Category Archives: picture smocked dress

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

Fall Smocking

The fall weather in NC has been so hot for so long that it was hard to get into the mood to do any type of fall sewing/smocking.  However, I had this beautiful cotton lawn print that I knew would be beautiful with smocking on it.  A few different trips, with hours in the car, gave me the opportunity to get the smocking finished on this dress.

The pattern is Children’s Corner “Amy” – which has been out of print for several years.  I love it because it is smocked both front and back.  The blouse is Children’s Corner Blouse pattern – again, an out of print pattern, but there are so many blouse patterns that you could use.  The Mary De comes with a blouse included in the jumper pattern.  😊  I did switch the sleeve and used the Ruthie sleeve – sorry, another OOP pattern.  However, I recently learned that the Eleanor sleeve is nearly identical to the Ruthie sleeve, so, problem solved!

You will have to excuse the poor “fit” on the mannequin – she is a size 5 and the outfit is a size 7 – it’s the best I can do.  🤣

On the back, I chose to not do the embroidered flowers.  However, smocking on front and back means that one will look fabulous both coming and going!!!  LOL!

I didn’t want to have to refer to a smocking plate while in the car, so I did my own thing and am quite happy with the outcome.  Initially I had embroidered smaller flowers, but they didn’t show up well on the print, so I went to larger flowers.  Much better!

Although I’m not particularly a fan of adding pockets to a smocked dress, I had to do it!  Livvy loved her welt pocket dress because the pockets gave her somewhere to put her change/tithe for the collection at church!  💕  How could I not add a pocket to this dress?

I’ve had other projects in the works as well, but nothing to show yet.  The weather has finally cooled some (if you consider 70º cool!) and I will start on another project soon!

What are you smocking for the fall?

My Kaleidoscope Tote

I’ve been on a hand-stitching binge lately and have had the best time embroidering a tote bag.  I wanted to make something that was fun to stitch, useful and something that a stitcher could enjoy.  I think I hit the mark on all levels and am very pleased with the end result.

I love the way that the flowers pop on the black denim!!!  It’s a festival of bright and colorful flowers.  Many have been created with simple stitches while others are more difficult.  I enjoyed every stitch!!!   I have submitted this as a potential class to teach – I think many would enjoy it and would especially enjoy making something for themselves!

I have used this tote pattern for many years – it’s a favorite of mine – my own pattern.  In the past, I’ve only done machine embroidery on the front.  This has a totally different look.  I add pockets as I envision they will be used.  For this tote, I wanted a pocket large enough to carry my iPad.  I have that on the back of the tote and it carries on the bright and fun theme.

Of course, there’s a pocket for a water bottle on the side.  I always have water with me, so that was a given.

Inside features many more pockets for holding all of those necessities that I carry when I pack up for a class or a trip and will have my stitching projects with me.

I have a much harder time getting a good picture of the inside that also has good lighting.  You’ll have to use your imagination!  There are pockets with elastic on both sides, a long pocket with elastic on the side that isn’t visible and then a smaller pocket with exposed zipper teeth to hold those smaller things that you don’t want to lose.

I reinforce the bottom of the bag so that it is sturdy.  I cannot stand soft and floppy bags.  This will hold up to lots of wear and tear.  I now wish I’d added some sort of loop with a snap that I could attach my scissors to.  Those always seem to get lost in the bag somewhere!!!  Oh well…..it’s always something.  Perhaps I’ll have to make another one and will include that.

I had to tweak my pattern a bit so accommodate all of the embroidery.  Here’s what the bag looks like with monograms.  With this fabric, it’s easier to see the pockets as well as the inside.

I did not include the side pockets inside on this version of the tote and the pocket on the outside isn’t large enough for a water bottle, nor is the back pocket large enough for an iPad.

I’ve made this tote so many times that I’ve lost count!!!

 

I’m not sure what’s on the agenda next, but I know I’ll be stitching something!!!

Sewing, Stitching and Spring

Spring has arrived in the south and I am enjoying every bit of the beauty of it!!!  Everything is in bloom.  The new season has me ready to create new things!!!

I have done some machine embroidery – beautiful towel sets for newlyweds.  I always enjoy giving monogrammed towel sets and the bride is usually thrilled to have something with her new initial/name on it.  The pretty background of the design is an embossed design from Embroidery Library and the initial is from Embroitique.  Both stitched out nicely.

