Lace is one of my favorite fabrics for spring, it’s so delicate and pretty but also lightweight and versatile – you can wear a lace top to a wedding or garden party, or mix things up by wearing it with a pair of jeans out on a Friday night. So I decided my next item would be a flutter sleeve lace top - little did I know what I was getting into!
In my sewing projects, my ambition always gets the better of me and I usually end up biting off more than I can chew. This is definitely the case with the last 2 new items I made – a velvet dress and a lace top. Velvet and lace are probably some of the most difficult fabrics to work with, but I just couldn’t help myself. They are so soft, so pretty, so feminine, so luxurious!
From my lace top mood board
When I was a teenager, I had a book called "Linens and Lace" by Tricia Foley. I used to spend a lot of time dreaming over this book which showed antique laces and linens in the most beautiful settings. I have a number of Tricia Foley's books, she was an editor-at-large for Victoria magazine and now has her own company designing and restoring homes, with a focus on historical preservation. I'm not sure what I would have done without her in the days before the internet - all we had back then were magazines and coffee table books. You can find out more about her here and still get the book here on Ebay.
Lace top mood board
I have some eyelash lace in a couple of mauve shades, which I thought would be perfect for a top for my spring collection. New tops are sorely needed - on the last photoshoot, I had to use vintage silk blouses and beaded cardigans to style with my skirts because I didn’t have enough tops made.
I love making tops but sometimes I get carried away with my skirts – it feels as if I have a million designs in my head and there’s never enough time to get them all made, so some products just get pushed to the back of the line. Being an independent designer is a blessing and a curse, you get to make what you want, but you need to rein in your imagination sometimes or you end up drowning under all the projects that you’ve enthusiastically started.
Here is the pink-mauve lace and lavender lace, with their lining fabrics. The pink-mauve has a pink silk chiffon lining, and the lavender lace has a silky, slightly iridescent lining.
The first version I made was in white lace, since I had some left over and I wanted to make a sample before I cut my main fabric. It also meant that if it turned out well, I'd have a white lace top to add to the collection.
The top started with construction of the back. I finished both of the back seams with my serger so that I could insert the zipper:
As I started to insert the zipper, it began to dawn on me that there was going to be a lot of hand sewing involved since the lace fabric and lining were slipping all around and moving out of place. I tried machine basting (long stitches that can be pulled out later) to stabilize the fabric but it was so delicate it got chewed up by the machine. Sigh. Time to get out the needle and thread.
You can't see it because it's white on white, but I hand basted the zipper to the back opening before machine stitching it.
The zipper went in smoothly after that:
The top has kind of an unusual design, it has princess seams, and the sleeves are sandwiched between the main front/back panel and the side panels. At first I wasn't even sure this could be done because usually you would construct the top, then add the sleeves, but this wasn't possible so I had to sew 2 separate shoulder seams, which wasn't a problem but it was just a bit different.
Here are the 2 side panels (front and back) that need to be sewn together to make one piece:
By this time I realized this top was going to have some serious hand sewing involved, which worried me because it is extremely time consuming and I wasn't sure I wanted to spend twice as much time making this top as any other item.
Nevertheless, I continued on and constructed the side panels. Next I sewed the front and back together at the shoulder seams to form one piece. Here is the finished side panels laid next to the front/back piece to see how they fit together:
The last step in this part of the process is to make the sleeves. Oh the sleeves - this is where I kind of went down the rabbit hole. I tried a kind of 'cascade' sleeve that went from the shoulder and tapered almost down to the waist but I decided it looked too dated. Then I made a traditional flutter sleeve, which turned out well, but I also liked one with a wider cap, which was a bit different and more modern.
Here are the 2 pattern pieces cut out - I still can't decide which one I like better! I love offering customization for my designs whenever I can, so I think I'm going to offer a choice so you can decide which one you like best. You'll be able to see how they both look later when I show the finished product.
I sewed a baby hem on each of the sleeve edges and got them ready to insert by hand basting the lace and lining together.
Pretty much every seam on this top had to be hand stitched before it was machine stitched, including some of the pieces that just needed one layer of lace and lining basted together so they could then by hand sewn into another seam!
At this point, it has probably taken me at least 3 times as long to make this top as a regular machine-stitched top, but honestly I can't help myself! It is so pretty, I so want to make lace items, that I'm just going to have to accept the time commitment.
All the time I've spent on this top means that I'm running late on my blog posts, so I'm going to end this one here and post the rest of the construction and final reveal in my next post.
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