40+ best tips for: Sewing Lace like a Pro

… 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!

Seriously… Why?

It’s not that complicated, if you know my

40+ best tips for: Sewing Lace like a Pro

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips

 

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.

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - pre-iron low settings

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!)

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - stickers

  • 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!

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - rotary cutter, patternweights

  • 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!

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - scalloped hem

On the sewing machine!

Presser foot

  • 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!

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - presser foot

Needles

  • 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!

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - needles

Stitches:

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)

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - stitches

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.

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - french seam

  • 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!

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips -  Sewing Fishing wire hems - on SewsNBows.com

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!

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - clear tape to reduce needle throath

  • 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.

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - tailor's tack

  • 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!

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips - starter

  • 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.

Serger Pepper - Sewing Lace like a Pro - 40+ best tips -  fold exceeding lace, do not let it hanging

  • 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!

Refashion tips:

  • 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!

 

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About the Author:

Hi there! I love sewing, creating my own patterns and refashioning pre-loved clothes... If you love the same things, why not be friends? See you on Pinterest http://Pinterest.com/MammaNene

33 Comments

  1. Pam @Threading My Way September 20, 2014 at 13:10 - Reply

    Great list of tips, Irene!!! I really dislike cutting sheer fabric, so I really must make myself some weights. I have never thought of starting a seam with a scrap of thicker fabric and then the sheer… very clever!!!

    • Pam @Threading My Way September 20, 2014 at 15:16 - Reply

      Featured today, Irene.

    • Mamma Nene September 20, 2014 at 16:28 - Reply

      Thanks Pam!
      I think that sometimes tips comes from needs… When you try everything, you could end with something new!
      Have you seen my patternweight? They are handmade by hubby LOL
      But canned cat food or similar are widely used as patternweights here 😉

  2. Roopini September 20, 2014 at 18:17 - Reply

    Great Tips. Thank you for sharing. Pinning 🙂
    Roopini
    Let’s Make It Lovely

  3. emma February 15, 2015 at 23:55 - Reply

    Hi. I am in need of help! I am adding a lace overlay to a circular skirt for a communion dress. I have never made an overlay for circle skirt before and I am wondering the best way to do this as the lace will have a scalloped edge! What way do I cut my pieces out. Thanks in advance. Emma

  4. E.T February 24, 2015 at 01:22 - Reply

    For reducing slipping and bunching when sewing lace and sheers together, pin a sheet of tissue paper between the layers of the seam when you are sewing. Then, simple tear the paper out like tearing and old-school stamp.

    • Mamma Nene March 5, 2015 at 13:08 - Reply

      Great tip, E.T!
      I use it when sewing knits… and I think it will help with sheers too: thanks for sharing it!

  5. Amy May 27, 2015 at 16:02 - Reply

    Great Information…thank you.

    Here is a link for working with sheer fabrics that I have found to be exceptional…especially with curved seams. Although not practical for most laces it is called a Hairline seam and is finer than a French seam and I am in love with it for sheers. Hope you find it useful too.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZMllBR9OVs&list=PL9h6Mveg9bqzSlD4GNxZeQHOIvCPGwk3B&index=5

  6. TJ Hein September 14, 2015 at 17:32 - Reply

    Hi this will be my first project using lace your tips gave me the confidence to go ahead and get started. Would I use the wash away tape on shoulder seam or should I use something that would be permanent to keep it stable in the future?

  7. Crystal October 1, 2015 at 23:22 - Reply

    I am interested in getting a machine and learning just for some easy diy stuff. Do you know if there is some kind of learning kit ( not necessarily book only) But easy items to start learning how to machine sew with?

    • Crystal October 1, 2015 at 23:28 - Reply

      I should note I mean a regular sewing machine and not a serger (probably too advanced for my taste)

      • Sarah April 26, 2016 at 16:44 - Reply

        Hi, Crystal! When I started, I found simple stuffed animal patters online and donated my lumpy first tries to a local hospital’s NICU. No button eyes or thread whiskers, just blank-faced bears and bunnies for the tiny preemies. When you are ready to tackle clothing, I started with baby clothes patters. Logically, since they are smaller, they go faster, but they typically have the same components of adult clothes. I got to practice using the patterns and felt the instant gratification of finishing in a day or two. These can also be donated if you don’t have any babies in your life to give them to.

  8. Amanda January 10, 2016 at 22:21 - Reply

    Can anyone recommend a good sewing machine to buy for a beginner looking to sew often with lace and other delicate materials? Thank you!!