Spring is a time of numerous birthdays and anniversaries in our family, so there’s always a get together.  This year the weather was spectacular for our celebration – sunny and warm.  I had 2 dresses ready for the little girls to enjoy wearing and they happily put them on and twirled away!  I neglected to take a picture of the 2 girls wearing the dresses as they twirled away.  There is a video, but I don’t think I can post videos.  Just imagine the twirly fun!!!

Here’s a picture of the white dress being twirled in – so, so twirly!!!  This picture is several years old – back when I made the dress the first time.

As I’ve enjoyed the beautiful blooming flowers this spring, it has invited me back to some hand embroidery, which I’ve enjoyed doing.

A few months ago I started looking at pictures of  traditional Scandinavian embroidered clothing.  I wanted to try some of the beautiful stitching, but chose to do something small so that it would likely get finished.  I chose a traditional style Scandinavian bonnet.  Because I was making a bonnet for a little one, I didn’t want to go with the usual black or red background and brightly colored stitching, rather I chose softer spring colors.

After seeing the beautiful Wisteria in bloom, the green and lavender colors won the day!

I really enjoyed building and combining the stitches to create the look that I was going for.  A traditional bonnet would have been stitched in wool threads and a different sort of design, but this is my interpretation of the style.  I felted a wool sweater and embroidered both sides of the bonnet.  There’s plenty of blank canvas to embroider the back/top as well, but I chose to only stitch over the back seam and leave the rest of it plain.

I stitched the Hungarian Braided Chain stitch over the side seams and then embroidered the back seam of the bonnet with the Palestrina Stitch.  Both were fun to do and I continue to sharpen my embroidery skills while working on these.

The inside of the bonnet is lined with a knit fabric with a sweet rosebud print – it is what I had on hand and the colors were right.  Unfortunately I neglected to take a picture of that.

I’m not sure what I’ll be stitching next, but I think it will be finishing up an embroidered project from a recent class that I took.  Here’s a sneak peek – a quick shot with my phone.  I was practicing my granito stitches – still room for improvement, but I enjoyed stitching them!

I’ll leave you a picture from our trip last weekend to Savannah for the wedding of a young couple that we know.  The bride has been part of our family for the last several years and we were so thrilled to be part of the wedding!  We enjoyed some beautiful weather in Savannah and I loved watching the cargo boats coming in to unload – I’ve never seen such huge ships!!!

I hope you’re enjoying some beautiful spring weather as well as some spring/summer stitching!!!

 

A New Dress

The last few weeks have been interesting and full of smocking as well as some travel.  For a couple of weeks I was limited in what I could do, having to keep my leg elevated.  Thankfully I had several smocked pieces that I could work on during this time!

Then we headed up to Michigan for my parents 65th wedding anniversary celebration.   What a blessing to have their example in our lives!!!

My sister knows how to throw a party!!!  She had all the decorations displayed so nicely, beautiful flowers and delicious food for everyone.  There were 60 people at the party – family members, church friends as well as their long time friends that were able to attend.  My husband was able to take some nice pictures for us.  It was so nice to see cousins that I haven’t seen in 35+ years as well as to see my brothers and their wives/families.  It was a great get-together and my folks were thrilled to have such a wonderful turnout!  They even had some of their original wedding party members attending!!!

I love that mom’s wedding dress was included.  It was made by her aunt, so it is near and dear to my heart knowing that sewing is part of my heritage!

Here’s a picture of my mom and dad and my siblings.  We have only gotten together about every 5 years due to all of us living so far apart.

Once I returned home, I was able to sew again.  Whew!  I stitched up 3 of the diaper covers that I had smocked the week before and then started working on the dress.  All that time spent doing very little left a lot of time for me to peruse Pinterest!  Dangerous!  While on Pinterest, I found a gorgeous smocking design that I knew I had to do, and again, was thankful to have an insert already pleated and ready to go. I managed to track the photo back to a youtube video.  With the video, I found the Facebook page, Instagram page and managed to get the email address of the lady that produced the video.  I have tried every way possible to contact her, to no avail.  So, I did what any smocking enthusiast would do – I tried to recreate the smocking design.

It wasn’t hard to recreate, but it did take quite some time to smock the pink “ribbon” before embroidering the flowers.  Hahaha!!!  I’m quite pleased with the results!

For the dress, I used the Children’s Corner “Libby” pattern.  I’ve had this pattern for years, but never used it.  ???  Why?  Who knows.  It’s adorable and I love that this can be worn with a blouse underneath to extend the wearing time into cooler weather.  I tried to locate this pattern to provide a link, but it seems it is out of print.  It is probably still available at a few heirloom shops – you’ll have to search if you want this one!

