Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pottery Barn Ballerina Canopy Tutorial

For the last two months, I keep thinking about that Ballerina (Princess) Canopy I wanted to make for Hannah's room. I even started it weeks ago...only to have it sit in the sewing room collecting dust while I became a professional third-trimester couch potato. So this morning, when Jonathan said he'd watch Hannah all day so that I could do some sewing, this was the first project I picked. And not only did I finish the thing, but I've got a tutorial to share with you.

My original idea was to make this myself because Pottery Barn charges $150 for their canopy. I wanted to make a similarly cute canopy, but not pay so much. I think I succeeded. I made the doll using materials I had on hand, but even if you were to buy fabric, stuffing, thread, and yarn, you'd probably spend about $8. The wooden quilting hoop I used for the canopy's structure cost $4. I spent $.25 for a sheet of craft felt for the bodice and crown. The tulle was really the greatest cost. I waited for a sale, where I bought 34 yards of tulle at $.77 a yard. I ended up using 20 yards, meaning $15.40 of tulle. So total cost for me was less than $20. Not counting this enormously long blog post, I'm guessing I spent fewer than 10 hours on the project.

Let me say first of all that along with being a procrastinator, I am not a perfectionist. My motto is most definitely, "good enough is good enough," which you will discover if you look at these pictures carefully enough. But you know what, it's good enough, and I hope that yours is much more beautiful than mine. (Like maybe if you run out of pink thread, you'd go get some more instead of using glaringly out of place white thread.)

One more disclaimer: some of the pictures were taken in pretty bad light. This is because my "sewing room" is actually a desk crammed into the corner of the laundry room, which is lit by one light bulb. So I have some lovely pictures I took at the dining room table, lit by actual sunlight, and some pictures that look like I was working in a dark room, which I was.

This is the longest, most complex tutorial I've done, so I hope it is understandable. To help with this, I've broken it into five main sections:

1. Doll

2. Hair

3. Pink Dress

4. While Canopy

5. Assembly

1. Doll: I used a generic outline for a doll head/body with arms, which measured about 15 inches. I made this from white muslin, cutting two pieces.

a. Sew the front and back pieces together. Clip curves and turn.

b. Stuff, stuff, stuff. I use regular polyester craft filling. Even when you think you have stuffed it enough, stuff some more.

c. Sew up the bottom. I folded under the bottom seams to make a neat seam.
2. Hair. The original Pottery Barn Ballerina Canopy has super cute, in-style hair. I'm not a yarn hair stylist, so mine looks a little more like Granny from the folk art doll I made Hannah last year (yep...thanks for the inspiration, Granny!) However, I did have some lovely yellow yarn, so that looks nice. (Her bun and crown were added last, so instructions for those are later.)

a. Cut a 10 inch piece of cardboard. Wrap the yarn around it 30 times.

b. Keeping the yarn straight, slide it off the cardboard. Machine stitch along the center of the yarn.

c. Cut the yarn opposite the seam.

d. Using matching yarn, sew the hair to the doll's forehead, about one inch below the top seam. I used a darning needle for this, just because it's easier to thread. (This is a picture of the doll face-up.)

e. Flip the hair to the back of the head. Tuck the loose ends of the hair under (lengths will be uneven), and sew along the nape of the neck, using matching yarn.

If necessary, sew a stitch or two where the ears would be, to keep the hair out of her face. (The Pottery Barn Canopy actually has ears, but I figured that less is more.)

f. This isn't actually hair, but this is when I embroidered the face on. This is probably the thing I was the least happy with, so if you make one of these, I'd love to see a picture of how yours turns out.
3. Pink Dress. To keep things simple (and less expensive), I made the bodice of the dress from felt, rather than sewing a real dress. Since this is going to be hanging from the ceiling, and not actually played with, I figured that looks matter more than durability.

a. Make the bodice the same size as the doll's body, sleeveless, and with a scalloped neckline. Cut the front and back the same.

b. Whip-stitch the shoulders together first, then slide it over the doll's head before whip-stitching the side seams. Leave the bottom open.

c. The skirt is made from tulle. I originally bought 16 yards of tulle, intending to make the skirt a four-layer affair, but at the last minute, I decided to go with two layers. It definitely could have handled all four layers, and if you want a really full look (or if you're using a very light pink), go ahead and use the extra fabric. The truth: I cheaped out. I thought the extra 8 yards were too expensive, and I hoarded them away for a future tutu.

