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Sewing with Stretch Lace

Sew with stretch lace

This guide was provided by White Tree Fabrics who sadly are no longer trading.

Learn how to sew correctly with stretch lace and mesh fabrics, which can be difficult to handle. Here are our tips to ensure success for your dressmaking projects.


Handling stretch lace and mesh before cutting

Stretch fabrics are unstable for cutting until the fabric is fully relaxed from being on the roll. For instance if the lace/mesh was 120cm in width but finished at 150cm, when taken off the roll it will gradually start to shrink back.

If you proceed to cut stretch lace immediately after taking off the roll then the cut panels will shrink and what has been cut, for example, at size 14 could easily reduce to a size 10. 

It is recommended that you employ the following procedure. Lay slippery paper  between each layer of fabric to allow the fabric to compact and relax. The lay of the fabric should be in one direction only and the lace cut at the end of the lay length. The fabric should sit on the cutting table for roughly 18 hours before it is cut so it is fully relaxed.


Cutting stretch lace/mesh

How to handle mesh fabrics
  • You can pre-wash your lace, but make sure it’s on a cool setting and wait for it to dry and relax.
  • Ensure you’re working on a large, smooth, flat surface.
  • Use pattern weights rather than pins when cutting out. There’s a good chance the pins won’t take hold of the lace properly anyhow.
  • Consider using a rotary cutter rather than scissors; that way your fabric will stay completely flat and you won’t have to lift the fabric to cut it.
  • The fabric must not be under any tension whilst being cut and you should cut your pattern pieces one size larger than required.

Sewing with stretch lace/mesh

  • You’ll need a stretch needle – we suggest size 75/11 which should work perfectly with your stretch lace/mesh.
  •  When it comes to thread, any cotton/polyester all purpose thread should work just fine – we suggest Gutermann’s Sew-All thread.
  • If there’s a stretch stitch setting on your machine, select it and take the time to do some practice stitches first.

  • We recommend an overlock stitch to get the perfect finish but French seams work well with these fabrics too.

  • We recommend using some seam tape which will give these delicate fabrics some stability and sturdiness.
  • These fabrics can snag easily on any rough surface or even rough hands and nails. Handle with care and moisturise those digits!

Once you’re ready to sew, our advice is to test your machine foot length and pressure, do your practice stitches and then go for it. Don’t hold the fabric with too much tension and this will result in flat, neat seams.

You’ve made good preparations so taking your time and sewing more slowly should mean that the seam ripper isn’t needed. If you’re using a lining, you might also want to consider sewing the lining at the same
time as the lace/mesh for an even easier sew.