I am thankful to have such a huge stash of fabric and was able to use what I had.  There was just enough of the polka dot to squeeze the dress out, but not enough for a large hem.  No problem – I like the use of a French bias for the hem.  The French bias hem adds a touch of color, which I think it perfect for this dress.

I continue to enjoy sewing children’s clothes – it helps me avoid making the window treatments for our kitchen!  LOL!  Maybe I’ll get to those soon.   What’s up next?  That’s still in the planning stages.  Stay tuned!

 

Lots of Sewing Fun

Getting ready for the beach trip always means lots of sewing for me.  I love making the little girls matching outfits.  They are young and still enjoy matching each other, so I love to sew for them while they are still excited after the mermaid outfits, I made the girls matching watermelon dresses from the Children’s Corner “Jacqueline” pattern.  They turned out so cute!  I do think that this pattern runs slightly larger than their other patterns, but maybe that’s my imagination!  LOL!

Then I completed a Bonnie Blue “Claire” outfit with an insert that I had smocked years ago.  I love this flamingo smocking design from Frances Messina Jones.  It is called Fancy Flamingoes.  I was thrilled to be able to finally use this smocked insert!  I do find that the Bonnie Blue patterns run significantly larger than the Children’s Corner ones and need to remember that before I use them again.  The outfit has been a big hit with Ella and she wears it quite regularly.

My last sewing venture prior to the beach was making up a “test” sample dress of the Felicity pattern called Sunny Dress and Bloomers.  I made this several years ago for the girls and they looked adorable in it, so I thought I’d try it again.  I remembered it running very wide, so I made a size 4 dress for Ella (she wears a size 6X).  It has plenty of growing room in it!  I will have to see what it looks like on her before I make more of these.  I love the ruffles and it’s a cute dress.  As always, the larger sizes look better on the little girls rather than on the mannequin.

While at the beach, I was able to get a cute picture of Livvy in her mermaid outfit made from my Mermaid Dress and Top pattern.  She looked adorable!!!

Eva had her mermaid outfit as well, but it was harder to get a picture that shows it off.  They were having such fun with the telescope, even though it wasn’t working!  (we didn’t put the money in it!!!)

Since being home, I’ve enjoyed some relaxing sewing and have been able to be creative.  I finished up 20 sets of diapers from the Teeny Tears pattern.  You have to request the pattern from them to sew these up.  Our SAGA guild includes these diaper sets with the tiny gowns that we make.  While these are tiny, so one would think that they are a quick sew, they actually take longer than you would think.  They are quite fiddly to stitch, clip/trim and turn and then topstitch, but I still enjoy making them.  My friend gave me all of these scraps of flannel that she had left from her quilting projects, and there were enough to cut out about 100 diapers!!!  Obviously, I still have more to sew.  LOL!

Then I had Ella over this week for her first sewing lesson.  She was so excited about it and couldn’t wait to start a project.  I chose a pillowcase as her first project and pulled out 6 different complimentary fabrics for her to choose from.  She did such a great job with her sewing and was quite proud of the finished pillowcase!

Ella was totally focused on stitching straight.  She went nice and slow and was very accurate.

She told me that this was going to be her favorite pillowcase!!!  ❤️  She can’t wait for her next lesson.

I hope that all my sewing friends are enjoying a wonderful summer and stitching up some pretty things!!!

 

Princess Slippers

I’ve finished my next set of 3 matching dresses for the girls.  This time I chose the Children’s Corner “Mary De” dress – one of our favorites!   I have the older version, so I have to adjust the bodice when I do an insert.  The newer pattern has been revised so that the insert option is in the pattern.

While I know that princess shoes aren’t necessarily a beach theme, they are always popular with little girls.  That, however, wasn’t the driving factor in my smocking choice.  😂  What drove the choice was that I had 2 matching inserts that were purchased from Beaux Et Belles when they used to sell inserts after the season was over.  I am thankful that I still have some that I can use.  It makes for a quick sew when you don’t have to do the smocking!!!  I always get questions about where to purchase the inserts.  They don’t sell them anymore, so the only place is on the second hand market (Ebay, Etsy, etc.).  You’re on your own if you wish to find inserts to purchase.  They always had original smocking designs, so that is nice as well.

Thankfully, I had the smocking design from Frances Messina Jones that is also a princess slipper!  It is called A Perfect Fit.  I chose to do different borders only because I’m trying to make it a point to try things that I haven’t done before, and this seemed to lend itself to trying out curved smocking.  I’m happy with the way it turned out – the plate is adorable and I enjoyed the curved smocking.  Frances has the cutest smocking designs – you need to check them out if you enjoy picture smocking!!!

