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A beautiful hemline is a lovely way to compliment a bodice – smocked, embroidered, tucked, etc. There are so many ways to embellish a hem. Some are more time consuming and difficult, others are quicker and easier (relatively speaking). This post will address some of the many options of interest to anyone that enjoys heirloom sewing. Hopefully it will inspire some creative thinking for your next sewing project!

A smocked bishop dress is deserving of a beautiful hem treatment. This hem was stitched with a pin-stitch, done by hand and then embroidery was added above the hem. While I nearly always will choose a machine method of hem finishes, I do love hand-work and wanted to test the waters with a hand, pin-stitch. With a small sized bishop dress, this didn’t take too long. This is a cost effective treatment and only requires a lightweight thread for the pin-stitch. Any book on heirloom techniques will include instructions for this stitch.

For reference, this dress was made from Imperial batiste. The smocking design is a variation of Ellen McCarn’s “Cary Anne” smocking plate – I made a few changes. Contrary to the opinion of many heirloom stitchers, it IS possible to do a hand pin-stitch on a poly/cotton fabric. Because of the easy care of this fabric, this dress is likely to get more wear than one that requires special laundering as well as ironing.

As mentioned, my “go-to” methods are almost always a machine method and I love including color in the hem and bodice of a dress.

Scalloped hems always look beautiful!!! Of course, they are more work and will take more time. The finished result is always worth the extra effort! This dress has a scalloped, contrast hem that is machine pin-stitched. Machine pin-stitching also takes time, but goes much more quickly than doing it by hand. Pintucks and embroidery above the hem elevate the design, making it even more beautiful. Pintucks are an easy way to embellish a hem and no additional cost is incurred!

At this time, this pattern is not available – it is a class that I teach. The fabric for this dress is satin batiste – both the white and the yellow fabric. It is dreamy to work with and creates a keepsake heirloom.

This dress is similar to the yellow/white dress above, but a little quicker to complete. This is a Madeira hem in a contrast color that is machine pin-stitched to the skirt. It has hand embroidered shadow work above the hem – both of these elements are repeated in the bodice.

This dress is made from Imperial batiste for the easy-care that the fabric offers. Because of that, it was worn often, washed frequently and still looks beautiful. As you can see, the machine pin-stitching can also be done effectively on a poly/cotton blend. The pattern and instructions for this dress is available in my Etsy shop.

This is another example of a contrast hem – a shadow Madeira hem, done by machine. The technique for this hem is a bit different. A heavy contrast fabric (hot pink) is used underneath the batiste skirt to shadow through as a pastel pink. This method is much quicker and easier than the previous 2 dresses shown and only requires a pintuck needle and foot and a wing needle. The dress features hand embroidery above the hem. The contrast fabric and embroidery are repeated on the dress bodice.

For an heirloom look with less hours invested, this style will fit the bill. This dress is also made from Imperial batiste, so another easy care dress that should get worn frequently. The pattern is available in my Etsy shop.

Shown below is the same hem technique done with a simple scallop design and with silk ribbon embroidery at the peaks. It is such a versatile technique!

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This is yet another dress using the same technique.

Swiss batiste blue dress with lace.

Satin batiste lace dress with lace overlay bodice, sleeves and a lace scalloped hem.

Pima cotton lawn dress with lace bodice and hem.

It goes without saying that you can never go wrong with a traditional heirloom dress and LOTS of lace! Each of these examples show how the lace hem is a repeat of the lace bodice.

The blue dress is a basic yoke dress using heirloom techniques to add lace. The white dress is a basic yoke dress, smocked, and with heirloom techniques to add a lace overlay bodice, lace sleeves and a scalloped lace hem. This dress was featured in Sew Beautiful magazine several years ago. The pink dress is a pattern available in my Etsy shop.

Sometimes a single lace edging is sufficient as a hem. This adds a touch of elegance without taking away from the dress bodice embroidery and the lace sleeves. This vintage inspired dress pattern is available in my Etsy shop.

To create an heirloom dress with lots of appeal and a little less expense, ribbon can be used in the hem and bodice paired with lace for a stunning dress. This is a great way to learn and use heirloom techniques without breaking the bank! These dresses are made of Swiss batiste, ribbon and lace. It does not require a lot of fabric and could also be made with Imperial batiste if easy care and savings is a factor.

With Easter fast approaching, consider a beautiful hem to compliment whatever you might be creating for someone special!!! You can’t go wrong!

