… and for sewing tulle, taffeta, netting, organza, charmeuse… a.k.a sheers!
Lace is feminine, taffeta is airy, netting is fun, tulle is fashionable!
We all LOVE lace and sheers garments! But… sewing them…. aaargh! most sewists HATE it!
It’s not that complicated, if you know my
40+ best tips for: Sewing Lace like a Pro
WARNING: IT’S A LONG ONE!
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I was invited by Lisa @ Mabey she Made it to write a guest post for her blog and I created a tutorial (with a NB to XL measurements chart) for sewing a Couture Lace Skirt (=without raw edges).
A lot of people is scared from sewing lace and this is why I’m listing here all my best tips… and most of them are perfect for sheers too! If you have a pearl of wisdom to add… please share it with us in comments <3
Before you even start
I know, when we want to sew, we want to do it NOW, but: please, do not be tempted skipping these simple steps to be sure you have a pro-result!
- Pre-wash: usually lace comes heavily glued: this is done in factories to make it up and look good. Always better pre-wash it (and, maybe, let it soak in water for a while, before you rinse it) to get rid of all those chemicals…and make it softer! If you feel like it’s hard to keep it in place while sewing, you can spray starch it like you would do if you were sewing rebel knits.
- Pre-Iron: this goes hand-in-hand with the previous one: before you start laying out your sewing pattern above your fabric (lace, sheer or anything else), give it a good ironing to start with a wrinkle-substrate!
- Iron settings: check your fabric fiber content! Your lace or sheer will be almost certainly made with polyester or nylon… be gentle with heat (avoid steam! ) and use a silk organza pressing cloth above your iron to save your precious fabric from becoming shiny.
How to cut
- Does lace really have a right and wrong side? Usually not! Always double check your lace before you start cutting. Check it on natural light and, even if you don’t notice any difference between one side and the other, try to choose one AND STICK WITH IT! Use tailor’s chalk or small stickers on fabric’s “wrong side” (before you go and mark all your pattern pieces, check that it’s going to disappear when you’re done with it, whichever method you choose!)
- Grainline is less important in lace than in regular fabric but, most likely, your lace has a directional design… this IS important!
- Cutting mat and rotary cutter: this is my choice when I need to cut lace or sheers straight. I’m not that good at cutting curves with my rotary (I’m a newbie with it!) so I use scissors… in this case, I use my better ones, perfectly sharpened!
- Use pattern weights instead of pins or, even better, some clear tape to stick the lace to the cutting mat while you cut it, so it won’t go anywhere!
- If you can (and the pattern allows you to do that), try cutting more than one layer of lace at the same time: this will help you achieve a prefect straight cut on all the layers (think those tutu undershirts with so many layers…)
- You can create a scalloped hem if your lace design has a pattern that fits: think flowers or rounded shapes: the only thing you have to do is cut (with the sharpest scissors you have) all around the shapes, leaving short threads: lace usually doesn’t ravel, and you’ll save yourself a hem!
On the sewing machine!
- There’s no special foot (that I know) for sewing lace and sheers. I love to use a clear presser foot to see thought it and better guide my fabric.
- What you absolutely need to do, is be careful with presser foot pointy ends that can get caught inside the lace tiny holes and create a real mess! When they slip through the mesh holes, they stay trapped inside and you end with a lace… with one more (big) hole!
- Again, there isn’t a special kind of needles (that I know…) for lace and sheers. Due to their thinness and fragility, better choose a needle size like 60/8, 65/9 or 70/10 (for thicker laces and sheers). More than ever, you can’t contravene to this often ignored rule: start your project with a new needle!
You can try with:
- a narrow zig-zag (1)
- a short triple straight stitch (12 – perfect for stretch lace too!)
- a triple zig-zag stitch (12)
- any kind of overcasting stitch (10) to keep seam allowances together and prevent them to fray and add strength to your seams
- [using a serger] use a 3-thread (for stretch lace) or a 4-thread stitch (for a stable lace)
Construction Seams and finishing seams
- French seam: this is my favorite way to finish lace and sheers! I used it in my Couture Lace Skirt and my Sheer Plaid Top too, because I love how it gives a huge help in hiding raw edges and add strength to your project, stabilizing it and making it last longer.
- Narrow hem: Another great and clean way to finish a raw edge in sheers and lace; my tip here is turn the hem to the wrong side once to have a stiffer edge to work with. I love using my serger’s narrow hem stitch (see my Stitches 101: Cheat Sheet for settings… and pin it for future reference!)
- If you’re going to finish an edge with bias tape, a good idea can be previously adding some strength to that edge: a wide and short zig-zag or an overcast stitch or even a three-thread serger stitch will give you the right amount of firmness and save you from an unraveling dangling bias edge!
- To make a slightly flouncy edge, use 60 lb. fishing line like this South Bend Monofilament Line, 50-Pound (affiliate link) and fold the tulle or charmeuse (or anything else sheers) over the line along the edge you want to ruffle. Use a narrow zig zag to encase the line. See Amy’s first time with it here, she tried a 40 lb. but suggests a 100lb one for a seriously curvy hem!