I know that I’ve mentioned this before when I’ve shared inserts that I’ve purchased from Beaux Et Belles.  I find it amazing that the picture smocking on these inserts is done with TWO strands of floss rather than the 4 that we normally use!  Amongst the smocking community, both new and seasoned smockers, there is always discussion regarding how many strands of floss to use for picture smocking and such.  Most often today, 4 strands of floss are used.  However, I have seen many comments suggesting that 5 strands of floss are needed for good coverage.  As you can imagine, there are as many opinions as there are smockers!  LOL!  And many of the opinions are quite strong.

My opinion is to do what works best for you.  That said, the evidence is clear that 2 strands of floss do a wonderful job – it is a matter of technique and practice to get the 2 strands to lay smooth and do the job well.  Pictures don’t lie!  Here is a close up of the 2 strand smocking.  It’s beautiful!

A while back (and shared in a previous post) I did an experiment to see if I could picture smock with 2 strands.  The answer is a resounding YES!   But, the results will vary if you take a smocking design that was designed for 4 strands and then use only 2.  Here is my experiment picture.

For the experiment, I chose a smocking design by Creative Keepsakes.  This design recommended 3 strands of floss for the sailboat.  The center boat is smocked with 3 strands. The boat to the right is smocked with 4 strands and the boat to the left is smocked with 2 strands.  As you can see – ALL have adequate coverage on the same piece of broadcloth.  The only difference is the size.  I do not “treat” my floss in any way other than separating the floss into individual strands and then putting them back together, threading the needle and stroking the threads as many times as is needed to remove all the kinks.  You can feel the thread becoming more smooth as you stroke it more.  In addition, some of the oils from your skin will aid in conditioning the floss.  I don’t starch, iron, use wax or any other of the numerous methods that are done.  30+ years of picture smocking has given me plenty of practice.

I’m looking forward to the beach trip and I hope to get 3 more outfits finished next week!  Fingers crossed…….

Happy stitching!!!

The Mermaid Dress and Top & New Pattern

I’ve been busy stitching outfits for our upcoming beach trip!  I’ve had such fun with all these designs and outfits!!!  I may have to make several more.  😊

The first outfit was a popsicle set.  I chose the popsicle colors based on the polka dots in the fabric I was using for the shorts.  The smocking design is called Chip’s Frozen Pops.  It is an older design from the 80’s/90’s.

Of course, I thought it was adorable.  However, when I tried it on Eva – my granddaughter with a definitely sense of style – she vetoed it in favor of a “sea green” top with pink pigs smocked on it!  Ack!!!  After finding some aqua domestic dotted Swiss in my stash, I did manage to talk her into mermaids, so all is well.  Mermaids are a better theme for the beach than pigs.  LOL!

While there are several cute mermaid smocking plates, I decided to create my own design for this summer’s beach trip and came up with the mermaid and dolphin.  I really like it!

This was the first one, and my fingers are crossed that Eva will love it!!!  She also chose the fabric for her shorts, which was a stretch twill and perfect for shorts.  The contemporary design seems to go well with the water/mermaid theme.

As you can see, I got quite carried away with the pattern and the beach-y theme.  A dress was requested for Ella, so I made the mermaid dress out of piqué.  I had fun with the hem and stitched jumbo rick rack under the tuck and then stitched on top of the stitching line with a coral stitch and variegated thread (#5 pearl cotton).

The white top is a sheer voile, doubled and with a self ruffle on the top.  I wanted to smock it with the same design I did many years ago for a special Ebay outfit.  I loved it then and I still love it now.

This has now become my new Etsy pattern and I’ve called it the Mermaid Dress & Top.  I have drafted it in sizes 1 – 7 and there are 3 options for the dress/top – a bias band finish at the bodice top, the 2nd option is quicker to sew with a yoke in the back – so the back can be smocked or left unsmocked and just gathered into the yoke.  The 3rd option is the self-ruffle finish seen on the white top.  I’m happy with each version and can’t wait to see all the little girls wearing their new mermaid outfits when we are at the beach.  Here’s the back variations:

I am sure that I will get questions about the shorts pattern – it is not included.  You can choose your favorite shorts pattern and if you are so inclined, scallop the hem.  Drafting shorts patterns doesn’t excite me the way that smocked outfits do!

I have several more on the design table now.  I can’t wait to start them.  What are you stitching?

Kathy

 

Girls and Dolls

I’ve had such a great time sewing for the little girls and their dolls this past week!!!  When I delivered the dresses and matching doll dresses, the little girls squealed with delight!  That makes it all worthwhile.  They immediately dressed their dolls and had to show me.

