Category Archives: Free smocking plate.

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

Baby Britches – Another Diaper Cover

I’ve been enjoying these smaller, quick projects lately.  The diaper covers fit the bill perfectly! After finishing up the Sweet Cheeks diaper cover pattern, I started working on a similar one that would work for baby boys as well as baby girls and came up with this version and called it Baby Britches.

Can’t you see this set on some little twin babies!!!   I love picture smocking, so that would always be my first choice for little boys and is often what I choose for little girls.  The smocked cars are from a Pat Garretson smocking plate called Danny’s Toys.  That smocking plate has several different small designs that would work on the diaper cover.

I had fun making these little diaper covers in all the sizes, including the doll size!  The smaller doll sizes take no time at all to make – perhaps 1 hour for smocking AND sewing them!

For the 2 diaper pictured above with the tiny sailboats, I smocked my own tiny sail boat design and am putting the design here so that others can smock this design as well.  You can download the graph by clicking on the blue words below.  🙂

tiny sailboats

Even for the picture smocking “challenged”, this is a simple plate with only 2 rows to picture smock.  The sails are trellis stitches, as is the flag.  I honestly think that anyone ought to be able to smock this tiny design!

I went out and purchased some little shirts to photograph the diaper covers with and think that both the onesies as well as the shirts look good with them.  Of course, I’m probably biased!  LOL!  I felt like I had my “Vineyard Vines” vibe going on with these with those pineapples and whales.

For easy dressing and a no-iron option for the tops, choose onesies!  Though I’m not particularly fond of them, they do allow the diaper covers to shine!!!

The little whale smocking design is a Kathy Crisp miniature design called Babies Ahoy.  You may still be able to find her plate online.  It has several tiny designs featured on the one smocking plate.  It was hard to choose which one to smock!  There are other small designs available to smock as well – just look at some of the smaller figures on picture smocking designs and you will see that you probably have more in your personal stash than you realize!

I like embellishing the back of the diapers as well and the little girls nearly always get some sort of ruffles while the boy covers can be monogrammed or they can have an appliqué design stitched.

I couldn’t resist doing some embroidery on the waistband for the little girl diaper cover – it offers a small area to embroider and took only a few minutes and I think adds a lot!

There are so many ways to embellish both the waistband as well as the diaper cover back!

With 2 doll sizes offered in the pattern (Bitty Baby size as well as a 12″ – 15″ size), I think these would also work well for Wee Care items for the hospitals.

I hope to see some creative ideas from all my smocking friends!  Until then, keep on stitching!!!

Jumpers For Christmas and Beyond

I haven’t been in the sewing room much lately, so I haven’t had anything to write about.  However, with Christmas fast approaching, and some pretty emerald green corduroy on the cutting table, I decided it was time to get going on jumpers for Ella and Eva.  They still have fancy silk dresses from last year that will fit again this year, so the casual corduroy seemed like a good choice.  After much though, I determined that smocking a design that would work for Christmas but wasn’t so Christmas-y that it could be worn again later would be just perfect.

I chose to make the Children’s Corner “Mary De” pattern.  I’ve been sewing this jumper for so many years and can practically do it in my sleep.  If you don’t already have this pattern, now is the time to buy it.  They have revised the pattern to include instructions for an inset, which I’ve done in the past, but it requires some math.  Not my strong suit, so always a challenge for me.  Now no math is necessary as they have already done the hard work for you!

I’m quite pleased with how the jumpers turned out.  This time I actually made blouses to go under the jumpers as well.  I had broadcloth that was a perfect match for the piping, so that’s what I did.  The blouse pattern that I used was also Children’s Corner – the “Meg” pattern.  I am pretty sure that this pattern has been discontinued, but there are so many that you can choose from. What I love about the CC patterns besides the wonderful fit is that the sleeves and collars can be interchanged.  These sleeves look a bit long to me – but I rarely sew long sleeves, so they may be just right!  The elastic wrist will help keep the sleeves in place if they are a bit long.

For the smocking, I stitched an original design and made each one a little different, but used the same colored threads.  It’s so much nicer to not have to smock the identical design twice.  😊

The addition of the pink to the smocking makes the dress look a little less Christmas-y to me.

I loved finding the perfect buttons in my stash as well.  If everything comes from my stash, that pretty much makes these outfits “free” right?  LOL!  I love having everything that I need on hand when I start sewing.  With no fabric stores other than JoAnn’s and Hobby Lobby in town, a stash is a real advantage!  I keep telling myself that!!!

