Thursday, April 5, 2012

Of Sugar Plums and Swans

Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand. - Bernie Taupin.
One of my most treasured books as a girl was The Very Young Dancer, a documentary style story of life at the New York City Ballet from the point of view of a young girl trying out for Clara in the Nutcracker. The photography is black and white and the story is told in that straightforward and innocent voice of children, speaking frankly about how often young dancers get hurt and how carefully they eat. There are long hours and strict rules. Ballet is beautiful and it is hard work. Somehow, the realism of that book gave it glamour. Perhaps it was because the dream had substance; it is the story of a real little girl who stars in a real ballet. It continues to speak to me now, especially as I face the extreme faux-princess culture that’s developed in the little girl world of today.
I think it’s difficult as adults, caught up in our very real worries and responsibilities, to remember just how strong the fantasy life of children is. It can be hard to remember how important those things were when we were young and how very real. I also think it’s hard for many of us, as we watch as Disney market its shallow message into our daughters’ lives, to remember that ballerinas and princesses can be a great dream too.

So this project is dedicated to that tiny dancer in all of us, dancing in the sand. And to the tiny dancer we love now, who learns in her ballet classes that strength and discipline create beauty. Hold her closer while you still can.
This is a sophisticated, beautiful garment for your tiny dancer who dreams, like I did, to be a real ballerina.  There isn’t a speck of glitter or hint of princess! Maybe wearing this, she can imagine herself strong enough to dance on stage at the Academy. Let her have these dreams! After all, before you know it you will be dancing at her wedding.
This tutu is after the wonderful instructions in Little Things to Sew by Liesl Gibson.  Constructed from 15 whole yards of tulle in shades of pink, coral and yellow, the tutu is voluminous. It ties at the waist with a charcoal gray grosgrain ribbon. It is fully finished on the inside, so you could reverse it if you wanted to. It was based on a 21” waist but since it fastens with ties, it will likely fit ages 3 through 6. 
The 2nd annual Moonstone Preschool auction is now open, but you can only bid on the tutu at the live event at Distrito on April 17th.  It’s one of a kind and will never be available for sale. You’ll have to get yourself a ticket and join us there!
The hardest part of this project will be letting it go. So support a good cause and give my tutu a dreamy home!


  1. I hope your skirt finds a lovely little girl who appreciates its beauty and the dream that it truly represents. I too aspired to be a dancer when I was younger and have often thought I'd like to recreate the pink ballerina wrap sweater that my mother gave me when I was about 8 to wear in class. It was a treasured item from my childhood and I only wish I knew what happened to it!

    Incidentally, I have one of these same skirts about half done on my work table--it was supposed to be a gift for the Easter basket, but we'll see if I have time to finish it!

  2. Beautiful Melanie.
    I never considered making the tutu but I now may change my mind.

  3. I can testify that the tutu will also (sort of) fit ages 30+ if necessary. :)

  4. Great blog post - especially your point about Disney, princesses, etc. I'm so anti-princess, but I realize that I have to let my daughter have her own fantasy world. I did, however, buy her some princess underwear in hopes that she'd realize that she couldn't pee on the princesses!

  5. Thank you! Erin, I have some ballerina wrap sweaters in my revelry queue waiting for the right time. Camille, I admit I tried it on too. :) Janice, whatever works when it comes to potty training! Nicole, with all the girls in your house, you'll certainly get plent of wear from it! And it's only an afternoon's project. Laying out all that tulle is the hardest part.

  6. Beautiful work! Do you by chance remember what colors you used?

  7. Thanks, Jessica. I did actually make a note of the colors so I could recreate this for my own daughter. I found the 108" wide tulle at and used: dusty rose, coral, melon, peach and butter. Tulle is so sheer that it's impossible to tell what it looks like from the picture. Plus, the color changes as you layer and gather it. I ordered swatches of every shade of pink and yellow they had and played around with them for a long time, even gathering up a tiny swatch to really see. I think blues and sliver would be nice so would something with shades of yellow and gold. But I am partial to traditional pink!