I let Ella and Eva choose fabric when they visited a week ago.  They aren’t necessarily what I would have chosen, but they are what the girls wanted, so that’s what I made. I have pinned the doll dress to the little girl dresses in all the pictures.  I hope that will be visible enough.

The first dress was the Children’s Corner  “Lillian” pattern.  I had a matching stripe fabric that I used to make a center panel and trimmed the panel with large rick rack.

I took a commercial doll pattern and changed it up a bit to look more like the Lillian pattern.

Extra large buttons finished off the front of the dress.

I had to take a picture of the back of the dress to show how matching the design is such a great idea – it makes the pattern on the back of the dress flow so nicely and seamlessly.  My friend, Joan Messinger would give her approval on this – she always matches everything perfectly!!!

The next dress was the Children’s Corner “Lucy” dress.  This continues to be a favorite pattern of mine for a quick dress.  Eva was adamant that she needed the flamingo fabric!  LOL!  Now, we’ll see if she will wear it.  She is very opinionated about her choice of clothing (at 4 years old!) and has nixed most of the things that I make.  I think that the doll dress may be the ticket to wearing this outfit, but we’ll see.

I used the same pattern for her doll dress as I did for Ella’s doll dress, but changed it up for shoulder snaps.  Silly me, I didn’t think about it being more tricky for a 4-year-old to pull up a dress on a doll.

The cherry outfit was my choice.  I used the Bonnie Blue “Claire” pattern for this outfit.  I had heard that these patterns run very large, so I made a size smaller than I would have normally chosen, and it is still very roomy on Ella.  I trimmed the top with spaghetti bias and then used the same for the shorts to tie it all together.

The smocking design is one that I have drafted and changed up a bit for each outfit that I make.  I still am not 100% satisfied with it, so will do a few more changes the next time I stitch it.

I tied the spaghetti bias into bows at the side seam of the shorts and then hand-stitched through the center of the bow to tack them so that they wouldn’t continually come undone.

Sorry for the slightly blurry back picture – it is the only one that I took and I didn’t realize that it’s not so sharp.  The double back buttons are cute, but I think they may be a bit tedious to do up for each wearing.  We’ll see how mom feels about this before I make another double back button top.  If it is too much trouble, I’ll draft the back to be a single button back.

I still need to make a matching doll set for the cherry outfit.  I’ve found a pattern that I think will work.

Because I’m saving the Frannie dress in my previous post for Livvy’s birthday in October, I needed to make her a dress and matching doll dress as well.  For her dress, I used one of my inserts from my stash of Beaux et Beaux inserts.  I always get questions about where to buy these inserts, so I’ll answer that right away – they are not selling the inserts any more.  Sometimes you can find an insert for sale on Ebay or Etsy.  I’m glad that I purchased so many when I did – they have come in handy when I’ve needed a quick dress and the quality of stitching is fabulous!

Livvy was thrilled with the “fairy” dress but noted right away that the dolly dress didn’t have a fairy on it!  Hahaha!!!  I should have used some machine embroidery for that, but didn’t want to spend the time hunting for the right size fairy for that.  Perhaps for Christmas…..

It continues to amaze me that these inserts are stitched with only 2 strands of floss for the picture smocking – such detail!!!

I love sewing for the little girls and happily will make matching dolly sets.  I know how quickly they grow up, so I’m enjoying this stage of their life!

I hope that you’re stitching something that you love!!!

R & R

My super busy spring schedule has finally wound down and I’m now in R&R mode.  While I had planned to get some rest after this busy season, I am forced to rest now due to recovering from being ill.  Not my favorite rest, but rest nonetheless.

I enjoyed a lovely time with the Seaside Smockers guild in Virginia Beach.  What a wonderful group of ladies!!!  We had such fun stitching and sewing the Annalise top and then practicing picture smocking.  I’ve already seen some pictures of finished garments!

This group of ladies were ready to go!

I kept them working hard!

After returning from this workshop, I headed to Michigan for a visit with my folks and my sister.  I’m so blessed to have both of my parents still living on their own and I treasure the time that I get to spend with them.  Mom isn’t doing well and doesn’t get out much, but the promise of a visit to the ice cream store seemed to be just the right motivation for her to “feel better” one evening.

We visited “Norm’s Ice Cream” shop and they served the biggest small cone I’ve ever seen!!!

I love this picture of my mom and sister!  It was a moment in time where mom could forget her pain and enjoy her favorite treat.

