Couture Adventures In Lace Using McCalls 7540

Couture lace top using McCalls 7540

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).

Couture lace top using McCalls 7540
Couture lace top using McCalls 7540
Couture lace top using McCalls 7540

So the pattern I chose to use for my top is McCalls 7540. It’s a princess seamed fitted shape with 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 which are fab and I cut a 12 with a D cup. I only needed to add a little more at the waist and to 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.

Couture lace top using McCalls 7540

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 of explanation of this method try this video by Threads (about halfway through the vid). 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.

Couture lace top using McCalls 7540

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 that 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, 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.

Couture lace top using McCalls 7540

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.

Couture lace top using McCalls 7540

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.

Couture lace top using McCalls 7540
Couture lace top using McCalls 7540

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!

Couture lace top using McCalls 7540
Couture lace top using McCalls 7540

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

A quick PSA for you:

If you’ve found my blog via a link on Pinterest or somewhere else and landed on this post and not on my latest ones then you may not be aware that I’ve been having problems with Bloglovin’ not picking up new posts regularly for quite some time. It may get fixed, but this has often been short-lived and then posts get missed again. If you like what you see here and want to follow me, may I suggest signing up for email? I’d hate you to miss out on post updates. Cheers!

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Couture lace top using McCalls 7540

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26 Comments

  1. January 30, 2019 / 10:58 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing the technique and process to make this stunning lace top. A lot of time, effort, patience and care is needed but they are all reflected in the results. It is exquisite and romantic. The colour, texture, shape and embellishments perfectly complement each other. So beautiful, Diane!

    • diane
      Author
      January 31, 2019 / 8:31 am

      Thank you for those lovely words Sil xx

  2. January 31, 2019 / 12:43 pm

    Your thoughtful planning and careful technique have resulted in a gorgeous bespoke lace top which will be a classic in your wardrobe for years to come.

    • diane
      Author
      January 31, 2019 / 3:49 pm

      Thank you Tammy xx. It feels really special to wear too 🙂

  3. Abby
    January 31, 2019 / 1:59 pm

    A stunning top, Diane, and a brilliant idea to make separates. Thank you for sharing your steps, and thanks also for the mention! 😘

    • diane
      Author
      January 31, 2019 / 3:50 pm

      You’re a treasure xx. Thanks Abby and for stopping by my blog for a read.

  4. January 31, 2019 / 4:35 pm

    Just stunning to see & read throughout! Truly couture, fitted, perfect for your colouring – setting the bar pretty high as usual Diane! Thank you for sharing your creative inspiration and the completed garment that you get to wear whenever you like! It’s going to be tempting to make it so “precious” too and not wear it often enough. We must always remember with these amazing works of clothing art that we pour our heart & soul into making like this one represents so perfectly, will never look as beautiful again as it does now on the body we made it for 🙂 I know this of what I speak, I just turned 64 so I’ve witnessed the changes in my body over the decades and the clothing we are making this body for today is not our body of tomorrow. So wear the heck out of this Diane by all means! With anything not just fancy (especially after the “fancy” events are over) – with jeans or even under a jean jacket. Imagine taking off a jean jacket with a skinny pair of black chinos at the base and this blouse on top?! Wow you’d look like a movie star 🙂

    • diane
      Author
      January 31, 2019 / 5:00 pm

      Thanks for such a lovely comment Kathleen. I love that you enjoyed my post so much. You’re absolutely right of course. There is a definite danger of “saving” my top for special occasions and then in years to come regretting not making the most of it. Love your description of that jean jacket outfit…I have a jean jacket and very slim black pants 🙂 You’ve really got me thinking now 🙂

  5. January 31, 2019 / 5:19 pm

    Hi Diane! Gorgeous top and I loved reading about your process! Such a versatile make, I’d be tempted to wear that top on a date night with a denim skirt or dressy jeans.

    • diane
      Author
      January 31, 2019 / 7:07 pm

      Thanks Linda! Ooh, more great styling ideas…love it!

  6. January 31, 2019 / 8:02 pm

    Exquisite! And you have so much patience – very inspired to attempt a similar one myself. I do also agree with Kathleen above, about getting lots of wear out of it now rather than just for ‘special’ occasions. Thanks for sharing and in such detail. Easy to follow. 🙂

    • diane
      Author
      January 31, 2019 / 9:00 pm

      Hi Christine. Thank you! I love it when people say I’ve inspired them and I’m so glad you found my ramblings easy to follow too…sometimes I find it difficult to set things out in the right easy to understand format. Oh, do try a lace top yourself!

  7. February 1, 2019 / 3:16 am

    I bought a Butterick pattern once that had instructions on how to machine sew lace and lining both to make a simple top. I still haven’t gotten around to it. You have inspired me with your hand sewn version. It’s beautiful 😍 if you can do this, I can at least do that! I’m going have to dig up that pattern! Very lovely!

    • diane
      Author
      February 1, 2019 / 9:21 am

      Thanks, Linda! You should definitely give that Butterick pattern a tryout 🙂

  8. February 2, 2019 / 9:27 am

    One of the best makes I have ever seen. Absolutely beautiful Diane. You should consider running sewing residential somewhere. I would so like to go on one to make a top like this. Love the colour too.

    • diane
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 10:32 am

      Oh wow, thank you for that lovely comment Mags. And you’re the second person to ask about some kind of course or class….you’ve both got me thinking…

  9. February 2, 2019 / 2:20 pm

    It’s beautiful! Sounds like a real labour of love. What an unusual and attractive colour too.

    • diane
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 2:29 pm

      Thank you, Catherine!

  10. Karie
    February 2, 2019 / 4:17 pm

    Stunning! I have never sewn with lace and would be beyond scared to try. I am excited to see what the bottom half of your outfit will look like!

    • diane
      Author
      February 2, 2019 / 5:27 pm

      Thanks, Karie! I was a bit terrified myself to start this project, but so glad I did it.

  11. February 3, 2019 / 1:22 pm

    So Beautiful top! You need a lot of patience for the finishes,, Great make!!!

    • diane
      Author
      February 3, 2019 / 4:23 pm

      Thank you so much Moira! xx

  12. February 10, 2019 / 1:00 pm

    Oh my goodness, your top is absolutely gorgeous!!

    • diane
      Author
      February 10, 2019 / 4:50 pm

      Awww, thanks Lynne xx

  13. February 11, 2019 / 2:36 pm

    Gorgeous Diane!!! Stunning in its simplistic design to let the gorgeous lace have all the spotlight. Perfect fit and your sewing techniques show what a skilled sewist you are. Love this!! 🙂

    • diane
      Author
      February 11, 2019 / 5:26 pm

      Aww, thanks for those lovely words Lisa xx

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