A practical guide to sewing tulle, with lots of tips and tricks, that will help you feel confident enough to begin your first tulle project. Here are my tips and tricks for sewing tulle on your regular sewing machine.
Tulle is a lightweight, very fine netting, most commonly made of polyester fibers, though it can be made from silk, nylon, and rayon too. Tulle fabric has a dreamlike, ethereal texture, and is mainly used for making wedding outfits, as well as party and ballet costumes.
Soft tulle fabric comes in 54″ or 108″ widths.
Netting is a stiffer fabric that looks similar but has more body and is usually used to make petticoats.
Mesh tulle is made of a comfy stretch fabric that feels soft to your skin and breathes well. This fabric is ideal for mesh panels in dresses, tops, or leggings.
I made plenty of tulle skirts over the past few years (as I had a small business selling handmade tulle skirts) and I want to assure you this is totally doable, even for beginners. I hope you’re not afraid to sew with tulle! It’s not as difficult as you think, and almost all sewing machines work fairly easily with this fabric.
Learn how to sew tulle fabric on your regular machine with these sewing tips and techniques.
What can you make with tulle?
Tulle fabric is most commonly used to make tulle skirts, and I have written a lot of tutorials on how to sew different patterns. Here are a few of my most popular posts: Simple tulle skirt in 10 easy steps / Tiered tulle skirt / Circle tulle skirt / Girls tutu skirts.
However, you can also make reusable produce bags with tulle, and scrunchies too!
How do you finish tulle edges?
Tulle fabric does not fray and doesn’t need to be hemmed. Just leave the edges unfinished for a stunning airy look.
If you need some weight or more shape to your tulle hem, consider sewing satin ribbon, narrow velvet ribbon, satin bias tape, or a horsehair braid along the edge. Adding a fishing line to your tulle garment makes a very pretty curly lettuce hem.
How do you get wrinkles out of tulle?
You can iron the tulle fabric directly. I’ve read on many blogs that you should never iron tulle directly, as it can melt. That’s not completely true. Sure, a hot iron will melt the tulle instantly.
But I have always used the iron on tulle at a low heat setting, and it does wonders for those unsightly wrinkles. To be on the safe side, place a towel on top of the tulle so that you can be sure you’ll not burn it.
You can also use a garment steamer to remove wrinkles.
How to cut tulle fabric
It’s easier and faster to cut tulle while still folded from the bolt.
From my experience, if you want neat and even tulle edges, a rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat are a must.
Of course, you can cut the tulle with your fabric scissors, but it’s harder to get a nice, clean edge. Even so, don’t fret about it. In a gathered tulle skirt, it doesn’t show much if the hem is not perfectly uniform.
What needle do you use for tulle?
The needle that works best with tulle fabric is a fine jersey needle – size 70/10. However, if the jersey needles do not deliver on, you should try stretch needles.
Specifically, for this tulle scrunchies tutorial, the jersey needle that worked fine for the soft tulle fabric refused to sew mesh tulle without skipping stitches on my Heavy Duty Singer sewing machine, while the stretch needle did a great job.
Top tips for sewing with tulle
Tulle is a slippery fabric that can be difficult to sew for the first time. You may want to secure the tulle layers with long pins or safety pins and remove them as you sew.
Before you start to sew, it’s a good idea to test your stitches on scraps of the tulle fabric you’ll be working with.
Sew a perfect tulle seam – no puckering & no skipped stitches
To sew tulle without the feed dogs „eating” the fabric do not start stitching at the very edge. Sewing too close to the edge of this wispy fabric is a surefire way to get the tulle sucked down into the machine.
Sewing tulle seams can sometimes result in puckering or skipped stitches – that’s so frustrating. Here’s what you can do to prevent that.
First, switch your needle for a new ballpoint/jersey needle – size 70/10 is what I use and it (almost) always does the trick.
However, if the ballpoint/jersey needle does not work, try a stretch needle.
Apparently, stretch needles are better for sewing very stretchy fabrics. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to test your stitches with both needles (jersey and stretch) on your fabric before starting your sewing project.
Related: Sewing with stretch fabric – everything you need to know
Next, use a short straight stitch and slow down your sewing machine speed to avoid puckering.
If these things still don’t work as expected, you can use a small strip of tissue paper (or a lightweight tear-away stabilizer) underneath the fabric when you sew the tulle seams. After stitching the seam, tear the tissue/stabilizer away.
Another option is to sew the tulle seams with a narrow zig-zag stitch – 2.0 length, 1.5 width.
Finally, did you know you can use your serger to sew tulle seams? It creates a clean and even edge effortlessly. However, it’s worth noting that the seam will be more visible as the serger uses more thread and tulle is a sheer fabric.
How to gather tulle fabric
Gathering tulle is actually as easy as gathering woven fabric, in my opinion – maybe even easier, because it’s enough to stitch one single row using a long basting stitch and then pull the bobbin threads to gather.
In the photo below you’ll see two parallel lines of basting stitches – that’s the right way to gather fabric, but not the only way. I wanted to play it safe for this tulle skirt tutorial, but when nobody’s watching, I always do one line of basting to gather tulle. When you have to gather lots and lots of tulle, I find this is the easiest and quickest way. Just make sure to use good quality thread that will not break. You don’t even need a gathering foot (unless you want to).
I know about the “zigzag over cord” method for gathering, but the zigzag stitch is usually slower than the straight stitch. Besides, you have to be careful not to catch the cord in your stitches. Overall, I don’t find this method much faster than the good old basting stitch.
How do you get static out of tulle?
If your tulle fabric has lots of static, the quick solution is to mist your fabric with a mixture of water and a little bit of fabric softener. This method works great, but I must say I don’t like the way the tulle wrinkles afterward.
Static is related to dryness, and the air is much drier in cold seasons. Therefore, sewing with tulle is more problematic in winter.
To prevent static electricity issues, you should try to humidify the air in your sewing room. Maybe use a humidifier, or place a bowl of water near a heat source. For quick results, just bring a pot of boiling water into the room.
I hope you enjoyed these tips for how to sew tulle and that you’re now ready to test out your new skills!
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6 thoughts on “Tips for sewing tulle on your regular sewing machine”
I am making a costume with about 8 layers of different color tulle. They need to be gathered. Do you gather all layers at once. Do I only need one row of stitching? Should I be concerned about the thread breaking? Any suggestions.
What is the ratio of your gathered skirt? (the tulle skirt width compared to the waist measurement). I think gathering all layers at once is a good idea with a 8-layers skirt. Also, I personally would be somewhat concerned about the thread breaking, however you can minimize the risk by using quality thread and running 2 rows of basting stitches. Best of luck!
When I’m sewing a bodice and skirt section together using fine bridal tulle, should I use something to stabilize that particular seam? I’d hate for it to tear apart should someone step on the gown. It isn’t lined but has a separate underdress (spaghetti strap slip). I’m worried about this section.
I am short about 10” of tulle for a project. Is it wise to add the amount I am short to the larger piece? If so, what is best way to attach the two pieces. The project I am doing will be folded in a way where the pieced side won’t be seen. Many thanks for your time and assistance.
If you need to add the smaller piece to the larger one, then use a straight stitch and matching thread – that’s the best you can do. Press the seam after you sew it to make it nice and flat. In case you’re working with gathered tulle, don’t sweat about it, nobody will be able to tell the difference.
This was extremely helpful Violet, Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.