What the Tulle? A guide to net fabric

Halloween is just around the corner and what better fabric to create a statement with your costumes this year than dress net?  We get asked a lot about both tulle and dress net and there seems to be some confusion about this family of fabrics and whether tulle and dress net are actually the same thing (they’re similar, but not the same).  We thought we’d put together a fabric guide to help you decide which type of net is best for your project, along with some tips on how to handle this fun and holey cloth!

Dress net hem
Option for finishing dress net raw edges

What’s the difference between Tulle and Dress Net?

It’s all in the drape, softness and size of the holes! Tulle is much softer to the touch than net and has smaller holes and it generally isn’t as stiff as regular dress net. Tulle is used for soft support, net is used for a stiffer look.

Tulle Fabric: Tulle is much softer and has smaller holes than dress net, it has a much better drape than traditional dress net and is often used for bridal veils, petticoats and can also be used as an interfacing. Tulle can also used for ballet tutus but will be starched. Tulle can be made from nylon or silk, and nylon tulle is much crisper than silk.

Dress Net Fabric: Net, or dress net is an open-mesh fabric with larger holes than tulle and it can be made from rayon, silk, nylon or cotton but commercially it’s usually found in nylon, unless you’re shopping for bridal fabric. Dress net can range from very sheer to very heavy and most of the dress net fabric available commercially is made from nylon and is quite stiff and is perfect for costume making where structure is required. It can also used in evening gowns, petticoats, millinery and for underlinings and net makes great ruffles which add volume to a garment.

Dress net skirt
Dress net makes fun costumes

Sewing with Dress Net & Tulle

Layout & Cutting

Net & tulle do not have a true grain, but there is more stretch in the width than the length. Despite not having a true grain it is advisable to cut conventionally with the lengthwise grain arrows parallel to the lengthwise grain of the fabric. Using a rotary cutter with net will give you the most accurate results. Follow the “Without Nap” cutting layout.

Machine needles

Use universal or sharps needles in sizes 60/8 – 80/12, depending on the weight of your net.

Stitch length

Use stitch length 1.5-2.5mm. You may need to lower the tension on your machine, always test on a scrap first.

Thread

Use a good quality polyester or cotton thread

Machine feet

Use a wide straight stitch or roller foot. You may also benefit from using a small hole needle plate if you have one.

Markings

Safety pins or tailors tacks are a good choice for marking on net. Remember to use a contrasting thread for tailors tacks for ease of visibility!

Seam Finish

Net and tulle do not unravel so seam finishing is not functionally required, however for aesthetic reasons you can choose plain seams, french, bound (with chiffon or tricot), rolled hem, you can even use a narrow satin stitch. Seams should be as narrow as practically possible. You can also overlock net fabrics; reinforcing with seam tape when overlocking  would be a good idea just in case the net rips. Use a bound seam at the hem to prevent dress net from itching or scratching the skin.

Closures

Don’t use button holes as they will pull out of the fabric. You can use instead button loops or small, reinforced snaps.

Other Top Tips for Sewing With Net Fabric

  • Place a small square of water soluble stabiliser between your machine foot and the fabric at the beginning of seams, and at the beginning and end of darts to stop your machine chewing your net.
  • Hold on to the top and bottom threads at the beginning of your seam to avoid the fabric being pulled down in to the needle plate.
  • Careful with the iron! Most commercial net fabric is made from nylon and will melt under high heat so ensure your iron isn’t too hot and that you use a pressing cloth.
  • Make a test seam to determine your stitch length and use tissue paper if your feed dogs are tearing the fabric
  • Stitch slowly! This will help to prevent unwanted puckers or gathers.

Have you ever sewn with net or tulle? Have anything to add? Do share your tips with us , we love to hear from you!

Dress net ruffle
Dress net adds volume to a hem

A Quick Tip For Cutting Out Slippery Fabrics

Despairing this morning when I realised Little Plush had zero leggings that fitted properly (how do they grow sooo fast?!) I decided it would be quicker to sew some up than actually get to the shops. If you’ve not tried sewing leggings – don’t be scared – they are SO easy and are super quick to boot – win win. Continue reading “A Quick Tip For Cutting Out Slippery Fabrics”