Tulle is versatile enough to use for any festive occasion. Take advantage of the easy-to-manipulate fabric to add color, texture and personal style to a plain banister for any holiday or event. You can make your staircase the focal point of your decorating by using tulle on its own or in combination with other design elements.
Working With Tulle
Tulle drapes well and holds its shape without looking stiff. It easily is cut and doesn't fray at the edges, making it ideal for a no-sew project. Tulle usually is sold from a bolt in widths from 54 to 108 inches, and often comes a bit wrinkly from being folded around the bolt. You'll get the best look if you gently press the tulle before you start decorating. Because it is a delicate synthetic and could melt under a hot iron, use a low iron setting, often marked "synthetics," and place a press cloth such as a pillowcase or clean tea towel between the tulle and the iron as you work. Whenever you use tulle -- or any fabric -- on a staircase, it should not drape onto the steps, and there should be an available handrail clear of any decoration for safety.
Formal and Informal Swags
Formal swags are crescent-shaped swoops of fabric set at regular intervals, like parade bunting. Get a classic stacked effect such as you see in formal window treatments by folding the width of the tulle in 4- to 6-inch accordion pleats that run its entire length, and fastening off sections with twist ties or string. Pull down the bottom edge of the tulle in the center of each section to the depth you want it to hang. Measuring the banister before you start helps determine how long you want to make each section and how much tulle you need. Make informal swags by tying off a long length of tulle to one end of the banister and looping it at either regular or random widths -- adjusting the swagged portions until they hang the way you like. Wired bunches of flowers, clusters of shatterproof ornaments, or bows secure the tulle where it meets the banister and hides any wires or ties.
Ribbons and Bows
Tulle is an ideal fabric for making large bows to tie onto banisters and decorate newel posts, because it holds its shape so well. Use them in combination with tulle swags or with other fabric or floral arrangements. Cut tulle into long strips several times wider than you need and bunch them width-wise to simply wrap banisters; thread the tulle through the balusters as you wrap over the top of the banister for a simple decoration, or weave tulle strips through a garland of foliage or flowers you plan to use on the banister. Create a garland of ruched tulle by running two parallel lines of basting stitch through the center of long, narrow strips of tulle; pulling the bobbin threads gathers them up to form a ribbon that looks like a ballerina's tutu. Whenever you sew tulle on a sewing machine, use a straight-stitching foot that can grip the fine fabric, a small needle such as a 60/8 and an all-purpose thread.
Combinations and Special Techniques
Because of tulle's translucent quality and the wide range of colors and styles it comes in, you can get dramatic effects by combining two or more colors or types. Layering can create blended colors; you could braid three colors together for a thick ribbon -- braiding tight or loose alters the effect, size and flexibility of the ribbon; or you can alternate and interweave colors. For instance, create a long swag in white along a banister and overlay it with a swag in another color, offset so you see both in a series of crisscrossing swoops. You can gather, cut or fold tulle to create large flowers or pompoms to use as design elements, or wrap strands of cool-burning LED lights inside gathered tulle before weaving them around or swagging them across a banister.
Patricia Hamilton Reed has written professionally since 1987. Reed was editor of the "Grand Ledge Independent" weekly newspaper and a Capitol Hill reporter for the national newsletter "Corporate & Foundation Grants Alert." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University, is an avid gardener and volunteers at her local botanical garden.