Friday, October 18, 2013

How to Make a Tulle Boa

When I want to know how something is done, I hunt down the information and try to do it myself.  I was randomly wondering one day how to make a tulle boa. Some resources suggested a running stitch down a length of tulle, but I didn't see how those boas would have the volume and texture I thought they should.

I found a method that involved fabric strips tied to a cord, usually made for children. Those instructions were all a bit fast and loose. Here was my process.

  • Two tassels for the end of your boa
  • A length of 1"wide grosgrain ribbon in a hue that roughly matches your tulle, cut 6" longer than you want your boa (mine was just over 7' long)
  • 3 yards of tulle for every foot of boa (I used 16 1/2 yards)
  • Rotary cutter
  • Cutting mat
  • Clear ruler 
You could get away with using scissors, but the rotary cutter will make your life so much easier. If you don't have one, watch for sales at JoAnn Fabrics. Several times a year you can get one for at least 40% off.

Ribbon knot with tail & tassel, starter tulle strip.
  1. Thread one end of the ribbon through a tassel loop. Knot that sucker on there good. Leave a little ribbon tail. Repeat on the other end of the ribbon. The tassels will give a little weight to the ends.
  2. Cut some strips of tulle. I used 10"x2" strips. Use the tulle like a poor person; get as many strips out of a yard as you can, even if it means you're doing mostly vertical strips with a few horizontal strips from the top of your fabric. They don't have to be perfect strips, but don't cut them on the bias because you don't need that stretch.  I recommend against cutting all of your tulle into strips at once because you have to put it somewhere while you work. It's much easier to store folded tulle than wads of tulle strips. Cut enough for the time you have available to work on the boa right now.
  3. Tie a strip of tulle just above the knot. Be sure to capture the ribbon tail under the tulle strip. I tied square knots because I was a Girl Scout and square knots are supposed to be really secure.
  4. Tie another strip of tulle right next to your starter strip. Try to alternate which way each knot faces so you get a fuller boa. Keep tying. This is a great project to put down and pick up again later because you can't really lose your place!
How progress looks. Keep going!
I took this project with me and worked on it when I expected to have down time. It took about a week of mildly interesting movies, waits backstage and in cars, idle hands during the day. I estimate it takes two hours per foot of finished boa.
One finished end.

It becomes a little more challenging to do the final few inches. Keep tying those knots and push them close together. You want to full the ribbon all the way to the knot.

Honestly, it looks a little silly when you start. I did this project for fun and was undecided if I'd keep the finished project or give it away.  Halfway through I decided to keep it for outings and classes. I'm considering making a tulle boa for my next number for a few reasons:
  • I can get reliable color variation, using bits of different colors throughout to achieve the look I want. I can't expect someone to get the feathers dyed just perfect when I have such curious ideas floating around my design mind.
  • I can wash the tulle boa with soap and water in my sink. I dance in some smoky clubs. I also dance in places that have spills. Easy cleaning prevents tears and whining about a damaged investment.
  • It costs way the hell less than feathers. I love the look of ostrich, but I'm looking at dropping a huge chunk of money on an ostrich boa (see above on damaged investments). This boa cost me about $20. (I did have a coupon for the tulle so I wound up with sparkly coral tulle instead of matte black.) Ostrich feathers are becoming more and more expensive. The boas I got for $20 three years ago now cost $40, and that's the "I know a guy" price. It would also cost less for me to replace if it was lost on a flight.
  • It's less wasteful. I have a lot of vegan friends -- some use feathers, some don't. I don't eat ostrich so I have a harder time justifying the use of byproducts. I eat cow and cheese, I wear leather. I use chicken feathers where I can, I eat chickens and eggs. For some reason I think tulle has less environmental impact.
If you're in Los Angeles, I'm happy to bring the boa to a show for you to check out. Give these instructions a try and improve on them. Let me know how they work for you.
So proud of my boa I let Richard Simmons wear it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013