I don’t know about you, but when it comes to complex DIY projects, especially ones that I think will be simple, my creative process looks a little something like this:
- Find inspiration
- Do a quick search on Google and Pinterest. The project seems so easy! Why didn’t somebody already come up with this project?
- Brainstorm instructions.
- Start sourcing my supplies. Be sure to over-analyze every option.
- Pull together all of my supplies and tools.
- Start project.
- Realize what makes sense in my head isn’t the best option in real-life. Especially if I want to do it the right way vs. the easy way.
- Push aside project in frustration.
- Complain that I don’t know what I’m doing.
- Look for instructions and tips again.
- Repeat Steps 6 through 10, as necessary.
- Resolve to finish the project and start plowing through it.
- Finish the project.
- Bask in the glory of being done.
- Vow to take on realistic projects in the future.
- Find new inspiration and start the cycle all over again.
And so it went with this lace top. When I first started out, I thought I would simply use fabric glue to add some lace to the shoulder/chest area of a boring maternity shirt. Then I decided it would be fun to modify the sleeves. Well, guess what? I’ve only sewn two articles of clothing: a dress for a friend’s baby and a maxi dress for myself. Neither had sleeves. I didn’t have a pattern, so there was a lot of trial and error involved. I’d pin the sleeves, try on the shirt, and feel like a linebacker. Eventually, I settled on a design I liked after using the back of a chair as a dress form.
When it came to attaching the lace to the body of the shirt, I hemmed and hawed. I called my mom since she sewed her clothes while growing up. I stared at my shirt and inspiration shirts. And probably said a few choice words. Using fabric glue didn’t feel “finished” enough and I was worried about the lace fraying. I sure as heck didn’t want to rip the entire shirt apart, so I wound up folding under the lace and stiching it to the shirt.
Overall, I love the way the shirt turned out. Now that I figured it out, I may or may not make another. Part of my love of DIY is learning a new skill.
Note: I’m going to put it out there that this is more of an intermediate project. If you know your way around a sewing maching and have sewn clothes before, this project shouldn’t be as hard for you.
T-shirt (I bought this Gap maternity T-shirt in gray on sale)
Lace (I bought one yard of this 8″ wide eyelash lace)
Thread to match your T-shirt and lace
1. Pre-wash your shirt. This will help avoid shrinkage later.
2. Lay your shirt flat on the table and measure how much lace you’ll need to cover the body/shoulder area of the shirt. I gave myself about 14 inches. Cut that much from the yard of lace. Cut the remaining piece in two. The two smaller pieces will be used for the sleeves.
3. Turn the shirt inside-out and rip the seams at the armholes, removing the sleeves.
4. With the shirt still turned inside-out, fold over ~1/4 inch of fabric from the edge of the armhole (1/4 inch seam allowance), and iron so the wrong sides of the fabric are touching each other. This will ultimately give the armholes a finished look.
5. With the shirt draped over the back of a chair (or on a dress form) start to position and pin your lace into a sleeve. Your shirt will still be inside-out. The right side of the lace will be pinned to the wrong side of shirt.
This took lots of trial and error for me. I would pin the lace, try on the shirt, and make adjustments, as needed.
6. Ultimately, I figured that finding the middle of the piece of lace (so 5.5 inches in if my lace was 11 inches long), pinching the lace together just a little bit, and pinning the pinched piece to the top seam was the best. Then I draped the lace down over the armholes and pinned away.
7. Baste the lace to the body of the shirt. Basting is long easily removable stitches. You can do this by hand or using a sewing machine. I just used a needle and thread. These long and loose stitches temporarily hold the lace to the shirt. You’ll remove them later once the lace is permanently sewn to the shirt.
8. Try on your shirt once more to make sure you like the shape and size of the lace sleeves.
9. I you don’t like how the sleeves look, you can easily remove the basting stitches and reposition the lace.
10. With the shirt now turned right-side out (the right-side of the lace will also be facing out), sew the lace sleeves to the body of the shirt. The stitch will be very close to the edge of the armhole (I kept the sewing machine presser foot even with the edge of the armhole) since you only have 1/4 inch seam allowance.
You can remove the basting stitches at this point.
You can see how closely I stitched to the edge of the armhole.
How one sleeve looks! It’s hard to tell, but the lace doesn’t go all the way around the armhole. It’s a little more than a cap sleeve, but not quite a full short sleeve.
With both sleeves sewn in place, you could easily stop there. If you want to add lace to the body/shoulders, let’s continue on:
11. Iron the body of the shirt. Lay the lace over the body of the shirt.
12. Pin the lace in place and cut the lace so you have a 1/4 inch seem allowance at the armholes, shoulders, and neckhole.
13. I found it really helpful to slide a thin piece of cardboard inside the body of the shirt so that I wasn’t pinning the lace to the front and back of the shirt.
Fold the 1/4 inch edge of lace under and pin into place.
14. Sew the lace to the body of the shirt.
15. Turning the shirt inside out, trim the excess lace from the sleeves. You could have also trimmed the excess before adding the lace to the body of the shirt.
16. Turn your shirt right-side out.
Voila! It’s time to take your shirt out on the town!