Lace fabric is made in different ways, and the construction method depends on the different type of lace. Today we’re going to dig into lace, one of several gorgeous and sheer fabric types that will often strike fear in sewers – but fear not, it can be tricky to sew, but the tips I’ve included here will help you conquer any garment using lace!
Lets start by looking at how lace is made, the different types of lace and finally, some tips on sewing it!
What Is Lace Made Of?
From the 16th century lace was mostly made from silks, linen and precious metals.
Now, five hundred years later in the 21st century, lace i made from a vast range of fibres, from silk and cotton to linen and rayon!
How Is Lace Made?
There are four ways to make lace:
- Bobbin lace
- Needle lace
Bobbin lace making used bobbins, pins and fine threads to create some of the most beautiful types of lace!
Traditional threads used are linen, cotton and silk, but there are many other options to choose from now.
I myself have the tools and a book to guide me on my bobbin lace making journey but have not found the time to settle down to it.
While anything crocheted isn’t technically lace, it is possible to crochet in such a way that the fabric created is very much like lace.
Needlepoint lace is a type of lace created with a needle and used in hand embroidery.
The lace making technique of tatting creates a lace from a shuttle that is quite durable, made from loops and knots.
What Is Lace Used For?
As well as wedding dresses, the different types of lace have many uses! Here are just a few:
- Table cloths
- Clergy items
You can use lace for an entire garment, as an insertion, a border or an appliqued detail.
You can buy lace motifs already cut but if you find a lace that you love, you can cut around the motif to create your own and then appliqué these onto a garment as a lace trim!
You’ll want to first baste them to check placement, and then handsew them in place to secure.
If you plan to create an entire garment from a lace fabric, do make sure to choose a pattern that is suitable, and consider the design direction.
Most lace designs are one way, so you will likely need more lace than the suggested fabric amount on the pattern, if you plan to match the design motifs or plan on a particular placement for the lace motifs.
If there is a lace that you love, but either there isn’t enough for a full garment, or it is very expensive, another option is to use the lace as an insertion.
This is basically a panel. Imagine a loose fit button down shirt with with a back yoke made of lace. That is a lace insertion.
For any laces that have a scalloped finish on one edge, you can use them as a lace border on your projects, either as an interesting hem detail or in other creative ways on other areas of the garment.
Different Types Of Lace
There are 14 well known different types of lace:
- Alencon lace
- Allover lace
- Battenburg lace (tape)
- Breton lace (schiffli)
- Bruges lace
- Chantilly lace
- Cluny lace
- Corded lace
- Filet lace
- Embroidered lace
- Guipure lace
- Lyon lace
- Torchon lace
- Val lace (Valenciennes)
Let’s explore them in more detail below!
Alençon lace is a needle lace from Alençon in France, originally modified from the Venetian lace of 1675.
It is a fine lace, with a floral design with the individual motifs often outlined using a heavy thread.
This lace type is often a cheaper type of lace than others listed here, with a repetitive, allover pattern.
Also called ‘tape lace’ or ‘Milanese lace’, this type of lace is made with bobbins, using a tape which is then worked around to create a new design.
The original Battenburg lace, was created using just the one buttonhole picot stitch.
Breton Lace (Schiffli)
Schiffli is the term used for a chemically created lace, where the lace is machine made by embroidering the design on a fabric that has been treated by chemicals allowing it to disintegrate afterwards.
Bruges Duchess lace is a fine lace used in clothing and for veils.
Anothre type of fine lace is named after Chantilly, a city in Northen France. It is a calssic, lightweight lace with scallooped edges making it a perfect bridal lace for a wedding dress.
A type of guipure lace (see further down), Cluny lace is a bobbin lace made from cotton. Made in both France and in England, this type of lace is coarser than most because of the yarns used, and is used fro both clothing and interiors.
Corded lace uses soutache cord which helps to raise the design making it look more three dimensional.
Filet lace fabric uses a knotted net as it’s base, and then a needle to work a linen stitch across the knotted net.
Embroidered lace is embellished with beads, crystals and more to create a heavily embellished lace.
A lace created with braids giving it a raised design. It is a heavier weight lace with many uses.
Made out of cotton this lace type is made on looms from the 18th century.
This lace is created with bobbins in strips 1″-2″ / 2.5cm – 5cm in width.
This is a relatively simple lace to make and often the first one a new lacemaker will learn.
The book I have (Beginners Guide to Bobbin Lace) teaches how to create Torchon lace.
Val Lace (Valenciennes)
Another open mesh style of lace originating in France, Val lace is again made with bobbins.
Let’s look at some of the words used when working with lace!
Ground refers to the mesh or net that fills the spaces of lace making up the base of the lace fabric.
Different lace types will use a ground constructed in different ways.
A motif is an individual design which are appliqued to the ground.
This is the more ornamental lace work that is used on the enclosed areas of lace motifs.
The net background filling open spaces of various laces.
Also refrred to as ‘bars’ or ‘bridges’, these are connecting threads between motifs.
Used to outline the pattern on different lace styles.
Picots are the tiny little loops along the edges of lace.
Sewing Different Types Of Lace
Because lace is a sheer fabric, with widely spaces threads, you will need to sew it with a smaller than usual stitch length.
Make sure to test the stitch is correct for the lace fabric by sewing on some remnants.
For less expensive lace types, you can get away with sewing a simple narrow seam but for anything like Alençon or Chantilly, you will want to go the extra mile and applique the seams, making the seam invisible, with careful motif placement.
When it comes to hemming lace, many types of lace will have a scalloped edge making a hem unnecessary. For those that aren’t scalloped, you can sew a simple rolled hem on finer, allover lace styles.
You can also do fun creative things with lace – below is a trench coat I designed and made by hand, sandwiching lace between two layers of latex PVC which was melted to create an impermeable lace type fabric!
Finally, don’t forget that hight heat when pressing will melt any synthetic laces in your stash and scorch any made from natural fibres! Always do a test with a warm dry iron before pressing your final lace garment!
Ready to learn more about other fabrics? I have a great guide to the different types of fabrics, the difference between natural vs man made fibres, a guide to knit fabrics, a look at the different types of tulle fabric and other sheer fabric types too that you might enjoy reading!
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.