Thursday, November 3, 2011

Guest Post: Colette Patterns Lace Insertion Tutorial

Today Sarai from Colette Patterns is here on the second stop of her blog tour for her new book--and she has an awesome tutorial to share. Welcome, Sarai! --Gertie

As a big fan of Gertie's blog, I'm happy to be joining you all here on the tour for my first book, The Colette Sewing Handbook! It's really wonderful how supportive the whole community of sewing bloggers has become, and Gertie is an especially wonderful example of that. Isn't it nice to see women supporting each other?

Today I'm going to share a tutorial for a decorative detail that didn't fit into my new book, but be sure to take a look at the link at the bottom as well to see a link to the giveaway I'm doing for the book plus five sewing patterns!
First, a little bit about the book. I wrote The Colette Sewing Handbook as a guide to the five fundamental areas of sewing that I think are so often confusing or challenging for the beginner (and even intermediate) sewist: planning your projects, working with patterns, getting a good fit, understanding fabric, and finishing techniques.

The book is designed to be a hands-on tool for learning these concepts, so each of those five sections has a project to go with it. The final project is the lined dress above, called Licorice.

Personally, I am a big fan of little details that you can add to just about any sewing project to change the look. After I've made a pattern once and spent some time getting the fit right and familiarizing myself with the design, I like to make it up in different ways, using different fabrics and switching up some of the construction details and embellishment.

Today, I thought I'd show you one of those details that didn't quite fit into the book. It's an easy way to add a simple lace insertion, using the Licorice dress. It involves just a teensy bit of pattern manipulation, and it's a great way to work through your stash of lace (I have a ton).

tools needed:
* Dress or skirt pattern. I'm using the Licorice dress from The Colette Sewing Handbook, sewn in a lovely woven mint green silk.
* Lace (about a yard to a yard and a half)
* Ruler
* Pen

First, decide how far from the bottom of the skirt you'd like to place the insertion. I like the way they look a few inches above the hem, but I think multiple insertions around the skirt would also look pretty amazing. Or a really wide one further up. It's up to you.

On your pattern pieces, start by marking the seam allowance on the lower hem. For this dress, the seam allowance is 5/8".

Draw a line parallel to the hem, whatever distance you've decided for the insertion, on both the front and back pieces. Drawing in the seam allowance on the previous step lets you position the insertion just where you want it. Cut your pattern pieces along this line.

Now you have a choice:

(a) If you're using lace that's wider than 1/2", you'll be adding a little length to your skirt. If you don't mind that, you can go ahead and proceed to the next step.


(b) If you want to avoid adding any length, that's easy too.  Just take the width of your lace and subtract 1/2". Trim that amount off the bottom of the dress front and back. So, for example, if your lace is 2", trim 1 1/2" off the bottom of the dress front and back pattern pieces at this point.

Mark the pieces so they don't get mixed up.

Cut out all the fabric pieces and sew the dress as instructed. Stop before sewing the center back seam.

With right sides together, stitch the front lower hem to the back lower hem at the side seams, finish the seams and press.

Now that you have the dress sewn together, measure around the bottom of the dress and cut a piece of lace long enough to fit. Add a couple inches to make sure you've cut it long enough.

Fold the bottom hem of the dress under 1/4" and press. Fold another 1/4" and press.

Do the same on the lower hem piece, along the top. Fold the top under 1/4", press, fold again 1/4" and press.

Pin the lace to the bottom of the dress, placing the right side of the lace onto the wrong side of the dress. Align the edge of the lace with the hem crease.

Stitch the lace in place on the dress.

Flip the dress to the right side and edgestitch the bottom of the hem to the dress. The two rows of stitching will keep the edges of the dress neat on both the inside and outside.

Repeat the last two steps for the lower hem pieces.

We used a slightly scalloped lace for this insertion, which worked fine. You may just need to adjust the position of the lace a little if your lace has a shaped edge like this.

Finish sewing the dress, putting in the back zipper, sewing the back seam, and hemming. You may want to shorten the lining on the dress, unless you're using a natural color that won't be obvious through the lace.

And there you are, a simple insertion that you can use on just about any skirt, dress, sleeve… you name it.

For a totally different take on this dress using an insertion, check out this daisy insertion I did during my Spring Palette Challenge project earlier this year. I used a silk-linen blend fabric for that dress, removed the sleeves, added basically a big ruffle for a cape neckline, and did an insertion using vintage daisy trim.


