Lace adds a beautiful romantic touch to any type of garment, especially wedding and christening gowns, blouses and lingerie. Lace is also a lovely embellishment for table cloths, bed linens and hand towels. The delicate surface of lace requires special sewing methods. Traditional techniques for sewing lace have evolved over several centuries and have been adapted to the sewing machine. This article describes some of these traditional techniques for sewing lace by machine or hand.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Lace trim
- Fine, sharp hand or sewing machine needles
- Matching thread
- Spray starch (optional)
Attach flat lace. Flat lace trim usually has one straight edge and one scalloped edge. It can be applied to the edges of sleeves and hems. One way to apply flat lace is to trim the seam allowance of the edge to 0.5cm or 1/4 inch, then roll a narrow hem. For hand sewing, use a whip stitch to secure the rolled hem and attach the lace. When sewing with a machine, first trim the seam to a third of a cm or 1/8 inch, and then use a narrow zigzag stitch to attach the lace to the edge. The zigzag stitch should attach the lace and provide a narrow overcast on the raw edge.
Join flat lace. There are some types of flat lace trim which have two straight edges. This lace can be sewn in rows to create a band of lace. Do this by laying two rows of lace next to each other and using a small hand whipstitch or machine zigzag stitch. Take care not to overlap the edges of the rows when stitching them together.
Attach gathered lace. Flat lace trim can be purchased gathered, or you can gather it yourself. Begin with a piece of flat lace two or three times the desired length. Gather the lace by hand or machine by taking basting stitches and then pulling them up. Gathered lace may be attached using the same techniques as described for flat lace. To insert gathered lace into the seam on the edge of a collar or cuff, sew it to the right side along the seam line with the lace facing toward the garment. When the collar or cuff is sewn to its facing piece, the lace will be sandwiched between the two pieces. Turn the pieces right side out and the gathered lace will extend from the seam.
Create a lace insert. A lace insert is a piece of flat lace trim, usually with two straight edges, which is attached to fabric and then the fabric is cut away beneath the lace. This is an attractive way to highlight the texture of lace. The best way to attach lace for an insert is with a sewing machine. First apply the lace with a straight stitch very close to the straight edge. Then go over the straight stitches with a narrow machine zigzag stitch. After both straight edges have been zigzagged, carefully cut away the fabric under the lace.
Join lace ends. The simplest way to join flat lace is with a small French seam. Begin by stitching the wrong sides together with a small seam of about 1/8 inch. Crease along the seam, then bring the right sides together and stitch again with a 1/8 inch seam. For wide lace trims, the traditional way to join the ends is to appliqué along a motif. Overlap the ends and trim around the edges of a motif on the top layer. If sewing by hand whip stitch along the edge of the motif, then trim away the lower fabric along the motif. For machine sewing, use a narrow zigzag stitch in place of whip stitching.
Tips and warnings
- Apply a light coating of spray starch on lace and fabric before sewing to provide more control.
- Practice sewing scraps of fabric and lace to adjust stitch width and tension.
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