This is my “Perfectly Pretty” top on my sweet granddaughter when she was 2 years old. It was featured in Sew Beautiful magazine in 2013 and I was thrilled to see that it made the cover photo of Issue #149.
Since then, I have been contacted numerous times, both by shops as well as individuals with questions regarding the construction. The most recent individual that contacted me asked if I’d read the directions and had several questions about the construction. I thought it was time to revisit the project and address the questions in more detail. Because the magazine is no longer in publication, I thought that I would do that here.
The most frequent question asked is if there is elastic in the front, smocked section. Yes – there is elastic in the smocked front piece in the sample garment that was pictured in the magazine as well as in the photographs above. I think that the confusion with this is that the pattern piece is clearly marked, “elastic casing” at the fold mark on the front. However, it seems that the directions to insert the elastic into the casing was inadvertently left out of the directions. I insert a piece of elastic the same measurement that is given for tying off the front smocked piece. The elastic is there to prevent the smocking from stretching out of shape with washing and wearing. I fear that if it is left out, the smocking will eventually stretch out and the neckline would grow and be too big.
Because the last individual had several questions regarding construction of the top, I decided to remake the top, take pictures and share here my method for making the top, which is a bit different from the instructions given in the magazine.
After the smocking is finished, pull out all the pleating threads and insert the piece of elastic into the casing at the top of the smocked area.
Follow steps 1 – 3 in the magazine for sewing the sleeves and attaching them to the top. The sleeve front needs to have 5/8″ extended above the top edge of the smocking, as instructed.
The sleeve back need to be attached with the top edges matching the top edges of the back, as instructed.
Sew the side seams, as stated in the magazine.
The pattern piece in the magazine for the bias strip is not wide enough to make a French bias as the instructions indicate. To make a French bias, cut the bias strips 1-3/4″ wide and the length given in the pattern. Fold and press one of the short ends of the bias back (wrong sides together) to get a finished edge, then fold and press the length of the bias together (wrong sides together) to make the French bias.
Pin the French bias to the armhole curve, starting with the finished/folded edge of the bias and placing it 3/8″ below the top of the smocked front. Continue pining around the armhole. When you reach the top of the back, trim off any excess bias.
Sew armhole curve.
Trim seam allowance to 1/8″.
Press bias to the inside of the top.
Edge stitch bias down along the folded edge. Stop your machine stitching when you reach the smocked area and whip the bias down on the inside by hand.
Snip the armhole seam allowance right up to the stitching line where your French bias ends. (see picture below) Make a diagonal cut to trim away bulk. Press down casing at the top edge of the blouse sleeves and back by pressing down 1/4″ first and then pressing another 3/8″
Pin casing down and edge stitch along the folded edge of the casing. Note how the French bias and the casing edges are both finished and there are no raw seams showing.
Insert elastic through casing using measurements given in the magazine. It is best to try the top on the child and make adjustments as needed at this point. Different fabrics may require different adjustments to the elastic length – much depends on the weight of the fabric. I found that quilting cotton needed to be pulled up a bit tighter than the linen to end up with the same finished neck measurement. Pin elastic to secure.
From the right side of the top, stitch in the ditch at the sleeve and dress seam allowance to secure the elastic. Trim off any excess elastic and hand whip down the short edge of the bias.
I chose to make the size 4 top for photography purposes. When the top was finished, there did not appear to be much difference in the armhole depth between the size 2 (pink/white) and the size 4 (blue). Upon comparison, this was confirmed.
When placed one on top of the other, it is a little more obvious. So you may want to check that prior to attaching the French bias and, if needed, redraw the armhole curve lower on the bigger sizes.
This adventure sent me back to the drawing/drafting mode as I did want the oldest to have one of these tops. I have gone back to my original draft, which is a bit different from the published pattern, and did some of my own grading. I then recruited the help of a friend of mine that is a professional pattern drafter/grader. I wanted to confirm that I’d done everything correctly. We were even able to try the garments on her professional forms! Don’t you love friends like this!!! 🙂 I was pleased with the results!
I now have the new size 4 top and shorts ready for summer play and have the size 2 top and bloomers nearly finished for little sister. Here’s a sneak peek of the bigger one!
Maybe by the next post I’ll have modeled pictures to share. Right now the little one has pneumonia (again) and I have bronchitis. Aren’t we a pitiful bunch!!! Praying for good health and warm weather.
I hope that this has helped remove some of the confusion that a few have experienced and we’ll see lots of these cute smocked tops this summer!!! If you have further questions, please ask and I’ll address them in the comments.
Have some fun with your summer stitching!!!