Thursday, April 21, 2011

Neck Lace Tutorial

Here is my promised tutorial on how to make a Neck Lace jabot/necklace/whatever!  I've tried to photograph all the steps I thought were important, but I may have left things out that are confusing or unclear, so if there are any questions please leave a comment and I'll get you an answer as soon as I can.  If the pictures are too small to see, you can click them and you can see a larger version.

First up:  This is the finished product for the tutorial that I've  outlined.  I'm calling it "Relished Chocolate" since I used a lot of brown on the black... It looks rather like gold dusted chocolate to me...

Anyway, let's dive in, shall we?  This project should take anywhere from an hour to all day, depending on how complicated you want it to be and how long the  paint takes to dry.  Embellishing could take a while depending on how ornate you decide your finished piece should look.  Beads, rhinestones...  The more you add, the more time it takes to make it.

Supply List:
Venetian Lace, Fabric paint/dye, ribbon, a button focal point, aiglets, thread

Tool List:
Sewing machine, iron that steams, hand sewing needles, brushes/sponges for paint, water, a work space, aiglet crimper

Step 1:  Lace Selection
It's important to choose an appropriate lace to do this project.  The lace needs to be wide enough to dangle around the neck, but not so wide that pleating it creates too much bulk under the neck.  I used a lace from that was rayon, 4 inches deep and has a scalloped edge.  It also has a lot of internal "filigree" that creates an interesting texture.  The scalloped edge is important, because an edge that doesn't have a scallop won't turn as nicely and splay out in a radiated manner away from the neck.  Instead, it'll just bunch up.

I cut the lace along a motif, cutting an odd number of scallops.  Knowing that I would be applying paint on the edges, I didn't use any fray glue to prevent raveling.

Step 2:  Dyeing the Lace
This particular lace only came in white, so I had to dye it black.  I purchased a black dye from Dharma Trading Goods that seemed to do the trick.  Rit dye isn't intense enough for a good solid black.  You don't have to dye it black--in fact, a colored lace might look great (I actually have some projects I'm developing that use a variety of colored laces), but for this particular paint job, it needed to be a dark color, and I had black at the ready.

The fabric paints I use are made by Jacquard.  They're water soluble.  I buy them at my local art store, but they are also available through various sources on the internet.  Dharma Trading Goods caries them as well.  I used two different kinds of paint on this project:  Lumiere (which is metallic) and Textile Colors.  I got my lace good and wet, then squeezed out the excess.  This got rid of the sizing that makes the lace stiff.  I placed it on a towel and applied a base coat with a sponge of 3 different metallics (which are opaque), gradating them from darkest at the top (neck edge) of the lace to the lightest at the edge.  I let that dry for several hours, then went back and added a brown "stain" over the top edge to give the metallics a brown, chocolatey look.  The Textile Color is not opaque.

This is where the real creativity is!  Have fun exploring your options!  There are lots of different ways to paint--you don't have to use a sponge, nor metallics, nor opaque paints...  Let your imagination run wild!

After application, I let the whole thing dry, thoroughly, and then heat set it with my iron.  I made sure to apply heat on the top and the bottom.

Step 3: Sewing the Lace
Once the piece is dry, it's time to do a bit of sewing.  Matching up the motifs at the top, sew the edges together with a zig zag starting 2 or 3 inches from the edge of the lace to as far down as you can get it under the machine.  You won't be able to go all the way to the edge, but you can get close.  Make sure you bar tack securely at the beginning, because there will be a lot of tension at that point.  Don't overlap them, just butt them together.  Overlapping will cause unnecessary bulkiness.

When you're done, you'll get an odd looking piece, but fear not!

Step 4: Pleating the Lace
Just below where you started sewing (at your bar tack) you should pinch up about 1" of fabric, folding it up to your bar tack.

Next, you center the remaining material over your pleat, centering the lace in the middle.  This remaining fabric is the center of your neck lace, the part that will be the most visible.  It should either be on a motif or in between two motifs.  Make sure it's symmetrically centered either way.  if you've cut the lace with an odd number of scallops, you'll have one that dangles in the center front.  If you've cut the lace with an even number of scallops, your center will be between two motifs.

