Lace Tape Christening Gown

The Goal


When I began this project I had a 3-fold goal.  It was to make a gender neutral christening gown

  • using less than 200 yds. of lace
  • costing less than major household appliance and
  • looking more like an heirloom than a Halloween costume.

The purist in me demanded that all materials be heirloom quality and that the design be suitable for the solemn and yet joyful occasion for which it was intended. Upon completion, I felt that my goals had been met.


The Materials

The materials were simple and few: ultra sheer Swiss batiste, also known as finella or Swiss muslin, 5 yds. lace tape, 1 ¼ yds. entredeux, 2 1/4 yds. 1/2″ tatting, 1 yd. baby tatting. With a 100 wing needle, 1.8/70 twin needle, 80 wt. cotton heirloom thread and 50 wt. silk thread, all supplies were assembled and ready to go.

Lace tape is a fabulous product that I developed many years ago and marketed for heirloom sewing. Wendy Schoen now owns that business, but I am now no less enthralled with the product than I was at its introduction to the heirloom sewing public. Approximately 3/8″ wide, it is 100% cotton and has a pull thread on either side, just like French laces. It can be used in place of lace and, since it comes in more than 20 colors, can add a touch of color when desired.

Mildred Turner’s third book, Mimi’s Machine Magic, has a section dedicated to creative uses of lace tape.  If you are not familiar with her books, I would advise you to do your best to lay hands on a copy of each of the three.  There are  more techniques,  more patterns and more inspiration than you could ever imagine.  Long out of print, used copies can sometimes be purchased on eBay or on the list.

The Design Elements

A simple basic yoke pattern was modified only slightly, by removing much of the fullness from the puff sleeve. This, I thought, made it more tailored for a baby boy and yet still suitable for a baby girl.

zLTChristening gownsleeve2


Design elements consisted of tiny twin needle pintucks, shadowed lace tape, hemstitching and a vine decorative stitch. The repetition of these elements throughout the gown on the yoke, sleeves and fancyband helps to generate a pervasive, understated elegance.

The Techniques

Here, the lace tape is stitched to the underside of the batiste and shadows through like a stripe. (This same technique is used with yellow lace  tape on the earlier post, Lace Tape Doll Dress.)   It can just as easily be applied to the top side of fabric, but for this gown, I felt the difference in texture was a distraction.



zLTChristening gownfancybandazNOTE:  See my tutorial Pinstitch~~What’s it all About?  here.  Follow up with part 2 of that same tutorial Pin Stitch~~Part II here.

After the lace tape was stitched in place with 80/2 white thread, a pinstitch was worked on either side. That required the largest expenditure of time.

When teaching beginning heirloom sewing, I often told students that heirloom sewing is very costly, either in materials or time or both.  But few techniques give as much return on your investment of time or money as does hemstitching.

The Hemstitching Topic

One of the most common questions I get when teaching heirloom sewing is just what is the difference between hemstitch, pin stitch and entredeux stitch.  NOTE:  See tutorial Constumer-made Entredeux which explains the differences.

On the outside chance that some of this blog’s readers have that same question, I quote from Carol Ahles exceptionally authoritative and useful book, Fine Machine Sewing.  Stitch illustrations are from Mildred’s Mimi’s Machine Magic  book, mentioned above.

Carol says “Hemstitching by hand entails withdrawing threads from the fabric and bundling the remaining parallel threads with a needle and thread to form an open design. It is often used as a decorative finish at a hem. Although it is possible to copy this look using the machine by first withdrawing threads by hand, then machine stitching the sides of the area, in fact machine hemstitching has a much broader meaning. The term “hemstitching on the sewing machine” applies to any of the following looks:

*the hand pin stitch (point de Paris), as used to attach lace, to hem and for Madeira applique’.