Happy Stitching,



Professional looking results – isn’t that what everyone desires? Besides good sewing techniques, pressing, or lack of pressing, as you sew can make the difference between quality, couture/custom looking garments and a “home-made” looking garment. While the thrill of creating in front of the sewing machine is great fun, pressing each step of the way is absolutely necessary to create a polished looking garment. So, what kind of aides/tools are there to help create a fabulous finished garment?

A good iron and ironing board is needed for good pressing results. The iron does not necessarily need something expensive, but it is imperative that it has good steam capabilities. The ironing board is easily modified in order to obtain better pressing results. Ironing boards typically come with a shiny, heat resistant cover or a thin cotton cover. Neither of those will produce great results!!! Better results are achieved when these are replaced. The best ironing board cover will include several layers of natural fabrics. Begin with a thick 100% wool cover on top of the ironing board. This can be as simple as an old wool blanket (I have my dad’s old army blanket under mine – that horrible green!) cut to the size of the ironing board. If the wool is thin, use 2 layers. On top of that place a layer of 100% cotton batting – the kind you use for quilting. Again, this is cut to the size of the ironing board top. The final layer is the cover, which should be 100% cotton – white twill (think denim) works well and can easily be made.

Making your own ironing board cover is as simple as placing the ironing board on top of the fabric on the floor, tracing around it and adding to this measurement all around to handle the board depth (usually 1″) and then extra (3″ – 4″) in order to have the cover wrap underneath the board. Finish the outer edges by adding a casing and insert string or elastic so that the cover can be cinched up tightly – much like a bottom sheet of a bed.

As pretty as the designed covers are, they are not always the best choice. Print fabrics present the risk of having any colors from a transfer to the garments while pressing. White fabric looks crisp and eliminates that risk. The layers offer necessary padding and the cotton & wool retain heat & steam to improve the pressing process. The top cover is easily removed for cleaning!

Pressing vs. Ironing. Whenever sewing a garment, seams need to be pressed as they are sewn. Do NOT skip this step and wait until the garment is finished to press it – that will never render professional results. Ironing is a motion where the iron glides back and forth over the fabric. Pressing is an up and down motion on the fabric, lifting the iron to move from one section to another. It does not distort any of the fibers or stretch them out. Seams should be pressed, not ironed! The seam should first be pressed as it was sewn to meld the thread into the fabric. Then it can be pressed open or to the side, as needed, with whatever is being sewn. The last step is to press from on the right side of the fabric. The extra step takes seconds and makes a difference in the finished garment.

Pressing direction. Seams are typically pressed open. Seams that are sewn together (serged, French seams, etc.) will be pressed towards the back of the garment as it is worn. Darts are pressed down or towards the center if it is a vertical dart. Armhole seams are pressed towards the sleeve.

Pressing and/or ironing on the front of the fabric has the potential to cause problems, particularly with dark fabrics, fabrics with texture,etc. In these cases, use a pressing cloth if it is absolutely necessary to press on the front of the fabric to avoid any problems.

Pressing cloth. A good pressing cloth can save the day with many fabrics. It offers a protective layer between the iron and the garment. If possible, have several in different fabrics. A silk organza (100% silk) is nice for delicate fabrics and for times when it is necessary to see what you’re pressing. Also, a linen (100% linen) one is nice to have. Having both a lightweight, handkerchief linen as well as a heavier linen one is ideal. A linen kitchen towel works well for a heavier linen. These should have finished edges so that they can be washed as needed. Dish towels work great for a heavier linen cloth.

Hams/ham holder and sleeve rolls. These are invaluable pressing aids. The ham has nice curves that allow you to press curved areas nicely, such as darts or necklines and armholes. If the seam goes around a curve, it ought to be pressed with a curved pressing aide. A ham holder is a great way to keep the ham upright while pressing around the neckline and shaping the collar. The sleeve roll can also be used around necklines and armholes, though it may be a bit more challenging. It is great to slide into small places that need a good press, such as the sleeve. Both the ham and the sleeve roll will have one side with wool and the other side with muslin. The wool side should be used for pressing wools and the muslin side for pressing cottons and linens.

Clapper. This is a wooden shaped board that is used to set the seams. The wood draws the heat out of the garment quickly, which helps set the seam and sets the press. They frequently will have grooves along the sides for fingers in order to keep a good grip on the block. This is also available as a combination clapper with a point press.

