presser foot.

Now, carefully, take a few stitches making sure you don’t run over the pin.

Once you have taken about 4 or 5 stitches, put the needle down into the fabric and lift the presser foot.

Take a pair of long tweezers (short ones will do if that’s all you have) and work the raw edge carefully around the curve part of the foot like this:

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Once you have it in the correct spot, make sure the pressed fold is laying flat as you see on the right side of the photo.

(I didn’t take enough photos with the green satin fabric, so here I have a cream colored crepe fabric).

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As you sew around the hem, your job is to make sure the pressed fold of the fabric is laying flat. You don’t want it to get pulled down under the presser foot or the rolled hem will turn into a mess and you’ll have to rip it out and do that part again.

If you have a full skirt that is wide at the bottom, you’ll need to pull the fabric a little to the left while you sew. This helps to keep the hem from turning on you and helps you keep that original curve.

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When you come up to a seam, you’ll notice that you have extra fabric from the seam allowances that you need to feed into the foot.

To aid with that problem, I cut little triangles off of the seam allowances like this:

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Then, I use a glue stick to hold the diagonal edge down. Sometimes, that glue stick won’t hold it together, and in that case, you’ll just need to work slowly with the tweezers to get it onto the curve of the foot.

So, use those tweezers like you did before in getting the fabric around the curve like this:

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Sometimes, the fabric is much too heavy to make it through that foot. In those rare cases, I take the fabric out of the foot and hand roll it like you did at the beginning and pin it. Then, just sew until you get past the seam.

Once you are past the seam, take the tweezers and again, pull the fabric over the curve and continue sewing until you get to the next seam.

You may think that that’s too much trouble, but I don’t mind. I like the way it turns out much better than if I were to do it “by hand” as I mentioned before.

If you do have to start and stop alot, just make sure you pull your thread ends to the wrong side of the dress and then clip them off. That way you won’t have threads showing on the right side.

If you didn’t have any trouble at the seams, then continue stitching until you get to about an inch from the end of the hem.

Backstitch a few stitches.

Take the hem off of the rolled hem foot:

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Hand roll the hem at the end like you’ve done before and pin it.

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Swing the pinned section under the presser foot and put the presser foot down.

Carefully, stitch without running over the pin.

Backstitch again.

There’s a rolled hem anyone would be proud of.

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