*hemstitching as produced on hemstitching machines from the 1920’s and 1930’s;

entredeux stitch, diagram and actual look

*entredeux, a ladder-looking trim used in heirloom sewing to attach laces, fabrics and embroideries;

*other stitching in which the open look or “holes” are the main decorative focus….”  Fine Machine Sewing, p. 77-78


On the pictured christening gown, almost all of the hemstitching is a machine made pin stitch, which is created by a forward/backward 2 or 3x repeat of a single length straight stitch, followed by a right angle stitch which reaches into the lace or hem or whatever is being connected to the line of holes. It looks much an applique’ stitch on the machine menu but the applique stitch usually has two straight stitches between the “reach” stitch . It differs in that there is just one stitch length between the reach.

The only other hemstitch used on this gown is the entredeux stitch worked at the neckline. Unlike the pin stitch, the entredeux stitch has finished edges and the fabric on which is created can be trimmed right up to the edge of the stitches. Lace, or in this case, tatting can be butted against the trimmed edge of the entredeux and joined with a tiny zig zag stitch that reaches from the trim into a hole of the entredeux.

All hemstitching looks best when worked with wing or large needle (size 90 to 120) and fine cotton heirloom thread, such as 80/2 Madeira Cotona. The large needle creates the original hole and the fine thread holds the hole open. Due to the number of repeats in the stitch, a heavier thread would fill the very hole the needle had just created.

Commercially made entredeux was used between sleeves to the bodice and between the tatting and the edge of the sleeves. A pinstitch would have worked well if lace were used as the trim. But tatting, most especially baby tatting, is easily cut by a wing needle, so the commercial entredeux was used.

At the hem, a larger tatted trim was used. This, my favorite, can be joined by a pin stitch rather safely if care is taken to watch for the occasional collision of wing needle and tatted loop. So at the hemline, the tatting is joined with a pinstitch, saving the expense of 2+ yards of entredeux.

The Lessons

Christening gowns need not cost a fortune.

When working with a tight budget, substitute time costly techniques for expensive trims rather than using inferior  quality fabric and trims.

Lace tape is a great product.

Both Mildred Turner and Carol Ahles’ books should be on the sewing room book shelf of  beginning and serious students of heirloom sewing.



12 responses to “Lace Tape Christening Gown

  1. Angie Fowler

    Beautiful dress…I am about to make two dresses for a niece having boy and girl twins. After seeing this post, I decided to use the lace tape for the boys dress. However, I have never used it before. Can I use the wing needle with the lace tape and if I use on top of fabric, can I cut the fabric out from behind it?
    Thanks for your help

  2. Oh, Angie, what fun you will have making these christening dresses! The design opportunity is exciting.
    Yes, you can use a wing needle with lace tape. I worked miles of pin stitch on this dress, along every edge of lace tape. And yes, you can use it on the top side. Connie Palmer just posted Facebook pictures of a boy christening gown that she will be teaching at Martha Pullen’s school in Feb. She used blue lace tape on the top of the fabric.
    I have never cut away behind the lace tape. It is not as sturdy as fabric and I know of no reason to cut away. Its loose texture makes an interesting contrast to batiste but fabric beneath the lace tape does not show through unless it is a print or sharply contrasting darker color. Eliminating the need to cut away is one of the biggest advantages of lace tape, since invariably with more than a yard or two of lace or lace tape, you are likely to make an unfortunate snip.
    If you click on the “lace tape” list in categories, you will see more garments made with lace tape. I developed this product in the late ’80’s and used it on almost every class project for years and years. Then I burned out on lace tape and sold the business to Wendy Schoen. But since then, its unique look and usefulness called to me and I again enjoy using lace tape frequently.
    Let me know if you have any questions and please send pictures when you are finished. I would love to see your work!

  3. Janice, I just wanted to tell you that this is one of my favorite gowns of all time! It has inspired several of my own pieces…I especially love the slightly curved bodice and understated detail. Simply breathtaking 🙂

  4. Kayley, how kind of you to let me know you like it so much. I am flattered and pleased to know that it inspired some of your own creations. Thanks!

