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Friday, January 7, 2011

Making Alencon lace seams McCall's 6221 Baptism dress

One of my friends was looking for a baptism gown for her baby and was having trouble finding one. This is the same friend who lives in Paris and I was surprised she couldn't find one she liked there so I offered to make her one and send it to her by Express mail. She wanted the dress to look like the Empress Josephine's dress at her coronation but without the gold. That was a tall order but here is what my finished dress looks like above. It is Alencon lace with a silk charmeuse underdress which is underlined with light pink cotton flannel. The pink underlining gives a slight pinkish hue which I like. It was the first time I worked with lace and I would like to share some tips I learned from working with lace.

Empress Josephine

This was the pattern drawing for McCalls 6221, the pattern I adapted. I had to ignore the directions since I was making a lace overskirt that requires a totally different technique which I will now try to explain. I also had to shorten the dress since my friends' baby is one and walking and would trip on a long gown.

This is the Alencon lace I chose. You have to lay the pattern crosswise on the fabric when you cut. I wanted the border to be at the waist and and at the hem . The measurements of the babies length has to be perfect because you can't hem it if it's too long or you will ruin the border. I hope it fits her!

You have to use an applique seam method when working with thick lace. If you make a normal side or shoulder seam it will be too bulky. Applique seams are overlapped and fell stitched by hand. The motifs are matched up and then the overlapped part is folded over to the other pattern piece, on top of the matching design and hand stitched over it. The overlapping lace excess is then cut away from underneath. Above is the overlap on the front bodice I am explaining. When it is folded over the back bodice and sewn down and trimmed from underneath, the seam will be invisible. 

 You have to hand baste the seam lines with a colored thread so you can know how to lay out the pattern because you won't be sewing it at the seam line but around the edges of the raised flowers. Don't use red thread for the seam lines because it leaves lint behind. The net around the edge of the motif also needs to be neatly trimmed.

Lining up the two blue thread seem lines. You can pin it so it doesn't shift when you sew it.

Sewing the motif down with a fell stitch.
I also sewed the lace down from behind to make the seam stronger. This is after I trimmed away the excess from behind on the wrong side of the lace.

This is the finished bodice shoulder seams .The seams are not noticeable

Pinning the lace bodice to the silk charmeuse dress underneath. The neckline will have a silk bias binding and it will have a flannel hand stitched lining inside to make it warmer for the Paris winter.

Above is how you cut the skirt. Insted of one front and two backs like the pattern says I sewed one continuous piece to avoid seams.

The one seam in the skirt has to be overlapped the way I overlapped the lace at the bodice. Do you see how the seam need to be overlapped?

The flannel hand sewn lining with snaps. I was afraid to sew buttonholes on the lace. I sewed silk buttons as decoration on the outside. I think it turned out pretty nice. I hope I have done a good job explaining lace seams .


  1. Wow, the gown is beautiful! I love the lace. You did such a great job.

  2. I'm the friend in Paris and anyone reading this blog, should know I'm truly mesmerized at the work and creative energy Justine has put into making this very special dress for my little girl. I'm honored that you made this dress for her. Thank you very much and I love and miss you. I'll send pictures of the event!

  3. Simply beautiful! Fit for a princess!

  4. The photos and descriptions are just wonderful! Thanks for the instruction - I'm making a alencon lace bolero and needed a refresher.

  5. What a lovely job! You did a great job explaining and the photos are wonderful! The dress is simply beatiful!

  6. The dress is so gorgeous. Your explanation is by far the best I have found online...
    I set myself an impossible mission to do one of these lace shrug... any suggestion please?
    I dont know how to sew the seams of the sleeves beautifully...

  7. I'm in love with this dress !!! Where can I buy the same Alencon lace fabric ?

  8. this is amazing!! i want this for our daughter! you are so talented!!!


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