I’ve been busy sewing over the last week but as it’s a gift for someone who occasionally reads my blog I can’t show you until it’s been gifted. So in true Blue Peter fashion…here’s one I made earlier…
Last weekend was Helen’s 18th birthday, as part of her present I made a photobook called the Alphabet of Helen. I wrote something about her personality or things that we’ve done under each letter and illustrated it with lots of photos from over the years. Looking at it made me realise just how many dresses I made for Helen. I made clothes for James too, but girls are so much easier to sew for!!
I learnt to smock through my mother, she’s one of those craft ladies who will get totally into a craft, buy all the kit, do it for a few years and then move on to the next craft. So when she was into smocking she bought a smocker, which does make it a whole lot easier. They are a pain to set up and thread, as they have about 26 needles, but you put your fabric in one end, turn the handle and it comes out gathered the other end, all you have to do is the nice bit of embroidering it.
Most of the patterns I made were from the Australian Smocking magazine, they have some stunning dresses. My first attempt was a pretty pink dress with an embroidered panel down the middle and a simple smocking design each side of the bodice. She looked really cute in it, I didn’t quite get the tension right but I was pleased enough to have another go. It doesn’t show up well in the photo unfortunately.
Straight smocked high-waisted dresses were the easiest as the smocking was done on a straight length of fabric before the dress was made up. I usually used quilting cotton as it’s a nice weight and would stay nice after laundering, the downside of that was that in the UK, quilting cotton isn’t cheap!
Smocking is fairly simple and quick to do once it’s gathered. This can be done by hand but there is no way I would have the patience for that! The gathers have to be perfectly even both in depth and distance apart. The basic stitch is like a slip stitch which catches the crease of each gather, zig-zagging along the line of folds, the pattern is simply the arrangement of the zig-zags, interspersed sometimes with embroidered flowers or roses. At the end, the gathering stitches are all removed, leaving the embroidery to hold the gathers. Panels are made by leaving an area unsmocked.
When Helen was about 2 1/2 years old I made her a very pretty dress with a bishop neckline. It’s the only bishop one I did and has to be my favourite. A bishop neckline goes round in a full circle. The basic dress is made up first with raglan sleeves, the dress is then gathered right across the neckline. The gathers are carefully adjusted so they are tighter in the centre, looser on the edge, so the neckline forms a circle. The dress is then smocked around the circle.
The pattern was in the Australian Smocking magazine, it was stunning, I wanted to make it immediately. The original was in a pretty spotted dimity, that was out of my budget at the time so I used a fine cotton stripe, it also meant I avoided the tedious task of unpicking the spots in the smocked area!
Helen looked gorgeous in it, I have it hanging in my sewing room now, I must admit I am tempted to have it framed in a box frame so that it is hanging. I’ve even made a co-ordinating coathanger, I just have to decide if it will work.