Changing A Bishop Sleeve

This is re-post of a past blog post, with a few additional comments.

Because styles vary from year to year, I wanted to change up the sleeve of the bishop dress so that it was a bit more contemporary. I redrafted the sleeve to the bishop dress pattern from the bishop pattern that I normally use and put the dress together so that I could smock it while on vacation.  I always make my bishop dresses as ready-to-smock. Instructions on how to do that are available in my Etsy shop (kathysheirloomshop). I love having a completed dress when the smocking is finished.  I was very happy with the end results!


Smocking on prints is always challenging for me, and this was no exception.  I took along several different colors of floss as well as several different smocking plates.  In the end, I decided to use Creative Keepsake’s “Mackenzie” design.  It is similar to the Children’s Corner “Firelight”, which I’ve always loved on prints and plaid fabrics.  I think that the use of the 2 colors is very subtle and compliments the print nicely.


The micro check gingham for the bias at the neck and sleeves adds a little brightness to the fall-ish print.  The micro check was also used for covered buttons in the back.

Now, for a few details on how  the sleeves were redrafted.  You’ll notice that they are not smocked.  I wanted less full sleeves, so smocking them wasn’t practical as that would require more fullness than I wanted.  To reduce the fullness in the sleeves, I creased the sleeve in several places and put some 1/4″ tucks at the creases and pinned them down as  seen on the furthest tuck on the right.  After I felt that enough fullness was removed, the new sleeve was redrawn with the top edge drawn as a smooth line from one side to the other.


The next thing to do was to reduce the depth under the arm.  The finished sleeve depth under the arm is about 1/2″.  Then, the final step was to raise the lower edge of the sleeve by drawing a curve (an upside down “U” shape) from one side seam to the other.  I didn’t have a particular formula for this, just an educated guess.  This is the new sleeve.


After the new sleeve was created, the dress front, sleeves and back were sewn and the bishop dress pleated as normal.  However, when the bias band was attached to the dress, the pleats in the front and back of the dress were kept tightly together while the sleeve pleats were spread out. At this point, the pleating threads could be removed from the sleeves and the dress front and back tied off as needed.  The short sleeves were gathered at the bottom and bias band was attached.  The bias band for the sleeves was adjusted and made slightly longer (measure your child for accurate measurement) since the different shaped opening requires a little more room than the normal smocked sleeve.  The remainder of the dress was constructed.

This was a fun dress to make and turned out so cute and was a big hit!!!

If this is something that you want to try, don’t be afraid to experiment!

Happy stitching!


More Hemline Solutions

This is another re-posting of a previously “lost” blog post with a few updates.

Often times a special occasion dress is made which involves much time as well as expense and is worn only a few times.  Little girls tend to outgrow the length of the dress before the width.  With a little planning the dress can be lengthened and another year or so of wear can be had.

When a hem is taken out, most often the crease line remains visible – not appealing on a beautiful heirloom dress.  Since most of the time only a couple inches of length need to be added, a great solution is to cut the dress off at the crease, add a row of beading or insertion, and then you can add the cut off section of hem below the insertion and finish the lower edge with a lace trim or you can add a width of eyelet that compliments the insertion/beading and the remainder of the dress.  The goal is to make it look like a plan.  You may need to cut a bit more of the skirt length off, depending on what you add to the bottom of the dress.  Of course, if you plan ahead when you first make the dress, you can set aside extra trims that you’ve already used in the dress for lengthening later on.

While these pictures are dresses that were not specifically lengthened, they are good examples of how you could lengthen a too short dress.


If you’ve used a floral print for the heirloom dress, the floral fabrics between the added on lace is a pretty choice as well.


Of course, a beautiful lace fancy band is always a wonderful choice!


Just a few more ideas.


Ribbon and lace offer a slightly more cost effective solution.


You can even add embroidered laces that use the colors in the smocking to add a beautiful hem and lengthen the dress.

For a more casual dress, adding a contrast band with some rick rack works well. By adding a second layer of rick rack, it looks more like a design option than an add-on.