Keeping the tulle folded in half lengthwise, sew a long seam about 1 inch from the center fold. Use a long basting stitch. This forms a tube for gathering the skirt. (This is where the obvious white tread comes in...) Let me tell you: sewing 8 yards of fabric takes FOREVER!!!

d. Gather the skirt by pulling a length of ribbon or cording through the tube you just made. This is made easier by attaching a safety pin to one end of the ribbon. I anchored the other end by tying it to my scissors. I cut two feet of ribbon, which was plenty.

It really doesn't look like that much when it's all gathered together!

e. Adjust the ribbon so that it just fits around the bottom of the doll's body. Tie the ribbon. Spread the gathers evenly around the length of the skirt. Using small hand stitches, attach the skirt, making sure to catch the ribbon in your stitches.

At this point, Hannah kidnapped the doll and danced though the house with her. It was pretty cute...
4. White Canopy. This is the shortest bit to explain, but probably took me the longest. Most of this was spent decided how long to make the canopy. The Pottery Barn Ballerina Canopy is a total of 107 inches long, according to their website. My canopy began about 24 inches from the top. Jonathan and I engaged in much discussion, and finally decided to make the white panels 5 feet long, which makes my canopy hang nicely around the edges of Hannah's toddler bed.

During this discussion, we realized that this would depend on how high your ceilings are. Ours are 8 foot ceilings; if yours are 10 foot, you'd want longer white panels. After I finished the whole thing, we decided not to hang it over Hannah's bed because she'd probably pull it down while she was NOT sleeping (one of her favorite past times). We tried it out over her coloring table, where it was quite far from the floor (like 18 inches). The moral is, really think about how long you need this to be for your space before you start cutting!

a. The hoop that gives the canopy definition is the inside of a 24 inch wooden quilter's hoop. This works well because it is light weight, and relatively inexpensive.

b. It took seven panels of doubled-over tulle to go around my hoop (each panel was left folded along the center fold.) I cut each panel to five feet long (see above.)

c. Using hot glue, attache the tulle, creating pleats that are approximately 6 inches wide. This creates a three-layer ruffle (across, back, and across again).

5. Assembly. After making all the pieces, putting it all together was pretty exciting. I was a little stumped about how to attach the doll to the hoop, and finally decided to raid Jonathan's tackle box and do it with fishing line. This worked really nicely, because it was "invisible," and it tied in really nice knots.

a. Attach the doll to the hoop. Begin by laying the doll with her skirt wrong-side-up on the work surface. Lay the hoop with the canopy wrong-side-up over the top of the skirt.

b. Cut four, three foot lengths of fishing line. Using a sewing needle, attach one length of fishing line to the center of the bottom of the doll's body. Secure with knots.

b. Make the first spoke by measuring 12 inches between the doll's body and the hoop, attach the fishing line to the hoop. Repeat for the other end of the fishing line, opposite from the first spoke. If necessary, use a sewing needle to bring the fishing line through the white tulle at the edge of the hoop.

c. Repeat this process three more times, making eight spokes equal distance from each other.

d. When you turn the doll over, the skirt should fall over the hoop, with the canopy inside of it.

e. Make the doll's bun by winding a ball of yarn, about 1 inch in diameter.

f. Make the crown using a scrap of felt used for the bodice. My crown was 1 inch high and 5 inches long. Attach the crown to the bun using hot glue.

g. Make a loop for hanging the canopy using fishing line. With a sewing needle, attach the fishing line to the top of the doll's head through the hair (do not attach the fishing line to the hair itself - it's not strong enough to hold all the weight.) Tie at the top to create a loop.

h. Hot glue the bun/crown to the hair over the place where the fishing line is attached, at the top and center of the doll's head. Make sure to leave the fishing line free for hanging the canopy.

And there you have it! I was so excited to finally finish this, that I danced a jig. Hannah was estatic that she had this wonderful doll/tent/awesomness for her room.

In spite of the picture of Hannah sitting under the canopy, we didn't actually hang it today. We're still trying to decide where it should go, since we ruled out over the bed. Maybe this is just as well, since ballerina/princess canopies don't really go with Elmo sheets anyway...


  1. Thanks, Delia. Would you ever put something this girly in your daughter's bedroom?

  2. Just stumbbled on to your blog when searching for the PBK ballerina canopy. Great job. I do a little sewing myself, and am tempted to try making it..... but I have never seen tulle at the prices you listed on sale here in Austin, TX.... so I may just cave in and spend the money. Great job again and thanks for sharing the directions. Just in case I can get tulle at a reasonable price, where did you get the pattern for the doll's body or did you make it?

  3. Thanks for your comment. I bought the tulle on sale at Hobby Lobby. I noticed that they had two types, and I went for the cheaper one! I drew the doll pattern myself. I hope you do make one - the sewing was really minimal. Please share if you make one!


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