Seam Stick. Again, this is another wooden tool for pressing seams and works fabulously for pant legs and long sleeve seams. Because the edge is curved, the seam is pressed without leaving an imprint of the seam allowance on the right side of the fabric since only the seam itself sits on the stick. Because it is wood, it also draws the steam out of the garment fabric quickly, giving a nice, hard press to the seam. These can be purchased in shorter and longer lengths and some are available with a cover.

Tailor Board. This board is also wood and has lots of curves and a nice point in order to get into tight places, such as collars, cuffs, etc. Dritz has a great blog post/tutorial on how to use this with garments and all the different curves and angles. For coats or blazers, this tool is invaluable!

Sleeve Board. This is exactly what it says – a narrow ironing board that will fit inside sleeves in order to press them. Because of the small size, it also works well for children’s clothing, dolls, etc. If using this, padding it in the same as the ironing board is a good idea.

Needle Board. This is an expensive, specialty tool and is only needed when pressing fabrics such as velvet or velveteen. The needles provide depth and protects the fabric pile from being crushed when pressing the seams.

Obviously, there are many more pressing aides that can be used, though they may be less utilized. Some things that come to mind are protective fingertip covers, pressing mitt, Rajah cloth, mini iron, an iron finger, pressing sticks, etc. If you have the space and the disposable income, these are also nice to have. The latest rage seems to be wool mats. I haven’t seen the need for these and they seem to have some drawback. I suspect that quilters find more use for that than someone constructing garments.

Many of these pressing aides can be made, particularly if you have access to woodworking tools. Any wood items ought to be made from untreated hardwoods. There are plenty of patterns/tutorials online for most of them and a quick google search will render a plethora of results.

If some of these tools are unfamiliar to you, there are numerous YouTube tutorials on how to use them. Seeing the tools in use can be enlightening. Many of these pressing aides will be like a microwave – when they first came out, many didn’t see the need for them, but once you have one, you cannot imagine living without one. 😊

Happy Pressing!!!


Get Ready For Summer!!!

These dreary, cold days keep me inside thinking about the warmer weather that will be here sooner than you know! With that in mind, I’ve been busy drafting, smocking & sewing my newest (actually old) pattern to get it ready for my Etsy shop.

I have loved this dress since first seeing a vintage pattern with these lines. What was popular in the 40’s is still a fabulous style for girls today! Some things never go out of style!!! Of course, I had to add my spin on it and make it suitable for smocking just because I love smocking! However, it can also be made without smocking. My latest version of the dress was made for our oldest granddaughter, so without the smocked insert.

Because of the poor weather, we had to do pictures inside. She was quite happy with her new dress and I’m sure it will get plenty of wear once we get into spring/summer!

Of course, I had to make a couple of the dresses with smocked inserts – just because! They will head to the closet to join the rest of the children’s clothing residing in the closets that I refer to as “Kathy’s Creations”.


The back features elastic for an easy fit. It can be a single elastic at the top, which I like for the little ones, or several rows of elastic as was done in the bigger size dress. Instructions for both versions are included in the pattern.

This dress was first made in 2010 and is still just as cute as ever!!! The sailboat smocking design is included with the pattern.

These sweet spring lovebirds are also included with the pattern. I wanted a smaller smocking design to use with the smaller sized dresses.

I couldn’t help myself – I had to make yet another dress! Oh, the closet is getting some cute additions!!! There are so many ways that I can see this dress made up! I hope others will enjoy it as much as I do!!!

With the additional time spent at home this last year, I’ve learned some new things, including how to make my pattern as a layered version. Many seem to like this as it eliminates needing to trace out sizes. Head over to my Etsy shop if this pattern is something you’d like to add to your collection!

If you wish to follow my blog, please sign up. It seems that I “lost” my followers with the recent blog troubles. 😕 However, signing up is easy and you’ll only get notices when I post something new, which isn’t too often!

Enjoy stitching something beautiful as you await spring/summer weather!


Starting the New Year with Sewing!

What did I do the first day of the New Year????  I sewed, of course!  It was a quiet day and I decided it was the perfect day to sew something.  This new year I hope to sew more of the patterns that I own and not just stitch up the same a-line jumpers that I love on the little girls.

My first dress was made for Eva so that she and her big sister can have matching, but not identical dresses.  To stick with my sewing plan of using different patterns, I chose the Children’s Corner “Carol” pattern.  I may have sewn this pattern up before – the pattern pieces for one size were cut, but I have no recollection of ever making this dress before, so I’m counting it as a different pattern.

