Monthly Archives: November 2019

Bishop – Tips to avoid a Turtleneck and a Thanksgiving Gift

Today I thought I’d do a post with some tips specifically for the bishop dress.  The bishop dress is the easiest to construct, so it is a popular style to make for baby gifts, for all the special holidays, etc.  In a busy season, the smocking can be enjoyed and the dress made up relatively quickly.

Around holidays, I always enjoy seeing beautiful bishop dresses that are being made for the little ones.  However, as I look at the creations posted on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, I have noticed a plethora of the dreaded “turtleneck” bishop dresses.  If you aren’t familiar with the term, it is used for a bishop dress that has been smocked so tightly that the smocked area sticks up, like a turtleneck.

There are 2 basic methods of smocking a bishop.  One method is to smock the bishop with the threads tied off straight, which I will call straight smocking.  The other method is to smock the bishop with the bishop blocked, or fanned out, the way that it will be worn.  I would put ready to smock bishop dresses as a sub category of this.  There are pros and cons to both methods and both methods have avid followers that fiercely defend their method of choice.  🙃  Both methods will be discussed.

First, lets cover basic anatomy.  I’m sure that everyone already knows this, but a picture review doesn’t hurt.  Any child, doll, preemie, etc. has the same basic shape.  Notice the angle of the neck and shoulders.  A properly smocked bishop dress should sit at the neckline and fall over the shoulders.

Just as a brief reminder, the smocking should stop at the shoulder line – the same place that a set in sleeve seam would be.  If the smocking falls further past the shoulder line, the dress will tend to look frumpy (my opinion).

Unfortunately, when a bishop is smocked too tightly, thus creating the turtleneck, it doesn’t sit that way.  The bias band will be higher on the neck and will stand away from the neck.  Not wanting to steal anyone’s picture and embarrass anyone, I have done a quick sketch/mock-up.  I left the turtleneck style sketch so that the neck/shoulders underneath would be visible.

There’s a couple of problems with the turtleneck bishop.  First of all, it will always remain that shape and will not sit properly on the child.  Some will attempt to correct the shape by stretching and blocking it after smocking and before construction, which will make it look better for the short-term.  Unfortunately as soon as the garment is laundered, it will return to its original shape.

I know many ladies that use the smocking straight method and have been able to create beautiful garments that lay perfectly once the pleating threads are removed.  However, for many, this isn’t the case.  Many that favor the straight smocking method will state that without a doubt, if a bishop plate is chosen for the smocking design, when the pleating threads come out, the dress will automatically fan out as it should.  I disagree with that.  All of the smocked “turtleneck” bishops that I’ve seen have been smocked with a smocking design designated as a bishop design.  The problem lies with the tension – it is too tight.

The straight method is definitely easier to smock.  However, just like with the blocked method, the tension on the stitches needs to be looser as you stitch the lower rows.  If they are smocked equally as tight as the upper rows, the turtleneck is bound to happen.  There’s no way that smocking a dense bishop design will end up well if the tension doesn’t relax as the lower rows are smocked.  This takes practice.  If you struggle with the turtleneck effect, it may be helpful to tie the straight bishop off at a longer length and smock the lower rows first and then tighten up the pleating threads as the top of the bishop is smocked.  Regardless of how you choose to approach this, the tension has to be looser on the bottom rows to avoid the turtleneck situation.

The second method is to block the bishop, which just means that it is fanned out (sometimes over a blocking guide or smocking pillow) in the shape that it will be worn.  Some will also starch it at this point.  Blocking guides and starching seem to be quite time-consuming to me and I have never felt that this is necessary, but it certainly won’t hurt .

I find that the easiest way to block is to use a piece of paper as a guide and fan the bishop out around the paper.  This is the method that I always use.  It’s convenient, no special tools are needed, etc.   and I can do this wherever I happen to be – I can always find a piece of paper.  LOL!

If you prefer to use a guide or one of the smocking pillows that are available, that is certainly an option.  However, based on the hundreds of bishops that I’ve made over the years, I don’t really feel that it is necessary.  By the time that the band is attached to the top of the bishop dress, the pleats are so tightly packed at the neckline that it really doesn’t make a difference (again, my opinion).