Of course, a contrast band can be added with lace as well.

A scalloped band is a lovely and more unusual treatment for length.

Adding several color blocks is yet another option. This dress had an impossible stain on the lower skirt. Because of the various colors in the smocked flowers, a couple color block sections offered a great option!

I did a chain stitch over the seam for additional interest.

These are just a few examples of how to creatively and beautifully add length to a dress. As you can see, the possibilities are endless!! Hopefully it will jump start your creative juices and allow you to come up with even more ideas if you need to lengthen a pretty heirloom dress!

Happy stitching!


Bishop Tips To Avoid A Turtleneck

Today I thought I’d do a post with some tips specifically for the bishop dress.  This is a repeat post as the original post was inadvertently deleted. 🤪 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.

My preferred method is to make up the bishop dress or romper as a ready-to-smock garment ( method 2). I also like to have 2 buttons on the back. I have found that buttons stay fastened while snaps do not. I also don’t like the buttons extending all the way down the back. In my mind, they may not be comfortable and the lower buttonholes can easily get torn with wear and tear.

It is easy to adapt any pattern to make the 2 buttons. I do sell instructions on this method in my Etsy shop (kathysheirloomshop) along with many other patterns.

Whatever method you choose to use, be mindful of tension – it matters.

I thought I’d offer a free smocking plate to encourage you to do some relaxing smocking over the upcoming holiday season. Click on the link below to download the Funky Flower smocking design.

This is a PDF download.  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!

Happy Stitching!


Summer Sewing School – aka Grandma Camp!

Last week we did a week of sewing camp. It was so much fun!!! The 3 granddaughter’s (ages 9, 9 & 12) did sewing camp with me and our grandson (age 7) did camp with grandpa. I hope that we created some fun memories!!!

The girls loved sewing and all 3 of them completed all 5 projects in my Girls Can Sew curriculum.

Prior to camp, I let each of the girls choose fabrics for their projects from my “resource center”. 🤣 It’s so nice to have everything readily available for whatever might be needed!!! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Project #1 was a pillowcase. We made it with the burrito method. 2 of the girls had already made a pillowcase in previous years, but this year was different in that I was teaching them how to read and follow the instructions. They did a great job of that with the pillowcase.

Why the headbands of fabric? Well, they are sewing ninjas!!!

At the finish of the project, we had “free sew” – which involved sewing together pre-cut squares. I think that this part of each day was something that they enjoyed most!!!

Day 2 of camp involved making a decorative throw pillow. They had such fun deliberating over what trims to use for their pillows. In this class, they learned how to do LOTS of measuring and they also learned to sew a zipper (zip off pillow cover).

They loved the finished pillows!

The 3rd project was a twirl skirt. The skirt had an elastic casing and was a yoke with a gathered tier. Gathering was a new skill. They weren’t too sure about this! LOL! Let’s just say that it wasn’t their favorite! But, they persevered and all ended up with a cute skirt.

Of course, “free sew” continued at the end of each day! I’m sure glad that I had plenty of squares for them to work with!!! They were finishing up some small quilts by day 3.

Day 4 was a tote bag, interfaced & lined. With each project, new skills were introduced. This project involved using pattern pieces, placing the pattern pieces on grain and accurate cutting. Prior to this, all of the projects had been measure and tear.

As you can see, they all ended up with cute tote bags!!! Each of them also chose to add a trim to the seam, which added cuteness to the tote bags!

Our last project was a patchwork pouch. This was much more involved. They also used pattern pieces for this and had to create their own “fabric” with patchwork. They had lots of practice with piecing during “free sew”, which made them very successful with their patchwork pouches!!!

Notice how beautifully matched those pieced corners are!!!

Because this bag is lined AND has a zipper, it was a bit trickier. Once again, they proved to not be quitters, patiently waiting for help when needed, and they all loved their finished pouches.