I used the same wide wale cotton pique that Ella’s dress was made from as well as the same rick rack.  I had the little ball buttons in my stash, and they seemed perfect for this little dress.  I love the classic style with the box pleat in the front.  This was a quick dress to sew up.

Because this is heavier fabric and will probably only be worn in colder weather, I wanted something longer than the short sleeve that comes in the pattern, so I went through my Children’s Corner patterns and found a sleeve on the Madelyn pattern that was 3/4 length with a cuff.  Perfect!  While they look like they stick out kind of funky on the mannequin, I’m hopeful that they will look sweet on Eva.

I would have posted this sooner, but the Christmas decorations all boxed up and ready to return to their attic space had taken over my photo studio!  Today I couldn’t stand it any more, so they are back in the attic and I have my photo space back.

Next up is some skirts that I’m drafting for our youngest daughter.  Sewing and creating pretty things is so enjoyable!  I hope you’re getting in some sewing time as well.

Keep on stitching….


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Some Quiet Sewing Days…..

The weekend provided some quiet days that were spent sewing, creating and enjoying the slower pace and the process.  Because there were no deadlines (Christmas shopping/wrapping is finished), I was able to take my time and enjoy each step of the sewing and design process.  It’s a simple dress, so nothing new or stressful to deal with.

The project started with the polka dot leggings in my stash.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m trying to sew up fabrics and use trims, laces, buttons, etc. from the stash.  That makes the outfits free, right???  LOL!  After some stash diving, I came up with a perfect match.  The fabric is a nice, heavier line pique – perfect for our southern winters.  I chose the Children’s Corner Apron pattern and used the Jenna Leigh view of the pattern.  My daughter requested a long sleeve dress, so I went through my other Children’s Corner patterns to find something with a long sleeve.  Were you aware that the collars/sleeves on the Children’s Corner patterns are interchangeable???  I love that!!!  I found the Louise pattern and used the long sleeve from the blouse.  Well, sort of used it – it was a very 80’s look with full sleeves and a puffy sleeve cap.  I removed a couple inches from the fullness and lowered the sleeve cap and felt that the finished sleeve was a better fit/look for the fabric choice.  I always have found the CC pattern long sleeves to be too long – both for our children and grandchildren as well as for the numerous clients that I sewed for over the years, so I removed about 2″ of length.  I think the finished sleeve should be perfect.

Rather than use the pocket that is in the pattern, I chose to do a monogram instead.  This is another of the Embroitique fonts.  As I worked on the dress, I realized that I had no matching piping nor any fabric that was the right color.  Ugh!  Thankfully I found some rick rack that was a perfect match!  Oh – I love when things come together like that!  When the dress was finished, I pulled out the button box and found the perfect buttons.  However, sadly there weren’t enough for the dress.  :(  I found other matches, but wrong sizes.  I had to go out and find buttons, which I discovered was no easy feat!!!  Chain stores continue to carry less and less buttons and no matching buttons were found.  I resorted to looking in the scrapbooking/craft sections of stores, and after a couple different stores managed to score a large bag of mixed buttons that had some that were just right.  I was so pleased to discover that there were just enough for the dress in the one package!!!  Whew!  Dress done!

This dress is such a classic style and the back is as pretty as the front!  The box pleat is so cute.

I have plans for a matching sister outfit, but doubt that will get done before Christmas!

As I cleaned my sewing room, I found the smocked monogram insert that I had done for our new grandson.  I had planned it to be for his baptism outfit, but pleated the wrong fabric.  I didn’t notice until the smocking was finished.  So, rather than waste the smocked piece, I dove into the stash again and found a piece of fabric that I thought would work with it.  It is an end on end piece of khaki/tan and compliments the white insert with ecru smocking really well.  I sized up my pattern to a 9 mo. size – he’s growing so quickly that I feared the 6 mo. wouldn’t fit for long at all.  He’s already wearing that size quite well and will be out of it soon!  I don’t have a good way to photograph boys long-alls yet.  Something that I’ll need to sort out soon!  Oh dear, sorry for the blurry picture.

The smocking design is from the Ellen McCarn pamphlet on monograms.  I’ve used this so many times and feel sure I’ll continue to use it.

I’m sure that both of these outfits will look much cuter on the kids than they do in my pictures!

