Recently I acquired some inherited lace trims from my grandmother's stash. I’m not sure how I will use these particular trims, but I was drawn to them like a baby reaching for the bright and shiny toy above her crib and couldn't say no. I relish the fact that lace exists purely as a decorative and beautiful fabric, with no real technical or functional purpose. Many textiles were developed with specific functional aspects in mind, for example, twill and denim for durability or knitted fabrics for flexibility and thermal comfort. The purpose of lace is to be beautiful, to enhance the beauty of the wearer, and in earlier times, to indicate the wealth of the wearer, as it was so costly to produce.
As far as textiles go, lace is also old. Samples have been found in the tombs of ancient Egypt and the coffins of medieval saints. The word lace refers to ornamented open-work of threads of various fibers including cotton or silk or precious metals like gold or silver. It was first made by hand using needles or bobbins, usually referred to as needle lace and bobbin lace, although there are many other varieties including knitted and crocheted lace. Lace can also be made by machine.
I’ve had some lace fabrics languishing in my stash for a while and lately it seems that lace has come into vogue again, so I thought it might be fun to sew something up. The idea of using lace in a non-formal, more casual way really works for me, as my life and my style is rather informal. As well, I like the contrast of a simple, unfussy garment, like a pullover top, made with a fancy fabric like lace.
The lace I used for this project is a beige toned, machine made non-stretch allover lace with a scalloped edge on both selvedge edges. The pattern is from Hot Patterns.com and is 1136 Plain & Simple Essential Shift Dress & Top. I made the v-neck version with the 3/4 length sleeves. The dropped waist seam allowed me to use the scallops on both the top and bottom edges and created a flattering slight a-line shape at the bottom.
In spite of it’s fancy and complex surface, lace is relatively easy to sew. Laying out a pattern takes some thought and attention, especially if you want to use the scallops on every edge as I did. You can get all couture and matchy and piece it all by hand, cutting out along motif edges and seaming the bits together to create a continuous pattern throughout your garment. Or you can focus on placement of the edges and creating basic symmetry with the motifs which is what I did. I sewed it together on the machine using a very narrow zig-zag with a short stitch length. I finished the seam allowances together on the serger with a narrow 3-thread stitch. The finished seam allowances are very narrow. You could also just trim your seam allowances and use the narrow zig-zag stitch in a 2nd pass to finish the edges instead of the serger. I hand tacked the seam allowances down at the openings, the neckline, the hem and the sleeves.
The top underneath was made using Kwik Sew pattern 3524, with a silky stretch satin lycra fabric, view A. Stretch fabrics, including stretch laces, and sewing lingerie will be another story. And other favorite sewing projects. More on that coming soon.