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How to Update a Basic Tee With a Little Lace

Dress up a standard knit tee by adding a touch of lace! Here’s how to adapt a tried-and-true knit tee pattern into a unique, elegant version.

red knit tee with stretch lace

How to update a knit T-shirt with lace details

Step 1: Determine the placement of the lace

determine amount of lace

To determine the placement of the lace panel, pin your pattern pieces together at the shoulder and see where the placement would work for your figure. You can drape the pattern pieces over your shoulder or over a dress form and mark the pattern.

I decided to add lace to the upper part of the bodice, ending just above the bust. If you plan to do the same, a good guideline is to place the bottom edge of the lace about halfway between the shoulder and the bust apex.

It looks best when the lace at the center of the tee is not too close to the neckline, so you can even raise the neckline to keep a  pleasing  proportion of lace across the front. 

Step 2: Mark line for the pattern split

mark line for pattern split

Once you’ve determined where you’ll add lace, draw a line across the front pattern piece, perpendicular to the center front.

Place the back pattern piece on your work surface, lining up the side seams, and then mark the horizontal line on the same spot on the back pattern piece. It doesn’t have to be down to the millimeter, but make sure it is above the side seam by the same amount as the front pattern piece. Draw the line on the back pattern piece perpendicular to the center back.

Cut the patterns along the split lines, and be sure to write on each pattern piece what they are, such as “lower back” or “upper front.”

Step 3: Add seam allowances

add seam allowances

Add the seam allowances to your pattern pieces. In this example, I added a 5/8″ seam allowance (shown in pink).

Step 4: Evaluate your lace fabric

clip edge of knit lace fabric

Sometimes knit lace fabric or other knits have selvedges that are curled or very tight, which make it difficult to lay the fabric flat. You can cut off the selvedge, or just clip into to it (as shown here) to release the tightness at the edge and allow the fabric to lay flat.

Step 5: Cut out the lace pieces

cut lace top portions

Lace fabric often has a very noticeable pattern and directionality, so keep those in mind before cutting your fabric.

For this lace I chose to have the motifs placed symmetrically across the front and the back.

Be sure to follow any markings on your pattern pieces, such as “cut on fold,” as my pattern indicated.

flip sleeve to get matching patterns

If you plan to create your sleeves with lace, don’t skip this step! They should also be cut with some attention to the pattern in the lace.

Cut out one sleeve, and then flip it over, matching the motifs of the lace weave to create to mirror image sleeves. 

Step 6: Cut the knit fabric pieces

Cut out the lower portions of your top in your coordinating knit fabric. Assemble the pieces by seaming the upper lace piece to the lower knit piece (for the front and back). Then continue sewing your top following your pattern instructions.

lace top front and back


Linda G

I love this, Thank you.

mary m

Would you suggest serging the lace and knit together? Love what you did here! Thanks.


sure you could serge the two together, I would be careful to avoid adding more bulk to the seam as lace is already a bit thick.

Jean Green

It appears that the neckline is finished with a narrow hem. Is that correct?


yes that is correct, it is a stretch knit lace fabric so it is turned and stitched at the neckline.


Is it possible to finish the neckline with a narrow hem if the lace is not stretch, cos I don’t want to use bias tape and I’ve been trying to figure out how to finish a neckline with lace

Glenda Conrady

Thank you for such a great idea. Where can I buy that beautiful lace?


It is 100% poly fabric, a stretch knit, which I purchased at a large chain fabric store.

Yoanna Kalova

I like the idea of “refreshing” your clothes. I have so many old clothes in my wardrobe and I don’t know what to do with them. And in your article I’ve found the answer – I will refresh them with lace, bead or other decorations. Thanks a lot.


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