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Lace has always been an indicator of elegance, wealth and beauty. It’s first recorded use (in a very rudimentary form) was in ancient Egypt, where artists would weave colored threads into geometric designs to adorn flax cloth, while the Greeks and Romans accidentally discovered lace as a byproduct of twisting and tying the edges of their togas to keep the threads from fraying.

Lace as we know didn’t show up until around the 15th century and can claim both Flanders and Italy as it’s birthplace. True lace is created by looping, twisting and braiding threads separately from a backing fabric and was originally made from silk, gold or silver threads. Now lace is mostly woven from cotton or synthetic fibers and manufactured on machines rather than done by hand.

There are a variety of different laces, including needle lace, whitework (cutwork, openwork etc), bobbin lace and knotted lace (ie: macrame). When working with lace make sure to consider both quality and fiber content. Cotton/poly laces are good for sewing as the polyester gives them more strength, durability and will also keep them from yellowing with age. Be aware that nylon lace can melt if it gets too hot, while Chantilly and Guipure lace are best for embellishment.

Before you begin working, you want to make sure to properly press your lace using a pressing cloth, spray starch and an iron. You can also use waxed paper to press your lace, as it helps restore the quality. When sewing lace make sure to leave a generous seam allowance. Many people prefer to sew lace by hand, but if you use a machine it is recommended that you use a serger or a narrow zig-zag stitch with a regular machine.

Now that we’ve all had a brief history lesson and are ready to start working with lace, it’s time to decide on a project.

Tops

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From left: tops by Stella McCartney, Beyond Vintage. Twinkle by Wenlan Blouse, Peasant Blouse, and Pleated Top patterns.

Skirts

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Clockwise from left: Asos, Forever 21, BurdaStyle’s Draped Skirt, A-line Skirt, and Ruffle Skirt patterns, skirt by Toga.

Dresses

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From left: Vogue Nippon’s Viviana Volpicella in Moschino and Anna Dello Russo in Dolce & Gabanna. BurdaStyle’s Gail, Basic Shift, and Malissa dress patterns, Kirsten Dunst in Valentino.

…and I found a few more cute dresses to inspire future lacy projects:

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From left: Try bright lace – Christopher Kane. Or an interesting shape – Stella McCartney. Toughen up lace with leather – Phillip Lim. Embroidery and lace, there’s nothing sweeter – Kate Bosworth in Erdem.

Favorites from the Runway

Proenza Schouler used acid bright Guipure lace in their Spring 2011 collection. Guipere is created when threads are embroidered on a backing fabric which is later dissolved away, leaving only the original embroidered pattern. Refreshing and very youthful.

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One of my favorite young designer, Erdem Moralioglu, turned out some of the sweetest lace dresses for his Spring collection. They look almost too delicate to wear.

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Ralph Lauren gave his signature American Wild West spin to lace – making it a bit less precious when paired with worn leather and heavy belts.

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What are your favorite ways to use lace? Do you have any tips for working with and sewing lace?

24 Comments

  • Caa9248654dcf02f44aa0fea4eb5e5d1c4b1c7a1_large

    Feb 24, 2011, 02.52 AMby sewinl0ve

    Who doesn’t love lace? It’s so romantically gorgeous and wonderfully feminine. I just finished a little Valentine’s ensemble for a friend of mine who requested a button front crop top with ribbon straps and a pair of boyshorts to match, all in navy blue lace. She also wanted a sleep mask made with the lace, so it would turn out more like a pretty little veil, which was the perfect touch to complete the set. The pattern turned out way better than I had hoped it would, which is always nice. When sewing this type of fabric, I always use a ballpoint needle so as not to break the delicate threads in the lace. The project went smoothly from start to finish on my machine and I finished the edges on my serger. I had a lot of fun with this one! Of course, I had to make one or two for myself, so the next day I ran to the fabric store to buy more lace in various colors ;o)

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    Feb 9, 2011, 03.05 PMby suzijewels

    I love lace and now I am reinspired to create some new looks.

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    Feb 9, 2011, 08.42 AMby ruhmanb6a1r

    I also love them, you have got brilliant ideas and I am very glad for you!Keep sharing! Icheck coursework it out every day!

  • Missing

    Feb 8, 2011, 09.27 PMby phi

    Just a very minor correction: guipure is not a bobbin lace. It is a needle lace (I do both). The tip-off is the use of terms like “needlepoint lace” and “buttonhole stitch”. But who cares? Any lace is beautiful and I’m delighted that it’s now fashionable.

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    Feb 6, 2011, 09.50 PMby southernsong

    I love lace so very much. I would appreciate even more ideas!

