Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Of Tutus and Beetle Wings

Like any crafty person I have what I think of as "lifetime" projects. I suppose you could call it a sort of creative bucket list (but I hate the term "bucket list". It sounds so stupid. I always visualize carrying around some big metal bucket with a leak in it). There are a lot of them. I want to complete a puff quilt (I started one years ago but then broke up with the guy I was making it for so PPPPBBBBBTT!) Build an herb garden growing wall. Stitch some ridiculously complicated  needlepoint version of the unicorn tapestries. One of my biggest lifetime projects has always been to put together a classical (pancake/platter-type) tutu (the whole thing. Bodice, skirt, plate/basque). I mean, I know how to do it, right? I just don't have any real reason to do it. I might at some point get stuck doing some horrid and disgusting alteration and/or repair work to one at the theater, but I really want to make one from scratch. Always have. Even when I wasn't dancing.
Recently, though, I was at a Renaissance faire with my peeps (yo) and saw a jewelry booth that reminded me of one of my other lifetime projects: beetle wing embroidery. If you're not familiar with it it's basically what sequins were invented to replace. In Asia (particularly Thailand, India, China, and Japan) there are these brilliantly iridescent wood-boring beetles. They only live for about a month, and afterwards you are left with their gorgeous exoskeletons. They've been used for ages as decoration, and pieces of fabric and clothing embroidered with them was always highly prized. You know that famous painting of Lady Macbeth wearing a green dress? This one:
That is actually a real dress. A theatrical costume. And it's entirely covered in beetlewing embroidery. you should click through here to see the real deal.
So anyway, I got to thinking about beetle wings and realized that my tutu project is going to need beading anyway... so... why not combine the two?
As this post is already too damn long I will try to wrap it up briefly.
Beetle wings come in lots of pretty color variations to choose from:
and my immediate thought was to sew them on to a black or dark green fabric. But, I am also quite taken with these antique pieces, where the wings are placed on a pale background:

So, now I have even more things to think about. Hmm... I'm pretty excited about how this tutu is going to turn out and I haven't even designed the silly thing yet. Of course, I have no one to make it for (excepting myself, and my weight is so unstable I certainly wouldn't want to do it now) and no room in my little apartment to store such a thing. But. I won't always live in a tiny apartment (hopefully) and as soon as I move I am buying some freakin' wings, 15 yards of diamond net and gettin' my groove on!


  1. i too have always wanted to make a classical tutu! so i decided i finally just needed to... so i a: started ballet at 30, and b: ordered a crapton of tutu net from along with a book and some patterns, and i am on my way! im now 5 rows or double hand pleated loveliness away from the tutu ruffles being done :) had to justify it some way right? i will vacuum in it, if i can worm my way into a part in the recital where i can wear it i will, i will wear it whenever i can find a time to :) just do it!! its fun! but you dont have to be crazy like me and hand pleat the entire thing.... i felt my ruffler was cheating or atleast the first time...

    oooh those beetle wings are beautiful!!!! i LOVE it on the white!!!!

    good luck whatever you do!!!

    1. Cool! Go you! I don't have a pleater for my machine, I've got a shirring foot but meh, I am not all that excited about the gathered look.
      Sadly, I do not have the room to store a tutu in this tiny apartment. And I also have a cat who thinks that netting/lace/tulle/etc is amazing and fun to sink her claws in to. She tore a gaping hole in the petticoat for my wedding dress about week before the event, and she has reduced more than one of my vintage peignoirs (I collect them) to a picked and pecked mess. Some day I will have a sewing room that is NO CATS ALLOWED and then tutus will happen!
      I, also, figured on vacuuming in mine! Walkin' around the house... eating a spoon of peanut butter...

    2. :) no kitty! tutus are for dancing not for clawing... i want to wear it like tomorrow!! hopefully you will have space soon!!