After class was over, I decided that for new seamstresses, it might be helpful to have a visual aid (other than my painter’s tape) for their seam allowance alignment. Each sewing machine had a slightly different bed and markings. We did play “musical machines” – meaning that each of the girls sat at a different machine each day to see some of the little differences. I have created a grid with seam markings on it and am offering it as a free download for anyone else wanting to help new seamstresses with their seam allowances. (we also use this in the refugee sewing class!)

You can download this by clicking on the blue words above. I would recommend cutting the page into strips and applying one strip in front of the sewing machine foot, on the bed of the machine, and another on the back of the sewing machine foot. Having the different colors will also make it easy for the student to see and follow a particular line. This can be attached with clear packing tape. Alternately, it can be printed on sticky back paper (think stickers), cut apart and applied that was as well. I hope you’ll find this helpful if you have budding seamstresses that you will be helping learn to sew.

Of course, I cannot forget to mention grandpa camp! The boys had fun as well. 🥰

Hiking, learning how to safely shoot a gun at the range & building a birdhouse were on the agenda for them! It was all a huge success!!!

Liam learned how to use many power tools (with help, of course!) and loved choosing his bright green paint to finish it off.

That’s what has been going on this summer! I hope you’re enjoying a wonderful summer as well, and hopefully staying cool!!!

Updating A Favorite Pattern

6 years ago I started my Etsy shop. I had made preemie outfits for a friend’s grandbabies (quadruplets) and had so many requests for the pattern that I decided to take the dive and sell that pattern and called it Prince/Princess Diaper Set. One pattern led to more, the second pattern being infant sizes of the same pattern.

Prince/Princess Diaper Set Pattern

Over the last 6 years, I’ve had requests (quite regularly) to extend the sizes up to 24 mo. I am happy to say that I’ve finally finished that task and have combined the extended sizes with both the Preemie pattern as well as the infant sizes previously offered. The newly revised pattern is still called Prince/Princess Diaper Set & Daygown and the sizes are Preemie (4 – 5 lb.) – 24 mo.

The instructions to make the top into a daygown are also included. I love the daygown length!

It was no small feat to update this pattern. When I created the first PDF pattern, I had very little knowledge on how to do it easily. It took a few years and a lot of research to get it right. Whew! But, to go back to the old files and turn them into new ones was quite the task. I had to do that before working on the larger sizes.

Of course, with the updated patterns, I felt I should also update the directions. While they are pretty much the same, I used a better format to create the instructions. So, overall, the entire pattern is improved! I hope my future customers will enjoy it!

On another note – I’ve also had requests to make my Sweet Cheeks smocked diaper cover in adult sizes. 😳 No worries – that won’t be happening. LOL! Summertime is the perfect time for these to be made and worn!!!

That’s the latest and the greatest from my design room!

Happy stitching this summer!!!


Lots of Stitching

I don’t know where the time has gone!!! I continue to stay busy sewing as well as creating new patterns. I’ve also been busy making lots of new Wee Care gown samples that I will use as samples in an upcoming workshop.

Since my last post, I’ve added 2 new patterns to my Etsy shop. The first one I just adore for summertime! It makes a gorgeous outfit for beach pictures, weddings, etc. It is perfect for the little ones, boy or girl, as well as older girls.

For little ones, bloomers can be used instead of a skirt, however, I loved the idea of creating both the bloomers as well as the skirt for a little girl!

What a great way to have options!!! The pattern is called Button-on Bib, Bloomers & Sundress.

The most recent pattern is my City Frock Dress/Tunic pattern. This is another fabulous pattern for summer sewing! Of course, it’s also suitable for cooler weather with a blouse or t-shirt underneath.

All the girls were a big fan of the large pockets! I had fun making these dresses & tunics!

Of course, I continue to make my Wee Care sets for Caleb Ministry. I have completed quite a few that I’ll be using as samples for an upcoming workshop. I did a variety of different hem treatments for the gowns.

The beautiful crocheted edging on this blanket and the next one was done by another friend, Maribeth, and sent to me. It almost makes me want to learn to crochet again!

Traveling up to Michigan to visit with my parents gave me plenty of time to get the gowns smocked! It’s a really long drive! I made sure that I had several gowns ready to smock before the trip!

