Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lacing strips for dress fitting

I don't remember exactly where I first heard about lacing strips in dress fitting, but I was reminded of them when I re-read my favorite instructions the other day. Planning ahead with my fitting, I wondered if this tool would be a good one for plus size fitting, so I decided it was time to find out.

Lacing strips are two narrow strips of fabric that contain evenly spaced holes. When attached to the center front (straight) edges of your pattern, they provide an easier way to get into and out of the pattern, without having to sew yourself in and cut yourself out over and over. If you take the time to make them well, they will also be reusable for anytime you need to do a dress fitting.

They are straightforward in construction, and can be made easily by using a sewing machine with a button hole function. I don't have step-by-step photos for you, but the instructions should be pretty easy to follow:
  1. Determine how long you'd like the strips to be (I suggest making them as long as you might ever want the lacing to be, even if you might typically want it shorter. Cut two strips at that length and no less than 2.5" wide.
  2. Fold each strip in half and sew down the length to form a tube. Use a 1/4" seam allowance.
  3. Turn the tube inside out and iron flat, positioning the seam along an edge.
  4. Sew along the edge with the seam about 1/8" (or less) in to reinforce that edge and prevent the two layers from shifting.
  5. Lay both strips out, side-by-side, with the reinforced edges together. Using a spacer (I used a piece of cardboard) the width you want the lacing holes spaced apart (1" is typical), shift one strip down half that space and make a mark on the other strip to indicate where the shifted strip starts. This will allow you to easily mark both strips at the same time while still creating offset holes for spiral lacing.
  6. Keeping the strips shifted from each other, use your spacer to mark across both strips at the same time. Shift the spacer down to line up with those marks, and make new marks, and so on.
  7. One strip at a time, use the button hole feature on your machine to sew buttonholes at each mark, just inside the sewn line you did earlier. The holes don't have to be long- 3/8"-1/2" is fine.
  8. Trim off any extra threads, and use a seam ripper to open the button holes.
  9. When you attach the strips to your fitting pattern, sew them on along the non-reinforced edge, with the other edge lined up with the opening where the lacing will be.
 Since I haven't used them yet, I can't vouch for how easy they are to use, but in theory they shouldn't be difficult and will hopefully assist in the process of achieving a consistent fit throughout the fitting process.


  1. You can also use sturdy twill tape instead of fabric strips.

    1. That hadn't occurred to me. Thanks for bringing that up!

  2. I have no idea how I ended up here, but this is fascinating! I am writing an alternate history (darker and even more magical) of the 14th century. I might stop back in for some research.

    Elizabeth Twist