Stretch Yourself: Working With Stretch Lace

stretch yourself header

Welcome to Sew Fearless! This post is part of the “Stretch Yourself” Series hosted by Mad Mim and One Little Minute. The topic today is STRETCH LACE and I get to have the pleasure of joining in on the fun. Be sure to check out my fellow Guest Contributor of the Day, Novita of Very Purple Person too!
Lace Drape Cardigan by [includes tips on how to sew stretch lace] I went to the store with thinking about a funky printed draped cardigan thingy, but once this ethereal drapey-ness caught my eye all other plans went flying out the window. Never mind that I have never sewn lace before. It. Needed. To. Happen.

Lace Drape Cardigan by [includes tips on how to sew stretch lace]

And happen it did, but not before there was a good amount of dragging of feet out of fear that it wouldn’t turn out quite right and not being sure of how to tackle the whole thing. All that’s over now. boo-freakin’-ya!

Lace Drape Cardigan by [includes tips on how to sew stretch lace]

Pattern: Simplicity 2603, View D (sleeves extended)
Size: Medium, let out to Large for hips at side seams
Material: Sew Classic Knits Ivory Stretch Lace from Joann’s
(p.s. my bump is a bout 4 weeks bigger than this now, much much bigger)

What’s all this have to do with sewing with knits and the rest of the “Stretch Yourself” series? Well… stretch lace and knits share many of the same properties, and, like knits, it turns out the stretch lace isn’t as scary as one would think. I’ve even done the experimentation and research so you don’t have to. Let’s do this thing!

Tips and Tricks for working with Stretch Lace -

Choosing the Right Project

Although it wasn’t included in the fabric recommendations, I used a pattern designed for knits for this stretchy fabric. I like to live dangerously like that. However, it is always a good idea to compare your fabric’s stretch to the stretch guide on the envelope.  I didn’t. oops. comparing to stretch guide -

As you can see here, the lace doesn’t meet the recommended stretch requirements. Not even remotely. Consequently  the top was just a bit too small for my measurements. Fortunately, I was able to rescue the project from near disaster by letting out the arm/side seam as much as I could. Learn from my mistake! Use knit patterns designed for little-to-no stretch, or compensate by going up in size.

Cutting it Out

If these tips for cutting out your stretch lace sound familiar,  that is because they are the same tips given for working with knits. Treat your fabric well and it will treat you well. (Hopefully.)

lay out lace on a large surface while cutting -

  • Find yourself a large smooth surface area to work on. I often find myself laying out my stretch fabrics on floors, because they give me more space and my fabric won’t stretch as it drapes off the edge of a table. (Oh, to have a gigantic cutting table!! sigh.)
  • Once your fabric is laid out, give it a chance to “relax”. The fabric stretched out on the bolt, or while folded in your stash, it needs a chance to recover from the abuse. You don’t want it to relax after your pieces are cut out! Lay it out as smoothly and as straight as possible and then  let it sit for a couple of hours or even overnight. That being said, I never seem to have the patience (or the floor space!) for that. I think I might have given this fabric an hour to sit. It worked out just fine.
  • Use pattern weights instead of pins to hold the pattern pieces in place. The pins won’t do much good with all the holes in the fabric anyways. Don’t have any pattern weights? In the past, I have used (full) cans, cups, play blocks, and silverware.

Needles & Thread

Needle Choice for Stretch Lace -

  • Needle – I used a Shmetz “Stretch 75/11” needle for this delicate fabric and it worked perfectly. Choosing the right needle for the job can be bewildering at first. There are as many kinds of needles as there are kinds of projects! This Guide to Needles by Shmetz [PDF] is helpful. Don’t get too bogged down in the details though, if your needle is working well (minimal fabric damage, no skipped stitches) than you have the right needle for the job! Test before you sew, and keep trying a different needles until you find one that works well enough for you.
  • Thread – As long as you are using a good stretch stitch, your standard all-purpose thread will work just fine.

Stitches and Seam Finishes

finished seam on stretch lace -

I spent a considerable amount of time before beginning testing out stitches and seam finishes. The seams would be somewhat visible from the outside and I didn’t want sloppy seam allowances to ruin the look of the garment.

Stretch Stitch -

I used my machine’s “stretch stitch” for sewing together all of my seams and hems in this project. If you don’t have a specific stretch stitch, a narrow zig-zag will do. With the seams sewn, all that remains is what to do with the seam allowances. Here are the options I came up with…

Stretch Lace Seam Finish Options -

    1. Zig-Zag: This is by far the simplest option. Perfectly functional, but looks a bit too “homemade” for my tastes.
    2. French Seam: This is a super classy finish, and would be very d0able for straight seams. I decided it was too tricky to use for the armholes or along the neck seam in this project.
    3. Dritz “Seams Great” Seam Finish – This is translucent bias cut tape covers the seam allowance for a subtle, non-bulky, soft finish. I found it tricky for me to apply neatly, maybe with more practice this could be a good option.
    4. Bias Bound – Another option, similar to the Seams Great, is to bind the seam allowance with bias tape (or seam binding). This method could be good for adding stability to seams that need it (like the shoulder seam), but it was too bulky for this delicate fabric.
    5. Overlock Stitch [Recommended Method]– If you have access to a serger or a standard sewing machine with a overlock stitch, this would the method I would recommend.

Seam Finish Options for Stretch Lace -

Adding “stay tape” to seams gives extra strength and stability where needed. I used it for the neck/shoulder seam in this project.