Now I will have to decide what I’ll be sewing next.  I think that the next couple days I will need to work on food for Christmas day rather than spend another quiet day in the sewing room.  :)  I know the kids will all prefer that!

During this busy Christmas season, take time to stop and remember the reason for the season.  God gave us the most precious gift ever – his son, our Lord Jesus Christ who came to take away the sins of the world!  I love reading through the gospel accounts of his birth during the holidays and hope that you do as well.

Merry Christmas!


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Squeezing in Some Sewing between Holidays!

I have’t disappeared – I’ve just been busy, as I’m sure everyone else has!  Thanksgiving was a wonderful celebration.  We enjoyed having all our kids and grandkids over for the feast along with a few extras.  It’s always fun to have everyone around.

Since then, it’s been busy getting gifts wrapped, spending extra time with the grandkids (LOVE our babies!!!), finishing up last minute shopping, etc.  I’m finished with that.  Whew!!!

Our youngest daughter requested some pillows for her apartment, so we spent time looking through my rather extensive supply of embroidery designs and she found just what she wanted.  They are such pretty designs!  The pillows are simple – no piping or other cording decorations – just pretty embroidery done on red velveteen.

The reindeer design comes from Bernina and is called Elegance Entwined. The Believe design comes from Embroitique.

This weekend I decided to enjoy another simple sewing project, so I pulled out my Children’s Corner “Lucy” pattern – this is a tried and true pattern and always looks sweet on the little girls.  I was trying to match some tights that were in my stash of little girl tights.  What happens next will make you laugh!  The tights all packaged up (you’ll have to imagine the cardboard package surrounding the tights) looked like this:

So I envisioned large polka dots and selected my embroidery designs with that in mind.  Many, many polka dots were embroidered!!!  Then it was time to photograph the completed sister jumpers, so I thought it would be fun to show the tights underneath the jumper.  Imagine my surprise when they ended up looking like this!

Clearly, they are more like polka dot stripes.  The huge polka dots that I was so excited about will be hidden underneath the dress.  LOL!  The moral of this story is – pull the tights out of the packaging to get the full picture and avoid any surprises!  Sadly, I only had tights for the larger dress, but I’m sure that something suitable will be found for the smaller one.

The embroidery designs from these jumpers came from a variety of places.  The embroidery on the chest of the smaller jumper comes from Bunnycup and is called Lots of Dots Font.  The rick rack design on the chest of the larger jumper comes from Zippy DesignZ.  The large polka dot appliqué circle design is from Lynnie Pinnie and the letter E inside the patch is Diva Dots Font from Five Star Fonts.  It was so fun to put all these designs together to come up with the polka dot jumpers.

So, this was my weekend polka dot sewing.  Nothing too exciting – just some fun sewing for the little girls.  :)  I hope you’ve been able to squeeze in some fun sewing in between all of your busy holiday events as well.


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Christmas Elf and pattern review

I’ve finished up my last Christmas dress.  Sadly, it’s not exactly what I had expected.  I hate when that happens!  I thought I’d write-up a review of the pattern so that nobody else will have the same experience.

With Christmas fast approaching, I had to get the dress done quickly.  Wanting a dress that wasn’t quite so traditional, I chose the same dress that I had designed for Australian Smocking and Embroidery – a basic yoke dress with a lowered neckline and no collar.  That dress fits my granddaughter perfectly right now, so it was an easy choice for me to make.

This dress was featured in Australian Smocking & Embroidery magazine, Issue #88 (Red Birds).  I designed the dress, sent the pattern pieces along with the dress in to the magazine and the dress pattern is in the pull out section of the magazine.  Obviously, they had their own model and photographer.  I love this dress on Ella – love the neckline, sleeve length and, well, pretty much everything about it.  Could this be any cuter on Ella!?!?!?  Such a great fit as well!

Because of all my recent sewing, the room was trashed filled with creative inspiration, so I chose to pull out the magazine and trace off the pattern rather than find my originally submitted pattern.  I traced off the size 4 (same size I sent in) and proceeded with the sewing – I was on a mission to get it done.  It wasn’t until after the bodice was entirely finished and I was pressing the neckline that I noticed that it seemed smaller.  I wasn’t going to deconstruct and re-sew the whole bodice, so I decided that it would just have a closer neckline, though I wasn’t happy about the change.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s the Christmas dress.

