Monday, January 25, 2010

Working With Lace

It’s not uncommon for a Church Lady to have occasion to sew with lace. Veils are an obvious project; chapel veils, wedding veils, maybe a First Communion veil for your daughter or goddaughter. I’ve also used lace trim to lengthen a hemline or make a too-low neckline more modest, edge a prayer table cloth, trim an apron, and so on...

This chapel veil project will demonstrate some simple techniques you can use with a commonly found lace that is also inexpensive and easy to work with. Chantilly lace was originally a handmade bobbin lace from Chantilly, France. It’s typically a detailed floral design outlined by a somewhat thicker thread on an evenly knotted background. It was originally made of silk, but now you will probably only find nylon. These are two patterns of Chantilly lace you will find today at just about any fabric or craft store:
The nice thing about modern Chantilly lace is that it doesn’t ravel at all so you don’t have to finish the edges. That quality makes it really easy to work with.

For this project, you’ll need lace yard goods (sold on a bolt and somewhere between 36” and 72” wide) and lace trim.

And this is where it gets fun. Because this lace doesn’t ravel, you can cut it in all sorts of patterns. For example, I started with this piece of trim

and was able to use a small embroidery scissors (or cuticle scissors) to cut it into three different, usable designs.
I’m using the narrow border for this veil and tucking the other pieces away for a future project.

1. Design a pattern: A classic triangle-shaped veil is 36 inches across the front and 18 inches from the center front to the back point. The one I made here is more of a D shape. I started with a 22” x 18” rectangle of scrap fabric, folded it in half and rounded the corners.
At this point, try it on your head to get some idea if you like the length and shape. Now is the time to change it if you don’t like something.

2. Pin your pattern onto the lace. I purchased ½ yard of 54” wide Chantilly lace. That would be enough to make two veils in this design. (I’m only cutting one out now.) It’s a nice touch if you can consider the design in the lace when you lay out your pattern. For example, I was able to center the pattern on one of the flower motifs. (This detail is probably not a deal breaker, but does give a more professional look.)
3. Cut the lace around the pattern, unpin, and carefully tuck your pattern away for the day when some other Church Lady asks where you got your beautiful veil. ;-)

4. Pin your border lace in place. Again, consider the placement so the center front is as nice as possible. Place the ends in the most inconspicuous spot (mine are on the side, near the back) The goal for pinning is to avoid puckering when you sew! You’ll want to place your pins pretty close together so everything is held firmly in place.
You may not want to pin the entire perimeter (pins have a maddening tendency to fall out of lace), but keep at least the 6” in front of your needle pinned. When working on a fine fabric like this, I like to sit at a table so the entire piece of fabric is well supported. It helps keep the pins in place and makes things less likely to pucker as I sew. Really, it’s just a personal preference though. You could also sew with it resting on your lap.
5. Use a running stitch, following the trim design around the edges to hold all the points and flowers down. This lace is pretty narrow; If you’re using a wider one, you’d want to sew on both edges of the trim to hold the fabric down and make things look nicely on the back as well. My running stitches are small on the top (first photo below) of the veil and longer (about ¼ inch) on the back. (second photo below) knot your thread every few inches to make it all more durable.
You’ll soon get the feel for the proper tension for your stitches. The goal is a balance between slack thread and puckered stitches. If you’ve never done this before, you may want to do a few inches of practice stitches on some scrap lace.

6. When you get to the ends of the trim, overlap them slightly and stitch them in place.

In summary, make a pattern, cut out your lace, sew the trim on with a running stitch, wear your veil. Simple!

The entire veil only cost about $4
  • ½ yard lace - $3.90 (Originally $12.99/yard but I used a coupon. Seriously, I don't think I ever pay full price at JoAnn Fabrics. Sign up to get their coupons if you're near one of their stores. Remember, this was enough to make 2 veils, so the cost per veil was under $2.)
  • 2 1/3 yards trim (The trim I originally purchased cost $2.15. I ended up using a piece I had in my lace scrap box - the piece pictured here - because it was better for demonstration purposes.)
  • All-purpose thread
  • Needle
  • An embroidery scissors with a sharp tip
A few more notes:
  • It's easiest to use a narrow trim lace. Wider trims can be dramatic and beautiful, but it may require some creative cuts to make it stay flat around the corners.
  • I was really surprised to see how few choices my fabric store has for lace trim! Just a month ago they offered three times the trim they now have. I hope this trend doesn't continue.
  • Obviously, you can find lace in the bridal department, but you may also want to check the decorator department. I've seen some really pretty laces that are made for drapery or tablecloths. :-)


Francesca Pio said...

Thank you for this post! The pictures are very helpful! A chapel veil would make a very thoughtful gift for a fellow pious woman--I'll have to keep this post in mind for later! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post. It has clear directions, and the pictures are great. I've been on the search for a veil, but can't find one. I'll be making this for my daughters and myself.

sybarite said...

Hi, I would like to know where can I shop this fabrics.



Margaret Mary said...

I got them both from JoAnn Fabrics, but they're pretty common patterns. Any place that sells fabric should have one or both. You can get them online here:

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for this! I have grown up wearing veils at Mass. These have been handed down to me. I am very excited to make one for myself.

Unknown said...

I'm making lace gloves for a friends wedding coming up, and I've been doing research to find out the best way to go about it, this really helped and gave me some great ideas! Thank you!