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    Feb 5, 2011, 09.26 AMby janul

    I love that Asos (whatever it is…) skirt! Inspiring…

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    Feb 5, 2011, 01.45 AMby ladyshape

    Erdem and Dolce & Gabanna do amazing things with lace but it is that Phillip Lim number that makes my toes curl. Sweet Lord. Bad girl gone badder.

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    Feb 4, 2011, 05.35 PMby luxihere

    I LOVE lace! recently made 2 lace skirts for my DD!

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    Feb 4, 2011, 05.19 PMby Dupioni

    Great article! You inspired me to post two lace blouses that I made.

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    Feb 4, 2011, 01.21 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    I’ve always loved that Sartorialist shot of the woman in the white lace dress. Only a European would think to do that. Although you could make the dress more demure with a colored full slip. Might the the thing to wear to the beach then to the bar. Back to lace: I especially love Stretch Lace, which hugs all your curves and is rarely scratchy. On the downside, it must be handwashed and loses its stretch and shine over time. But don’t be afraid to sew with it. Results are smashing and RTW almost always.

  • C360_2013-07-09-19-57-47-392-1_large

    Feb 4, 2011, 12.07 PMby popbabe7

    I’m always cold so wouldn’t wear a dress entirely made of lace, but a little touch is always welcome. I personally love contrasting lace with wool.

  • Missing

    Feb 4, 2011, 10.32 AMby fuzzyg

    Yes, the Proenza Schouler is very interesting. The color makes it less little-girl.. I also like that most of these examples have no edge finish at all.

    But it’s guipure, not guipere. Actually an ancient bobbin lace technique. Textile glossary.com says “A Needlepoint Lace Made With A Heavy Buttonhole Stitch And With The Pattern On A Coarse Mesh Or Held Together With Connecting Threads.” which is close enough. But of course PS probably did make their guipure-look lace with that stitch-and-dissolve technique.

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    Feb 4, 2011, 08.30 AMby loyl8

    oohhhh i love lace!!!! I guess I say that about everything. Stella McCartney always does great things with lace.

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    Feb 4, 2011, 12.39 AMby wzrdreams

    I love this post… very inspiring. I’ll keep lace in mind for spring sewing. I adore that Stella McCartney tank, and how easy that would be to make with a basic sloper.

  • My_bjork_shot_large

    Feb 3, 2011, 09.14 PMby dejanu

    I started working more with lace last year and have sewn up a few of my own designs using vintage slips, scarves and lace. Also, some lace collars :)

    1 Reply
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      Feb 9, 2011, 03.12 PMby suzijewels

      Sounds very creative…vintage slips are a great idea.

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    Feb 3, 2011, 07.32 PMby lavenderlady

    OOh, so gorgeous. My daughter wants to make a dress with lace for a competition coming up. I just ordered the Collette Macaron dress and I hope that we can do lace on the top section. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Alterknits-dress-form_large

    Feb 3, 2011, 07.07 PMby littlemisssew

    I adore lace,but quality and not superexpencive lace is a hard thing to find nowadays. i’ve been searching for good cotton lace for quite a while now,and I can honestly say that all the oens I’ve seen and liked,and have been in my price range have been polyester. No one wants to wear polyester and sweat in it.It tends to be itchy and uncomfortable,especially for summer things,which usually work nicest with lace.

    Also,I have to say,one of the most important things to know before working with lace is lining. My grams usually used silk ribbon for the end of the stitching,the trims,etc. and it always worked fenomenal,especially with black lace. I still own a redone black full lace dress that she did,and the finishes are all with silk black ribbons. It is absolutely stunning!

    1 Reply
    • Missing

      Feb 8, 2011, 08.54 PMby sanyara

      What a wonderful tip!

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    Feb 3, 2011, 07.03 PMby ruthw

    The history of textiles is very interesting but it is worth knowing that most of their early history lies beyond Western Europe, and well before the sixteenth century.

    The ancient Phoenicians (in the Middle East) are known to have produced filet lace at least a thousand years ago, the Armenians were making lace as far back as 500 A.D. and up until the 11th century the Vikings traded extensively with the Middle East, especially around what is now Iran and Iraq. The Vikings captured and sold Slavic and Baltic slaves in exchange for silver and as well as silver, brought back with them the cut work and pulled and drawn linen work which became Hardanger and Hedebo.

    2 Replies
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      Feb 3, 2011, 09.35 PMby themisslinds

      ah thanks for the extra info!

    • Caa9248654dcf02f44aa0fea4eb5e5d1c4b1c7a1_large

      Feb 24, 2011, 02.54 AMby sewinl0ve

      I love these little tidbits of fashion history ;o)

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    Feb 3, 2011, 07.02 PMby amaydak

    Oh wow, stunning!

  • Momooo_large

    Feb 3, 2011, 06.27 PMby variantvi

    o so many ideas. I love lace

    • This is a question
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