Four years ago, my daughter was only a few short months away from graduating from High School and I began work on her graduation dress. Time flies and she is about to graduate from college! Her graduation dress was made from Guipure lace and I did a series of posts that were the most successful posts on my blog. I have received many requests to reprint those posts from my old blog and so this week, I will be putting up one a day, all under the title of "Working With Guipure Lace." I loved this project and hope you enjoy reading about it!
When I started this project, I found very little information about working with this type of lace on the internet and hope these posts will help. So first, a little background - what is Guipure lace - according to George S. Cole who wrote A Complete History of Drygoods, Guipure Lace comes from the French word meaning vellum or parchment and is a firm heavy lace with no net background. Originally it was made on a parchment foundation that would dissolve in a lye bath. To make Guipure Lace, the old French lacemakers would form the outlines of the pattern on the parchment. The patterns were held together with "brides" or "bars" made with a needle and thread. The patterns were arranged so that they could be sewn together for support or connected by the brides to form the pattern. Now of course, the lace is made by machine, using a cotton or rayon thread on an acetate background. The background is then dissolved leaving the embroidered lace behind with the individual motifs being connected by the "brides".
The challenge in working with Guipure Lace comes from its heft. The thickness of the lace prevents it from being sewn into a seam. (Future post will be coming on how to handle this.) Its weight also means it needs structure to support it so that it holds the intended shape of the garment. (My daughter’s dress weighs almost 2 pounds!) Let's tackle the weight issue first. To keep the motifs in place, each one needs to be sewn to the fashion fabric underneath by hand. The overall dress also needs to be supported. The spaghetti straps on my daughter's dress won't support the weight of the skirt. The solution to the weight issue was provided by Susan Khalje's couture dress class on Craftsy and her wonderful Bridal book. The waist holds up the dress! Structure is given by a waist stay and boning in the back of the dress. My daughter is small busted so I was able to get away with not including boning at the front of the dress, but if she were larger in the bust or the dress was strapless, I would have needed to include additional boning. Support is given to the lace by the fashion fabric and the interlining, all of which is then covered up by the lining. So yes, this dress has 4 layers - the lace, what I will call the fashion fabric (a silk poly twill), an interlining of imperial broadcloth, and finally a bemberg rayon lining!
Do you need all of this every time you work with Guipure lace? It may be possible to make a top or shift dress with sleeves (shoulders and sleeves are supporting the top or dress) that will go over a separate camisole or slip without including all of this. If you want to try it, hold up your lace and see if the individual motifs are draping the way you want. If you have too much sagging then you need to include all the support listed above. Anything fitted to the body will certainly need support! Check back tomorrow for a post on cutting out your Guipure Lace!