The neckline is significantly higher and the dress is larger.  I should have known that the dress sizing would be larger – the AS&E patterns are always  more generous in fit.  A size 3 would have been a better choice for that.  I take full responsibility for that mistake.  However, the totally different neckline is inexcusable as far as I’m concerned.

The magazine features the yellow dress, so one would expect to get a dress with an open neckline, and not a close-fitting neckline.  It is the editor’s choice to make changes, but when you change the “lines” of a pattern but then show a dress that does not reflect the changes and no mention is made of the changes – aka:  “we have chosen to give the dress a higher neckline than the modeled garment” – that hits a nerve with me.  I thought I was sewing the same dress and clearly it isn’t the same.  Needless to say, I’m disappointed.  I suspect anyone else that has made this pattern has had the same experience.

Seamstress beware – this is not the dress you’ll be getting in the magazine pull-out.  If you want this neckline, you need to trim away at least 1/4″ – 3/8″ all around.

On the positive side, I love Janet’s new smocking plate!  The elves are adorable!!!  Ella was ecstatic about “Elfie” as she calls him.  Another positive is that I made the dress long enough – it will fit again next year.  As cute as Ella is, I’m sure that the generous fit won’t be noticed by too many that will be seeing her.  :)  Also, observers will be unaware of the fact that I had hoped for a lower neckline.  LOL!  So, really, it’s only me that is bothered by this.

My other “fail” for the day was a pair of pants for Ella.  I measured her at the end of September for pants length, so thought I had that made as well.  Wrong again.  She’s grown!  The pants are too short.  Oy!!!  Back to the drawing board.  Unfortunately, I have a second pair of too short pants cut out.  LOL!  Some days are just like that!

My suggestion of the day – rush over to Janet’s website and get her Elf plate and have some fun smocking.  The pull out a tried and true pattern and sew it up for Christmas!  You can bet that’s what I’ll be doing for Easter dresses!!!

Happy stitching!!!


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Designing a Dip Front Picture Smocked Bishop – tutorial and free design

My latest Christmas bishop dress has stirred up a lot of interest and questions from fellow smockers.  It’s no secret that I love picture smocking!  I also love bishop dresses.  My favorite bishop dresses are the ones that combine picture smocking with a dip in the front.  That allows for a nice, big picture smocked design without interfering with the integrity of the fit of the bishop.

I thought I’d share the methods that work for me when I choose to add a picture smocked design to a bishop dress.  There’s no “one” way to do this, rather, the geometric design and flow has to be something that works with the picture smocking design that has been chosen.  Sometimes a couple attempts are needed before the desired look is achieved.

First and foremost, I always construct my bishop dress prior to smocking.  This is particularly important when choosing to do a picture smocking design as it allows you to visualize the pleats and their “spread” while you’re working on it.  This helps to reduce the possibility of smocking too tightly for a bishop.  Obviously, you have to have an idea of what you’re going to smock (aka: how many rows to pleat) before you construct.

As you might expect, you will need to backsmock behind the picture area as well as around any unsmocked areas around the neckline. This is another reason that making the dress up prior to smocking is helpful. I generally do my backsmocking with a cable stitch (shadows of these cable stitches can be seen from the front as with any picture smocked design), but a wave stitch or trellis can also be used and can create an interesting background shadow.

If the idea of having so many rows all around your dress causes you stress, you can always use the seamless bishop pleating method that Martha has written a tutorial on and just have the additional rows in the front of the dress design.  If you choose to use this method, I’d probably add an additional row (more than the suggested amount from the pattern) to the sleeve pieces, just to make sure that you’ll be able to do the necessary ascent when you get to that point in the smocking.

As you will be able to see with most of the pictures shown in this post, most of the ascending stitches will involve several trellis stitches up (4 – 8+), then a break with 2 – 4 cable stitches, then repeat of the trellis upwards, cables, etc. until you reach the spot where you want to continue and finish around the neckline.  If no other figures or picture smocking will be done, you can go up to where you’ve only got a couple rows smocked around the neckline.  Of course, with larger sizes, you’d probably want to have a few more rows smocked than with smaller sizes.

For this Christmas design, I chose to descend and ascend around the ornament in a repeated sequence.  That is not always the way that I choose to do it, but it worked well for this one.  The 3 closely smocked outline is done in a way that made me think of candy canes.   I thought I’d share the smocking graph with you in case this is something that you’d like to try and you don’t want to “think”.  :)  The only element that I couldn’t successfully graph was the outline stitch that was done in white floss around the neckline row of rick rack.  Stitch that as closely as possible to the red.

