heirloom afternoon tea blouse tutorial

Visiting us today from our Advisors Circle is Lisa who has stopped by with her Weekend Getaway Blouse with Hemstitching and Chai Tee Dress and Tunic. She was kind enough to take the time to put together a tutorial on adding heirloom techniques to the Afternoon Tea Blouse. Thanks for stopping by to share your tutorial Lisa!

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

When I saw the design of the Afternoon Tea Blouse with its lace insets, I knew I had to try an heirloom version! Instead of purchasing lace yardage, I used strips of ivory lace insertion and entredeux (I dyed the entredeux using coffee*) and this lovely Ivory Dotted Swiss Batiste which I lined with China Silk.**

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

I sewed the lace insertion and entredeux together using heirloom techniques to form the lace “fabric.” To try this technique you will need 100% cotton lace insertion and entredeux.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

It can also be used if you would like to run a ribbon through it but lace edging with its scalloped edge does not work for this application.*** You will also need 80 weight thread to match the lace and a 65 or 70 universal machine needle. These laces are manufactured in Europe and made of 100% cotton. The 100% cotton is the key. The laces typically found in a big box fabric store contain polyester and will not work, but you can find them online by searching for “French Val Lace Insertion” if you don’t have a fabric store by you that carries them. These techniques also require a lightweight natural fabric for the blouse, such as batiste, handkerchief linen, lawn or light weight silk.

First we need to determine the yardage of lace required. Measure the longest side of both the front and back lace yoke pattern pieces and double the measurement since the piece is cut on the fold.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

Next draw lines at a 90 degree angle on the 2 sleeve pieces to form a box, and measure the length of the long side. Double this amount since you need 2 of each sleeve piece.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

Add all these measurements together and add at least an extra 5” as a safety measure. I made a size 8 and my measurements were as follows:

  • Piece 3: 16”
  • Piece 7: 17”
  • Piece 9: 7.5 x 2=15
  • Piece 11: 8 x 2=16 Total added together equals 64” plus I added 6 for an even 70”

Each of my lace strips and entredeux needs to be 70 inches long. The width of my strip is the width of the pattern piece minus the seam allowances of 1 inch – in my case this is 2 ¾”. Now comes the fun part! Play around with your laces and entredeux to achieve a pleasing combination and the needed width!

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

Entredeux can be placed in the middle between lace strips or just at the sides, or not used at all. Using it on the sides will result in a stronger construction for your blouse. Remember as you measure the different combinations that the fabric on each side of the entredeux gets cut away and only the “holes” remain.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

You do have some wiggle room here with your finished width of the lace strip, so for example, I needed a finished width of 2 ¾” but anything within a ½” of that will work. Having a slightly narrower strip is beneficial because the method used to finish the edges of the main pattern pieces that are sewn to the lace strip will only use 1/8” of the seam allowance. This means trimming the seam allowances of the main fabric pieces down to 1/8” or as I did, just making the strip a little narrower and not worrying about it!

Forming the Lace Fabric: to join the lace to lace, use a new needle and thread the machine with the lighter 80 weight thread. Press each of the lace strips using spray starch on both sides. Use a narrow zig zag. I used length of 1 and a width of 2. Lay the laces with right sides up right next to each other. There is no need for a stabilizer – I promise! Instead hold the machine threads as you begin and do not backtack or lockstitch. The zig zag should go over the header of each lace. I like to use my edge stitch foot for this and have one lace on each side of the center bar.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

To join the lace to entredeux, first find your settings using a small scrap piece of entredeux. Place it under your machine and set the machine for a small zig zag. The left swing of the needle should go into the hole of the entredeux and the right swing into the side fabric. As the needle swings back to the left, it should go in the next hole.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

The settings I used with my machine were a length of 1 and a width of 2.5.

Once you have your settings, trim one side of the entredeux fabric off using a sharp embroidery scissors. Only trim one edge and leave the other to provide some stabilization.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

With right sides up place the lace right up against the trimmed edge of the entredeux and zig zag the two together (just as you did when sewing lace to lace), again holding the thread tails as you begin and not backstitching. One swing of the needle should go into the hole of the entredeux and the other swing over the header of the lace.

Continue joining the lace strips and entredeux together to form the width of the piece needed. As you stitch the pieces together, the strip will tend to bend in one direction. To combat this, press the strip after joining each piece of lace or entredeux, and when starting to stitch the next strip, start at the opposite end. Here is my finished strip.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

Place the pattern pieces on the finished strip and cut them out of the lace. Cut the sleeve pieces on the straight grain, so ignore the direction arrow on the pattern. Remember we have eliminated the seam allowances on the long sides of the lace strip, so the pattern pieces will be wider than the strip. Simply center the pattern piece on the strip to cut it out. I put the pattern piece under the strip so you could see how the strip is narrower.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

To construct the blouse, follow the pattern directions except where the lace pieces are to be joined to the main fabric, the fabric edges of the main fabric will first be finished with a machine roll and whip stitch and then joined to the lace. Use 80 weight thread for the machine roll and whip, and to join the lace strips to the main fabric. Switch back to 60 weight for the rest of the construction of the blouse such as the side and shoulder seams.

