Monthly Archives: March 2015

Perfectly Pretty Top

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This is my “Perfectly Pretty” top on my sweet granddaughter when she was 2 years old.  It was featured in Sew Beautiful magazine in 2013 and I was thrilled to see that it made the cover photo of Issue #149.

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Since then, I have been contacted numerous times, both by shops as well as individuals with questions regarding the construction.  The most recent individual that contacted me asked if I’d read the directions and had several questions about the construction.  I thought it was time to revisit the project and address the questions in more detail.  Because the magazine is no longer in publication, I thought that I would do that here.

The most frequent question asked is if there is elastic in the front, smocked section.  Yes – there is elastic in the smocked front piece in the sample garment that was pictured in the magazine as well as in the photographs above.  I think that the confusion with this is that the pattern piece is clearly marked, “elastic casing” at the fold mark on the front.  However, it seems that the directions to insert the elastic into the casing was inadvertently left out of the directions.  I insert a piece of elastic the same measurement that is given for tying off the front smocked piece.  The elastic is there to prevent the smocking from stretching out of shape with washing and wearing.  I fear that if it is left out, the smocking will eventually stretch out and the neckline would grow and be too big.

Because the last individual had several questions regarding construction of the top, I decided to remake the top, take pictures and share here my method for making the top, which is a bit different from the instructions given in the magazine.

After the smocking is finished, pull out all the pleating threads and insert the piece of elastic into the casing at the top of the smocked area.

Follow steps 1 – 3 in the magazine for sewing the sleeves and attaching them to the top.  The sleeve front needs to have 5/8″ extended above the top edge of the smocking, as instructed.

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The sleeve back need to be attached with the top edges matching the top edges of the back, as instructed.

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Sew the side seams, as stated in the magazine.

The pattern piece in the magazine for the bias strip is not wide enough to make a French bias as the instructions indicate.  To make a French bias, cut the bias strips 1-3/4″ wide and the length given in the pattern.  Fold and press one of the short ends of the bias back (wrong sides together) to get a finished edge, then fold and press the length of the bias together (wrong sides together) to make the French bias.

Pin the French bias to the armhole curve, starting with the finished/folded edge of the bias and placing it 3/8″ below the top of the smocked front.   Continue pining around the armhole.  When you reach the top of the back, trim off any excess bias.

Sew armhole curve.

 Trim seam allowance to 1/8″.

Press bias to the inside of the top.

Edge stitch bias down along the folded edge.  Stop your machine stitching when you reach the smocked area and whip the bias down on the inside by hand.

Snip the armhole seam allowance right up to the stitching line where your French bias ends. (see picture below)  Make a diagonal cut to trim away bulk.  Press down casing at the top edge of the blouse sleeves and back by pressing down 1/4″ first and then pressing another 3/8″


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Pin casing down and edge stitch along the folded edge of the casing.  Note how the French bias and the casing edges are both finished and there are no raw seams showing.

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Insert elastic through casing using measurements given in the magazine.  It is best to try the top on the child and make adjustments as needed at this point.  Different fabrics may require different adjustments to the elastic length – much depends on the weight of the fabric.  I found that quilting cotton needed to be pulled up a bit tighter than the linen to end up with the same finished neck measurement.  Pin elastic to secure.

From the right side of the top, stitch in the ditch at the sleeve and dress seam allowance to secure the elastic.  Trim off any excess elastic and hand whip down the short edge of the bias.

I chose to make the size 4 top for photography purposes.  When the top was finished, there did not appear to be much difference in the armhole depth between the size 2 (pink/white) and the size 4 (blue).  Upon comparison, this was confirmed.

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When placed one on top of the other, it is a little more obvious.  So you may want to check that prior to attaching the French bias and, if needed, redraw the armhole curve lower on the bigger sizes.

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This adventure sent me back to the drawing/drafting mode as I did want the oldest to have one of these tops.  I have gone back to my original draft, which is a bit different from the published pattern, and did some of my own grading.  I then recruited the help of a friend of mine that is a professional pattern drafter/grader.  I wanted to confirm that I’d done everything correctly.  We were even able to try the garments on her professional forms!  Don’t you love friends like this!!!  🙂  I was pleased with the results!

I now have the new size 4 top and shorts ready for summer play and have the size 2 top and bloomers nearly finished for little sister.  Here’s a sneak peek of the bigger one!

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Maybe by the next post I’ll have modeled pictures to share.  Right now the little one has pneumonia (again) and I have bronchitis.  Aren’t we a pitiful bunch!!!  Praying for good health and warm weather.

I hope that this has helped remove some of the confusion that a few have experienced and we’ll see lots of these cute smocked tops this summer!!!  If you have further questions, please ask and I’ll address them in the comments.

Have some fun with your summer stitching!!!

