A few weeks ago, with nothing I wanted to wear to a surprise birthday party, I made this black lace shell. It’s been many months since I had the time or inclination to do any sewing. It was so nice to take the time to make something for myself and to remember how much I enjoy sewing.
This is a tutorial for making an unlined, boxy lace shell with a standing collar and long sleeves. There’s an invisible zipper and uses the natural lace edges for the sleeve and bottom hems.
Finished measurements: Black lace shell length – approx. 22″, Chest width – 20.5″, Sleeve – 23″ (I have long arms), collar – approx 2″ in height.
What you will need:
- enough fabric for length of your torso and sleeve (44/45″ – 1.5 m or 58/60″ – 1.3 m)
- invisible zipper, approx.12-15″
Step 1: I used a basic top pattern as a base (I have McCall’s pattern – 8277, unfortunately out of print) and used a favourite lululemon shirt to get the ideal measurements for the sleeve and shirt length.Here’s a link to a basic top pattern or a free downloadable long-sleeve T pattern (Cut the back bodice in half and add .75″ for the centre back seam to allow for the zipper).
Step 2: Cut your bodice. Open the fabric and lay pattern pieces on the fabric. Place the bottom of the bodice at the lace edges. Cut the entire bodice as one piece to avoid the side seams. Place the right back bodice beside the front bodice and left back bodice piece.
If you want to hide the seams in your top, be sure to trim around the lace pattern when you are cutting your fabric.
The lace edges will extend beyond your pattern edges. Baste the sewing line with contrasting thread so you know where the edges of the pattern pieces are.
Use a zig-zag stitch over the edges of the lace like an applique stitch. The lace will appear as a piece of fabric. Here is the link to a tutorial for sewing lace and shows you how to hide your seam allowance. I used this way of sewing lace for attaching the collar, shoulder seams and the sleeves. The drawn line indicates where I zig-zagged over the lace edges to get a seamless look.
Step 4: Cut your sleeve and collar. Fold fabric together and position the sleeve edge with edges of the lace. Cut two sleeves. I wanted narrowish sleeves – the width of the midpoint of the sleeve were approx. 10″
Measure the neckline on the front and back bodice piece and double the measurement to get your collar length. Cut a collar piece with your approx. neckline measurement x at least 1.75 inches tall (or whatever height you want your collar to stand.)
Step 4: Sewing the top together. Attach the front and back top shoulder pieces together. To hide the seam allowances, I basted the garment together and used a zig-zag stitch over the edges of the lace like an applique stitch. Here is the tutorial for sewing lace.
Attach the collar piece to the neckline and follow the same steps for hiding seam allowances. Alternatively, you can finish the inside seams with seam binding.
Step 5: Sew an invisible zipper to the back bodice pieces. See instructions for sewing an invisible zipper here.
Step 5: Baste the sleeves together and zig-zag over the lace edges like an applique stitch to get a seamless look for the sleeves. The drawn line indicates where I zig-zagged over the lace edges to get a seamless sleeve.
Attach the sleeve to the bodice by turning your sleeve inside out and placing it inside the armhole. Sew together. I opt to sew regular seams and finished the edges with seam binding to get some structure in the top.
Step 6: Finish. The natural edges of the lace is a nice detail for the garment hem and the sleeves. Keeping the garment unlined gives you many options for wearing different colours underneath.
Here were my inspirations for my black lace shell. I think a white lace shell would also be a good addition to any wardrobe. Different weights of lace patterns can give your lace top a casual or refined look. Pick a lace pattern that suits your purpose. I generally prefer thick fabrics and really loved the heavier lace fabric I used for my top.
Black lace: Margaret Zhang | Temperley London Nomi lace top | Keri Russell.
White lace: Dolce Vita Top | White crochet top with lovely bell sleeves | Balloon sleeves | Self-Portrait Flounced ruffle sleeve daisy lace top | Self-Portrait Guipiure lace top