Random General Tips
- Try sewing slowly (but steadily) to sew precisely without odd waves left/right.
- Cheat Tip: add a length of Dritz Quilting Washaway Wonder Tape, 1/4 by 25-Yard (affiliate link) for a help in keeping things together while you turn and topstitch edges, for a clean finish easier and faster than a narrow hem.
- Use only sharp pins and scissors, start sewing with a new sharp needle
- Use a straight stitch needle plate and a straight stitch foot to prevent your sewing machine to suck your precious fabric into the needle plate hole. If you don’t have a straight stitch needle plate, stick a piece of a plain clear tape above the needle plate hole to reduce its size. I took off my presser foot in the photo below, for better showing you the clean tape on the plate… you need to put it on to sew!
- Thread: choose a good quality polyester thread: it has a built-in light stretch that a cotton thread can’t have.
- Use tailor tacks instead of cutting notches. A tailor tack is a doubled length of thread run through the fabric. Use a contrasting color of cotton thread.
- Test on scraps. Seriously! You will need to try different settings in stitch length and tension before you’re satisfied. Better spend some time now, than ruin your precious fabric once cut.
- Better not backstitch on lace and sheers, fix tails hand-knotting on both ends of your seam
- Stable lace… can stretch! It seems counterintuitive but, if you look at its structure, you’ll notice that it’s made of… air for the most part! Now it seems to be less odd, isn’t it? With this in mind, try not to stress it too much while sewing it, so you won’t distort it.
- Better staystitch armholes and necklines (but I would suggest you to staystitch all around your pattern pieces, right inside seam allowances if you’re not going to interlining it), just to be sure it’s keeping its shape until the end of your garment’s construction.
- If all else fails, another way to start a seam on lace or sheers is to start the seam into a different kind of fabric (like quilting cotton or knit scraps from your Big Girl Briefs project…) and, when you’re sewing, stop needle down, lift the presser feet up and place your lace on top of your starter piece of fabric; lift down the foot and sew!
- You can sew lace in a single layer, or you can interline it with a silk organza or, if you’re sewing a stretch lace, try using a lightweight knit (what about a contrasting color, for a Pop Effect, like Jonie did in her Everyday Tank Top version – see below, at the end of this post). You can even line your lace, like I did in my Couture Lace skirt, treating each layer separately. Keep in mind that you need to finish your seam allowances in the better-looking way you can!
- Lace and sheers are not the easiest fabrics to work with but they will help you hiding flaws because of their draping nature.
- Work on the widest surface you have. If you’re not so lucky to have a wide sewing table, better choose the floor! If you cut lace or sheers hanging over the edge of a small table, you’ll end with distorted edges and pattern pieces not-matching along their sewing lines. Try gently folding the exceeding fabric while you cut the other end of the strip, then unfold it before you go ahead cutting.
- To guide your lace or sheer fabric below your presser foot, gently (but don’t stretch it) hold it on both sides of it, never let it go on its own. Keep thread tails on your hand while starting a seam
- Don’t sew your seams on the very edge of the lace. Better sew with a bigger seam allowance and then trim off the exceeding fabric! Even better, zig-zag or serge them to add strength
- Lining and interlining helps your garment last longer, adding some weigth and strength.
- Sometimes, if you’re using a tulle for a petticoat or something like this, you may end with itchy seam allowances inside your garment. To prevent them from scratching those delicate skins, try bounding them into a strip of Seam Binding like this 100yds 1/2″ Schiff Seam Binding Hug Snug Ribbon Color Eggshell #001 (affiliate link): they come in so many different colours, you can’t find the best one for your project!
- If your lace is really thin and/or delicate, sandwich an organza thin strip (choose a mathcing colour) between the layers (you can cut it on grain for straight seams but better cut it on bias for curved ones!) to help your sewing machine’s grip!
- Instead of buying lace or sheers from the bolt, why not trying one of these cheaper sources: grandma’s lace curtains cover can be great used as lace fabric. A round table cover can become a perfect circle skirt (since it’s already coming with a hem). just cut out a circle in the middle (for a hi-lo effect, cut it slightly off-center!)
- Use it to upgrade a pair of denim shorts, adding it to the hem, use lace to mend a hole (reverse applique technique), morphe a tank into a shirt adding lace or sheers flutter sleeves!
- Create a custom scalloped hem, neckline or armholes cutting out lace motifs (flowers or other shapes) and applique them around the original hemline to create a fashionable new border. To applique, use a short straight stitch around the shapes, just inside their border; for a Pro result, use a thread in the exact shade of color of your lace!
- Colorblocking: On a raglan shirt or a Everyday Tank: Top & Dresses you can cut one of the panels using lace instead of fabric. You can also choose to underline it for modesty with a layer of thin stable fabric (for stable lace) or knit (for stretch lace). For a fashionable touch, use a contrasting color, like Jonie did with her Everyday Tank Top:
Do you have a tip for sewing with lace and sheers I didn’t mention? What’s your biggest problem in sewing with lace and co.? Let me know, leave a comment!