Adventures in Dressmaking: Highly requested Sewing Circle: How to sew on lace!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Highly requested Sewing Circle: How to sew on lace!

I've had several of you ask about sewing on lace when I've done posts about dresses I've made using lace fabric, net, or stretch lace or net. I can see how you could be intimidated, but it's really not too hard if you're careful! Here's a Sewing Circle question from Megan about the topic, and my answer, mixed in with questions I've received in comments and other places, answered here! So hopefully this can be a good resource for you about sewing on lace, and please chime in if you have additional tips for us!!

Q: I have a question about lace.  I'd like to make a dress with lace (a lot like your white one with polka dots--I'm even using 2444) but I have no idea how to work with lace.  All of the tutorials I can find are for wedding dresses, which suggest hand-stitching every single seam, which is just not happening.  Any suggestions?

A: For me, sewing on lace isn't really harder or more accident-prone than sewing on other fabric, so don't worry too much about it! And depending on the lace you're using, your seam allowances may not even show through if you construct the dress normally--that's what happened on the net sequin dress I made. But, if you want to be really sure you don't have any lines/cut edges/doubled-up places showing through, you'll want to make the dress the way you would an unlined one--but you use a lining, and treat it as an interlining.

An interlining is an extra layer of lining fabric between the lining and the fashion fabric. Although it's also an interlining if you don't have a normal lining layer; you're basically interfacing the fashion fabric with your lining.  The way I made the ivory polka dot dress is, just the lace and lining treated as interlining. Here's a pic of the inside construction.

As you can see, I treated the outer net fabric and the sturdy lining as one fabric, and put the darts in them together, sewed the seams together, etc. the seams don’t show at all on the outside! If I had wanted the seam allowance to be hidden in the armholes, I could have done a faux French seam (use a faux one on curves, not a normal French seam, by giving them a 5/8” seam allowance, pressing open, then turning both pieces under ¼” and sewing on top of them at the very edge), but I didn’t care. I made this really quickly!

Although—I didn’t totally treat them as the same fabric. The first thing I did was sew the shoulder seams of both the lining and the net, then sew the pieces together around the neck edge, as shown in the picture below. Then, I did the sideseams and darts treating the lining and interlining as one like you saw in the picture above.


If you make a sleeveless dress, you could do this or make a facing at the neckline and definitely make a facing for the armholes, or a partial lining/facing that covers both areas and stops below the armpits. Here’s a tutorial on how to do that. Or, you can do what I did here, where I gave the edges a bias binding rather than a full lining or facing.

Q: I'm scared of sewing with lace - do you have tips on that? My main concern is the visibility of the seams.

A: I’d say get a lining that matches exactly if you can, preferably something not too lightweight. You definitely want something substantial since the lace is see-through! You may want to use an interlining (sew like it’s part of the lace) as well as a true lining (constructed separately, then put with the outside right sides together like you would any other dress). That's what I did on this dress with a lace bodice.

Other lace tips:
  • About finishing the edges: Lace doesn't really ravel, so you could also very carefully cut the edges and leave them alone.
  • If you're worried about hurting the lace: When you're sewing it, a straight stitch along the edge of the pieces will help keep it from stretching.
  • If you're worried about seams showing through: You could use organza to stabilize the lace and make it less sheer.  Cut the lace and organza as one piece and sew or pin them together before constructing the garment--the organza is your interlining and will make it much easier to hem and, depending on your full lining fabric, just a little more substantial.
  • Also: Threads Magazine online has a fantastic issue for working with lace (embellishing it, too). Might even have several posts online to view.
Other Sewing Circle tips and examples of lace projects:
So, I hope that helps out, Megan and other readers! And please, if you have any great tips for sewing with lace, leave a comment and/or link! Would love to hear them.

5 comments:

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  1. Great tips! Lace is such a beautiful fabric and I hate that anyone would be detered from using it because they are afraid or don't know how to handle it.

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    1. Thanks! Totally. It doesn't have to be harder than sewing with anything else--and it's more cooperative than some slinky polys!

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  2. I'm probably more intimidated by linings and interlinings than I am about working with lace! ;) You covered this nicely, and I hope people won't be afraid to work with different kinds of materials. You rock!

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    1. Linings, that would also be a good Sewing Circle post! Thanks!

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