How to make a Wedding Veil in an Afternoon
Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Veils can be expensive. Like, really expensive. Although they've come down in price a little bit now that so many people are making and selling veils on sites like Etsy, it's difficult to find exactly what you want. Even moreso if what you want includes any type of beading or lace.
My brother's wedding is coming up soon and that means it's time to make a veil for my soon-to-be sister! The veil of her dreams includes both lace and beading which means DIY is the way to go and this veil will be my wedding gift to her.
This tutorial will be part 1 of 2 - in this part, we'll make the basic veil. In part 2, we'll add lace and beads. If you want a basic veil without lace or beads, this part is all you need! What's great about simple veils is you really can make them in an afternoon. So, if you're in a rush, this tutorial should help you make time crunch!
Before we jump into making, let's discuss some general questions.
Q: What do I need to make this project?
A: To make a veil, you will need:
Tulle - see note below on how much to buy. You could also use organza or a very fine cotton/linen fabric. Be sure the bride will be able to see where they're walking!
A hair comb (I like about a 3 inch comb)
Enough ribbon to cover the top of the comb plus a few inches (optional but pretty)
-->Any type of ribbon will work here - you can also use some leftover tulle if you don't have ribbon on hand and are in a rush.
-->If you prefer that the edge be finished in ribbon as well, be sure you have enough to go all the way around the veil's perimeter.
Rolled hem foot (see hem options below)
Fabric scissors OR rotary cutter & cutting mat
A long ruler or meter stick or straight edge
Fabric marker or similar to mark the tulle (I like the water-soluble kind)
Hand sewing needle
Thimble (optional but recommended)
Q: How long does it take to make?
A: A basic veil can be completed in an afternoon. If you stitch more slowly or are working entirely by hand, it may take a weekend's worth of sewing. Adding lace and beading takes longer and depends on how much you intend to add.
Q: How difficult is this pattern?
A: A basic veil can be made by anyone who can sew along a curve. The trickiest part is actually dealing with how light the tulle is - it will want to pull and stretch itself out. Other skills needed: hand sewing a whip stitch, gathering fabric, sewing a rolled hem (or binding with ribbon).
Q: Do I need to figure anything out before starting?
A: Yes - decide how long you want your veil to be (see note below on length) and what style of veil you want. I quite like this post from Cassandra Lynne on types of veils. The only differences between the shapes are (1) where the comb is placed and (2) how much of the fabric is gathered into it. See my note below on shaping.
Tips, Notes, & Learnings
(Veil Length & Purchasing Fabric) While standard veil length exist and are a great reference if you don't have access to the intended wearer, the best way to figure out how long the veil should be is to measure.
Have the wearer put their hair in (approximately) the location it will be for the big day and start your measurement from there. End where the wearer requests for the length of the veil. This photo of Barbie shows a 6 inch length for a fingertip veil.
Importantly, if the veil will have layers (most do), remember to multiply the length by the number of layers before purchasing your fabric. In the example shown in other images (and in most veils), there are two layers. So in Barbie's case, I would need 12 inches of fabric for length.
In the case of my sister's veil, top of bun to fingertips was about 40 inches, so I needed 80 inches of fabric. Also remember to add a bit extra for seam allowance and to wrap the comb. In total, I ordered 2 1/2 yards of fabric (90 inches).
As far as fabric width is concerned, if you are buying from a large store like Joann's (as I did), your options will be somewhat limited. At most, you'll be able to choose between 108" wide and 72" wide. If shopping online or at a very well-stocked store, you may see even wider options. You'll use the entire width (minus the selvages) making the veil, so width affects the "fluffiness" of the veil. The wider the fabric, the more volume the veil will have.
For very long veils, particularly cathedral length or anything else that will reach the floor, also remember that the full width will be on display behind the bride. If it's too wide, it won't drag well and could also overtake the aisle!
For most veils, 72 inch width (6 feet, ~2 meters) is just fine.
(Hemming options) There are two ways most veils are finished at the edges - a rolled hem or a trimmed hem. The tutorial below uses a rolled hem, created with a machine's rolled hem foot (they can also be done by hand).
A trimmed hem can be done with any sort of trim that will go all the way around the edge of the veil. A grosgrain or satin ribbon is a common one seen in larger stores. To sew a trimmed hem instead of the rolled hem:
Pin the trim to the veil's border with wrong sides together. Overlap a few inches and tuck under the ends of the trim to prevent fraying.
Sew all the way around, working as close to the edge of the fabric and trim as possible.
