Heirloom Sewing 101 – Gathering Lace and Application

There are a couple different ways to gather lace for attaching to flat lace. Both render slightly different results. The top of a lace edging will have “header” threads. These are threads that can be pulled to gather up the lace. The majority of heirloom sewists will pull the top thread, which is generally the strongest thread, to gather the lace. This works, but can be a challenge when zigzagging to the flat lace or entredeux since there will be places where the lace wants to fold over and likely will be stitched in with that fold.

The other method is something that I learned when taking a class from Debbie Glenn, and that is to pull ALL the header laces. This results in gathered lace with the entire header thread being smooth and flat, much like a ribbon, and makes both the gathered lace look prettier (no folds or puckers) and is easier to stitch to the flat lace or entredeux.

The picture above shows the different results. The lace on top has only the top header thread pulled while the lace on thee bottom has all the header threads pulled. You can see how flat the header area is on the lower lace, making it so much easier to stitch the gathered lace to another lace. The top thread has gathers, but also has areas where the lace creates a fold/pucker that is difficult to work around and NOT get caught when stitching it to another lace.

To pull all the threads, begin by pulling the top thread, then locate another heavier thread and pull it, etc. There will likely be some very fine header threads, I tend to pull those in pairs (see video).

To join the gathered lace to another lace, use either 60 wt. Mettler thread or 80 wt. Aurifil or Madeira Cotona thread. The machine needle can be a 60 or 65 Schmetz Microtex needle if using the 80 wt. thread, or a 65 or 70 Schmetz Microtex needle if using thee 60 wt. thread. A universal needle can also be used.

For better viewing, it is advisable to use extra magnification. I like to use the Mag Eyes for this. The lens come in different strengths and it is easy to use especially if you already wear glasses. You can purchase extra lens in different strengths to use for different projects. I prefer to use the largest magnification to get the best results.

Set the machine to a zigzag stitch with a length of 1.0 and a width that is wide enough to encompass the header threads of both laces. You will likely need to hand crank the sewing machine to get the correct setting before starting to sew.

Be sure and give this a try – you will be glad that you did!


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