Saturday, October 10, 2009

Make It: Sparkly Mermaid Tail

This tutorial was originally posted on my personal blog. I hope you love it!

My girls both want to be mermaids for Halloween this year, so I went to the costume shop... and the mermaid tails were like, $30 a piece, for little scraps of fabric in the general shape of a tail. Sickening. So what did I do? I high-tailed it out of there (har har) and hit up the nearest fabric store.

"Okay, kids. Pick out two fabrics each," I said once we were in the fancy party dress section of the fabric shop. The glittery sequin fabric instantly caught 4 year old Gracie and 2 year old Annelie's eye. Go figure. Then, they each picked out a glitter-infused organza (for the fins).

Total cost of fabric for TWO mermaid tails? $12. Can't beat that. Want to make mermaid tails of your own? Here's how!

*NOTE: my kids are preschool/toddler age. Gracie, the oldest, is about the size of an average 5 year old. If you have older kids, you may need more fabric!

**Also, Halloween gets a bit cold, so they are both wearing long cotton pants under their tails. Definitely give yourself enough room when you are measuring the fabric, to fit pants under their tails, if you need to!

1/2 yard each, of two different fabrics - 1 sequin stretch fabric, 1 organza fabric (with glitter sparkles!)
Straight pins
Fray stopping liquid (I use Fray Check)
Elastic (mine measures 1/4 in. - nice and stretchy!)
Sewing Machine (yes, you will need basic sewing skills)
Optional Bead - for the center of the waist

Okay, first things first... This tutorial might look a bit daunting, because I took about a million and ten photos, but really, it is super easy. I tried to be as thorough as I could, so don't be dismayed by the photos! If you are confused at all, please leave questions in the comments section!
Step 1:
Wrap sequined fabric around your kiddo's waist, making sure the tail is as long as you can get it. Cut, so that when you sew, you have a straight tube of fabric. Make sure you give them room to walk!

Step 2:
Make sure you have plenty of room to roll over the waist, to fit in the elastic. This is your last step, so give yourself plenty of room, now! If your tail isn't long enough - reaching her ankles - you can use the extra sequin fabric to lengthen it. My sequin scraps weren't wide enough, so I tapered the bottom of the tail a little (my red tail), and then sewed the strip of sequin fabric to that.

Step 3:
Try it on your kids! If they will be wearing pants under their tails, make sure there is enough room!

Step 4:
Once the tails are on your kiddo, cut the bottom into a V, so that the bottom point of the V is just above the ankles.

Time for the tail fins!

Step 5:
Pin one organza strip to one side of the front, with pleats so that as you sew, you get a lovely ruffle. You will only be pleating the FRONT of the tail, and sewing the back flat - it looks fantastic this way, but if you want to pleat both front and back of the fins, you may need more organza. NOTE: Make sure you leave about 2 inches at the tip... you will be rounding that off with scissors once it is sewn on.

Step 6:
Pin fabric on front side of the V with pleats (sorry you have to pin... I hate pinning... but its worth it in the end, I promise!)

Step 7:
Sew! Don't worry about the back of the tail at this point... just get the front sewn.

Step 8:
Round off the bottom of the V. Don't worry about making this perfect. The fin will be so full and fluffy that imperfections will be hidden.
Step 9:
Use Fray-stopping solution everywhere you cut the organza and let dry completely before moving on.

REPEAT on other side of the front V

Step 10:
Sew the back - just fold the remaining ends of the organza over to the back of the tail, pin in place and sew straight. You should have just enough to give yourself about 2 inches off the end, which you'll round off and Fray-check.

Then, make sure all the organza is cleanly cut, and all ends have been touched with the no-fray solution.

Yay, bottom done! Time for the waist!
Step 11:
Measure elastic and sew in a hoop. Make sure it is nice and tight and won't pull apart!

Step 12:
Stick the tail on your kiddo, and then take the left over organza strip and wrap it around her waist. The organza doesn't stretch, so give yourself a bit of room for stretchiness when you cut.
Then, sew the organza into a tube and fit it over the un-sewn waist of the tail.

Step 13: Put your worker-monkey to work!

Fold over the top of the tail (the sequin fabric and organza together). Slip in the circle of elastic. Have your worker-monkey (er... I mean kid) pull the elastic tight, and pin the folds over, so you can sew the elastic in.

Okay, okay, I know this isn't traditionally the way people put elastic in a skirt. Your thinking, OMG, Marisa what are you doing??... why didn't we just put the elastic in during the first step, using a safety pin, like a normal person, and then sew closed?

But let me tell ya... when I made this skirt, I was designing as I went (aka totally winging it), and I didn't know how much organza I'd have left for this part. Since I KNEW that this step was going to be easier than it looks on paper... er, computer screen... I left it for last. Have no fear, people! Sewing the circle of elastic in this way isn't hard at all.
See? Totally easy. And you are just about finished now.

Step 14:
Pinch the organza around the center on the front and sew. You can add a bead to the center, if you like, to give the tail a bit of pearly bling! Repeat for the back.

And VOILA! You are done. Now just grab your littlest mermaid and try on her tail.

When I see this picture, I can't help thinking, "Her name was Lola, she was a show girl..."

Seriousy, wasn't that easy? And affordable? And ridiculously adorable?

Yes, yes and yes!




  1. I LOVE this. I may just make one for myself for Halloween this year. LOL

  2. What a great tutorial! I've used a pattern for one before and your method is so much more easy to understand and accomplish. Thanks for sharing!

  3. For the fin, did you fold the fabric over to create two for each fin and waist?


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