I've been thinking about learning smocking for some time now, and when Frances Suzanne created a series on smocking, I decided it was time to finally try it. I searched for smocked baby dress patterns and quickly found a couple that I liked- the Children's Corner Missy Daygown, and the Amerlane and Amberpetites Infant Snowdrift Pattern. I actually bought both, and I'm glad I did. The Missy pattern has a lot more helpful tips for a first-time smocker, and I used those hints in conjunction with the Snowdrift pattern and the series on Frances Suzanne to figure it all out.
I don't have a pleater, and I haven't found anyone in my area with one yet either, so I marked dots in a 3/8" grid and pleated by hand using those dots. The marking was probably the most time-consuming part of the whole venture! I would have used iron-on smocking dots, but I wasn't sure how long they would take to ship! Actually smocking it was pretty fun, although my vertical spacing is pretty bad- I think next time I'll pleat half-rows so I have extra quidelines to keep my spacing more even. The bullion rosebuds aren't included in the smocking pattern- instead, it has smocked flowerettes in a few different spots that I left out. This was my first time making bullions too! I wish I'd swapped the yellow row and the upper pink row to bring out the heart shapes in the smocking but otherwise I'm pretty happy with it.
The materials are basic quilting cottons from JoAnn... the only solids in the color I wanted that weren't mostly polyester. I searched for a good 45 minutes for a tiny stripe or gingham in pink, but there was only one pink gingham, and its quality was abysmal... and then I wandered into the binding section and found the perfect gingham quilt binding! (Although it was pretty expensive- $10 for only 3 yards of binding.) I used that to make tiny piping for around the yoke:
I also bound the sleeves with it. This is the inside of the dress- I did French seams everywhere and slip-stitched the yoke and sleeve bindings down following the pattern.
I really wanted to use buttons on this dress, and not snaps- but although I have a buttonholer, I don't have a cam in a size close to the buttons I was using. I didn't want to risk trying to zig-zag them when the dress was so close to being done, so I used it as an opportunity to learn hand-worked buttonholes. My first few aren't so pretty, but the last couple are pretty decent!
I regret that the only wax I had for my thread was unbleached beeswax- it gave the thread a dingy appearance that really bugs me. Hopefully it will look cleaner after being washed!
I was planning on doing bullion rosebuds on all of the buttons but decided to only decorate the top two after struggling with them for quite a while. Although I'm thinking now that a good part of the struggle was due to the many layers of fabric in the yoke, and I may go back and add them to the rest of the buttons after all. =)
The pattern includes directions for smocking the back of the dress as well as the front, but I chose to gather the backs- directions for that are also included. However, if I were to gather again I'd run the gathering stitches after sewing the sleeves in, so I wouldn't have to keep pulling the threads out of the way while sewing! I'm bummed that my iron, which has never spit water, decided this dress would be a fantastic place to start, and it left a big water splotch on the back. I really hope that washes out too. =(
I used the 11lb size option in the pattern- I would have preferred a smaller size, but this is actually the smallest smocking pattern I've seen yet. I was most of the way through making it and realized just how short and chunky it was going to be! I was already planning on cutting off the included 3-inch hem and doing a Madeira applique hem (another new technique!) but decided when I saw how short it was to keep the length and just do the applique at the bottom.
I really, really love the hem! I think it's my favorite part of the whole dress. I forgot about the back button overlap until I'd already sewn it down though, so it doesn't match up there...which is a bummer, but I couldn't think of a good way to fix it at that point. I love how the hem shadows through on the inside of the dress too.
The yoke embroidery is not included in the pattern, and to be honest I'm not entirely pleased with what I came up with. I drew it out beforehand, but once embroidered it didn't look nearly as cohesive as it did on paper. Next time I would use a different design or leave it off entirely.
So, in case you were wondering, here's a list of new things I tried for this dress! Smocking, bullions, bullions on buttons and on smocking, micro-piping, hand-worked buttonholes, and Madeira applique. I need more practice on every single one of those, but I'm pretty pleased with my first attempts!
Thanks for stopping by,