For the machine roll and whip: use the 80 weight thread and set the machine for a short zig zag. I used a Length of .8 and a width of 3. Have the fabric right side up and hold the thread tails as you begin. The left position of the needle should go into the fabric and the right swing should go off the edge of the fabric. The fabric should roll over onto itself and form an extremely narrow hem that finishes the edges. If you have a serger, you can also use the rolled hem feature but it will give you a bulkier finish that is harder to press away from the entredeux. The rolled and whipped edge is on the bottom and the serger edge on the top.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

If you plan to use the serger, I recommend testing it first by attaching a piece of entredeux to the serged rolled edge. Press the rolled hem away from the entredeux and make sure you can see the holes of the entredeux.

Each of the seam allowances of the main fabric that joins a lace strip should first be finished with the roll and whip. For the body pieces, I rolled and whipped the Dotted Swiss and China Silk as one. Once the fabric edge is rolled and whipped, join the lace piece by placing the lace and main fabric with right sides together, butting the edge of the entredeux or lace heading up against, but not over the rolled and whipped edge.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

Again using the narrow zig zag, join the two pieces together. One swing of the needle goes over the lace heading or into the entredeux hole, and the other swing goes over the rolled and whipped edge. Press from the wrong side and then press from the right side pressing the small seam away from the lace and making sure that the holes of the entredeux show.

To gather the sleeves, stitch one line of basting thread 1/8” from the edge between the dot and edge as instructed in the pattern. Use regular weight (60) thread for this. Then roll and whip the entire edge with the 80 weight encasing the basting thread. Find the bobbin thread of the basting thread and pull it to gather the edge.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

When sewing the blouse together, and a lace strip is seamed to another lace strip, pin each lace heading to its corresponding lace heading at the seam line, and entredeux holes to entredeux holes. Baste together, making sure everything lines up, then sew the seam.

Liesl + Co. Afternoon Tea Blouse

The rolled hem setting on the serger is perfect for this! If you don’t have a serger, use French seams.

Heirloom sewing isn’t quick, but it isn’t difficult and its techniques are so useful in a variety of sewing applications. A wonderful resource for heirloom methods is “Precise and Professional” by Lyn Weeks. The book is unfortunately out of print now, but is worth every penny if you can track down a copy. Lyn is an amazing teacher who has now returned to her native Australia. To our friends in Australia, if you have a chance, take a class from Lyn and tell her Lisa Hawkes sent you! And to everyone, I hope you try constructing your own heirloom tea blouse!

*To dye the entredeux, heat a cup of coffee to just below boiling. Immerse the entredeux in the coffee and let sit for an hour. Rinse and press the entredeux to set the color.

**To line the blouse, I simply cut a front body and back body piece from silk. I sewed the bust darts separately and then treated the two pieces as one.

***You can add lace edging to the sleeve and hem edges if you would like more lace. Simply roll and whip the hem edges and then apply the lace edging right sides together using that small zig zag!

Looking for more inspiration? Then be sure to visit our Five Heirloom Technique Tutorials.


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  1. Elisabeth

    That’s so gorgeous! I’ve really never worked with lace but now I want to sew some together!

  2. Maria

    Really stunning! So, so beautiful!!!

  3. Erica

    Simply beautiful. Wow. Thank you for sharing all these techniques. I’d love to try something similar one day.

  4. Thank you all for your kind comments! I did find one goof on my part that I want to correct, under the picture of the different types of lace it should say “Beading can be used…”. I am sorry for any confusion.

  5. Susan terrill

    So beautiful. I used to do heirloom sewing in Memphis,Th about 40 tears ago. I still have lots of lace etc. But I did it all by hand without a machine for my children. I love the coffee dye. It does take time. I eventually learned to spit and whip those delicate batiste hems. Your blouse is lovely.

  6. Kay

    S is very nicely done . Thanks for sharing your version.

  7. Patty Deffenbaugh Karber

    I just saw the Afternoon Tea blouse pattern today April 11 2019 on the Stitching Post’s internet order site. I wanted heirloom and was fabric browsing and found it. Now for the handkerchief linen and some beautiful insertions. I’m in Van Buren Arkansas and other than Fayettville we have to drive 3 hours for decent fabric. I looked up more of your patterns and found the skirt. This is a gift for a dear friend. Patterns and tutorials wonderful!

    1. So glad you like them! If you have trouble finding fabric you might also like Farmhouse Fabrics. They have a very good website and wonderful customer service.

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