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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.)
- 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 – 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
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.
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…
- Zig-Zag: This is by far the simplest option. Perfectly functional, but looks a bit too “homemade” for my tastes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Adding “stay tape” to seams gives extra strength and stability where needed. I used it for the neck/shoulder seam in this project.
It’s subtle but it makes a big difference.
The Wonders of 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.
Easy right? I’ve used this method on knits as well. Works like a charm every time.
Not so bad right? It turns out that stretch lace is nothing to get squeamish about! You’ve totally got this!
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