Pin these all in place, and sew them down securely.

Step 5:  Steaming in the Shape
If you've done it correctly, you're going to end up with a big lump--hardly attractive under the neck!  So you should take it to your iron and give it a gentle steaming.  This is where selecting a non-polyester lace is a good idea, because polyester won't steam nicely the way a rayon will.

Make sure you've got your motifs falling nicely.  Your motifs won't lay perfectly flat--the stitched pleating prevents that.  But it will dangle beautifully from the neck!

Step 6:  Adding a Ribbon
I thought about using a grosgrain ribbon for the choker portion of this, but it seemed too bulky, and I opted for Organdy, also known as Organza ribbon.  This particular organdy is 100% Nylon.  I purchased it from a local fabric store.  I use 7/8" mostly, but I ran out, so I opted for something narrower.  Black seems to work best when working with black lace, but it comes in all kinds of colors.  Make sure you give it a good steaming because it will shrink slightly.  Steaming it also tightens up the fibers and makes it a bit more dense, but that's good since it will take a lot of stress.

I cut two pieces instead of making the ribbon one consistent piece.  The final piece seems to "drape" better that way, and there's less bulk in the center if it can hang downward a bit at the center of the neck.  I suggest attaching them by hand, not by machine, as the stitching looks better if it's hidden on the underside.  There's a lot to catch on to, so it's secure in the end.   I fold under the very edges of each of the motifs for this particular lace--I feel it prevents fraying and looks softer around the neck.

Step 7:  Finishing 
Add a button or other "center piece" to the neck lace right over the top of your pleats.  I am excited about the potential for cabochons, brooches, polymer clay pieces--the sky's the limit!  Currently, I have a selection of old fashioned-looking buttons that I'm using.

I use aiglets to finish off my ribbon.  They're the things that are on the ends of shoe laces.  They come in lots of different colors.  I get mine from Richard the Thread in Los Angeles.  They sell them as part of their corset supplies, but they work for this, too!  You need a crimper, and the ribbon is considerably thinner than a corset lacing or shoe lace, but if you crimp it hard enough it bends and fits.  Perhaps in the future I will consider other ways of finishing off the edges of the ribbon, but this is what I have available right now.  I think a nice bead would also do the trick!

And that's it!  Voila!  You've got a Neck Lace!  The potential for variation is endless... I'm adding beading to the lace, rhinestones, dangling beads... I'm thinking about using multiple layers of lace at some point, too.  But that's what makes us all different--we're all going to end up doing something unique and interesting!  I find these to be appropriate for the office, evening wear, and even clubbing and informal settings. They can be bridal, Steampunk, Victoriana, Goth, flower child, and even be cute on kids depending on the type of lace and how it's pleated.

I've made similar items with a smaller 1 1/2" lace that ends up looking like an abstract butterfly.  The types of lace could make a big impact on the overall effect.  I guess the key is to explore!

Here's a pic of some of the pieces I have coming up!  You can find all my other pieces as I post them on my Etsy store.  I'm finding it REALLY hard not to just list all of them at the same time, and I'm trying to keep it to one a day so I can stay current in the search engines there!  Haha!  We'll see how long that lasts!  I'll keep you posted!

I hope this is helpful.  As I said in the beginning, if you're confused about anything, please leave a comment and I'll try to solve any quandaries...

Until next time, Live Life with Relish!


  1. Thanks for the tutorial. I didn't like what I'd done and will add more color using a sponge.

  2. Sandy, I think that's part of what is so interesting--the paint can be applied "en masse" using a sponge or to very specific parts of the lace using a brush. Depending on the motif in the lace, striking effects can be achieved either way.

    Using an intense color on the black seems to be most effective... Contrast is good, especially when working with the metallic colors.

  3. This is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  4. FYI, I used this tutorial as part of a "Link Party" on my friend Jane's blog, called "Projects by Jane". You can find her blog here:

  5. wow..that looks looks something new for me...


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