THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

May 3, 2009

Sculpting Venise Lace

camiVenise lace is a very different kind of lace. It’s actually heavily embroidered on an underlying support cloth that is then washed away, leaving all of the thread and none of the cloth.

Once upon a time there were a lot of embroidered fabric and trim companies right across the river from Manhattan., in Hoboken and other small towns along the Hudson in New Jersey. The solid rock of the Jersey Palisades was ideal, mirroring the mountains of Germany and Switzerland, the immigrants’ home country. The huge heavy embroidery machines were on the ground floor, on bedrock, and the family lived above, just as they had in the old country.

Some pattern cards with the designs have been used for maybe 100 years. If you bought eyelet embroidery 50 years ago in the USA, or something with Venise trim, it was probably from a town on the Palisades. As you can imagine, only a few companies there survive today.

This past fall Prada used the Swiss version, called Guipure lace. Hundreds of years ago this was handmade needle lace. Eventually it was mechanized. The little bar that connects the larger parts is known as a‘bride’ (pronounced ‘breed’ in French), that gives the characteristic look to the ground of this style of lace.
Edges and trims are commonly available; all over patterns can be found, although it can become quite expensive. I remember buying 1 yard of heavy rayon Venise lace for yokes and cuffs on a friend’s wedding gown at $150/yd, and that was 10-15 years ago.

It is wonderfully soft and malleable though, and can be formed into all kinds of shapes. Recently I needed a Venise lace yoke of a certain shape. I searched high and low for something that would fit, but was unable to find just the right thing. So I set out to build my own, using various trims of the same quality and color of ivory.
Lace appliqué techniques are clearly taught in Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture
Don’t let the title fool you, there is so much more than wedding gowns in this book. It’s actually a guide to haute couture techniques applied to formal dress construction. Whenever I approach a project that uses some aspect of what she covers in the book, I use it as a refresher course to remind me of all that stuff I have to forget in the more ready-to-wear world we live in.

I had a hand drawn shape of the finished piece that was needed, and set about using the building blocks of trim to make the shape. Snipping and pinning the pieces together, I made first one side, then mirrored the other. After all was placed I stitched the parts together with a tiny stab appliqué stitch. In just a few spots I had to build a little bridge (the ‘bride’) to make it work, similar to a handmade thread loop for a hook.
The finished piece worked out well. I wouldn’t throw it in the washing machine! It is, after all, very delicate. (Not to mention the rayon spandex cloth that would shrink like crazy.) back
I used the ½” Dritz bra sliders and rings, with self fabric straps to match the ivory garment. If this piece were going into production I would send a scan of the neck yoke trim to the lace manufacturer and the essence of the layout would be used to create the stitch pattern for the Venise. For a special one of a kind piece though, this is one way to get the results.



  1. That is absolutely gorgeous!

    Comment by Erica B. — May 3, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

  2. Beautiful, and thank you for this post.

    Comment by Gwen — May 3, 2009 @ 11:07 pm

  3. Beautiful work. Thank you for sharing it.

    Comment by Terri — May 4, 2009 @ 4:28 am

  4. Beautiful and wonderful tutorial!

    Comment by Bunny — May 4, 2009 @ 5:58 am

  5. Thank you so much for the link to a little bit of history of embroidery in the Palisades. I lived (and still have connections) in that area and never encountered any sign of that area being “the embroidery capital” as one sign says.

    Comment by Lisette — May 4, 2009 @ 6:19 am

  6. How is it that the lace doesn’t unravel during wear, with all the cut ends? Lovely and inspiring

    Comment by motozulli — May 4, 2009 @ 6:47 am

  7. Gorgeous and elegant.

    Comment by Els — May 4, 2009 @ 7:07 am

  8. Just stunning. Thank you for sharing. I am always intrigued by lace. I make bobbin lace … although haven’t done so for a number of years now. If you’re interested here are some photos of my UFO piece of bobbin lace It is just amazing the beautiful things that can be created … and very sad that these skills are being lost.

    Comment by Fiona — May 4, 2009 @ 9:41 am

  9. Fascinating! Your yoke turned out quite beautifully

    Comment by Mary Beth — May 4, 2009 @ 11:25 am

  10. Beautiful work. Thanks for sharing, and for the tidbit on lace making on the Palisades. I had no idea.

    Comment by Nancy k — May 4, 2009 @ 11:51 am

  11. Lovely! I always enjoy seeing your projects, Georgene!

    Comment by Rose — May 4, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

  12. Wow, wish I had this information when I made my daughter’s dress!!!

    Comment by susan — May 4, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  13. What a beautiful custom piece! Thanks for the history lesson, too.

    Comment by Summerset — May 4, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  14. How breathtaking!

    Comment by Trudy Callan — May 5, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

  15. Thank you for sharing this. Just beautiful!

    Linda T

    Comment by vernonfashionstudio — May 5, 2009 @ 11:02 pm

  16. So lovely! I would snatch this right up if I saw it in a store.

    Comment by itsastitch — May 11, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  17. This is beautiful! Thank you for the great information.

    Comment by Ann's Fashion Studio — May 17, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  18. Breath taking!

    Comment by Tany — May 24, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  19. I love this tutorial! I also love this pattern-did you create this or did you use a commerical pattern-not for the lace but for the garment!

    Thanks, Tina

    Comment by Tina J — December 14, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

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