Adding Lace to a T-Shirt

This post is part two in a series celebrating 125 years of the BERNINA company. Each post will bring you a little more of the history of BERNINA, along with modern inspiration. For the first post in this series about hemstitching, click here. As part of the celebration, we have a giveaway for you! Scroll down the post to see how you can enter for a chance to win!

Originally known by the founder’s name of Gegauf, BERNINA got its current name after Fritz Gegauf who took over the company from his father in 1928. The name BERNINA comes from Piz Bernina, the highest summit in the eastern Alps. The first household sewing machine, the BERNINA 105, was created by Fritz Gegauf in 1932. This machine was a great success, but Mr. Gegauf further developed the machine into the first zigzag machine, the BERNINA 117, in 1938. In 1945, the first portable electric zigzag free arm sewing machine hit the market and by 1963, BERNINA had produced one million zigzag sewing machines.

Adding lace to a t-shirt

These two innovations – the free-arm and zig-zag stitch – are still vital to sewing today, and were the inspiration for this project.

Adding lace to a t-shirt
Whether you are wanting to give new life to a favorite old tee, or you want to dress up a ready-to-wear shirt, adding a little lace can go a long way!
I love the look of lace edging on sleeves, and the free arm makes it easy to do! I’m using the B 350 for this project. It has all the features I need to complete the project with ease.

Materials to Add Lace to a T-Shirt

• T-shirt
• Double-scalloped stretch lace – enough to go around the circumference of your sleeve hem plus ½” (twice this amount if using a single-scalloped lace)
• Polyester sewing thread (in a color to match your lace)
Reverse Pattern Foot with Clear Sole #34
• Overlock Foot #2A (optional)
• 75/11 Stretch needle
• Tula Pink Hardware large ring micro-tip scissors
• Pins
• Tape Measure

Adding lace to a t-shirt

In honor of BERNINA’s 125th anniversary, I wanted to add a touch of gold to my project, so I was thrilled when I found this fantastic gold-flecked tee and gold lingerie lace!

Adding lace to a t-shirt
To add lace to the sleeves of a stretchy garment like a t-shirt, you need stretch lace (like lingerie lace) so the sleeve can still stretch as you put it on.
To get started, I first measure the circumference of my sleeve hem.

Adding lace to a t-shirt
I add 1/2” to this measurement and cut my lace to that length.

Adding lace to a t-shirt
I only need to cut one length because I’ll only be using one side of the lace for each sleeve. I trimmed along the pattern in the middle of the lace to give it more interest than a straight cut. Using micro-tip scissors will make it easier to cut away the delicate parts of the lace.

Adding lace to a t-shirt
Next, I need to make a cuff out of my lace. I place the ends of the lace right sides together. Before I stitch, I insert a new, 75/11 Stretch needle. A stretch (or ballpoint) needle is perfect for my delicate knit fabric because it won’t break the fibers. A sharp needle could leave little holes or runs in my fabric.
You can stitch a ¼” straight seam along the cut edge, but because I wanted a finished edge, I chose stitch #8, the double overlock stitch. This stitch will sew my seam and overlock at the same time. I used Overlock foot #2A. The edge of the lace aligns with the pin of the foot, and that little pin keeps the fabric flat so the zig zag portion of the stitch won’t bunch up my lace as it stitches.

Adding lace to a t-shirt
Now I’m ready to pin my lace cuff to my sleeve hem. I align the seam in my cuff with the seam at the bottom of the sleeve. As I pin, I make sure that the top scalloped edge of the lace is slightly above the hem of the sleeve.

Adding lace to a t-shirt
Once I have pinned everything in place, I’m ready to sew on my lace. This is where the free-arm of the sewing machine comes in very handy! I simply slide the sleeve onto the free arm (lace side toward the body of the machine). This will make it so easy to stitch on the lace – no need to worry about keeping the backside of the sleeve out of the way while you sew!

Adding lace to a t-shirt
We need to use a zig-zag stitch to attach our lace. Why? Just like we need the tee and the lace to stretch, the stitch needs to stretch also! Stitching the lace on with a straight stitch could cause the stitch to break when you try to stretch the garment.
Using a clear zig-zag foot (#34 Reverse Pattern Foot with Clear Sole) and a zig zag stitch (3 mm width and 2 mm length), I stitch along the top scallop of the lace, aligning my zig zag just to the inside of the top edge of the lace. Using the clear foot will make it easier for me to follow the curve of the lace, as I can see where I am going.
Use caution not to stretch the fabric as you sew, but allow the feed dogs to feed the fabric evenly. Use the quick reverse button to back stitch a few stitches at the beginning and end.
To make the turns in the dips of the scallops, engage needle stop down. When you come to the bottom of the dip, stop with the needle in the fabric.
Use the free-hand system to lift the presser foot and pivot the fabric. This way you never have to take your hands off the work!
Now, remove the project from the machine and repeat with the other sleeve.

Adding lace to a t-shirt
Optionally, you can trim away the t-shirt hem from behind the lace. I like this look as it makes the lace look like it was part of the design of the garment instead of an afterthought. Turn the tee wrong side out and carefully trim away the hem of the sleeve about 1/8” away from the zig-zag stitching.

Adding lace to a t-shirt
Adding lace to a t-shirt
All done! So easy to do, and it makes a simple tee seem dressy!

Adding lace to a t-shirt

One lucky WeAllSew fan will win an assortment of BERNINA sewing machine needles!

Win an assortment of BERNINA needles!

BERNINA needles provide the highest standard of quality for all brands of domestic sewing machine. The quality and choice of needle have a significant influence on the quality of the sewing and embroidery results. This prize package includes one package of Microtex needles, one package of Universal needles, one package of Stretch needles, one package of Quilting needles, and one package of Jeans needles!

