How to Sew Lace

    by Catie Watson

    About the Author

    Catie Watson is a writer and software engineer who enjoys writing about a variety of topics related to culture, technology and education. Her work has been featured on numerous websites and in national magazines. She has also studied fashion design, worked as a costumer for film and theater and was a Walt Disney Imagineer.


    Lace adds a soft, romantic touch to any type of garment, especially wedding and christening gowns, blouses and lingerie. Lace is also a lovely embellishment for table cloths, bed linens and hand towels -- anywhere you want to add texture and detail. The delicate surface of lace requires special sewing methods. Traditional techniques for sewing lace have evolved over several centuries and have been adapted to the sewing machine and just take a little practice to apply to your own projects.

    Things You'll Need

    • Lace trim
    • Fine, sharp hand or sewing machine needles
    • Matching thread
    • Spray starch (optional)

    Cut and smooth the appropriate length of flat lace trim to embellish the edge of a project. Flat lace trim usually has one straight edge and one scalloped edge. It can be applied to the edges of sleeves and hems. Trim the seam allowance of the edge to 1/4 inch, then roll a narrow hem. For hand sewing, use a whip stitch to secure the rolled hem and attach the lace. When sewing with a machine, first trim the seam to 1/8 inch, and sew with a narrow zigzag stitch to attach the lace to the edge. The zigzag stitch should attach the lace and provide a narrow overcast on the raw edge.

    Lay two or more strips of lace next to each other when you want to join lace trim with straight edges. Sew them by hand with a small whipstitch or machine zigzag stitch. Take care not to overlap the edges of the rows when stitching them together.

    Cut a piece of flat lace trim two or three times the desired length when you want to create a gathered lace trim to a apply to a project. Gather the lace by hand or machine by taking basting stitches and then pulling them up. Gathered lace may be attached using the same techniques as described for flat lace. To insert gathered lace into the seam on the edge of a collar or cuff, sew it to the right side along the seam line with the lace facing toward the garment. When the collar or cuff is sewn to its facing piece, the lace is sandwiched between the two pieces. Turn the pieces right side out and the gathered lace extends from the seam.

    Lay a flat piece of lace with straight edges on top of your project in the position where you want to create a lace insert. An insert highlights the texture of lace, once you trim away the fabric behind it. The best way to attach lace for an insert is with a sewing machine. Apply the lace with a straight stitch very close to the straight edge. Go over the straight stitches with a narrow machine zigzag stitch. After both straight edges have been zigzagged, carefully cut away the fabric under the lace with sharp scissors. Clip close to the zigzag stitches, avoiding cutting into the lace.

    Line up two raw ends of lace to join flat lace with a French seam. Stitch them the wrong sides together with a small seam of about 1/8 inch. Crease along the seam, then bring the right sides together and stitch again with a 1/8 inch seam. For wide lace trims, the traditional way to join the ends is to applique along a motif. Overlap the ends and trim around the edges of a motif on the top layer. If sewing by hand whip stitch along the edge of the motif, then trim away the lower fabric along the motif. For machine sewing, use a narrow zigzag stitch in place of whip stitching.

    • Apply a light coating of spray starch on lace and fabric before sewing to provide more control.
    • Practice sewing scraps of fabric and lace to adjust stitch width and tension.