Once the bishop dress is constructed, I smock the main picture first.  After I “see” how this fills the area, then I decide what or if I will add any other picture smocking designs around the remainder of the bishop dress, or if it will just have a few rows of geometric smocking.  Each design is unique.

Because of the shape of this mouse/candy cane, a row of cable stitches were used across the lower edge of this bishop dress.  As soon as it was possible to begin the upward stitching (determined by the lowest edge of the candy cane), a similar upward design was done.  No additional picture smocking designs were added around the dress.

For the Santa design, the lower edge has trellis stitches underneath the Santa, then a slight ascent begins and a few trees were added around the dress.  The geometric borders on this design are done in white and very subtle.  I felt a bright red border would not look pretty on this fancy dress.

This summer dress featured one large apple and worms around the neckline.  The border was kept simple due to the busyness of the print and smocking designs.  Just a few cable stitches at the bottom of the apple were needed before the sharp ascent upwards.

This is another example of a large design that required cable stitches at the bottom and then a steep trellis upwards with narrow breaks of 2 cable stitches.  Again, no other picture smocking designs were needed around the neckline.

This dress is a variation of the bishop dress that was featured in one of the Australian Smocking and Embroidery magazines.  The larger flower was chosen for the center front, but then smaller flowers around the neckline.  This design does not have as sharp an ascent upwards and was more determined by the shape of the diamonds in the background smocking.  I liked this design so well that I smocked it a couple times!  LOL!

This was one of my more unusual dip front designs.  A pink Cinderella and her silver shoe (barely shows up to the right of the girl).  This was not a favorite of mine, but my client loved it.

This design was definitely one of my favorite ones!  I was able to keep the geometric design underneath the snails, but then ascend upwards and just had a few random butterflies stitched around the remainder of the bishop.

Sorry this is a bit difficult to see with the watermark placement, but the frog also has cable stitches underneath and then it ascends to a point where there’s just a small bit of smocking around the remainder of the bishop.

This was another set that I loved.  The dress maintains a geometric trellis design that continues the up/down design that we’re accustomed to seeing on a bishop.  The difference is that you to up maybe 4 trellis stitches, then down only 2.  This gives a nice, gentle ascent to the design.

This was another favorite dress for a little girl’s first birthday.  This also has a gentle ascent marked by several trellis stitches up, a few cable stitches, more trellis stitches up, but not too far up to leave room for the birthday balloons.

The same method can be used for geometric designs and is equally pretty.  I won’t add descriptions, but will let the pictures speak for themselves.

In the end, you’re the designer.  Don’t be afraid to try something new.  If you get your picture smocked and your first attempt to surround it with your own “dip” design isn’t a success, take the stitches out and try again.  It is easiest to start the dip design from the center front and work your way around one side.  Then turn the dress upside down and do a mirror image of the design on the other half of the dress.  These are so fun to create and will get you thinking out of the box.  Have some fun with it!!!

As always, keep on stitching!!!


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Christmas Sewing – A Bishop Dress

With only a few weeks until Christmas, and fewer weeks until the little ones can start wearingChristmas outfits, I had to get busy with sewing!  I had already made an outfit for Liam, prior to his birth – and I’m still hoping that this one will fit at the right time.  He’s growing like a weed.

I used the same fabric to make a bishop dress for his big sister, Livvy.  I just love this tiny micro-check fabric!  I knew that I wanted to picture smock for her dress as well, and I love to have the smocking dip down in the front.

Won’t they look cute together!

For her smocking design, I chose several different smocking plates and then did my own “thing”.  :)

The center ornament is taken from Cherished Stitches “Joy” smocking plate.   I thought it needed a bow on top and tried out a ribbon bow, but wasn’t happy with the way it looked.  Perhaps it’s because I tie a pitiful bow!  LOL!  So, I used the bow from Ellen McCarn‘s “Classic Bow”.

With the center design finished, and my outside smocking completed (I did my own thing to create the geometric design that dips), there was the problem of all that blank space around the ornament and in the back.  What to do…..

I solved the problem of the blank area by using some of the holly designs from Ellen McCarn’s“Victorian Bow and Flowerettes”.   The holly designs extend around the back of the dress and stop at the button placket.  I always make my bishop dresses with button backs.  My experience has been that the snap options that most patterns suggest  have never stayed fastened on any moving children.