  5. Hi Janice,

    Your gown in beautiful! I am attempting to make my first Christening gown and although I don’t think I’ll be adding as many ‘technical’ elements, I have been searching for a pattern with the basics of this one (curved yoke and more unisex sleeves). It sounds like you probably designed the basic pattern yourself but I thought I’d ask if it was one you purchased so that I could find it! I’m still a beginner and slowly learning. Thanks for your help and all the info and instruction you’ve provided!

  6. Emily, thank you for your sweet words! I am so excited for you as you walk deeper and deeper into the wonderful world of heirloom sewing. For the lace tape christening gown I just used a basic yoke and curved the front. As I recall–and it has been several years since I made the gpwm–I simply removed a good bit of fullness from the standard puff sleeve. I wish I could be more helpful. I’d love to see your finished gown. Send a photo, please!

  7. Tammy Richardson

    I just found your post on pinterest. It is so informative. I am just starting heirloom sewing and new all the info I can get. I Have mostly sewn out of necessity So I have been very budgited . I don’t really no what it’s like to be able to go out and buy the quality fabrics and things for a specific project. But I see that I will have to do better with this in heirloom sewing. You are a great teacher. Your gown is exquisite. Thanks

  8. Tammy, I’m so glad you found my blog. You will love heirloom sewing but it needn’t be costly. In the first issue of Sew Beautiful magazine, my article “Heirloom Sewing on a Budget” was included. I stressed that the bottom line is that heirloom is always expensive–in time or in materials or both. Special techniques like pintucks and puffing can be done on domestic batiste available for as little as $6 py if you look around. You might enjoy Smocking Destash, a facebook group in which members are selling their excess, unused or no longer wanted fabrics, laces, trims and books. There are wonderful bargains there and you will find that you can make lovely heirloom garments for far less than you expect. In order to be included, you have to answer a few questions (in which state do you live, what sort of sewing do you do, what is your favorite color) so we know you are legitimately interested in heirloom or smocking or even good sewing. Look up facebook groups and I bet you will find it. or I would send you a link but my computer is on the verge of a crash and I’m afraid to change pages. I’ll try to get back to you with that info. I would love to help you any way I can.

  9. Melanie Moore

    The minute I saw this I thought of you .. and lo and behold it was you! we met years ago at selling in the mountains with Elna..

  10. My goodness, Melanie! Hello! We did have a good time there in at Sewing in the Mountains in Maggie Valley, didn’t we? So many wonderfully talented, fun, sweet ladies in attendance and in the teaching staff. I’m flattered that you remembered me and that you recognized my “work.” I hope you are well and still happily stitching!

  11. I have crocheted a 5 inch wide filet crochet tablecloth border using a size 30 cotton and a pattern from one of my grandmother’s books. I need to find directions to attach this to the cloth. Any chance you could help me find a site with the information I need?


  12. Margaret, I don’t know of a site that would help you, though there is likely one out there. This sounds like a spectacular crochet lace and would make a gorgeous tablecloth. A few years ago I attached a crocheted yoke to a smocked skirt and was pleased with the result. I think the same technique would work for you. If the edge of your crochet is straight, you could attach it to entredeux with a fine thread and tiny zig zag stitch. But first starch the piece until it is quite stiff and won’t stretch as you stitch. Then join the entredeux to the fabric. If the top edge is not straight, I would again starch the lace as well as the fabric until very stiff. Then overlap the lace on the fabric until the openings between the top edge and the bottom of the opening are covered. Then I would free motion stitch the lace in place over the fabric, with the raw edge below. Finally, clip and press the fabric up and away from the crochet, ;eavomg a folded edge just under the crochet. Work a zig zag over the top of the crochet. The use of fine cotton thread #50/2 DMC, #60/2 Mettler or my favorite #80/2 Madeira Cotona, would just melt into the fabric and crochet and look like the edging always belonged there. It is critical to have the pieces starched enough that they would not stretch. You might even put a very light weight stabilizer under the two pieces to prevent stretching. If this is not clear, please write back. I’d like to help you and I would like to see this finished.

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