  9. Lacecraft India March 15, 2016 at 16:52 - Reply

    Very nice and really helpful tips! I suggest people who love to stich at home, can take a lot of new ideas from this post! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Pam Willey April 9, 2016 at 01:03 - Reply

    Brother do a nice basic sewing machine hobbycraft sell them for £60-£80.

  11. Marg April 14, 2016 at 17:20 - Reply

    Hii Mama Nene,

    Your tips are so fantastic and very helpful, thank you so much. I do have a question/dilema i cannot for the life of me find the Fabric attached or even know the name of the net lace, the beads look like a plastic or something??? I just don’t know! I am trying to find the fabric and duplicate as close as possible to this lace and beads for my daughters Dance graduation and thought it’s a beautiful and unusual net if that’s what it is and the beads what could it be, could you help in any way?? I would really appreciate it. 🙂
    Oh, sorry couldn’t attach the Link, is there somwhere an email i can send it to please. ?? xx Thank you. xx

  12. Jacqui Davies May 26, 2016 at 12:00 - Reply

    been sewing for 40 years never come across such helpfull tips thank you
    Jacqui D

  13. Jo robson July 5, 2016 at 10:24 - Reply

    Hi there brilliant site , so helpful thank you .
    I was wondering if you could tell me what type of thread to use . I am sewing stretch lace onto the bottom of a cotton dress to extend the length of the dress .
    Thank you
    Jo

    • Mamma Nene July 5, 2016 at 14:52 - Reply

      Hi Jo!
      I would use a regular polyester thread for this!

  14. Jo robson July 5, 2016 at 10:27 - Reply

    Hi there again , I forgot to ask about the thread I need for sewing stretch lace on to a cotton stretch fabric as well !
    Thank you so much
    Jo

  15. Mamma Nene July 5, 2016 at 14:54 - Reply

    Hi again, Jo!
    I would still use a regular polyester thread here too, but with an elastic stitch as for any elastic fabric.
    Hugs from Italy
    🙂

  16. Butter September 1, 2016 at 10:25 - Reply

    Hi Mamma Nene,
    I am working with an embroidered and beaded lace from China and needed to piece it together to form the yoke on a blouse. It is itchy where the seams are and I need to use an underlining because it is against the skin. I also want to keep it sheer and I have no idea what kind of fabric to use, what it might be called and where to get it! Can you help?
    TIA,
    Butter

    • Mamma Nene September 1, 2016 at 17:10 - Reply

      Hi Butter (nice name, btw!)
      I think I would try with some stretchy, nude-color, bathing-suit lining… what do you think of it? Would it work on your project?
      Happy sewing,
      Irene

      • Butter September 2, 2016 at 08:26 - Reply

        Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll see if I can find some at our local Joanne’s or Yardage Town, then I can let you know if it will work or not! I hope it is as sheer as I want it to be! I’ll let you know!
        Butter

        • Mamma Nene September 2, 2016 at 17:20 - Reply

          Can’t wait to see it, really!
          Good luck, and happy sewing!
          I.

  17. Tara October 18, 2016 at 23:25 - Reply

    Hi, I’m trying to serge the end of a sleeve into a point, but the fabric is netting and is stretching quite a bit. Looks awful! Do you have any suggestions on how to stop it from stretching? I tried going slowly, but that didn’t change anything.

  18. Stacey November 9, 2016 at 04:31 - Reply

    Hi, I’m a new sewer. My sister wants Christmas stockings covered in lace. I think with these tips I can pull it off.
    As for seeing clothes, what patterns are easy to start with? I bought a pattern and it looked like a foreign language! Any brand and type of orojwct you can suggest for sewing clothing?

  19. […] is a great article from sergerpepper about tips for sewing with lace which might be useful […]

  20. Lynn S. March 18, 2017 at 15:06 - Reply

    I am a first-timer here – I loved reading all your suggestions and the comments/questions as well. Thank you for putting this together.

    My lace project is this – I have cut up my wedding dress from 35+ years ago (and it was approx. 20 year old back then) so my lace is very delicate and fragile. I have washed it and am prepared to begin your suggestions.
    I want to create a hankie to give to my son for his Tuxedo breast-pocket of his upcoming wedding.

    I will implement many of the suggestions you have presented here. I will let you know of my success!! :o)

    Thnx again!

  21. Tatiana Robinson May 14, 2017 at 04:20 - Reply

    Where did you get that lace? I skimmed through to see if you mentioned it, but I didn’t see it. I saw it on a garment online recently without a reference there and I would love to find some for myself! Thank you!

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