How to Embroider and Sew English Cotton Netting


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We talk a lot about sewing for little ones, but it’s good to remind ourselves to sew for ourselves too! With spring’s arrival, I know I’d love to have a new piece or two for my warm weather wardrobe — and while thumbing through some back issues of Sew Beautiful, this heirloom-inspired cap-sleeved top from the Aug/Sept ’13 issue caught my eye. What a timeless design, and so beautiful! Made of English cotton netting, it can be worn casual or dressed up, over a dress or a top. It was made by Beth Walz using Sue Stewart’s Easy Breezy Vest pattern and embellished with machine-embroidered motifs and freestanding lace. The techniques can be used with any pattern that has been drafted with simple shapes. Follow the tips below to learn how you can recreate the look.

What You’ll Need: Vest pattern • English cotton netting • Venice lace edging and motif • French lace insertion • Water-soluble stabilizer (such as Floriani Wet N Gone) • Blue wash-away marking pen • Basting glue • Machine embroidery designs • 60wt cotton thread for construction • Embroidery thread to match netting (such as polyester for sheen or DMC 50wt for a matte finish) • Bobbin thread to match embroidery thread

Fabric Preparation:
You must pre-shrink cotton netting by soaking in warm water. Roll in a towel to remove excess water, and then hang or lay out to dry. Do not skip this step! Netting shrinks a significant amount in width. Except for bound edges, seam allowances of at least 1/2 inch are easier to stitch than narrower seam allowances. If your pattern has narrow (1/4-inch) seam allowances, increase seam allowance to 1/2 inch for all seams. With blue wash-away marking pen, trace all pattern pieces onto pre-shrunk netting. For example, for vest shown, trace a full back and both a right and left front onto a single layer of netting. Mark right side of all pieces. Do not cut out until all embroidery is complete.


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Machine Embroidery:
1. When selecting machine embroidery motifs, choose designs that have an airy feel, without large areas of dense coverage or wide satin stitches – think vines and small, wispy flowers.

2. Test embroidery on a piece of netting to see how much stabilization will be needed and to determine how threads look. Sample was sewn with one layer of water-soluble stabilizer to support designs shown; however, you can use more than one layer. Water-soluble stabilizer can be used on top of netting as well as underneath. A good general rule for all embroidery is to use the smallest hoop which will accommodate the motif.

3. Embroider motifs on netting in positions desired. After each motif has been completed, trim away excess water-soluble stabilizer about 1/2 inch from embroidery.

4. Embroider edging segments on two or three layers of water-soluble stabilizer and join as directed in instructions included with pattern.

5. With a short straight stitch, stay-stitch shoulder, neckline and armhole edges (if your pattern has set-in sleeves), 1/8 inch inside traced cutting lines.

Cut out pattern pieces according to layout guide in pattern.

NOTE: Sewing netting is almost like sewing lightweight knit fabric, as it has quite a bit of crossgrain stretch. Stitch with a narrow zigzag so stitching doesn’t break. Because netting is so transparent, it is not recommended to serge seams.

1. To stabilize shoulder seams, cut a lengthwise strip of netting 1/2 inch wide and long enough for shoulder seams. Place fronts and back right sides together, and center netting strip over shoulder stitching lines. With 60wt cotton thread in needle and bobbin, stitch on stitching line using a narrow zigzag (L=1.0-2.0; W=1.0). Stitch again very close to first stitching, just inside seam allowance. Trim all layers of netting very close to second stitching.


Figure 1

2. To add French lace insertion, position lace as desired and pin or lightly glue in place. With fine cotton thread in both needle and bobbin, zigzag (L=1.0-2.0; W=1.5) along both headers of insertion (fig. 1). Do not cut out netting from behind insertion.

3. For a narrow neck binding, cut 1-1/4-inch-wide lengthwise strips of netting (for 1/4-inch seam allowance). Piece together to make a strip long enough to bind center fronts and neckline.

4. Starting at one center front lower edge, place binding and vest right sides together, raw edges even. Straight stitch (L=1.5–2.0) with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Do not stretch binding. Stitch again 1/8 inch from first stitching, within seam allowance. Trim netting close to second stitching.


Figure 2

5. Press netting strip toward seam allowance. Fold netting strip to wrong side over seam allowance, and pin or lightly glue-baste in place. From right side, straight stitch in ditch of binding seam to secure binding strip on wrong side. Trim netting close to stitching (fig. 2).


Figure 3

6. For other seams, stitch right sides together with a narrow zigzag (L=1.0-2.0; W=1.0). Stitch again very close to first stitching, just inside seam allowance. Trim all layers of netting very close to second stitching (fig. 3).


Figure 4

7. To attach edging, position so straight side of edging overlaps cut edge of netting by about 1/2 inch. Pin or lightly glue-baste in place. Zigzag (L and W=2.0) over straight side of edging. Trim netting close to stitching (fig. 4).

Soak well to remove marks, stabilizer and glue, changing water several times. Roll in towel to remove excess water. If there are any sticky or slimy spots from stabilizer, soak longer. Hang to dry or dry flat. If embroidery is stiff, soak piece again. When everything is finally soft, press lightly.

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Much Love to You All and May God Bless,
Kathy McMakin


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