Another afternoon we were able to get mom out of the house and we visited the temporary shops along the Lake Michigan shore.  These are the cutest little shops with unique gift items.  We walked along the row and checked out each shop during this non-busy time, which is very rare.

During this visit with mom, my sister and I took out mom’s entire collection of vintage, hand painted Bavarian cups & saucers and luncheon/dessert plates.  What a gorgeous collection!!! We put together 8 groups of these beautiful dishes – one group for each of her 8 granddaughters – and then my sister and I wrapped them up and boxed them for shipping.  Mom wanted each of the girls to have some special pieces that will remind them of her whenever they use these.  I wish we had thought to take a picture of all the pretty sets lined up – there were so many of them and each as beautiful as the next!

Our girls opened their gifts when we got together for our Father’s Day celebration.  They loved the beautiful dishes!!!

Check out all the beautiful cups and saucers on the counter!!!


So, after a lovely visit in MI, I returned home rather sick and have been faithfully taking my meds and resting since then.  We’ll be heading for the beach for some more R&R next week and I’m looking forward to it!  I hope to gather some stitching to take along with me so that I can get in some relaxing stitching time while I’m away.  I know I’ll enjoy that!

What beautiful things are you stitching during your summer vacation???

 

Busy! Sewing, Teaching and Drawing!!!

This is my busy month of travel.  Two weeks ago I was in Houston teaching for the Midnight Oil smocker’s guild and had a wonderful time with that group of ladies!  They did a fabulous job working on their techniques and dresses and I’ve seen a couple of pictures of the finished dress already.  No grass is growing under their feet!   This is the dress that they were making:

I’m heading out today to teach in Virginia for the Seaside Smockers guild.  I’m looking forward to a good workshop with them.  We will be doing the Annalise top and some picture smocking.

With my busy schedule, I haven’t had a lot of sewing time.  So, between classes I decided to do a bit of my charity sewing for the tiniest of babies.  I made several sets of the Teeny Tears diapers to go with the Wee Care gowns that our SAGA guild makes.  These were already cut out, so it was just a matter of sewing them.

Next up was a sweet little gown made for an under 1 lb. baby.  A set of diapers was made to match this gown as well.

The last project was for the Caleb Ministry and features some pretty, pin-stitched lace details.

In addition to sewing, I have been hard at work learning how to draw on the computer.  Several years ago I learned (with the help of Claire Meldrum) how to graph smocking designs on the computer.  It took several years along with many tears and frustration, but I finally “got” it.  I’m definitely NOT a computer person.

My goal at the beginning of last year was to become more proficient in Adobe Illustrator so that I could diagram stitches and techniques in my class notes.  I worked hard at it and have been able to do many of the stitches and diagrams, though not all.  So, these last couple weeks I’ve been working at learning some of the different “tools” available in the software.  I have really enjoyed the process and have learned more in the last couple weeks that I believe will make my drawings even better.

My first drawings were for a new correspondence class that I have been working on.  It is a French machine sewn bonnet, so involved drawing many illustrations of lace joining, which I’ve done before.  I expanded the illustrations and when the bonnet was finished, I drew a picture on the computer as well as took a photograph.  I’m quite pleased with the results.

The computer drawing of the bonnet:

I still can’t draw gathered lace very well, but that will improve with practice.  LOL!

Taking the drawing even further, and with the new brush tools I’ve learned, I have drawn a bishop dress.  I’m really happy with the results and think that they look very much like a charcoal sketch.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to!  Hopefully when I return I will be able to sew a bit more!  I hope that sewing is on your summer schedule!

Keep on stitching…..

Kathy

A Quick Bishop

This past week was one of R&R for me.  I stitched things that I love and enjoyed it!  Sometimes a week of R&R is just what is needed to rejuvenate.  One of my stitching projects was a bishop dress.  This was a quick bishop because I happened to find this ready-to-smock dress in the closet.  It’s practically vintage as it is at least 10 years old, and the fabric even older!  😛  There’s only a couple ready-to-smocks left in there.  I had sewn many RTS outfits several years ago – before grandchildren!  So, now it’s a real bonus to find one the right size and to be able to complete the smocking.

I had our wild little Eva in mind with this dress.  It’s a pretty wild print!  LOL!  Also, this is a poly/cotton piqué, so very easy care.  That’s a real bonus for busy moms!!!

I used my favorite bishop “dip” design method in order to smock just one figure on the front.   I do modify the “dip” design to accommodate different pictures, but the free design is a good starting place.  Then I chose a lady bug from Frances Messina Jone’s “Make A Ladybug Wish” plate.  This is available at many fine heirloom shops.  I love the way that it looks on this bright print!

