From Concept to Completion

I have decided to start journaling my sewing adventures through blogging, thus the name of the blog.  I hope that as I share what I’ve been working on you will find some inspiration along the way.

Often I’m asked how I come up with design ideas.  The answer to that is – everywhere!  Vintage patterns, beautiful fabrics & trims, trendy embroidery themes – all of these things, but usually one will act as the trigger and then the creative juices start flowing.

I began this dress in 2011, but it was set aside and got lost in the UFO basket. When I rediscovered it last week (cleaning my sewing room), I got excited about it all over again and tackled the job of finishing it.

Vintage patterns are a true inspiration to me.  When I saw a picture of this sweet dress pattern, I knew I’d have to make one like it, though I envisioned it with a smocked round yoke – much like the OOP Children’s Corner “Chrissy” pattern.  I just love the circular skirt attached to the bodice rather than having a gathered skirt.  So perfect for twirling!round yoke dress


Next came the sketch with the design ideas….and, just in case you can’t tell, no, I’m not an artist.  I’ll stay a seamstress.

Smocked round yoke dress with birdsa


After the sketch was finished, I drew out some cute birds that would compliment an embroidery design, then graphed it out and embroidered a yoke.  The task of smocking certainly wasn’t for the faint of heart – the yoke has 508 pleats!!!  It was at this point that the project got set aside for a few years.


To finish the dress, I needed to draft the skirt and get the embroidery on the skirt finished before putting it on the dress.

The vine was drawn on the skirt first using a blue wash out marker and then placement lines for the machine embroidered birds were marked. Next the birds were embroidered.  Doing it this way would allow me to position the spaghetti bias so that the feet would rest on the bias – something that I probably couldn’t achieve if I’d stitched the bias down first.

Next I positioned the spaghetti bias vine and leaves in place.  I use API wash out fabric glue to get everything positioned correctly – it allows you to reposition as needed prior to drying, but once dry nothing moves.  Perfect for stitching!  As I  waited the required time for the glue to dry, it gave me just enough time to clean up the extra glue that ended up elsewhere in the sewing room.  Glue and I are not friends!  The leaves and vines were stitched in place with a blanket stitch and fine (60 wt.) thread.



The hem is finished with a bias strip.  The bias was stitched down first and then, rather than hand stitch down the bias on the inside of the hem (a job I detest), a stitch in the ditch technique was used to secure the bias – stitching close to the bias band from the right side of the skirt.  This is much more secure than stitching by hand and is a neat way to finish the bias.  Again, I used the 60 wt. thread and the stitching is nearly invisible.


The dress was nearly done.  The embroidered birds did not come with tail feathers like the smocked birds – and this bothered me.  So, I pulled out the floss and gave the birds some tail feathers and was much happier!

With the dress finished, it was first soaked in cold water to remove all the blue wash out marker, then washed to remove the water soluble glue.  Last step – ironing the finished dress.  Another monumental feat considering the full skirt!!!  While I think that my girls will love this dress, I’m not so sure that they will be quite as excited about it when it comes time to iron it.  LOL!

IMG_8648     IMG_8652

I love when a plan comes together just as I envisioned it!  Now, to see it on my little sugarplum!  It’s going to be the best twirly dress ever!!!

Now, what next?……until then, keep on stitching!


43 thoughts on “From Concept to Completion

  1. Laurie

    Kathy – I LOVE your new blog and I am thrilled you have joined in on the community of bloggers! Now that there are no heirloom sewing and smocking magazines, it’s so important to get our designs and ideas out there to inspire others. I just adore the dress you designed – so precious and what a lucky grand-daughter you have! Keep on blogg’in!

  2. Shirley Clark

    Welcome to the blogging world!
    The dress is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing all of your techniques. It’s nice to have a place to come to learn more about little things that make our garments look even better!

  3. Phyllis

    I absolutely love this little dress! You have such exquisite, classy taste, and the mad skills to make it work!

  4. Karen Prograce

    Wonderful!!! I just love your newest dress. Will you be selling the pattern? And the embroidery designs? If so, where can I buy it? I’ll be waiting to see this modeled.

    1. Kathy Post author

      No plans on selling the pattern at this point. I’m too computer “challenged” for that venture. The bird embroidery is from Juju

      I extracted one of the small birds and then had to “borrow” an eye from another of the birds. It was just the right size bird for the dress. 🙂 Her designs stitch out beautifully!

  5. Chere

    I think many of us are going to love your blog; I was encouraged to hear that this dress languished for a few years prior to completion. I have a few projects like that, hidden away somewhere.

    I don’t think I’d tackle the smocking but the idea translates to just a plain collar with embroidery and I love the collar with the circular dress. The tips for doing the “vines” were great, very useful stuff here.

