French Chantilly Lace/ Layout and Pattern Matching

This strapless cocktail dress presented some interesting construction and layout techniques unique to lace. The hem is lower in the back and so the usual way of laying out a skirt with the hem following the finished lace edge doesn’t work here. Also the neckline is edged with a scalloped border. The right and left sides are mirror imaged. Picky details but never seen outside of couture workmanship.

I start a project like this by studying the lace pattern carefully and noting where and how the motifs repeat. This lace is a fine French Chantilly with a double galloon edge, meaning there are scallops on both edges.
The lace is laid out with a scalloped edge running the length of my long cutting table. This shows the pattern repeating vertically every 11 inches. Note the top of the swirl at the end of the ruler and again at the 11 inch mark. Also notice that the same swirl is reversed at 5.5 inches. If you’ve ever worked with upholstery/drapery fabrics you’re familiar with the term “half drop match.” The pattern repeats in some form halfway between the full match.

Probably the easiest way to illustrate the entire dress layout is this:

Starting with the corrected toile, position the front piece at the far right hand edge with the hem along the scalloped edge. You will have already determined the finished length. I also trimmed the scalloped edge along the entire length, cutting around the motifs. Since back hem was longer than the front, the other pattern sections were moved upwards a full pattern repeat. The waistline was used as a reference point and was also positioned parallel to the lower edge. Now for the interesting part.

At the half drop line (halfway between pattern repeats) the pattern mirror imaged. On this diagram I’ve illustrated this with red C’s. Notice how the C’s flip. The easiest way to get perfect matching is to cut the left (or right side) first, flip the lace piece and lay it down matching the pattern motifs.
Perfectly mirrored back sections.
My muslin toile is folded or cut along the seam line, so matching is easy. I fold the seam allowances under and check that the seam doesn’t fall along an unwanted pattern placement. Here I will shift the piece over to avoid a prominent double “fern leaf like pattern” along the seam line.
The dress is constructed of silk crepe de chine with silk organza underlining. The lace is backed with a layer of silk tulle. That means the dress has four layers: Chantilly lace, silk tulle, crepe de chine and silk organza. They are basted together, seams lines thread traced, and then treated as one layer. I frequently use silk tulle as backing for lace. It’s wonderful to work with and almost adheres itself to the lace. I think it softens the contrast between the lace and silk underlayers.
Silk tulle comes in black, white and ivory but I’ve successfully dyed it when needed. Nylon tulle is NOT the same. Unlike silk tulle, the nylon version fights you all the way. It doesn’t behave and insists on doing its own thing.
Some advocate using silk organza as backing for lace, but I find it too opaque and doesn’t produce the effect I want. Here is the Chantilly lace with no underlay, silk tulle, and organza.
Try different materials under your lace and see which produces the effect you like.

Sew major seams through all layers. I hem the crepe de chine/organza layer before finishing the seams. Working with only the lace layer, hand applique the hem border following the motifs. I found silk thread blended in best.

Lace for hem edge trimmed along motifs:


Trim away the excess lace underneath the appliqued edge and tack it to the silk tulle.
The neckline trim is done the same way except trim closer to the scallops so the trim is narrower and follows the shaped edge easier.
The lining is the same crepe de chine. I fused a high quality weft interfacing to the hip line and added boning for support. This will be worn over a foundation garment, so heavy boning wasn’t needed. A ribbon waistband keeps the dress in place and prevents it from slipping down.

Perfectly matched seam with invisible zip.
If you noticed at the beginning of this post, the photo of the front neck shows the center front as about 3/8 inch off center. This was done to correct for one hip being lower than the other. The toile had a definite right and left side. The pattern pieces are shaped differently but the garment looks symmetrical when worn. The dress form was wearing bust pads and a spandex tank; explains the strange undergarments.

couture sewing

Marfy Top Chiffon Version

chiffon topOne more version of the free Marfy top pattern before I retire it for awhile. I needed a simple black top for under suits and this seemed to fit the bill. The flocked silk chiffon is from B&J Fabrics in NYC ( ). Using this fabric without lining was out of the question. I’m not into that see-through of a chiffon
I tried a layer of flesh tone china silk but wanted a softer effect.
chiffon and nude
Tried a black lining but that muted the dotted pattern too much. It looks much darker than the photo shows.
over black
Finally the right combination was to underline the dotted chiffon with a layer of plain black silk chiffon and use the nude chink silk as a lining.
three layers
I also chose to extend the shoulder about an inch for less of a cutaway armhole.
extended shoulder
I basted the two layers of chiffon together and seamed them using French seams. The lining was also stitched at the shoulders and sides with French seams. Baste all layers together before finishing the armhole, back opening and collar. I used silk tulle to create armhole facings. If you’ve never worked with silk tulle before it truly is a magic fabric. I use it to underline laces, stabilize seams and do loads of other finishes where you don’t want any added bulk. It is PRICEY and few shops carry it. It is available in black and off white but dyes easily if you need a special color. Expect to pay $125 to $160 per yard but I save every scrap as it can be used for so many things.
The tulle will stretch more in one direction than the other, (no need to cut it on the bias) so cut two pieces (one for each armhole) two inches wide and longer than the length of the armhole seam. Fold it in half and press. armhole shape tracing
I use a scrap of muslin and trace the armhole shape (no seams) onto the muslin with a waterproof fine point sharpie. You don’t want water soluble ink coming off when you steam. Then shape the tulle to match the traced edge. The folded side goes towards what will be the inside of the garment.
shaping silk tulle
Now you have a perfectly shaped strip to use as the armhole facing. Sew, understitch and press. Tack it to the lining being careful not to catch the face fabric.
facing basted
Inside of the finished top showing edge finishes.
tull binding
The back opening is a slit finished the same way with a narrow strip of silk tulle cut on the straight grain.
back opening
I completed the top with a velvet neckband, buttons and handworked thread loops. The fabric layers are joined together at the side seams with French tacks.
inside french tack
And the back view.
back view