In the spirit of Christmas and giving, I am sharing both smocking graphs with my readers.  I hope you’ll enjoy them.  If your Christmas dresses are already finished, you can use the graphs and get a head start on your spring sewing!  As you can see, I wasn’t too creative in naming the smocking designs – I named them after the little girls that they are going to!

I hope that you enjoyed a blessed Thanksgiving with your loved ones.  What a joy to set aside a day to be able to praise God for the unmeasurable blessings that we enjoy each and every day!!!  Follow that with the Christmas celebration – what a wonderful season this is!!!

Hopefully you’ll find a little time to enjoy some stitching these next few weeks!

Kathy

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Smocked Knit Nightgowns!

As I was going through many of my older magazines, I came across a pattern for a smocked knit nightgown in an old AS&E magazine.  I decided that I had to try smocking on knits.  I think this would be so sweet as a coming home from the hospital gown for the young moms that are more casual and wouldn’t do a smocked day gown.  I pulled out a white knit from my “stash”, but was too lazy to dig deep into the stash.  Instead, I called my best friend and told her I needed some ribbing to make the nightgown.

What is it about shopping in someone else’s stash that is so much more fun than going through your own???  She had pulled out several knits and some ribbing.  I went home with 2 pieces of knit from her stash and a couple of options for ribbing.  Then I went to work.

Because we didn’t find a good match for the white fabric (you know how many shades of white there are!), I chose to use yellow.  This white fabric is really nice, but heavy!  It is the weight of those “beefy” T’s.  It was a real bear to get through the pleater – much like pleating corduroy or velveteen.  Once I got it pleated, it was a dream to sew and to smock.  I smocked my design rather than what was included in the magazine.

The next nightgown that I worked on was the lavender rosebud print from my friend.  I made 2 of those.  It was a nice, lightweight knit and easier to sew.  I’m in the process of smocking it, but include it in the pictures anyway.  The next gown that was made was the pink gown with long sleeves shown in the next picture.  After finishing it, I determined that those sleeves are much too long!

With 4 gowns finished, I went over to deliver hers and we proceeded to go through more of her stash.  She pulled out her harder to get to knits (you know how those stashes are squirreled away!) and I went home with a LOT more pieces of fabric.

With the new pieces of fabric in my sewing room, I cut and pleated up 9 gowns in one day and then stitched up one of them that evening.  I’m telling you, these are so quick to make!  Once cut, I think it takes about 40 minutes to completely sew the gown – and that includes counting the pleats to find the center.

These last 2 are “vintage” Carter’s knit fabric.  Does anyone else remember when you could shop at outlet shops and buy the fabrics and trims as well?  This was LONG before those yellow “sort of” outlets that are all over the place.  I think that the lavender may be from a children’s wear outlet as well.  These knits have aged well and are now ready to smock!

While I would always choose a beautiful daygown for a baby, so many young moms haven’t got a clue what a daygown is and they certainly don’t want to iron.  I think these nightgowns along with a burp pad and bib will make a lovely baby shower gift!  If you disagree, please don’t burst my bubble – I love believing that these will be enjoyed and used.  😛

The gown pattern was in AS&E #19 – an older magazine and probably difficult to find. It came ins a NB – 12 lb. size as well as a 12 – 18 lb.   It has 3 sleeve options so that is nice.  I love the little puffed sleeve!  So sweet and little girlish.  In the magazine it is longer and designed to smock.  I didn’t want to smock the sleeves and so I shortened them and added the cuff that was designed for the straight short sleeve instead.  I’m really happy with the results.  I have a few other suggestions if someone has that magazine and plans to make the nightgown.

  •  The long sleeves are way too long.  I made the sleeves on the pink gown according to the pattern.  For the other gowns, I trimmed 1″ off the sleeve length and I think another 1/2″ could easily be removed.
  • The shoulders at the back yokes don’t fit together properly – the back shoulder is 1/4″ wider than the front shoulder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose to smock a simple design on the dress and then graphed it out to share with my readers.  I also changed up the graph to be suitable for a Wee Care dress or a tiny bishop.  I hope that you will enjoy it!  This is suitable for any small space that you want to smock – including a bonnet!

I think that this little gown could easily be made by adapting a t-shirt pattern – maybe even one from Kwik Sew.  I’ll have to look into that.  It would be adorable as a tiny dress with matching panties as well.

So, after completing 8 ready to smock gowns, I put the other 5 that I have cut out away and brought my serger in for a spa treatment!  It is much-needed.  I’ll be working on a French pattern next.  Stay tuned for a report on that.

*** Please excuse the bad pictures, I was having a bad picture day today and seemed that nothing was in focus.  Ugh!***