To enter, post a comment below with an answer to the question, “Which sewing application do you use the zig-zag stitch with most often?” The giveaway is open to comments through Thursday, February 8th, good luck!

Congratulations to the winner of the BERNINA needle assortment, WeAllSew reader @sewingmom9!

The contest is open to residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia. One comment per fan. Comment must be submitted to blog by Thursday, February 8 at 11:59 PM Central Time. Winner will be chosen randomly from comments. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond to claim the prize.

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50 comments on “Adding Lace to a T-Shirt”

  • I like to use the zigzag stitch most often to baste quilted projects together. It is a versatile and consistent stitch, no matter what length and width I select.

  • I probably use my zig zag most for finishing
    my seams.
    Used it a lot when I was sewing the ‘old’ Stretch & Sew Patterns. Now that stretch knots are the rage in making again. Guess I’ll be using it more again. Love my Bernina’s.

  • I use zigzag with heirloom clothing to roll and whip or join lace. Also use it to sew ends of elastic together for waistbands on pants. Love my Bernina!!!

  • I use the zigzag stitch mostly for machine applique, sewing on stretchy fabrics, patching work clothes, and
    for joining batting pieces. The lace tutorial was very good and will be used.

  • What a pretty tee shirt you created with the lace ! I’m going to try this on my B350PE.
    I don’t have the overlock foot but I do have the clear sole fooot and love how easy it is to change feet! I use a zig-zag for all kinds of sewing projects. A very narrow zig-zag stitch is a favorite stretchy stitch for hems. I always look at the Bernina website every month to see what foot is on sale. I would love to win those needles. Thank you, Terri

  • Great idea! I find a lot of T-shirt’s are too short so adding the lace to the bottom would look pretty cute too.
    Love the 350 – it’s my travel machine so my 830LE can stay home.
    I mainly use the zig-zag for darning holes in jeans and as a really tight satin stitch for appliqué

  • I use the zigzag stitch most often to repair rips in fabric. 2 different shirts mended in the last 2 weeks. My husband’s favorite dressshirt sleeve and my most comfortable blouse hem were made usable again!

  • I have been sewing since I was 9 years old in 1950. I learn something new everyday about my favorite craft. Excited to try this newest project. What is the brand of the glitter t-shirt? I would love to make a black T with this concept for a special occasion coming up this summer. Great tutorial – from a Sewing teacher to you!

  • I love using the Zig zag stitch for couching bulky threads onto the edge of a project or just for embellishment. I love this idea for embellishing a t-shirt! Thanks

  • This project caught my attention as I have recently become interested in heirloom sewing …. plus I’m learning to successfully make my own T-shirts! Now I’m going to pull out some fabric and lace stash I have and try this!
    Thanks for the posting!

  • I LOVE this idea and plan to use immediately! Love to use zig zag on applique on both clothing and quilting. I love the fact I can adjust the size to my immediate need.

  • i bought some silver grey streatch jeans. i always have to shorten them 6 inches. i use the zigzag overcast foot for the original hem application. and added some black lace on the hem and i use the butten sew on foot to put on the side seam button which is a zigzag stitch. zig zagging with my Bernina Machines has always been nice experience.No uneven stitches and always a smooth ride under the foot. I even use the stitch in free hand embrodery.

  • I like many others, use the zigzag for applique, mending, knit fabrics, and seam finishes. I am continuing to “break-in” my retirement treat—Bernina 790 and having the time of my life. Thanks for such a user friendly machine for me to grow “old” with. Happy Anniversary!!

  • Answer to using Zigzag Stitch: My mother made many of my clothes, with special dresses for Christmas and Easter. As soon as I could learn, I was sewing…and in 4-H Home Ec, too. My mom was the leader. Growing-up I used the zig-zag stitch to make ruffles to insure my ‘ease’ in the sleeves, waistband, etc. was as perfect & even as I could get it without any puckers or too much fabric sewn together; and in places I thought I could benefit by using this stitch with my own unique settings. Also, I decided I wanted to monogram a gift I had made for my boyfriend. So I set up my machine to do a zigzag and lifted the feed dogs. With a few practice runs, I was able to control the speed with my foot pedal and move the fabric along my markings to create my very own ‘satin stitch’…ultimately, making a lovely monogram gift for him. I loved sewing as a teen and made anything I set my mind to making. I made a dress, matching cape, and beret which I ended up wearing in a major part in my high school play. I made stuffed animals from my own patterns – there were no $1/pattern sales in those days. So one had be frugal as well as creative if you wanted to sew a variety of clothes, home dec, toys, etc. The stitches you had available on your machine were your only limits as to what you could make. So the more creative you were, the more items & embellishments you could make. I had my mother’s sew machine to use until I turned 16 and my grandparents purchased a Kenmore with the Cams for me. The first time I set down to use a Bernina, I could not believe the ease afforded me to sew…I was in love and a few days later, I purchased my own Bernina!

  • I use the zig zag stitch on many items that I sew. I use it to secure the edges of fabric to prevent fraying. I use it for decoration when making small boy clothing with our sewing ministry. I use it when doing applique on clothing, bags, and other items. It is a very versatile stitch that I can not seem to do without. But most of all I love my Bernina and the quality of this stitch. After reviewing the information on applying lace to a garment, I now have another way to use the zig zag stitch… happy sewing.

  • I learned to sew with knits using the zigzag stitch and the #1 foot. I am interested in the other options available to handle the zigzag as I use it to sew hems, mend and add appliques.

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