Flip the trim so the right side is now showing on top of the right side of the veil. Press carefully and on low heat. Pin in place as you press.
Stitch the trim down on the right side of the fabric, again working close to the edge. If using a delicate trim, you may need to do this by hand.
(Controlling veil shape) Overall veil shape is controlled by two things:
The location of the hair comb
The amount of fabric gathered into the comb.
You could add a third to that list - fabric stiffness - but that affects moreso the overall "floofiness" of the veil and not the actual shape.
Again, I quite like this post from Cassandra Lynne on types of veils for browsing different types of veils. In the tutorial below, the instructions create a Cascading side Two Tier slash Center Gathered veil (notice in the linked article, they are just about identical). In this case, the comb is near the center of the veil and only the center 1/3 of the width is gathered into the comb.
In the photo shown here from my own wedding, you see a Mantilla veil, but with the comb placed about 2 feet back from the front edge of the veil to create a blusher. Very little fabric was gathered into the comb which creates a smoother look with more even edges around the side.
A "standard" veil, like the one shown here, will follow the same methods but gather all or nearly all of the fabric width into the comb. This creates a straighter fall to the floor.
The other thing that affects shape is how the material is cut. Generally, it's either an oval, circle, or rounded rectangle. Very few veils will use sharp corners as this makes hemming much more difficult. Generally speaking, oval or rounded rectangle will not affect the overall shape by too too much. To decide which to use, consider how you want the bottom of the veil to look (either at the wearer's back or following them on the floor).
How to Make a Basic Wedding Veil
This tutorial is written to make a center gathered cascading veil. The measurements given are for a fingertip length. Notes are included for where changes should be made to adjust shape and length. Part 2 will include directions for adding small details like lace and beading.
(Step 0) Prepare the fabric by pressing gently and on low heat. Check for any stains or threads that need to be removed and take care of them now.
Determine the veil's length (add an inch or two for seam allowance and gathers) and shape.
(Step 1) Cut the fabric to size.
First, cut the fabric to the length required. The easiest way to do this is to fold the fabric in half lengthwise (hotdog style), measure the length down the folded edge, and use a long ruler to square off and cut the edge with a rotary cutter.
If using very wide fabric, you may want to fold it in half twice (cutting through 4 layers at once) to help ensure the length is consistent all the way across.
Once the length is cut, it's time to get rid of the selvedges and even out the long edges. Keep the fabric folded as is, then fold again widthwise (hamburger style) so that the selvedges are all stacked together on one side and fit on your cutting space (4 layers).
For very long veils, you may want to fold a second time to get all the fabric on the table (8 layers).
Using a long ruler or straight edge, cut off the selvedges so that the corners of the fabric are 90 degrees and even along the long edge.
Don't toss the scraps - you'll use them later!
(Step 2) Trim the corners into shape.
The photos shown here are for a rounded rectangle, so be sure to adjust if you prefer an oval or circular veil.
With the fabric still folded into quarters from the previous step (folded once lengthwise and once widthwise), the corners of the veil should all be stacked together. Pin along the edges and/or weigh them down to prevent the layers from slipping.
Because tulle is so thin, it's very difficult to draw directly on it. To get around this, I used a large piece of paper and marked where I wanted to the corner curve to start and end. Then, with the fabric not on the paper, I freehanded a line in pencil, fussing until I liked the look of the curve.
Next, put the paper underneath the tulle. Using a fabric marker, I dotted along the line to transfer the curve to the fabric. Finally, I removed the paper once more and cut along the line.
Because the fabric is stacked, this should create four identical curves at the corners. For an oval, the curve will start and end at the folds. For a circle, measure from the innermost corner (the part that will be the center of the veil when the fabric is unfolded) to the nearest edge - that will be your radius. Measure this distance from the center and mark, rotating the ruler slowly to form the curve until you reach the other folded edge.
(Step 3) Hem the edges.
For my veils, I like to use a rolled hem. This creates a hem that will prevent the tulle from fraying with very minimal visual impact. If you prefer to use a trimmed hem, see the short instructions above.
If you need the veil today, skip this and try to be very careful handling the veil so the edges don't fray or get caught on anything.
Quick check: Before sewing, use a scrap piece of tulle to adjust the tension first!
To get started with the hem, begin along one side of the veil with the wrong side up. Insert the fabric into the rolled hem foot so that the needle is starting over a piece of rolled fabric. Lower the foot and begin to sew.
