Tutorial: How to create a lace or ribbon inset (heirloom sewing techniques)

Two weeks ago, I shared someone special with you…

Isn’t she beautiful?


How about this one?


And the dresses too!!



The new Sue Ellen pattern from Create Kids Couture is a classic heirloom quality dress that just screamed for a classic heirloom accent.  I didn’t want to do anything ‘extra’ on Miss A’s dress, but Miss G is still little enough that something special was definitely in order!

So I dusted off the cobwebs from deep in my brain, pulled out this adorable sheer and woven ribbon, and got to work creating a sweet little inset.


There are many ways to do this, so I’m going to do my best to cover the bases and give you a method for the serger, a method for a sewing machine, and a method that requires only a needle and thread.

You will need a few supplies:
– ribbon or lace
– fabric or completed garment
– lighter or Fray-Chek (optional)
– sewing machine, serger, or needle and thread

If you are working with a completed garment, you are really better off with either the sewing machine or hand sewing method, but if you are starting from scratch, anything goes!

Let’s start!

**I will be demonstrating this method on a non-completed piece of fabric!  It has already been cut into two long sections to prepare for the inset piece.**


Serger Method

Step 1. Cut your ribbon or lace trim slightly longer than your fabric.

Step 2. Seal the cut ends using either a lighter or Fray-Chek.

Step 3. Set your serger to a narrow rolled hem with no gather.  Wooly Nylon in the upper looper is helpful, but not necessary.

Step 4. Lay your trim on top of your fabric along the raw edge.  Make sure that just a tiny amount of the fabric is visible from under the trim (maybe 1/16″-ish).  Pin your trim in place so it doesn’t move when you start serging.

Step 5. Serge along the entire length with the raw edge lined up just to the inside of the knife.  Do not remove any material (put your knife up if you think it may help)!  Leave long tails on both ends.

Step 6. Using a warm (not hot- you’ll melt the trim) iron, carefully press your piece so the seam allowance is going toward the fabric.


Step 7. Repeat steps 5-7 with another piece of fabric on the other side of the trim.

Step 8. (Optional) Topstitch very close to the edge of the trim on the fabric.

Voila!  You did it!


Now you can add that beautiful piece to your garment for a sweet and classic heirloom look.


Sewing Machine Method

**I will be demonstrating this method on a ‘completed piece’, but it can also be done prior to assembly!**

Step 1. Cut your trim about 2″ longer than the needed length.

Step 2. Lay your trim on the right side (outside) of the garment, where you would like it to be.  Overlap the ends by 1″.  Pin in place.


Step 3. Decrease your stitch length just a bit.  My sewing machine defaults to a length of about 2- I put it down to about 1.5 for this.  Optionally (and depending on the edge of your trim), you could use a long, super-narrow zig zag stitch for this.  A zig zag works well on a trim with a raised edge, such as a grosgrain or some woven ribbons.


Step 4. Beginning a few inches from your overlapped trim, sew very close to the edge of your trim ON your trim.  If you are using a zig zag stitch, sew right along the edge so that your zig is on the trim and your zag is on the fabric.


Step 5. Stop sewing a few inches before you get to the overlapped ends of the trim.

Step 6. Repeat your stitching on the other edge of your trim, starting and stopping 2-3″ from the overlapped ends again.


Step 7. Heat seal or use Fray-Chek on the ends of your trim OR use the following pictures to finish your ends.

Step 8. Fill in the missing stitching on both edges of your trim.  Cut all threads close to the fabric.


Step 9. Turn your work over and, using very sharp scissors, cut the fabric behind your trim very close to your stitching lines.  Be sure not to cut the thread you’ve just sewn!

All set!  Beautiful!



Hand Stitching Method

Step 1. Cut your trim about 2″ longer than your fabric piece.

Step 2. Lay your trim on the right side of your fabric where you would like it to be; pin in place.


Step 3. Thread your needle with a color that matches your trim.  Double over and tie a small knot in the ends.


**I have used a contrasting thread color so it’s easier to see my stitches in the photos.**

Step 4. Push your needle up from the back side of your fabric at one end, very close to the edge of the trim.  (If you are working with an already-finished piece, bring your needle up from the back of the fabric about 2″ from your overlapped ends, very close to the edge of the trim.)

Step 5. Put your needle back down just a short distance away so your thread goes over the edge of the trim and down through the fabric.

Step 6. Move straight down from where your needle just went through and bring it up through the fabric and trim again.


Step 7. Continue in this manner until you have come to the other end of the fabric (or to within about 2″ from the overlapped ends of the trim).  Finish off thread on the back of your work.


Step 8. Repeat steps 3-7 on the other edge of the trim.

**If you have a decorative edge on your trim, you may be able to use it to your advantage while stitching.  See the photos below for what I did with my scallop edged trim!**

****If you are working with a fabric piece that has not yet been constructed into a garment, you can now assemble following your pattern.  If you are working with an already-completed garment, follow Steps 7 through 9 above.****


You did it!


You now have an amazing, heirloom quality inset on your garment or ready to be sewn into your garment!


I hope this tutorial has been helpful.  Please feel free to share photos of your insets or ask any questions in the comments!


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