Perfectly Pretty Top




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!!!

9 thoughts on “Perfectly Pretty Top

  1. Rettabug

    Oh Kathy, I’m SO sorry to hear about all the illness in your family! Sending ~~healing mercies~~ your way & praying for a rapid recovery for everyone. Lots of folks around here have been sick, too. Thankfully not me.

    I love this little top & seeing it done up in that luscious lavender & green print makes me want to start one immediately! I just know Ms. C. would wear a top like this all summer.
    Thanks for explaining in such great detail how you adapted the changes. I must go dig out my issue of SB & make some notations. In fact, I think I’ll print out your entire post & tuck it into the magazine so I have it for future reference.
    Thanks a million for all that you share.

  2. Lori Remington

    Hope you and your family feel better, soon! I made this outfit in the pink, when it was published in Sew Beautiful. I had no problems with it, but maybe that is because I have been sewing so long. I also made it in the pink and white for my great-niece, and it was beautiful! She has long outgrown it, but it is saved for the next one down the road. Thank you for all your beautiful patterns and inspiration!

  3. Kim Pate

    I would love to purchase this pattern since I don’t have that issue of SB, could you let me know where I can get it please? I have a 11 month old grandaughter, I love the simplicity and cleaness of this design. Thank you. Kim

    1. Kathy Post author

      Thank you for the compliment Kim. There’s currently not a stand alone pattern available, but I do think that you can still purchase a downloadable version of this SB magazine from

  4. Theresa Gavula

    I am trying to make the Perfectly Pretty Smocked Peasant Top and Capri Pants from SB 149 Aug/Sept 2013. I am trying to pleat the top and want to know if anyone else has made this and can give me pointers on how to get the front piece to go through the pleater straight? You are to cut our the front piece (including armholes) and press down 1″ on the top and that is run through the pleater with the rest of the top. Since that is thicker, it wants to go through the pleater at a different speed than the rest of the piece that needs to be pleated. Also, since the armholes are cut out, it is really hard to get it started straight. I tried 3 times with piece of fabric and gave up. I started again with a rectangle that has the armholes marked on it, but not cut out. The 1″ at the top is still pressed down. I tried to pleat it and it went crooked again. I don’t have any more fabric as this was a kit so I have to get this right this time.
    Thanks for the help!

    1. Kathy Post author

      I’m sorry you’re having troubles with the pleating. Are you using the handkerchief linen or another lightweight fabric? If you go through very slowly, it should pleat up OK. You can alway draw in some vertical lines with a blue wash out marker to get some visual aides to line up your fabric as it approaches the pleater. I’ve pleated quite a few of these tops without problems as long as the fabric was light weight. Please let me know if it continues to be a problem.


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