Tuesday 11 August 2015

Sewing Tip 6: Rick Rack (Puzzle 5/5)

I like rick rack for its homey, happy look. It's a must for aprons, adorable on children's clothing, and - used judiciously - playful on grown-up wear, too. It's sweet sewn flat, but especially charming turned so the scallop shows from beyond the edge of the garment. Here are some pointers for rick rack in general, and a scalloped edge in particular:
Scalloped, circular edges - from front and back.
Joins blend smoothly. Trim tails after topstitching (not shown)

  • Cotton rick rack will shrink and possibly bleed, so remove it from the package, zip it into a lingerie bag and run it through the washer and dryer with a load of like-coloured laundry. Use water hotter than you intend to use for washing the finished garment. Resist the temptation to skip this step: a puckered garment is not charming.
  • Synthetic rick rack should not shrink or bleed, but it could. Pre-shrink or live dangerously - up to you.
  • After washing and drying, the rick rack will likely be warbly, tangled and curled up. Take a breath, gently tease it apart (it won't be as hard as it looks), give it a press with hot iron and steam, and you're ready for the fun part.
  • When applying rick rack to a circle (e.g. neckline, armhole, skirt hem), bend the cut edges into the seam allowance, overlapping the beginning and ending of the length of trim like an X. The join will be hard to find from the right side. Expect the cut edge to fray slightly when washed. This is part of the charm.
Diagonal baste before stitching, for best control.
Stitch along centre of trim for even scallops
  • Rick rack tends to move around while stitching. To best hold it in place, pin, then diagonal baste rick rack to the garment, right sides together. Remove the pins as you baste.
  • Sew by machine, keeping eye - and therefore stitching - focused on the very centre of the rick rack, slightly ahead of the needle. This is the secret for even scallops. Don't let the waviness make you drive off the edge! Keep looking where you want to go and that is where you will sew - just like driving.
  • Press flat from the wrong side to set the stitches, then turn the raw edges under, and edgestitch to secure. If you sewed straight down the middle, just the scalloped edge will peek out. Charming.
Puzzle Top, made of scraps and old rick rack
  • This method works well with stable, non-fraying, slightly stretchy fabrics, like the polyester double-knit of the Puzzle Top. For a more attractive, finished interior, serge the raw edge, leaving up to a 1cm seam allowance, before applying the rick rack along the seam line. Be sure the centre of the rick rack does not touch the serging threads, or they will show after turning: not charming. Note: rick rack is not stretchy; be sure the garment will fit easily over your head.
  • Firmly woven fabrics, since they have no stretch, will not lie flat when curved edges are finished by turning and topstitching this way. Use a facing, instead. First, stitch the centre of the rick rack along the seamline, as above. Next, apply the facing, right sides together. Sew from the garment side, following exactly the stitching line from the rick rack. Clip the curve so it will lie flat when turned. Do not clip the rick rack - it bends. Charming, and a clean finish on the inside, too.
I'd been waiting a long time to use the hand-me-down, muted, soft, cotton rick rack from my stash. It seemed a perfect match for the Puzzle Top - a riff on my grandmother's rick rack-trimmed housedress - and adds a charming touch, if I say so myself.

Puzzle 1 Button Tutorial
Puzzle 2 Blatant Advertising
Puzzle 3 What and Why
Puzzle 4 Puzzle Top Tutorial


  1. Leah, you have changed my life! Pre-wash? Who knew?! Overlap the ends with an "X"? Of course!! (Next time.)

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