For the boy gowns, I added a pleated sleeve version that I’m particularly fond of. Several years ago, another smocking friend of mine, Beth, made a gown with a pleated sleeve. She generously shared the instructions with our local guild. As the years progressed, I worked with the new Wee Care chair for the guild and we tweaked the instructions a bit more to end up with a sleeve that I do like for all the various sizes from the under 1 lb. size to a NB size. I have had requests for these instructions, so I’m adding them here for you to download. All the sizes are included in the PDF file.

I hope that these will be helpful to others that make these special gowns. I wish they weren’t needed, but if they can provide one less thing for bereaved parents to worry about, I’ll continue to make them.

I hope you’re having a fabulous spring, stitching beautiful things and getting ready for the summer months!!! Keep on stitching!!!


February – New Month, New Pattern

I have been busy the last month working on a new pattern. I have finally finished the pattern and got it listed in my Etsy shop. The pattern is a vintage style apron dress.

Isn’t this the sweetest dress!!! I created this from combining the ideas from 2 different vintage apron dress patterns that I’ve saved pictures of and am very happy with the end results.

I always get so much enjoyment from creating these patterns! The embroidery on this yellow dress actually is from a vintage pattern of mine and is included with the pattern. Obviously, any embroidery would be beautiful. On the white dress pictured first, I did a variation of this, using bullion roses instead of the lazy daisy flowers.

In the pattern, I offer 3 different neckline variations – square neckline, round neckline and a sweetheart neckline. My personal favorite is the square, but I do like the others as well.

On most of the samples that I made, I used French Val laces and pin stitched the lace to the dresses. However, when I got to the size 4, I wanted to try something different. For that dress, I used a very lightweight poly/cotton piqué fabric that I purchased in Prague a few years ago. I combined it with Swiss trims and loved how it turned out. It’s a little more casual than the other heirloom versions that I had done.

Don’t you love it with the Swiss trims!!! So very summery!!! I even added 2 pockets to this dress, which I then included in the pattern.

I can see this dress in so many different variations – fabrics, trims, etc. I used larger tucks for this dress, though I’m not sure that they show up well in the picture.

The flat front version is also so pretty! I can see this with all kinds of embellishment – wouldn’t a monogram be perfect!!! A shadow work monogram would be gorgeous! I did a simple lace shaping on the front of the one that I made. I’m still considering adding some embroidery. This dress features the sweetheart neckline!


Maybe you have someone that would look so sweet in this dress!!! I have begun a sew-along of the dress on my YouTube channel. Please consider joining the fun! I am looking forward to seeing many beautiful versions of this sweet dress!!!

I hope the new year has included some enjoyable stitching for you!!!


Sewing For Preemies

I sew quite frequently for preemie babies and because of that, I’ve created a number of preemie patterns which I sell in my Etsy shop (Kathysheirloomshop). You can click on the shop name and it will take you to my shop.

Recently I was contacted and asked about even smaller size preemie daygowns. I currently have my Prince/Princess Preemie Pattern available for a 4 – 5 lb. preemie.

By adding length to this top (I believe I added 8″ to the bottom of the 4 – 5 lb. size), it becomes a daygown rather than a diaper shirt.

The little bit of hand embroidery adds such a sweet touch to the gown and bonnet!

The person that had contacted me felt that a gown smaller than the 4 – 5 lb. size might be needed. Challenge accepted! LOL! I worked at making a smaller size pattern. I ended up with a 3 – 4 lb. size pattern. I did a test sew of the pattern and it worked out just as I expected. However, because the diaper shirt/gown is completely lined, the sleeves are sewn in last, meaning “in the round”. Sewing the sleeves into this tiny armhole opening was quite the challenge!!! I could only stitch about 5 – 6 stitches, then would have to reposition and repeat. 😱 I also ended up hand basting the sleeve into the armhole opening. It was just to fiddly to have to deal with pins while trying to stitch the sleeve in. 😳

I tried it on a 15″ baby doll “model”. This does make a sweet doll pattern as well!

