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How to Finish the Edge of Lace Fabric

The prospect of sewing with delicate lace gives even experienced home seamstresses pause. Standard finishing techniques for hems and edges can look bulky when you use them with lace. If the lace is fine, a regular hem can distort the line of your garment and make it look poorly made. Unfinished lace unravels and may tear. Seamstresses generally use one of three techniques to finish the edges of lace fabric, depending on whether they want to stiffen the hem to give the garment shape or prefer a softer edge.

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  1. Measure and mark the hemline on your garment with tailor's chalk.

  2. Lay the horsehair flat against the right side of the fabric about 1/8 inch below the marked hemline.

  3. Topstitch along the top of the horsehair braid, keeping close to the edge. Keep the lace moving smoothly to avoid stretching the braid.

  4. Trim the hem allowance on the lace to 1/4 inch.

  5. Turn the horsehair braid to the inside and press with a warm iron to set the fold. Take several small stitches at each seam to tack the horsehair braid in place.

  6. Trim the hem allowance to 1/2 inch.

  7. Fold 1/4 inch of the hem allowance to the inside of the garment. Stitch it in place by hand.

  8. Fold the remaining 1/4 inch to the inside of the garment. Stitch the hem by hand using a blind stitch. For a soft edge, do not press the hem.

  9. Measure the hemline one-half the width of your satin ribbon. Mark it on the right side of the fabric with tailor's chalk.

  10. Cut a piece of ribbon the length of the edge to be finished. Fold the ribbon in half lengthwise. Press the fold with a warm iron.

  11. Open the ribbon out and lay it right side down along the hemline, with the ribbon above the line. Machine-stitch close to the bottom edge of the ribbon, using a short stitch length.

  12. Fold the ribbon down over the hem allowance. Press the fold with a warm iron, being careful not to uncrease the first fold.

  13. Lap the folded edge of the ribbon to the wrong side of the lace edge. Stitch the ribbon to the wrong side of the lace by hand using a blind stitch.

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Things You'll Need

  • Tailor's chalk
  • Horsehair braid
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • Iron
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Thread to match lace fabric
  • Satin ribbon

About the Author

Deb Powers is an avid urban gardener who works with a community collective to promote sustainable urban agriculture and build partnerships between local business owners and community organizations. Powers serves as a social media and marketing consultant for local non-profits and businesses, and is collaborating with a coffee roaster to publish a cookbook highlighting coffee as a culinary ingredient.

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