Working with Lace Fabric- What I Do

Working with lace fabric, or indeed any “fancy” fabric varies from project to project.  It depends on the type of lace or fancy, as well as the cut of the finished garment.  In general, I use fancy fabrics with simple patterns.  Why cut up a gorgeous fabric into tiny pieces?  Let it sing!

Some lace doesn’t fray, or it won’t fray if you cut it properly, like guipure.  This lace is some kind of macrame type fabric.  I don’t know what it is called, so feel free to jump in.  More importantly, it frays.  Rather badly.  I knew that however I approached working with this fabric, I had to hem the edges and finish the seams carefully.

This is a geometric lace with a regular repeat, but it is directional.  In general pattern nomenclature, this has a “nap.”  At least, if I were working with a regular pattern I would use the “with nap” layout.  That means the pattern pieces, when laid on the fabric, all face the same direction.  I couldn’t have the pattern in the lace run up my body on the front and down on the back, it would look odd.  I spent some time twiddling the fabric one way and the other before settling on the “direction” I would use.

Then I folded it in half.  Because the repeat is so regular, the pattern is simple and the fabric is see-through, there’s no real need to cut the fabric flat.  I folded it in such a way that the repeats line up with one another, which means the lace design on the top will be symmetrical when I cut and sew it.

My FlutterBy Tee has a nice v-neck shape to balance the fluttery sleeves.  When I lay my pattern on the fabric, I try to think about how the pattern in the fabric interacts with the actual sewing pattern.  It’s a knack that develops with practice.  I laid the pattern on the fabric and slid the V-neck along the pattern in the lace until I lined it up with the pretty circles lying paralell to the neckline.  Magically, the shape of the lace suits the shape of my neckline, but if it had been slightly off I would have unblinkingly chopped into the pattern so it suited the fabric better.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

Then I checked the lace on the flutters.  Mrs C suggested I cut the flutters in such a way to use the scalloped edge of the lace, an excellent suggestion.  I chose not to for two reasons: 1) the lace frays so I would have to hem or bind it anyway; 2) the scallops don’t want to line up with my sleeve draft.  At all.  If I tried to smoothly follow the scallops more than my pattern, it would throw off the shape of the whole sleeve.  Sorry!  I heartlessly cut it just like that so I can simply hem it later.

When I cut the back, I discovered I was short of lace fabric.  To be sure, I had plenty of fabric, but I couldn’t just plop it down on the fold and cut it.  That would be far too simple.  I played around for a while and ended up cutting it like this.  You can see it is not on a fold, and part of the sleeve is missing.

So I cut two pieces, with a little extra along the CB for a seam allowance.  No big deal, and it meant I could cut the top from the fabric I had.

Here, I made sure to mark the pattern piece to show me the pattern in the fabric and the seamline for piecing.  I cut the fabric with this pattern piece, then I cut the extra little bit from a scrap of the lace fabric and then seamed it to the sleeve.  Since I marked the pattern in the lace on my actual pattern, it made matching the extra bit to my sleeve a breeze.

I know it’s popular to place weights on top of patterns to secure them to the fabric while cutting, but I like pins.  In this case, I would recommend them.  I generally pin sparsely, but I thought this fabric might spread so I pinned every hand-breadth.  That’s usually enough, even for picky fabrics.  Over-pinning can be a complete waste of time.

Once I cut the pieces, I leave them securely pinned to the pattern pieces.  That prevents spreading.  I also carefully stay-stitched the neckline, because V-necks *really* enjoy becoming distorted.

Tomorrow- Finished Object and perhaps the Hack.  I apologize, but I had some very distressing news today and did not finish as much of the hack as I anticipated.  No worries, I’m hard at work on it but I might not have a hack for you to download until Wednesday.  Is that cool?

Also- re koalas– I haven’t posted about the koala release because we were disappointed.  We drove to the Australia Zoo but it wasn’t the right time to release the rehabilitated koala so we simply exchanged some scientific equipment, looked around the beautiful animal hospital and came home.  We’ll get a release soon, and when we do I’ll definitely post about it.


  1. That is beautiful lace. I can’t wait to see the finished project. Thank you for all the tips about using lace. I’ve never sewn with it before but I’d like to try it sometime!

  2. Australia Zoo! – I used to live very close to that in Beerwah, where we had a macadamia nut farm. Now I live in beautiful Perth.
    Thanks for all your wonderful information on lace and everything else. I have only recently started to follow your blog and I am learning and enjoying the experience so much. Than you!

  3. That’s lovely fabric. I completely agree about simple patterns paired with fancy fabrics. It’s definitely a project where more time goes in to cutting because you want to be sure the layout is perfect.

  4. Aha, I see what you mean. No use cutting the scallops if the lace frays! Also, in this case I think it would be a bit twee. I love what you’re doing with it, and hope that the news was not tooo bad. Bad news sucks eh!

    • I’m a fan of the word twee, but I do try to avoid it… I only have a vague idea of what it means… Like a small-town scottish lounge room decor?

      • We had a bit of a twee front garden with lollipop roses (red and then white etc) interspersed with little lollipop bushes close to the ground. All this lining a very short (30′) driveway to a 8 year old modern style house. The roses were lovely but, um, well twee and have been taken out and given away long since.

  5. Pretty, pretty lace. I’m also curious about the koala release.

    I just made some damn pants that fit— finally. Thanks to the pants block! I just wrote up a post. Again, thanks so much for the help.

  6. Pingback: Finished Object: Lacewing Top + Hack + Lace Fabric Giveaway « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  7. I know you’re already done with this hack, but I am enjoying reading it chronologically and am trying not to look in the sidebar! And thanks for permission to not do complicated patterns — all my fabrics are generally busy, but I feel a little silly doing the same patterns over and over again. Now I know why!

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