The reason I've given this part of the construction it's own blog post is because it's the most prominent aspect of the dress and applying the lace was a very involved process. First it took 25-30 hours of hand stitching to get the lace applied to the top of the dress. AND there is a lot of hand stitching in the dress...so much so that it has changed the weight of the dress. As each piece of lace was sewn to the dress, it got heavier and heavier.
Now I'm not a couture sewist or a tailor. I'm just a sewing enthusiast who enjoys the process and loves to create. Anyone could have made this dress because I started with my TNT dress pattern which had already been fitted to me. When I took the fit application out of the equation, all that was left was sewing techniques...all of which are pretty simple, just time consuming. I truly believe anyone from an advanced beginner to an advanced sewist could make this dress. It just took a lot of time and the willingness to take my time and use a needle and thread more than my sewing machine.
Besides the fact that it took 25-30 hours to apply the lace, there were a few things I was grateful for and here's some more info on the application of the lace and building the dress...
1. The Susan Khaljie class that I took at Mood NYC was a lifesaver. There were so many little tips that she shared about applying lace to a garment that really helped me get this dress finished. If you get an opportunity to take this class with her, I highly recommend it.
2. The silk organza was the best foundation to add to the dress. Not only was it a great underlining for the dress but it was the perfect base for stitching the lace into. It added body and structure to the wool tweed and guipure lace. It was the second wisest decision I made when constructing the dress.
3. I kept four needles threaded at all times. It made the hand stitching go faster. It also didn't seem as overwhelming when I didn't have to constantly thread a needle and helped me get into a rhythm. Also at the end of each sewing session, I made sure the four needles were re-threaded and waiting for the next sew.
4. When I went to add the lace to the back of the dress, I realized that I'd attached the lace on the wrong side to the front. The wrong side had no luster and was a more matte color/finish and I was fine with that. I would have been a big shiny mess if I'd used the "right" side!
5. The lace was applied with basting stitches in a bright neon color at the neckline and the side or back seams so that I would know where to start and stop stitching. I removed the stitching at the sides and the back once the lace was all stitched down. It wasn't removed from the neckline because it would be encased in the seamline and at that point I was just too lazy to remove something that didn't need to go.
7. Getting the lace on the back was a little more involved because I had to match the lace at the hemline, at the sides and the zipper. Now I understand why designers use a lapped zipper instead of an invisible zipper ~ easier to match and no worries about the lace getting caught in the zipper tape.
8. When I started stitching the lace to the dress, I started at the bottom by stitching the edge flat first. Then I stitched rows from one side to the other side sewing from the bottom to the top. It made it easier to figure out where to stop and start on the stitching since it took me an entire week of sewing (even some evenings after work) to get the lace stitched down.
9. About halfway through hand stitching each piece, I steam pressed the piece. Now in Sandra Betzina's, More Fabric Savvy, she says to cover the lace and then to hover 1/2" above the fabric and steam. Then steam and pat flat, never touch the lace with the iron. Okay I tried that and honestly it looked better when I lightly pressed the lace. I'm stressing lightly pressing the uncovered lace because I got a better press/finish that way. Maybe it's because I'm using the wrong side of the lace. I don't know if this technique would have worked if I had used the shinier side of the lace.
10. I used my normal technique of adding bias binding to the armholes because I find that the dress wears better for me with this technique. This is a personal preference not a sewing rule. Now for this dress I didn't want to use another fabric for the bias binding. So I made some bias binding from the silk charmeuse so that everything matched inside the dress. But as you know silk charmeuse is thin and can stretch out of shape so I added a lightweight fusible interfacing to the fabric prior to cutting it into strips. Then I applied it to the dress' armholes.
11. Because I'd already gone all the way with the construction, I also added a lace trim to the hem of the lining and of course, rayon seam binding to the fashion fabric's hemline. The dress deserved it.
12. Finally, the designer dress has the lace edging at the neckline and armholes. Originally I was going to replicate that...now I don't care. I like the clean neckline and armholes on my dress and I'm going with that.
Lace is H-U-G-E right now. It can be very dressy like these Tadashi Shoji evening/cocktail dresses or everyday like these plus size dresses from Macy's. Lace has been made into tops, pants and shorts...just everything. So including some in one of your new summer garments is a must. You don't need to get as involved as I did, but add something lacy to your spring/summer wardrobe...it will be worth it!
I hope you made it this far because there's alot of instructions above, but just in case someone wants to walk in my shoes, I've left you a roadmap! Like I said earlier next up is the reveal...
But can I tell you that my next two pieces are going to be easy schmezy! I've already picked them out cause I need some quickies after all of this involved sewing. Then I will work on the jacket/coat to wear over the dress Easter Sunday. I've made the pattern several times before so I'll be able to put it together quickly.
...as always more later!