Finally, the neckline border is one that I designed and used in my first published design for Sew Beautiful magazine.  It is rather labor intensive, but I love the results.

So, I have one dress finished and one more to go!  I can do this!!!  The next dress will be one with the new smocking design from Janet Gilbert – I loved her new Elf design and knew that I had to use it for Ella’s Christmas dress.  I feel sure that you’re going to need this design as well!!!

Hopefully you’ll see a cute rendition of this smocking design in next week’s post!  How’s your Christmas smocking coming along???

Keep on stitching!


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Christmas Inspiration

Today is the last day of October.  A chill is in the air as so many little ones don their costumes for an afternoon or evening of Trick or Treating. Tomorrow the realization that Christmas is just a few weeks away hits and  panic will set in for so many of us that want to have special hand-made Christmas outfits.  With that in mind, I thought I’d offer some sewing inspiration from my past creations.

For many years I did custom sewing for clients, and for several of those years I had clients with twins, which doubled the pleasure!  During this season of sewing, I determined that I should be taking pictures to save for my own personal reference – so, the photography was rather, well, tragic, to say the least.  You will need to enjoy the inspiration without critiquing the photography.  While my photography has improved over the years, I’m still a seamstress and not a photographer!

As many of you already may know, my favorite sewing is the fancy heirloom outfits, but they are also the least practical and least worn.  So, I’m showing a range of clothing from casual play clothes to exquisite heirloom to funky boutique and I hope there’s something that will inspire everyone.

Featherwale corduroy smocked with Little Memories “Ski Follies”.

Featherwale corduroy smocked with Little Memories “Duck the Halls”.

Striped cotton smocked with Little Memories “Ho Ho Ho”.

Heirloom satin batiste smocked with Little Memories “Santa’s Surprise” and added trees.

Featherwale corduroy smocked with Little Memories “Holiday Handymen”.

Hunter green velveteen smocked with “Nutcracker” from Creative Needle and “Joy” by Cherished Stitches”, using just the ornament design.

Black featherwale corduroy smocked with “Chimney Sweeps” – I cannot seem to locate my smocking design plate to share the designer.

The color on this dress is just tragic, so an explanation is needed.  The dress was a beautiful ecru colored cotton sateen with an organza collar and smocked with Little Memories “Bearly the Nutcracker”.

Stain batiste with shadow work embroidery.

Little brother’s satin batiste bubble with shadow work embroidery.

Bigger brother’s outfit.  Satin batiste shirt with cotton sateen shorts.  Honestly, the collars are even!

Satin batiste bishop smocked with “Holiday Bells” from Sew Beautiful magazine – holiday, 1992.

One of my personal favorites – the boy’s outfit made with satin batiste for the shirt and cotton sateen for the shorts and the girl’s dress is silk organza layer over satin batiste.  The smocking design is Stocking Stuffers” by Little Memories.

Silk organza makes the most beautiful bows!

Beautiful shadow work collars for twin boys – I don’t seem to have pictures of the complete outfits and don’t remember if these were button-on suits or if these were worn with velvet jon-jons.

Another bad picture with pretty outfits – satin batiste for the dress and shirt and cotton sateen for the shorts.  The monograms are from the Ellen McCarn monogram booklet.

Slightly more casual Christmas outfits – the shirt is broadcloth and the shorts and dress are micro check gingham smocked with Little Memories “Candy Cane Countdown”.

Broadcloth tops and featherwale corduroy smocked with Little Memories “All is Calm, All is Bright”.

Micro check gingham smocked with Little Memories “Northern Lights”.

Smocked top with original design.  Top is broadcloth and the pants are featherwale corduroy.

So much cuter “on”.

A modified version of “Sandpiper” from Australian Smocking and Embroidery magazine #88.

Boutique ruffled set made of white broadcloth and a touch of smocking at the neck and sleeves and a smocked red velveteen pinafore.  The pattern and smocking are an original design of mine.

Pattern is by Farbenmix called “Vida”.  This is such a fun dress for combining fabrics and trims and then adding machine embroidery!  Definitely a favorite fun dress of mine.

Even cuter “on”.  :)

Several a-line dresses.

This doesn’t exhaust my supply of Christmas outfits from the past, but more than enough for one post.  And now, I need to get on to smocking Christmas outfits for the 3 little girls since I only have Liam’s outfit finished.  So many ideas, so little time!

Happy Stitching…..


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