Thanks for joining me today for this stop on the tour! To see the other blogs that are participating and enter the giveaway to win a copy of the book plus five sewing patterns of your own choice, visit my post about the blog tour.

Thanks Gertie!


  1. Thanks so much for the great demonstration,I learnt a lot! That dress is absolutely beautiful and the lace is gorgeous. Will the book be for sale in the uk? Great guest blogger.It's really made me want to dig out my sewing machine now! XxxX

  2. That's a great suggestion for such a simple dress. Thanks for the post!

  3. Ooh I love this idea. It really jazzes up a simple skirt pattern!

  4. Lovely! I have the book marked on Amazon, and plan to purchase it. I like that it covers not just basic sewing techniques, but fitting, planning, etc. I am not a brand new sewer, but I am certain I will be able to learn from this book.

    Thank you for the tutorial, the dress looks lovely!

  5. A fabulous tutorial makes a difference.

  6. Y'know, there's an easier way to do it... And my sewing machine manual has the instructions! (Yay for vintage machines!) No pattern manipulation required. You measure up from the hem to make sure that it's in the same place all the way around. Pin your lace in place, zig-zag the edges on both sides, and then trim away the fabric from the back.

  7. Love it! It looks great with not too much fuss. Gorgeous dress too.

  8. Thanks for a great tutorial - I really like this look. I can't wait for my copy of your book to arrive!

  9. Thank you sarai, this is such a nice alternative to the normal, everyday hem- It's lovely!

  10. Thanks for the wonderful tutorial, such a simple way to add individuality to a garment. x

  11. thanks for the tutorial!!! this really is a foolproof way to add in lace :o) something I won't be fearing anymore from now on!
    And a little applause to Gertie for being such a great host :o) the chessnut-cake and tea were awesome ;o) (or was that my own cake and tea lol)

  12. I second Bratling's comment about there being an easier way to add insertion.

    I trace one line around the fabric where I want the top edge and hand baste the lace in place through the middle. Then I straight stitch through the header on both sides.

    Carefully cut open and press your fabric back on the wrong side, like opening a book. Zig zag or pinstitch over the headers again. No need to do all the narrow hemming and it's remarkably sturdy. It doesn't add length or require any calculations and you can do it anywhere - sleeves, bodices etc.

    When you get good at it, you can even shape the lace with this method - scallops, swirls, loop de loops.

  13. Thanks for the tutorial. You've inspired to start using my lace stash!

  14. Great tutorial! The lace trim adds a lot to the dress.

    ♥ Gina Michele

  15. It's a project saver too! I made a big linen white shirt, pirate style, and the sleeves just weren't long enough. So I added two lace inserts and an extra strip between them, adding up to about 4 extra inches. It looks amazing, and my shirt sleeves are good and long! :)

  16. I like this suggestion - it would be great just about anywhere you'd like to add a pretty detail such as sleeves, or down the front of a top, etc.

    Thanks for the great tutorial!

  17. Love this tutorial. I always wondered how to do this. My book should be arriving from Amazon tomorrow!

  18. Great tutorial. I love lace so this is one I will be trying.

  19. I'm glad you guys like! I have a huge stash of lace myself, much of it given to me by my grandmother, so I'm always looking for a way to use it. I should photograph it sometime for the blog, it's pretty awesome and make me think I should sew more lingerie.

    Bratling and Claire, those are great suggestions for alternate ways to do insertions. I suppose that I tend to prefer to hide the header on my lace, but the method Bratling describes is one I've used for insertions of lace with shaped edges (like on lingerie).

  20. In heirloom sewing lace insertion is done a little differently and I think it's much easier actually: The lace is sewn on the right side of the fabric along both edges, then with a pair of scissors (bandage scissors are good for this) the fabric is slit all along the the lace from the back. Then the cut edges are pressed away from the lace. The cut edges are sewn down from the right side along the first stitching with the teeny tiny zig zag. Then the cut edges are trimmed close to the zig zag from the back.

  21. A lace insert makes a very nice trim! How about some design details that have something in common with other design details of the garment such as the gentle bias curve of the collar or the elasticized sleeve openings or color. Why black for the lace when nothing else is black? Why a lace insert with a very tailored belt?

  22. Why NOT a black for the lace when nothing else is black? Why a NOT a lace insert with a very tailored belt? Isn't the whole point of sewing your own clothing the endlessly possibilities?

  23. Thanks for the tutorial. Beautiful and delicate detail! It definitely emphasizes the look of the dress.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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