Choosing to sew with lace conjures up thoughts of all sorts of tricky professional techniques, however, with careful planning and a few helpful tips you will find sewing with this classical fabric an easy and rewarding experience. It’s time to go ahead and make an item of elegance as you learn how to sew lace.
It’s time to embrace sewing lace
L – lovely
A – antique
C – classic
E – elegance……that’s lace
How to Sew Lace
Always start by making sure you have the right tools for the task.
You will need
- Fine sewing pins
- Sharp sewing needles. If you are sewing stretch lace you will need stretch needles.
- A machine which will sew zigzag or a serger machine to sew the seams
Before you start it is important to lay out your lace and let it ‘stretch and breathe’ while you contemplate the best way to bring out all the finer points of this amazing fabric. Leave it overnight if necessary to let any wrinkles relax.
Sewing with lace will require some patience and planning, but the end result will be very satisfying as you turn it into a stunningly original outfit.
There are three techniques to choose from, depending on the type of lace you are working with:
Techniques for Sewing Lace
- Stretch lace will need a technique to cope with both the stretch and lace combination
- Sheer lace, which is very see through, will need a lining
- Fully patterned lace may need to be partly lined
Sewing Stretch Lace
Stretch lace can be treated like stretch fabric for cutting and preparing.
Always use sharp scissors when cutting and be careful not to stretch the lace out of shape as you cut. A sharp rotary cutter can also give you nice clean edges.
Make sure you are using a stretch needle to avoid skipped stitches.
When your pattern pieces are ready, decide on a seam style to get the finish you want.
Seam styles for stretch lace:
- The zigzag stitch on your machine works well but tests the tension on a scrap of fabric before you start. Start testing a zig-zag stitch with a width of 1.5 a length of 2.5 and adjust to suit your lace.
- Consider a French seam if there is not too much bulk in the lace. (how to sew French seams)
- Bias bound seams are good to strengthen shoulders but generally too bulky for the remainder of the garment.
- Using a serger to stitch the edges is ideal.
Play around a little and perfect the type of seam you think will best suit your garment and fabric.
Sewing Sheer Lace
Sheer lace generally has a finer and more open pattern and will need to be lined or partly lined.
A variation on the lining: Choose to have the lining show through the lace with the shiny side or the matte side up. Alternatively, think about a contrast lining as another way to show off the lace. Imagine a bright pink peeking out from behind your white lace!
Before you start always pin and baste meticulously to avoid lace slipping and the frustration of unpicking.
The fully lined option:
- Cutting: Clever planning and cutting will make sure you get the best out of your fabric. It is a good idea to cut the lining out and then use the lining as the pattern pieces for cutting out the lace. This enables you to place the lining pieces individually on the lace to get the best out of the design.
- Ready to sew: When you have your pieces ready to sew, start by stitching the lining to neaten areas like necklines. Turn the neatened necklines so the lining is on the inside of the garment. Trim closely to the stitching line.
- Darts: The darts also look neater and lie better if they are stitched together using the lining and lace to fold together creating one stitch line. (Read how to sew darts)
- Stitch seams: Sew the seams so that lining and lace are all sewn together. This way you to avoid seeing a lace seam on the outside of the lining. The lace and lining seam will be on the inside of the garment.
Sewing Patterned Lace
Patterned lace will generally need a partial lining and seamless seams. This technique is often used for wedding dresses such as the one shown here where the bodice will be partially lined and is suitable for lace with a little more coverage.
When learning how to sew lace, it is important to carefully plan and strategize where to place the denser parts of the lace.
A great example of this is many red carpet dresses with their strategic use of lace to reveal and hide the body for maximum impact.
Partially lining lace:
- Place your pattern pieces on the lace fabric and then with a basting thread and needle, baste in the seam lines so you can see clearly where the lace will be stitched.
- Cut the pieces out individually so you can match up patterns and designs to create a seamless effect.
- Cut the pieces wide of the pattern at the side that is to be ‘seamed’ and then place the thread marked edges together taking care to match the lace design so that the fabric now appears to be one piece.
- Use the zigzag stitch on your machine to zigzag around the design and detail of the lace. You may need to lift your machine foot and turn the lace as you go around delicate corners.
- When you have joined the pieces, cut away excess fabric from the back and you have a clever seamless effect to the lace. Sharp embroidery scissors are ideal for this job.
- Now you can decide on which pieces of the garment will need some lining and which pieces will stand alone showing off their delicate design.
Getting the most out of your piece of lace fabric:
The final outcome of your lace design is going to depend on your own interpretation of the piece of lace you have chosen.
Look at the lace creatively and see how to sew lace and use the borders to finish off the design. Scallops and changes in the design can be used to add interest to your final garment. Sleeves may look better without lining and a scalloped edge makes a great decorative hem. Pretty lining in different shades enhances the beauty of the lace. Covered lace buttons will add an authentic trim.
Make your creation a tribute to the legacy of lace, full of originality and a garment fit for a queen.