Because of the difficulty/challenge to sew in the sleeves into the tiny armholes, I have decided to offer this as a free download. I was not prepared for the multitude of questions from buyers regarding the sleeve stitching! You cannot imagine how many messages I get as a seller!!! LOL! So, be aware, the tiny sleeves ARE a challenge, but they can be sewn with a LOT of patience!!!

The download is ONLY the pattern pieces, NO INSTRUCTIONS for sewing are included. If you have purchased the preemie pattern or the pattern for sizes NB – 12 mo., you can follow those instructions. If you want/need sewing instructions and have not purchased one of the patterns, you will need to purchase one of them in order to have sewing instructions.

If you want the diaper shirt to be daygown length, add 6″ to the bottom of the shirt.

As always, I still recommend soft fabrics (batiste, lawn, etc.) and if you choose to use a print, make sure it is a tiny print so that it doesn’t overwhelm the baby (or doll).

Happy Stitching!!!


Happy New Year – a gift for you

I’ve sadly neglected my blog. That said, I have been busy sewing, designing and such. I hope to do a better job posting in this year to come. 😊

Today I was contacted by someone that was going to make my Annalise top and she wanted to find the heart design that she had seen somewhere – probably Pinterest. It turns out that this was something that I designed MANY years ago when I used to make and sell custom garments on Ebay.

I designed the heart smocking to match the fabric on the pants, which was a crooked heart. Isn’t she the cutest model!!! I’m sure that she’s in college by now!

I had to do a bit of hunting to find the design. Thankfully I had saved the pencil graph of the heart. With that, as well as the pictures to go on, I graphed out the heart design on the computer and wanted to offer it to my followers so that it can be smocked on a Valentine outfit for this year!!! I have graphed out the smocking design that fits perfectly on the Annalise top (available in my Etsy shop – just click on the name and it will bring you there) as well as offering it in a regular yoke design.

This is a relatively simple smocking design and suitable for someone that has mastered reading the picture smocking graphs


hope that you will enjoy making a cute outfit using one of these smocking designs! The single design is perfect for a small area to smock while the expanded version will work well on any yoke dress!

May God bless you and keep you in this New Year! Happy stitching!!!


SPAGHETTI BIAS – shaping and application

The bias has been prepared (see previous post) and the dress marked and is ready for the bias shaping and application. Start the application process at the center back of the dress. Using glass head pins, pin the bias to the skirt following the scallop shape and then shaping the loop area (see video). As you pin around the skirt, ensure that the outside edges of the bias are flat and smooth against the fabric.

The inside of the loops will need to be pulled in such that the bulk is distributed evenly. Thread a needle with a contrast thread and do a running stitch around the inside of the loop. Pull the thread so that the inside loop gathers in and will sit flat against the fabric. Then pin to secure.

When the beginning point is reached, cut off the excess spaghetti bias and tuck the cut end underneath the spaghetti bias loop to hide the cut ends (see video). With all the bias pinned in place, get the washable glue and glue underneath the bias to secure. Finger press the bias to the glue to secure. Carefully work around the skirt. To dry the glue more quickly, it can be pressed from the inside of the skirt using NO STEAM – only the dry iron.

Once the glue is dry, the bias is ready to stitch to the skirt. Decide if a decorative stitch will be used (blanket stitch, etc.) or if it will be straight stitched. Use 60 wt. thread, size 70 needle and an open toed foot. If using the blanket stitch, a 2.5 stitch length and a 1.0 – 1.5 stitch length is recommended.

Cut strips of Sulky Super Solvy and pin behind the area that will be stitched. Stitch around the inside and outside of the spaghetti bias with the stitch desired. Then soak the dress in cold water to remove any blue wash-out marker as well as the stabilizer and allow to dry.

The video showing the process can be viewed on YouTube. This technique can be used on so many different projects – pillowcases, tea towels, etc. Have fun trying this on your next project!

Happy Stitching,


Disclosure: The recommended products contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting me when you shop! These are my opinions and are not representative of the companies that create these products. These are the products I use and have gotten great results with. I would never recommend poor quality products.