Christmas Sewing – A Bishop Dress

With only a few weeks until Christmas, and fewer weeks until the little ones can start wearing Christmas 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!




15 thoughts on “Christmas Sewing – A Bishop Dress

  1. Linda Scheer

    I really like the Christmas ideas. At this point I’m only allowed to make 2 Christmas stockings for my brand new granddaughter.

  2. Robyn Lea Jones

    Kathy, these little Christmas outfits are simply stunning. What a precious talent you have. The quality of your work is sterling. ……..And very blessed grandchildren to be wearing these. Lovely !!!

  3. judy

    Love the bishop. The ornament is perfect and I really like the way the smocking dips in front. Liam’s little outfit is adorable as well. The elf smocking plate is adorable and I know your smocking will certainly do it justice. great job

  4. Angela Lee

    I love both of these! And I particularly love how the top smocked row mimics ric rac. Very clever. I think all of your special touches really make this dress. The children will look beautiful in there Christmas outfits.

  5. Jenny Jo

    I second Angela’s comment on the ric-rac looking border around the neck. 🙂 They will be adorable together! Can’t wait to see those cute little elves! I will probably not be smocking anything for Christmas, though I would dearly like to because I think my 6 year old is near the end of her bishop-wearing days.

  6. Christine

    Hi Kathy, I am a great fan of your designs and have made a couple of these for my Grandaughter in the past. I would love to have a go at the Xmas dipped dress but one question please, have you made the bishop dress with side seams instead of it in once piece as it looks as if the placket is cut into the dress. This makes sense to me. The next one I have a go at (new baby due but don’t know the sex at the moment (6th grandchild 4 boys and 1 girl so far) I want to make it up and then smock it? Do you do that?

    Keep up the good work and bless you and your work with the babies that don’t stay with us.

    1. Kathy Post author

      Hi Christine – I always make up my dresses as ready to smock and then smock it afterwards. This dress was made that way. The dress buttons in the back. I’m not sure what you mean about the placket cut into the dress. The dress front/sleeves/back were all sewn together, then pleated with all the rows (including the extra length). I then constructed the dress and smocked it after it was fully constructed. I’ll attach a picture of the back. Hopefully that answers your question about the side seams/placket.

  7. Christine

    Thank you Kathy that does make sense. I should have read your instructions in more depth, because you did explain about making up the dress first. What I meant about the back was that I could not see a seam below the placket and assumed you had made the dress with side seams? I suppose it does not matter in the end.

    Will have a go at this one as soon as I know what “flavour” the new baby is. I am hoping for a girl so that I can get on with some dresses for her as my DIL likes traditional clothes. Baby due now, so not long to wait. If it is a boy, then he will join our tribe of very lively grandsons.. Oh no!!

  8. Lexie Parkinson

    Kathy, I have never seen your blog before this, but I must say the Christmas dresses
    are just beautiful. What a wonderful talent you have. Do you ever have time left to
    sleep. lol I had never thought of doing picture smocking on a bishop dress.
    I must confess that I have only made one bishop dress as my daughter dislikes
    them, so I never had much practise on them for my 2 grand-daughters.
    I shall have to visit your blog more often ……it is very helpful and also interesting too.

  9. Sandy

    I just came across your blog while searching for ways to close the backof a bishop dress. This is exactly what I am looking for. The continuous bound placket requires buttonholes in the smocking (I just can’t bring myself to do this) or using the little snaps which look a bit cheesy to me. As I look at your blog, I can see that you are a very busy lady. But would you consider doing a tutorial on how you constructed the button placket on this little Christmas Ornament dress? It looks to be a folded extension. So do you plan for the fold by extending the width of the back pattern or do you pull out enough pleats to allow for a smooth, unpleated section of the back? One obviously has to account for the finished size of the dress, so adding to the center back would make the back wider, thus creating a need to delete some pleats. And if you pull out enough pleats to make the unpleated section plus the folded back section, you will be deleing a lot of pleats. I would appreciate a bit more information on how to accomplish this construction technique that gives the dress a much more professional look.

    1. Kathy Post author

      Thank you for your comment. I do all my bishop dresses with this button back and also the way that I teach the bishop dress class as this is the only way that the dresses stayed closed in the back. Those plastic snaps just didn’t work at all and I won’t put buttonholes through the smocking either. I do extend the width of the back pattern and then pull out pleats for the placket. 🙂

      1. Mary

        Do you have explicit instructions about you make the 2 button placket? I wish I could take the class you referred too as I love this look and just can’t figure out on my own how to do it. How much are you adding to the back pattern? Is there a separate placket piece attached? If so, what size is it? How many pleats are you pulling out (on both sides or just one?) help!!!


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