The trick to working with a rolled hem foot, I've found, is to make use of both hands and work slowly, especially around curves. As shown in the clip above, I like to use my right index finger and thumb to guide the fabric and help it to start folding over before it reaches the foot. I then use my left index finger to push or pull the fabric to control how much fabric is being rolled into the foot. I keep my left index finger under the roll created by my right hand and the foot to help me see clearly the amount of tulle being rolled into the hem so I can adjust as needed.
Work all the way around the veil's hem, overlapping just a little bit.
After finishing the hem, check all the way around, looking for places where the hem needs to be corrected - fix these by hand as needed.
(Step 4) Press the veil.
Do this with a low iron and be sure that the new hem is behaving itself. Often, rolled hems like to try and make a wave along the edges. Pressing the hem helps keep that in check.
(No photo because the tulle wasn't showing up on the camera).
(Step 5) Prepare the comb.
Using the scraps from earlier, it's time to wrap the comb. You could also do this with ribbon or even garment tape, but I find it's a great time to make use of what would otherwise go to waste. The selvedges work very well for this step. The goal here is to make a platform to which we'll stitch the veil later.
You'll need a piece of tulle about 1 inch wide by about a yard long.
Starting at one end of the comb, hold the end of the tulle strip in place with your thumb. Then, begin to wrap the tulle around the end of the comb about 3-4 times.
Wrap your way across the comb, working 2-3 wraps between each of the comb's teeth and covering the starting end of the strip. Adjust the number of wraps depending on how much bulk you want at the comb.
When you reach the other side, wrap 3-4 times around the end of the comb, then pull the remaining bit of the strip around the back of the comb towards the center. Trim the excess strip and fold under the end so no raw edges are showing. Pin in place.
Stitch the end of the strip into place by hand. If needed, now is a good time to stitch the ends to themselves as well to prevent any slipping.
(Step 6) Gather the veil.
For most veils, you will have two layers of fabric. If you want a blusher, the comb will go on the underside (wrong side) of the veil and you will not need to fold the fabric in half first as shown. If you want a mantilla style veil like the one from my wedding photo above, skip this step entirely - no gathers are needed.
To get started gathering, fold the fabric in half widthwise (hamburger style). Most veils leave one layer a bit longer than the other - now is the time to play around with that option. I made the top layer about 10 inches shorter than the bottom layer to highlight the lace edging I will add later.
If you don't want a blusher but only want one layer of fabric, skip the folding.
Mark with pins where you will gather the fabric. This determines the shape of the veil. For a cascading veil as shown, you will gather the center 1/3 of the fabric along the fold. For a standard veil, you will gather all the way along the width of the fabric.
Using a running stitch, baste along the gather line, staying within the area you marked with pins (use a sewing machine on the longest stitch size to do this in a hurry).
Best practice when gathering is to do this twice about 1/4 inch apart and about 1/4 inch from the fold. This will give you the most control when gathering the fabric.
(Step 7) Pin the veil to the comb.
Pull on the ends of the basting threads to gather the fabric to the size of the comb. For most veils, this will not mean pulling as tightly as possible.
Pin the gathers into place along the top of the comb. Hold the ends of the basting threads in place by wrapping them tightly around a pin and pinning to the veil.
For non-gathered veils, lay out your veil fabric and decide where you want the comb to be. Then, pin to the comb.
STOP and check the style before sewing! This is the only time when it will be easy to change the shape of the veil. If you're stitching solo, you can use the timer on your camera to get a photo while you model the veil.
(Step 8) Stitch the veil to the comb.
By hand, stitch the veil to the comb, working the needle into the wrapped fabric from before.
Keep your stitches small and make sure every gather is stitched down.
When finished, remove the basting threads from earlier.
(Step 9) Cover the gathered edge.
This step is completely optional, but makes for a prettier comb. Skip if you're pressed for time.
Cut a length of ribbon the size of your comb plus a few inches. If you're using grosgrain ribbon, carefully use a flame to melt the ends of the ribbon (do not do this with natural fibers).
Pin the ribbon in place along the comb so that it covers the edges of the gathers and the stitching from attaching the veil to the comb.
Stitch into place along the top and bottom, wrapping the ends of the ribbon around the back of the comb.
For natural fiber ribbons, tuck under the ends of the ribbon before stitching into place to prevent fraying.
For veils where the comb is completely underneath the tulle, the ribbon won't wrap around. Simply tuck under the ends and keep the ribbon along the top of the comb.
That's all for now, friends! Next time, we'll look at how to add lace and beading, including some options for design.
May all your veils be marvelous - I'd love to see them! Share your thoughts and creations with me here in the comments and on Instagram @craftematics!
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