It’s still not a sure thing that this will get worn.  When I brought it to Eva, she told me that she didn’t like it.  😂  She does have her opinions!  However, when I told her that I’d give it to Livvy, she changed her mind and said that she would keep it.  We’ll see – it may still go to Livvy!  LOL!

I also finished stitching and sewing my sample garment for a new class and loved the way that it turned out.  I’ll share that in the next post.  Until then, keep on stitching!!!

Just breathe!

So, the wedding is less than 2 weeks away and we’re in the last days of all the little details to attend to.  Although we’re so excited about the upcoming wedding, there’s always stress involved.  My plan is to add nothing to my calendar for this week and next week and to enjoy some relaxing sewing time as time permits.  This is relaxing and enjoyable to me when it doesn’t involve drafting/sewing for new classes or magazine articles.  LOL!  I started this process on Saturday and had a delightful weekend!

My first nearly finished project only needed a couple of rows of smocking and some buttonholes and buttons to be sewn on.  I enjoyed finishing the little dress and look forward to trying a different method of using a contrast fabric at the top of the bishop.  I believe that each method will have benefits as well as challenges.  I am OK with this method, but think the there may be a better option.  After I try a couple of others, I’ll be back to report and share my findings.

I used the apple design that I did for the Classic Sewing magazine‘s fall 2016 issue and eliminated the color changes and added a chain stitch around the outside to mimic the apples in the fabric.  I graphed the bird to match the fabric.  What a funny little bird!  I also backstitched the smocking area with a 4 step trellis stitch and like the wavy effect that it gives.

As always, I used my practical 2 button back closure.  I find that this method actually stays closed while the dress is being worn.  😜  That’s always a plus with active toddlers!

With the bishop dress completed, I moved on to the next nearly finished project.  As I have moved clothing around in the bedroom closets and rearranged space after our daughter moved out, I found several projects that needed only a little attention to be finished.  One project was a sample “Suzette” dresses that was made when I designed the dress.  I made 5 samples – the blue dress was one of them.  I recently taught this dress and it’s one of my favorites with the simple lines and smocked sleeves.  This dress only needed a hem and a button and button loop on the back.

I machine stitched the hem in the dress and then added the featherstitching.  I can say that I’m not totally thrilled with my featherstitching at the hem!  On the bodice I use a grid to get the stitch uniform.  For the hem, I decided to try it without a grid.  Oh my!!!  Wrong choice.  However, I’m giving myself some grace and recognize that nobody will be down at hem level inspecting this dress, so as Elsa says “let it go”.  That’s exactly what I’m doing!

I do love this dress and will love seeing both this one and the bird/apple dress on the little girls.

Today I’ll dive back into the closets and see what else can be finished easily and hopefully enjoy some fun stitching time between the wedding errands and such.

I hope you’re enjoying some spring sewing!  Our weather has warmed up and I think spring is here to stay!  Soon it will be time to start the summer sewing!!!

Keep on stitching……

Kathy

Just Some Fun Stitching!

Sometimes I have to take a break from designing, making kits, teaching, etc. and just want to slow down and stitch something fun.  I started one of these fun projects Wednesday evening and hope to have it finished in the next few days.  😃

My new and fun project is a bishop dress with a solid smocking band at the top.  I see these all the time on all the different websites that sell smocked children’s clothing and it’s been a long time since I’ve made one of these, so this was the time.

I chose this fun print for the project and am in the process of smocking an apple on the center front.  We’ll see how it goes!

In case you’re interested in how I do my smocking these days, I’ll show you my setup.  I am using the apple design that I created for the Fall issue of Classic Sewing magazine.  I’ll modify the file to fit the fabric design – hopefully!  LOL!  I pull up the file on my iPad, and then can enlarge it so that I can see it better with these “mature” eyes.  I also have my Dazor magnifying lamp to look through so that I can ensure that all the stitches are perfectly smooth.  Amazing all the technology that I need these days to continue to enjoy my smocking!

Once I finish up this dress, I plan to start another one with a slightly different method of color blocking the neckline.  Then I’ll decide which method I prefer.  I’m sure both will be acceptable, but I know that I will prefer one over the other!

So, that’s what I’m up to this morning – sitting in my living room enjoying the morning sun and smocking a spring dress.  I hope you’re enjoying some stitching time as well!

Sewing Accessories!!! Sew Much Fun!!!

