A lacey question

March 2, 2012
Lace Napkin

WeSewRetro is the first blog I read each day, and you all have provided untold amounts of education, support, and delightfully pictured projects. Thank you all!  Now, I’d got to start sewing, and that has brought to mind a bit of a problem I need your help in overcoming.

Several years ago I was gifted with 2 identical napkins. Not much was known about them. They seem to be linen, with wide lace made for each square of fabric. The lace isn’t stitched together anywhere. (Please forgive my not knowing all the correct terms to use in describing this!)

Here’s the proverbial photo worth 1,000 words…

Lace Napkin
Lacy Napkin

I’ve 2 questions:

  1. How might I make use of even 1 of the napkins? Accessory? Front bodice? Lingerie?
  2. There appears to be embroidery (for lack of a better term) on the lace, which is 3-dimensional on both sides, with 1 side more pronounced than the other.  I’m uncertain which is the right side.

Here’s a close-up of the corner in what I think is the right side.

Lace Close-up
Lace Close-up

And what might be the wrong side, as it’s more dimensional…

Lace Reversed
Lace Reversed?


Any advice or assistance would be most appreciated!

  1. They are really pretty and look well made. Personally as I don’t think I could bear to cut them I would probably sew them together on three sides and put press studs on the fourth then use it as a cushion cover (or make a backing in plain white fabric for them and so have two matching cushion covers).

  2. If you must use them as clothing, I’d make them into sleeves. The ‘floaty’ kind that you see on 20s/30s and 70s dresses. I think they would be a lovely accent to a simple blouse/dress. Sleeves similar to this:

    or this:

    Depending on how big your armscye needs to be, you could make the armscye ‘hole’ off-center (narrower under the arm and fuller over the shoulder). I would most definitely make a muslin square to determine placement before using those lovely napkins.

    The ‘lace’ has what I believe is ‘couching’ that created the texture on it, where heavier thread is sewn down on the fabric to create the design. It looks similar to pulled thread embroidery. They are beautiful pieces!! Have fun creating with them. :^)

  3. Thank you both for suggestions! Pillows always a possibility, but am not especially fond of them. Never thought of sleeves! Adore your suggested style & would definitely do a muslin. Couching! Have heard the term but didn’t know what it was. Worlds are opening up – thank you both!

  4. I would pull the lace off and use on a bodice or sleeve as trim. I buy all sorts of old pieces like that for those purposes – mostly stained and torn, it’s true, but I think it’s better to use them for something if the alternative is just storing them, rather than using them for their original intent.

  5. i’ve taken TONS of doilies and napkins apart just for the trim, and i’ve always just added the lace edges onto the necklines of otherwise boring dresses, or garments that have lost their magic and just need a little pizzazz!

  6. Check out the book Serger Secrets (you can find it on Amazon). It shows you how to “create” fabric by serging lace together. You can make your napkins into a bigger piece of fabric by connecting other laces onto it, with one napkin on each side (front and back). A friend of mine did the same technique with her sewing machine, and the end result was quite lovely.

  7. I think that these are too pretty to cut up.I buy lots of bits of old lace just to look at really.I agree also with an earlier comment that it looks like an embellished piece of drawn thread work rather than lace in the strict term but it is so pretty.From my own experience I would say that the raised side of lace is usually the right side but having said that it very often is just up to you which you prefer to look at!

  8. Thank you all for your great suggestions! The response has been wonderful, but it’ll take some time to choose from all these ideas. Wow! Am so glad I found this blog, and posted!

  9. Catherine, my wonderful local library has a copy of Serger Secrets so it’s sort of instant gratification… but currently no serger in my house. Alas! But this will help considerably in planning what to look for. Many thanks for the suggestion!

  10. You’re welcome! I also found it at my local library. As I mentioned, my friend achieved the magic of creating her own big fabric by only using her sewing machine. I thought it was a much nicer way of saving your beautiful napkins, instead of cutting them up for the lace. While that is a viable option, it would be a shame miss out on using all of the material. Look forward to seeing the finished item.

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