Hello, lovelies. I want you to meet my latest make. This little lace shell top using McCalls 7540 has been a real labour of love for me. Apart from a few machined seams in the lining it’s all been handsewn. My ‘couture project’ if you like… and the whole experience has been a joy to do from beginning to end.
Let me start, though, with a bit of backstory. Well, a while before Christmas I was contacted by a new-to-me online fabric company called Tissura.com who sell the most exquisite fabrics. **I was given the chance to try out some of their fabric and to share it with you. It really didn’t take me long to say yes once I’d had a quick browse of their beautiful fabric collections.
**Disclosure: I was provided with this fabric free of charge and this post is sponsored. This post may also contain affiliate links. For more on what these both mean you can read my full disclosure policy here.
Once I’d begun to properly look for some fabric (the fun bit!) I kept finding myself drawn to the beautiful corded lace range and it was then that inspiration struck…. I knew that the perfect project would be to make something for the Dressmakers Ball that I’m attending in March….exciting!
Now, you may or may not remember my last ball outfit from two years ago (if you don’t you can take a look here)…well, I made a rather elaborate dress which I absolutely loved wearing, but sadly it’s now just carefully folded and stored away in a drawer (perhaps I’ll refashion part of it into something else sometime), so this time around I wanted to make something that I’d get more mileage from. Separates was what I had in mind so that I could combine them with other items after the ball for different combos suitable for dressy nights out.
I ended up choosing some beautiful rust/coral toned lace, corded through with silver metallic threads, and decided to make a sweet little fitted shell top plus something floor length and glamorous to go with it (more on the companion garment and the full outfit reveal to come in another post).
So the pattern I chose to use for my top is McCalls 7540(no longer available). It’s a princess-seamed fitted shape with a back zip, high neckline and cut-in armholes. Perfect for the idea that I had in my mind.
Before I did anything with my lace though I had to toile the heck out of the pattern because I needed to be 100% sure of fit before going near the beautiful lace with a pair of scissors. I have to say, that the pattern was pretty great straight off. There are cup size options that are fab and I cut a 12 with a D cup. I only needed to add a little more at the waist and shorten the front armhole depth a little.
Once I was happy with the toile I unpicked it all and trimmed off all seam allowances so that I had the exact pattern shapes. These were all laid out along the lace fabric next to each other with the lower hemlines all sitting right on the beautiful scalloped lace edge…I wanted to have a clean and uninterrupted pretty edge all around my top.
I thread traced accurately around each pattern shape, including all of the contours of the princess seaming.
…And this is the part where I froze a bit… How to proceed? I’ve made up lace before (see here) but never quite like this.
A few direct messages to a lovely lady on IG called @abbymats ensued and she was delightful and sew helpful :). I just needed some reassurance and confidence to take the first step and get to grips with the couture method of cutting and overlapping lace to get a gorgeous seamless look.
I practised briefly on a scrap and then with a deep breath I started cutting, overlapping and hand stitching. For an explanation of this method try this PDF by Threads magazine. I couldn’t match my lace design exactly down the seams but the nature of the lace pattern and all of the metallic threads disguised them nicely.
After a while, I really got into the technique and started to really enjoy myself. I found the whole process quite cathartic and enjoyable (I got so engrossed I completely zoned out to the point that my cat Bilbo had been sitting at my feet for half an hour meowing for his meal and I never even noticed!). Gradually, each subtle princess seam curve and waist shape started to get moulded into shape and it began to look like a garment.
The next stage was for me to mount the lace shell onto a base of lining fabric. The lining that I ended up choosing was ivory chiffon which has a lovely silver shimmer coating. I found it on the Minerva Crafts website (search shimmer chiffon) and it’s proved to be perfect to add some contrast to the colour of the lace, to echo the silver strands within the lace and to match the garment that I’ll be making to go with my top.
Now, obviously, the chiffon is pretty see-through, so I decided that two layers would be perfect and I could mount the lace onto one layer, and then add the second one for a clean finish on the inside of my top.
So, after stitching up all of the lining seams I laid it on to the wrong side of my lace and gradually worked over the whole top, stitching the two layers together with fairly long stitches that picked up small amounts of the lace fabric. On the inside, it looks a bit like padstitching but on a bigger scale. The whole top behaved like one lovely fabric afterwards and the lace was secured.
Next, I sewed in a concealed back zip (by hand again) and stitched the shoulders, and then it was onto the sweet little capped sleeves…
…I used the lovely scalloped lace edge for the bottom of the sleeves which I handstitched in place around the upper armholes.
More hand sewing was the order of the day for the neck and lower armhole edges and also for sewing the second layer of lining in place. It was all just so relaxing to sit and quietly sew, and you really do have great control over the fabric. And all done whilst I listened to the radio or a sewing podcast. I loved it! I think I see more hand sewing in my future.
Once the lining was in I had the lovely task of adding a bit of extra embellishment and for that, I chose some lovely silver-lined crystal bugle beads that I got from Spellbound Beads which is rapidly becoming my favourite online bead shop.
Originally I planned on adding the beads around the neck and also scattering them over the upper front. In the end, though, I decided that less is definitely more and I just stitched on three rows right around the neck edge for a lovely touch of bling that looked perfect with the silver strands of the lace…a match made in heaven don’t you think?
The absolute final finishing touches?A lovely little diamante bead that I used as a button for the back neck…and of course my own label. And done!
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this project and I hope you enjoyed reading about it too 🙂
Have you ever sewn with lace? I’d love to know. Or tell me what was your most challenging but satisfying project.
Stay tuned for the full Dressmakers Ball outfit in a couple of weeks featuring this top and the bottom half that I’ll be making up soon. Spoiler alert…silvery shimmer coated micro pleated ivory 🙂
See you soon xx
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