Stay Tape -

It’s subtle but it makes a big difference.

stay tape in lace shoulder seams -

The Wonders of Wonder Tape

Lace Hems with Wonder Tape -
I’ve seriously fallen in love with Wonder Tape  – a double-sided wash-away adhesive tape. It was my secret weapon for this project.

  • Wonder Tape worked double duty as a stabilizer and as a pin substitute. I would have had a difficult time holding this holey fabric together with pins, but Wonder Tape kept everything in place. It also “stabilized” the fabric and prevented fabric distortion while sewing.
  • 1/4 inch Wonder Tape made 5/8″ hems ridiculously easy, and in this hemming heavy project that was a sanity saver.

Wonder Tape Hemming Trick for Stretch Lace and Knits -

Easy right? I’ve used this method on knits as well. Works like a charm every time.

FYI: If you don’t like the look of a plain ol’ double hem and don’t need the stretch in the hem, there are other options to try, like a rolled hem or the Grosgrain’s method of wavy satin stitches.

Lace Drape Cardigan by [includes tips on how to sew stretch lace]

Not so bad right? It turns out that stretch lace is nothing to get squeamish about! You’ve totally got this!

Read more about sewing with stretch lace over at Very Purple Person
and the see the rest of the “Stretch Yourself” series on Mad Mim and One Little Minute!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. See disclosure for more details.

Linking Up with The Train To Crazy’s Make It and Wear It Thursdays!

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27 Responses to Stretch Yourself: Working With Stretch Lace

  1. Melissa January 16, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Love it! And how did I never notice patterns have a stretch measurement on them? Thanks for that tip!

    • Jodi January 16, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

      WHAT?! I taught Melly something? wild!

  2. Karen January 16, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    So educational! I’ve never tried wonder tape… I have to go find a JoAnn’s coupon right now! :)

  3. Miriam January 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    Jodi, you knocked it out of the park with this project and tutorial, it’s so awesome! The cardigan is BEAUtiful, and looks completely lovely on you! I actually have some stretch lace I’ve been using bit by bit for various projects, and this gives me great ideas for it, all the finishing tips are excellent!
    Thank you so much for participating, we were so lucky to have you!

    • Jodi January 16, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

      I will have to go back and take a look at your projects. :) I am loving this stuff!

  4. thezenofmaking January 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    What a great intro to working with stretch lace! (And you look super-cute in that cardi!) Thanks for sharing. :)

    • Jodi January 16, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

      thank you for linking, Haley!

  5. Miranda January 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    Jodi this was great! The top is beautiful, and I really appreciate the detail with which you approached the tutorial! I have sewn with lace and stretch lace a few times, and never used wonder tape before. You can bet that’s on my list for the next time I’m at JoAnne! The seams and hems on your cardigan are brilliant. And you are an adorable prego:)


    • Jodi January 16, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

      It is always good to have on hand. I can’t wait until the next notions sale because i’m running so low on stock. 😛

  6. Jacinta January 16, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    Hi, I came over here from OLM and MadMim’s series. Latest subscriber and just wanted to say I was excited to see a fellow Catholic mum and sewer! Congrats on your latest bump and hope all goes smoothly. :)

    • Jodi January 16, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

      :) Welcome!

  7. Charity January 16, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    I love this! I love that you made a cardigan out of stretch lace, and I love the care you put into finishing it. It looks beautiful! =)

  8. Beadgirl January 18, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Nope, still too intimidated to sew stretch lace; I will just admire the your work — the cardigan is absolutely beautiful!

  9. Natalie January 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Great tips and this cardigan is soooo gorgeous! I love Wonder Tape with a passion. :)

  10. Andrea January 19, 2013 at 2:27 am #

    Love everything about this, Jodi. Gorgeous photos and great tips!!

  11. Trish Hanson January 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Beautiful cardigan! I love wonder tape. It’s great for putting in zippers also…no pins to distort it. Thanks again for this great series!

  12. Kris C. October 1, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    This is beautiful and totally timely – I want to make a stretch lace cardigan with the same pattern to wear to a wedding! Just gotta find the stretch lace….

  13. Hailey Hunt October 3, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Thank you soooooooooooo much for posting this. This is exactly what I have been looking for.
    Beautiful work!

    Thank you,

  14. Renee January 26, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    Hello! This is absolutely beautiful!! :-) I do have a question if you don’t mind! I have a sewing machine (not a serger..yet) and have been very interested in working with stretch lace. However every time I would attempt to sew the lace the feed wouldn’t feed right. I know it is not the machine but the lace. Is this something you could only do on a serger? And do you have any problems like that sewing stretch lace together with the serger? Sorry for the long post. If you could get back to me whenever you can I would greatly appreciate it! :-) :-)

    • Jodi February 4, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

      I would play with foot length and possibly the presser foot pressure if possible. What do you mean by “wouldn’t feed right”?

  15. Debora Cadene November 16, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Loving your directions. I have a question about sewing some stretch spandex. I am going to embark upon making a pair of boot cuffs. I only have a regular sewing machine…would I need to do anything special? Would you happen to have a tutorial on doing such a thing??? Pictures are worth a 1000 words. I am thinking I just have to cut two pieces fold them right side together and sew…..but I’m pretty sure there is more to it then that. Can you point me in the right direction??

    thanks so much and have a great day.

    debbie cadene.


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