    I love the dress with the pretty birds and the addition of the tail feathers are perfect.

    1. Kathy Post author

      I have more projects that also need to be completed! Don’t we all? LOL! Yes, this would easily translate to a plain yoke.

  6. Shelia Burton

    Hi Kathy! I love that you are blogging!!! I have booked marked your blog. Really getting some inspirations from you!

  7. Martha B

    Glad to see you took the blogging plunge. I tried to add it to my “list” on my blog but for some reason it won’t let me. I will keep trying.

    1. Kathy Post author

      Sorry about that Martha – I haven’t got a clue. I haven’t even figured out how to add blogs to my page yet. So much to learn!

      1. Martha B

        Well you must have done something. or the cyber gremlins acquiesced, because it all of a sudden appeared on the blog list. 🙂 I have no idea why but glad it did.

  8. Kathy Motsinger Hensley

    How doI keep all my site and the blogs together where I can find them when I want to. I have a lot, but don’t know how to put them somewhere to find them on my phone. Maybe I need to put them on my laptop. Thanks for your help.

    1. Bunny

      On Kathy’s front page there is a widget in the right sidebar that says “Follow me on bloglovin”. Click on that. You will be required to register first but then after that every time you go to a blog, look for that bloglovin widget and just click on it while you are on a blog that you want to follow. Each day in your email, Bloglovin will send you a list of all the blogs that have posted that day as well as any previous you may have missed. I suggest not reading them directly from your email as they don’t always let you link up. Instead when the bloglovin email comes through, click on the name and go to the site. Then you will be able to see everything, mark them as read and follow what’s happening. HTHs.

  9. Judy Gallagher

    Love your newly designed dress! I also enjoy learning your process of going from design idea to actual finished creation. Looking forward to more blogs.

  10. Judy

    Kathy, tjis dress is just the cutest thing! I love it and your little “twirler” will love it too. Glad to see you blogging!

  11. Jenny Jo

    Love the dress! And the blog! I’m very appreciative that you’re including so much information about how you did things.

  12. Claudia B

    Kudos, Kathy!
    I am thrilled that you are blogging about your creations! I agree that experienced smockers, etc., such as yourself, should continue with inspiration and tips, etc. since our favorite smocking and heirloom smocking publications have disappeared.

    When I pick up on my blog, where I stopped months ago, I will post a link to your blog.

  13. Julie O'Sullivan

    Beautiful dress Kathy! And great idea seeing we don’t have our Smocking magazines anymore. We all need inspiration at times.

  14. Beth Sartori

    Your blog is looking great! Love the Birdie Dress and look forward to seeing what you come up with next!

  15. Sharon Fontenot

    Hi Kathy! This little dress truly lives up to your standards of excellence. It is absolutely precious! Keep up the great work and THANKS for the inspiration!

  16. Linda from IA

    My comment the other day was placed elsewhere, so I’m going to just test now and see if I stay with the rest of you. I’m so happy to see your blog…your article is great , thank you, Kathy, for taking the time!

  17. Lori Remington

    Hello Kathy,
    I have admired your work for a long time through various magazines and other bloggers. I am relatively new to smocking, but not sewing. I now have 3 great-nieces to sew for, and their sizes are a challenge, as they are big ( as in tall) for their ages. I am so happy you are blogging with the demise of AS&E and Sew Beautiful. I have saved you to my favorites so I can find you easily. It did take me a little bit to find you, though, after Laurie Anderson published that you began a blog. Good Luck, and I am looking very forward to your entrys.

  18. Bunny

    This dress is wonderful and has what every little girl wants – Twirl Factor! Another beauty, Kathy!

  19. Neva Christensen

    Sew cute! Luv it! Am sew glad you are blogging – and everyone can keep in touch with you and your creativity. I saw your posting on MP Forums and have saved this blog to my favorites.

  20. Linda Snyder

    Kathy, I’m so excited to see you started a blog!!! And thanks for sharing how you made this special, absolutely darling little dress.

  21. carole clement

    I am so excited to have found your blog. I am looking forward to following you as closely as I can as your designs and teaching techniques are exquisite. I agree with many others, the loss of our favorite magazines is a tragedy, but having found your blog (and hopefully those of other teachers) will be something for which I am very grateful and will enjoy
    to the utmost!

  22. Sidney Fay

    Please come teach the little blue smocked coat and/or your Ella’s Easter dress to my group. We are 5 fun 70 year olds who create our own school in my home. We have had Jeanie Baumeister, Gail Doane, and Judith Adams before- in case you want references. Let me know when you might be available. Many thanks. Sidney

    1. Kathy Post author

      That sounds like such a fun group to be part of! I’d love to come and teach. I’ll send you an email. 🙂


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