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.
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.
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!
Love it! And how did I never notice patterns have a stretch measurement on them? Thanks for that tip!
WHAT?! I taught Melly something? wild!
I know this post is old, but I’m sewing a top with exactly the same type of fabric, and I’m wondering how you finished the seam at the armhole since it needs to be clipped? I’ve been mulling this over, and I’m just not sure how to finish the seam so it looks neat from the outside! Thank you 🙂
If you are trimming down your seams with this finishing method, than it is effectively like clipping your seams. I serged my seams down to 1/4 inch with a matching thread, and it looked just fine from the outside.
You could also clip the seams then finish with bias binding if you dont have a serger. It creates a clean finish and have some give too.
Thank you to both of you! I don’t’ have a serger so bias binding it is 🙂 I’m going to try making it out of chiffon so it’s not quite so opaque.
That will be pretty. Good luck!
You can use the chiffon to make the bias binding, pick a color that matches your chiffon or even find/make a binding that matches your skin tone. Skin tone binding is commonly used with lace so the seam allowances are almost invisible when it’s being worn. I think one that matches your chiffon would work best for chiffon.
So educational! I’ve never tried wonder tape… I have to go find a JoAnn’s coupon right now! 🙂
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!
I will have to go back and take a look at your projects. 🙂 I am loving this stuff!
What a great intro to working with stretch lace! (And you look super-cute in that cardi!) Thanks for sharing. 🙂
thank you for linking, Haley!
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:)
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. 😛
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. 🙂
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! =)
Nope, still too intimidated to sew stretch lace; I will just admire the your work — the cardigan is absolutely beautiful!
Great tips and this cardigan is soooo gorgeous! I love Wonder Tape with a passion. 🙂
Love everything about this, Jodi. Gorgeous photos and great tips!!
Trish Hanson says
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!
Kris C. says
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….
Hailey Hunt says
Thank you soooooooooooo much for posting this. This is exactly what I have been looking for.
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! 🙂 🙂
I would play with foot length and possibly the presser foot pressure if possible. What do you mean by “wouldn’t feed right”?
I know this is old, but thought I’d put my 2 cents in for others…A great way to sew with lace when it won’t feed properly (or if the machine wants to eat it) is to either put a piece of tissue paper under the lace so the feedogs have something else to grip or sandwich the lace in 2 pieces of tissue paper. I just cut 1.5″ strips and pin them to the lace. Then just pull the tissue apart to remove it. Sometimes I can use the same pieces a 2nd time on straight seams.
Debora Cadene says
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.
I don’t have one, but maybe you could check The Geeky Seamstress’ Spandex 101 posts? http://thegeekyseamstress.com/2014/11/03/spandex-101-the-basics/
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I’m a wondertape fan as well! It works wonders on zippers 🙂 I bought some fancy pink lace a while ago that has a fair amount of stretch and I keep looking at and fingering it with thoughts of what the heck I’m going to do with it now I have it! I love your sweater idea. It can be casual or very dressy if you’re going out in a lovely little black dress 🙂
DJ Dansby says
Great information! Thanks for sharing!
Want you to know there is another way to work with lace and how to create a seam. If you lay out the pattern on the lace you cut more seam allowense. As much as the size of the design of the lace. Than you overlap both panels until you are at the right seamline. After that you sew over the dessin of the lace like at the side of flowers. To finish it nicely you cut the overlap away beside the new seam you have sewed.
I hope I have been clear enough my English is a bit crooky. But I wish you luck and you have a nice site.
That would be a very couture finish!
sheila massie says
I used wonder tape on a stretch lace dress overlay. It turned out perfectly! I used wonder clips instead of pins. Glad I found this site
Samantha Rogers says
The other day, I fell in love with some elastic lace fabric at the fabric store. I also have never sewn lace, but I knew that I had to give it a chance. I really appreciate your suggestion to check the stretch requirements of the pattern before starting. This seems really important!
Mary Anne says
Hi. I have a question about the layout of your pattern. Your front drapes sp beautifully. Did you cut it out on the grain or on the bias of the fabric? I have some similar fabric that I want to use to make a dress. The pattern recommends cutting out the skirt portion of the dress on the bias. Do I eed to do this with stretchy lace?
There isn’t a “bias” in a stretch lace in the same way as you do in a woven. So I don’t think it matters.