Working with Guipure Lace: A Definition & Challenges.



The Finished Guipure Lace Dress

When my daughter was going to graduate from high school we headed in to NY City to pick out fabric for her graduation dress. She choose a lovely guipure lace. 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. You will find all of the posts on this page. So first, a little background.


Guipure Lace comes from the French word meaning vellum or parchment and is a firm heavy lace with no net background according to George S. Cole who wrote A Complete History of Drygoods.

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".


A close up of guipure lace

Challenges of Working with Guipure Lace.

The first challenge in working with Guipure Lace comes from its heft. The thickness of the lace prevents it from being sewn into a seam. 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! See the related posts below on Cutting out and working with Guipure Lace.

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