Oh the Excitement – A New Dress!!!

Does anyone else get super excited over a new dress?  This idea has been in the works for a while and is now complete!!!  Yippee!!!

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I haven’t been absent for no reason these last couple weeks!  I’ve been battling a head cold and trying to finish up a new pattern.  It has kept me pretty busy!  I think I’m about done with both now – finally.  LOL!

This dress was something that I started last fall.  I got the first test sample dress finished and tried on a real child and saw a few small things that I wanted to tweak.  However, the SAGA convention happened next, then a new grandchild was born (oh how fun!!!) and then the holidays.  So, the dress was set aside until I had some free time.  You know how that is!

With being sick, nobody really wanted to be around me too much, so this was the perfect time to work on the dress.  Also, hubby was in Europe for a week, so no cooking and cleaning for a week – timing was perfect!

These last couple weeks I’ve made this dress 4 more times – smocking and all!!!  I was so sure that each one was the “final” and perfect version.  Hahaha!!!  Well, they are all definitely wearable samples, though some are bigger and will have to be saved for a year or two.  But, each one has some little thing that I felt needed to be just a little different.

The “collection” – anyone that knows me will know that the blue one is my favorite!

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Two of them I’ve embroidered flowers at the base of the featherstitching.  One dress I have just placed buttons on top of to see what I think.  I love the way that they look, but I know that these buttons are dyed shell buttons and the dye washes out, so not a good option, though they sure are cute!  I will search for more.  The internet is wonderful for that sort of thing since we have no heirloom shops around!  The final version has tucks and stitching that is shortened from the earlier versions.  I like it shorter better – especially on a smaller size.

The different styles of featherstitching have been so enjoyable to do!  The dress is lined (no slip needed) and easy to sew – I love that.  After making 4 of these, I can now smock, sew and embroider one and have it mostly finished in a day – a full day, mind you – only lacking a hem and button.

Hems – there’s another option for showcasing some stitching.  I have one finished with an embroidered running stitch – I do like how that looks!  Featherstitching would be equally pretty!  Oh – decisions, decisions….

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I now have 3 (nearly) matching dresses for the sisters/cousin to wear!  I need to get the last 2 hemmed.  What are the chances of getting all 3 of them in a picture in their new dresses???  If it happens, I’ll share a picture.  Right now I only have some cell phone individual pictures – not the best, but they look adorable on each of the girls.  🙂  Grandma’s opinion, for sure!

I am so happy to have the pattern drafted in all the sizes I want, the smocking graphed and the instructions written.  I will have to make up one more dress so that I can photograph the different steps.  Some descriptions just need a photo to go with them.  My option is to sketch – which I am tragically poor at, or to sew up another one.  Well, there’s only one size that I haven’t sewn, so that will be next!  Maybe that one will be more of an heirloom one with some lace!  You know how I love some lace!!!  The skirt front is a canvas just ready for some lace!  Or maybe some pockets?  Wouldn’t that be cute with a touch of smocking or featherstitching!  And there’s always the option of a trendy print and the dress shortened to be a top.  I think I’ll be making a lot of these!  I want to keep these little girls in smocking as long as possible!

I hope that this dress will be a favorite of the little girls and their moms.  While it doesn’t have the twirl factor, it is such a sweet and simple style – very wearable.  I love it!  It’s a good day when everything works out well.  🙂  Maybe these are their Easter dresses – done early!  How sweet it is……

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How are your Easter outfits coming?

I’m Baaaaaack……

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks.  Right after my last post, I left for Florida for a short visit with family.  It turned out to be the coldest week yet in Florida!!!  Well, I won’t complain, because it was colder at home.

Right before leaving for Florida, we had a little photo shoot with Liam in his baptism outfit.  He is just too cute!

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Honest – the pants are plenty long, he was just a wiggle worm and kept sliding down the boppy!  LOL!  That smile with the dimple is just too cute!  But this has to be a different kind of favorite picture…..it just makes me laugh!

SG3B9312-2Enough of that cuteness!  While I was in Florida, I took along a ready to smock jumper that I purchased while at Martha Pullen’s school.  I knew that one day I may want to whip up something quickly!  I smocked it with Little Memories “Little Stinkers”.  I think it turned out so cute and can’t wait to see this one on big sister!

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I’ve also completed another Wee Care gown for our SAGA guild – simple but sweet.

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My quickest project has been to make a pair of pants to go with a top that I made a while back.  The top fits Ella now, so it needed some pants to go with it since none of the girls wear or own many pants.  I think this one will look so cute on her!

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As you can see, though I haven’t posted lately, I have been busy!  The weather is chilly and cold – I think I’ll think spring and stitch something for spring to warm me up!!!  That’s the plan anyway.

Hope everyone has been having some fun stitching time as well….

Kathy