Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lace fabric on ID dresses-part 1

Lace on irish dance dresses is used on all parts of the dress like the sleeves, the panels, the cape or a soft underskirt. Most of the time the lace is used as-is, or it is combined with a backing fabric as an overlay to create interesting patterns and sparkle. A trend that is currently rising is the use of lace appliques to replace the embroideries on the bodice or skirt or to combine patches of lace with embroidery work to create a nice pattern.
Some of the "readymade'" applique lace pieces out there made for beauty pageant-, ballet- or wedding dresses are very suitable for this purpose.

When you cannot find what you need however, you might want to look for fabrics with elegant embroideries in repeating patterns that you can cut out and create your own lace appliques.

The process used to shape and mould the fabric or cut lace pieces is a very well know technique in couture dresses. Many wedding dresses or evening gowns with stunning lace borders or allover designs are usually "pieced" together from a border or straight piece of lace fabric to suit the designers' needs. Patterns can be made by adding shapes together, overlapping them or shaping them to follow a border or neckline. You don't need much lace to spice up a dress. Half a yard of lace pieced together and appliqued on a bodice or skirt can already have a great effect on the look of a finished dress.

When choosing a fine lace to work with, like Alencon or Chantilly lace it is often overwhelming to choose from all the options available. To choose the right fabric for the job, you need to ask yourself how you want to use the lace. When applying it as an overlay you need to look at the allover effect the fabric is giving you. When using only parts of the lace, you need to check if the fabric provides you with nice shapes or patterns to be cut out and pieced onto the dress. Most-if not all- laces have repetitive patterns, but not all of them are suitable for Irish dance dresses. (Be careful not to make your irish dance dress look like an altered wedding dress). Try to imagine how certain patterns from the fabric would look on your dress and if that suits your taste. The scallops and patterns from the fabric need to match the rest of the design and the person who is wearing it. Designs that are too small will be lost and designs that are too large will overwhelm the dancer.

When choosing your fabric, examine the borders that are present on the lace. Borders are usually more elaborately embellished than the main fabric and will no doubt be used most frequently on your dress. Full and wide borders provide great opportunities to cover the cuffs of a sleeve, the waistline of a bodice or be shaped to follow the neckline. Sometimes choosing a lace galloon (a narrow border piece of lace) might prove to be a wiser choice than an allover lace fabric. When using a lace as a theme in a dress, it might be an option to consider matching laces together to benefit most from the embellishments on the fabric. If, for instance, you are using a white allover lace for the bodice or skirt, you might be able to match this with a lace galloon in the same style and color to provide you with more border "yardage". It might be difficult to match special colors, but it is worth looking for if it means not having to buy another yard or two of the allover fabric only to have more border fabric.

To try and make a good estimate on the yardage needed, it is wise to shop for the lace with a set of paper or muslin pattern pieces. With the pattern pieces put under the lace, you can precisely see how large certain patterns will be and where they could be placed.

After determining the place of the lace on your irish dance dress, you can cut out the pieces. When using individual motifs, you need to trim the net fabric close to your motif edges, but you need to leave a tiny amount of netting to keep the threads making up the motif in place. If you do cut through the cording or the chain stitching holding beads, sequins or pearls, try and secure these by hand sewing or with a tiny amount of tacky glue.

Lace can be used transparent or underlined with a second fabric to create nice contrast. If you want to preserve the transparent quality of the lace, but the fabric itself is quite delicate, then using organza in a matching color to stabilize the lace is a great option (the organza will make the lace slightly more opaque). You can also use different shades of organza to intensify a certain color. If you have an orange lace for example, it can be made more red, orange, white or yellow by trying out different colored backgrounds.

Hand stitching your lace will give you the best control and most invisible result. Even though very labour intensive, the piecing of lace by hand will disturb the lace the least and the tiny stitches will be almost invisible. When using corded lace you can follow the lines of the cording to attach your piece. Heavily embroidered laces with wide satin stitch lines are best machine stitched in place with a matching thread covering the original satin stitch.
Straight borders can be cut and re-stitched to follow curves. For sharp curves you need to cut deeper into the lace and either spread or overlap the lace to create the desired curve. Re-stitch the lace following the design either by hand or with the machine and cut away any excess from the bottom layer. When piecing shapes together make sure that the topmost piece has the more pleasing shape to follow. Remember that you can add small patches or shapes to motifs already present in the lace to make a shape more pleasing.