It was time for something new and different to sew – something fun, relaxing and non-garment.  For some time now I’ve wanted to make some sewing accessories – especially the ones that are invaluable when you go to workshops or seminars.  I knew that I’d saved patterns or links to patterns that I wanted to make, so the search began.  I found them quite quickly.  Whew!   I chose to make a sewing machine mat/cover, a travel needle case and an iron caddy/mat.

Next was choosing fabrics.  All the patterns that I had chosen used several co-ordinating prints.  I’m not as clever as quilters with matching prints, but I managed to come up with some combinations that I liked.    It did involve some serious stash diving!  Does that count as exercise?  I settled on the brown/aqua combination – these fabrics are left overs from making the nursery decor for our first granddaughter  (she’s 6 now!).  Win!!!

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The first pattern I selected was a sewing machine mat, which doubles as a sewing machine cover when the machine isn’t in use.  You can see the ribbon ties on the sides that keep the cover secure on the machine.  There are lots of sewing machine mat patterns, but I chose the free one from Lillyella, which you can also get as a free download from Craftsy.  It looks beautiful and the instructions turned out to be excellent.  I would highly recommend this pattern!  You’ll also enjoy all the pictures of all the different mats and their fabric combinations!!!   Lillyella also has a removable thread catcher that buttons on to the front of the mat.  There’s plenty of pockets on the front of the mat to hold your scissors, rulers, marking pens, threads, etc.  I was really pleased with how this turned out.

To sew on the doubled bias, I followed this tutorial from Moda Bake Shop.  I was familiar with sewing the double bias, but turning the corners was new to me and her instructions for that worked out perfectly!

The only recommendation that I would have for anyone that wants to make this pattern up is to measure your sewing machine (front, over the top to the back) to make sure that this is long enough to cover your machine.  So many machines are much bigger today and this might be skimpy as a cover if you have a taller or bigger machine.  Changing the dimensions for a taller machine is simple, but changing the width dimensions will require that you also change the pocket dimensions.  🙂

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I also stitched some travel needle books.  These make wonderful gifts for your sewing friends!  The needle book is about the size of a paperback.  Again, I used a free pattern for this and the instructions for the needle book were very well written!  I love that it has a zipper pocket inside to hold things that would otherwise easily fall out and get lost.  With a place for your thread, scissors, needles and pockets for the rest, this is a well thought out pattern!  You can see that I enjoyed both patterns so much that I made them twice!

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The last project that I tackled was an iron caddy that doubles as a mat for ironing.  I love this caddy!!!  It has the heat resistant fabric so if you take this to class to carry your iron, when you’re ready to pack up and go home, you don’t have to wait for the iron to cool off – you can pop it right into the caddy and carry it home with you.  Perfect!

This was also a free pattern download.  I first saw this pictured on a chat forum years ago by someone that had made up the pattern.  Everyone on the forum was so thrilled with her caddy that she generously shared the pattern instructions and dimensions on the forum.  I cannot remember which forum it came from, however, I believe that this woman eventually  made a pattern available for this caddy because I’ve seen it for sale several different places and it looks like the exact same pattern/design.   There’s also a pattern for the mini irons available.  I used the free pattern that I’d downloaded, but there are some corrections that were needed on that original free pattern.  It turned out great and I love that it doubles as an ironing pad!

I promise – the pattern is correct – I didn’t realize until editing the pictures that I didn’t have the caddy closing situated nicely.  Perhaps that’s due to the fact that it’s stuffed with a huge roll of gift wrapping tulle and not an iron!  LOL!
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I still need to make a second iron caddy and also another thread catcher.  I wasn’t sure I was going to do that, but the sewing was such fun, I have the supplies on hand, so I’ve decided to complete the second set with these last 2 items as well.

The mental break from designing, drafting, writing instructions, etc. but still doing what I LOVE – which is sewing – has been very refreshing.  I have a plan for one of these sets and will probably either keep or save the second set.  I hope to make a 3rd set out of different fabrics that I pulled out during the stash dive.  😛  Then I’ll chose which set to keep and which one to put away for future use.

The best part of all of these projects is that with the exception of the heat resistant fabrics, everything else has been made from my “stash”.  I’d like to think that this was a stash buster project, however, with the size of my stash, that’s not the case.  It’s more like a drop in the bucket!  LOL!  That said, I do enjoy having enough fabrics in my stash that I could start sewing and not have to stop to make a purchase of something in order to complete the project!

So, if you still need a little last minute gift for one of your sewing friends, you may want to consider one (or all) of these!  They stitch up quickly, don’t take a lot of fabric and are really fun to make!  The added bonus of free patterns with great instructions make these just perfect in my book!

Enjoy your holiday stitching!!!

Kathy