Rickrack was a favorite trim of late-19th and early-20th-century seamstresses, who used it to embellish their garments. It is mentioned in books printed as early as 1882. Sometimes it was inserted in a seam with only the points visible; at other times rickrack was applied as a topstitched edging or served as the framework for Battenberg-type laces. Rickrack was prized for its durability and the fact that, unlike lace, it could survive repeated washings with no damage. The harsh laundry methods of the time involved boiling-hot water, grated lye soap, and large wooden laundry paddles, so this attribute alone assured the braid's great popularity.
Search through an old sewing basket, and you're likely to come upon remnants of rickrack, perhaps still in the original packets or carefully wound around folded cardboard and held with a rusted straight pin. Rickrack, a machine-woven braid, has changed very little in the intervening years. It's still available in several sizes, ranging from tiny to jumbo -- and the flat bias weave allows it to turn in any direction.
That old sewing-basket rickrack was probably woven of heavy-duty mercerized cotton, although some rickrack was made of wool. Today, it's made from sturdy polyester fibers that resist fading and curling, but it still looks like old-time cotton rickrack. The colors of old rickrack may not be available today. Manufacturers update the shades every year or two to reflect current trends, and the braid also comes in novelty colors, variegated tints, and metallics that are suited to a multitude of uses.
We've collected some rickrack linen-trim ideas to get your imagination started. Use vintage rickrack if you're lucky enough to find some. Follow these guidelines for working with old or new rickrack.
- Preshrink old cotton rickrack before applying it to other fabrics.
- Iron old or new rickrack to eliminate creases before you begin.
- Don't stretch the braid too much when you sew it, and try to keep it flat.
- Pin corners with the points arranged symmetrically, and then work in any slight extra fullness between the corners as you sew.
Continued on page 2: Create Your Own Design