Smocking while using the block method (or smocking a ready to smock garment) is a little more difficult.  The pleats at the neckline are very tight and there is more space between pleats at the lower edge, which requires thoughtful tension as you smock.  I always make my bishops as ready to smock because it gives the advantage of getting the first row of smocking to sit perfectly next to the neckband.  That said, it can be challenging smocking all of the really tight pleats.  But notice how close and even that first row of smocking can be!

It is important that if you are smocking using the blocking method that you don’t habitually squish the pleats together as you smock.  It’s easy to do this without even realizing it, but it defeats the process of learning to loosen tension as you smock the lower rows.

Whatever method you choose to use, be mindful of tension – it matters.

Now, while everyone is busy frantically finishing up the holiday outfits, I am already looking to spring.  No, I don’t have all of the Christmas dresses finished.  I just prefer sewing spring and summer things!  With that in mind, I thought I’d offer a free smocking plate to encourage you to do some relaxing smocking over the holiday season.

FF

This is a PDF download.  Hope it works!  I’ve used this to make a sweet bishop dress in the past.

The graph doesn’t show the detail of the smocking design, but after the smocking was complete, the flower and flower center were outlined with the outline stitch and 2 strands of floss and a French knot was stitched with 4 strands in each flower petal.

I hope that this has been helpful and will allow for everyone to be successful with their bishop smocking designs!  I welcome any comments.  Perhaps others will chime in with comments that help them achieve successful bishops!

I hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving!!!

Kathy

Sewing For Older Girls – New Pattern

Fall has finally arrived in the south.  We went from record high temperatures in October (mostly 80’s and even 90’s) to an arctic blast in November.  Baby, it’s cold outside!

Just in time for the cold weather, I finished up a couple smocked shirt dresses for the girls.  I am quite happy with how the pattern and the dresses turned out and the girls are as well!  Eva especially likes the pockets!

The girls stayed with us for a weekend, so I had some willing models available!!!  Aren’t they adorable!  When did they get so big?

The dresses are just as cute from the back view as they are from the front.

In order to keep smocking for older girls (they are 9 and almost 7 now), it takes a bit of creative thinking.  I had seen a picture of a similar dress on Etsy, but was unable to find a similar pattern, so I went to work creating my own.

This pattern is my slightly contemporary version of the shirt dress with a more open neckline, which is also more comfortable, and a touch of smocking on the front and back of the dress at the yoke.  It smocks up very quickly and the dress is easy to sew as well!

The dress features a casing in the back and self belt to pull in the fullness, though a purchased belt or ribbon would be equally cute.

I designed the dress to be made from slightly heavier fabrics because I know that the girls aren’t fans of wearing slips.  However, if someone wanted to make the dress up of lighter fabrics, there are instructions for that as well.  My first test dress, a wearable sample, was made of Imperial broadcloth.

In this fabric, I chose to smoosh all the pleats to the center of the dress – I like how that looks as well.

To make the dress a pattern for all seasons, instructions for making the dress sleeveless are also included.  The sleeveless version is made of piqué fabric.

The last dress that I made is probably my favorite – I’m not sure if it is the color combination, the fabric or what, but I do love this one!  Sadly, I don’t think this will fit anyone except my mannequins.  That’s probably OK because the girls love the wild prints!

I’ve offered 3 slightly different smocking designs in the pattern as well.  All are very simple and smock up quickly.

Of course, you could always leave off the pockets & belt and shorten the top and it would make an equally adorable top to wear over dress pants or jeans!!!  After sewing up 6 different dresses, I didn’t have it in me to make up a blouse length version as well, though I definitely will do that for the girls for when the weather warms up.  Wouldn’t it be cute in flannel for the cold weather though!!!

It goes without saying that the pattern could be made without smocking for an even quicker project.  The dress could have gathers where the smocking is.

As always, there are lots of instructions with plenty of pictures and extra tips and techniques included in the pattern.  You can pop over to my Etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/shop/kathysheirloomshop) and buy the pattern – it’s the perfect dress for an older girl.  😊  It is available in sizes 5 – 10.

I’m ready to smock something different now.  What will you be smocking?