How to Repair Lace with Sue Stewart
The instructions say simply, “Trim fabric from behind lace,” so you take a deep breath and begin. Then… “Oh, no! I cut my lace!” Relax, it’s OK. It is possible to almost invisibly repair nearly all lace “disasters.” Everyone who has done any amount of heirloom sewing has nicked, cut or sliced their lace. In this article from Sew Beautiful magazine, designer Sue Stewart shows you how she repairs different kinds of cuts in laces. This article first appeared in the “Sue Says…” column in our May/June 2005 issue (#100), and it was so popular we also featured it in our Sew Beautiful Favorite Heirloom Sewing Designs special edition.
Of course, the best strategy is to prevent cuts in the first place. Cuts will happen, and you will have to repair the lace, but there are things you can do to minimize those times.
1. First of all, make sure that you use scissors that have rounded tips and are very, very sharp. Trimming fabric from behind lace using pointed scissors is almost a sure recipe for frustration, as pointed scissor tips so easily catch in the holes of the lace.
2. Press fabric and lace from the wrong side just before trimming. This seems to help by eliminating fabric wrinkles and little bumps in shaped lace that can get nicked by scissors.
3. I find the best results by holding my fabric and scissors as illustrated in figure 1 (I am right-handed). Fabric is wrong side up, and I hold it in my left hand with my thumb on top and my fingers under the lace to be trimmed. I hold the scissors in my right hand with my palm facing up. The left blade of the scissors as I am looking at it slides between lace and fabric, and I cut along the right side of the stitched lace. With my left hand underneath the lace at all times, I can feel the blade of the scissors, and can tell if it starts to go through the lace. (NOTE: This is hard on the wrist, so trim only for short periods of time and take frequent breaks.)
4. When fabric on one side of the lace has been trimmed, turn the fabric piece around and trim the fabric along the other stitching line. I do not fold the fabric away from the lace. I hold the lace and fabric together with my left hand and slide the blade of the scissors between the fabric and the lace.
5. When only one side of the lace is stitched down, as for an edging or a lace shape that will have an insert of embellished fabric, I do not fold the lace away from the fabric to trim behind it. This stretches out and distorts any lace shaping you have done. I use the same technique as above, holding the lace and fabric together with my left hand and sliding the blade of the scissors between the fabric and the lace.
Ok, you’ve taken every precaution, and you’ve still cut the lace! The most common problem is just a few cut threads right next to the heading of the lace (Photo 1). This is also the easiest to repair.
1. Use fine cotton thread (60- or 80-wt) in both the needle and bobbin, which matches the lace color. Use a small machine needle (size 60 or 70).
2. Begin stitching about 1/2 inch away from the cut. Anchor threads by zigzagging (L = 0.6 – 1.0; W = 2.0 – 2.5) over the stitched heading of the lace and into the fabric.
3. When you reach the cut, stitch very slowly, one stitch at a time. Stitch one swing of the needle over the lace heading, and the other swing of the needle beyond the cut into intact part of lace. Use your hands like a hoop on the fabric to prevent it from drawing up too much. Continue one stitch at a time until the cut is closed. If the zigzag is not wide enough, make the stitch wider, or reposition the presser foot a little with each stitch.
4. To finish, secure the stitching in the heading of the lace for several stitches (Photo 2).
Suppose you have cut more than a few threads… you’ve cut a little flap, or even a small hole (Photo 3). Using the technique above would draw in and distort the lace too much (Photo 4). Use these steps to make a small patch:
1. Cut a piece of lace larger than the “oops.” Place good lace under the cut, matching the lace motifs.
2. Using fine cotton thread to match the lace and a small machine needle, zigzag (L = 0.6 – 1.0; L = 2.0 – 2.5) completely around the cut area.
3. Trim the extra lace away close to the stitching on the wrong side, and trim away any extra lace on the right side, too (Photo 5).
So, you’ve cut more than a few threads, and more than a little hole. There’s a big chunk missing, or the lace is cut along the edge for an inch or more (Photo 6). Use these steps to replace a whole section of lace.
1. Cut the lace close to the heading on both sides to remove the damaged section (Photo 7).
2. Cut a piece of lace larger than the section removed, and place it over or under the gap, matching the motifs.
3. Using fine cotton thread to match the lace and a small machine needle, zigzag (L = 0.6 – 1.0; W = 2.0 – 2.5) headings of the lace to the edges of the fabric where the lace was cut away.
4. To secure the ends of the replacement lace, zigzag diagonally, following the lines of the lace mesh, across both layers of lace. Stitching will be less noticeable if you stitch through a motif.
5. Trim extra lace away close to stitching on wrong side, and trim away any extra lace on right side, too (Photo 8).
After all of these repair procedures, you may use a very tiny bit of seam sealant on the cut lace edges and thread ends. With these techniques at your disposal, you can take repairing lace in stride, and will never again have to say, “Oh, no, I cut my lace!”
Sue Stewart worked as a primary designer for Martha Pullen Company from 1990 to 2005, during which she had dozens of featured articles in Sew Beautiful magazine. An award-winning designer of heirloom and machine-embroidered quilts, she has designed and sewn for Martha’s Sewing Room and many Martha Pullen publications. Visit her website at susanstewartdesigns.com.
For more tips and ideas for sewing with lace, check out these video resources:
The Martha Pullen Team