Thursday, February 6, 2014

Smocking Plate for the Green Fairy Dress

As you recall, I had to come up with something simple to smock on the Green Fairy Dress.  My daughter calls it her "Tiana" dress--after Disney's movie "The Princess and the Frog."   It was pleated with a layer of non-pressable, non-creaseable polyester sparkle organza overlaid on a polyester non-creaseable crepe.   Not the best stuff in the world to smock on because it wouldn't hold a crease and I had to mostly hand-gather it.  Due to these limitations, I needed to come up with a beautiful yet simple smocking plate.  So...this is what I did on the dress.

The notes written on the diagram could be followed, but after working on it I realized it would have been easier to start on row 3 so the smocking would go from the top down.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Note that a bead is strung into the smocking every time a trellis touches another row.
  1. Start at the center of row 3 and do a 3-step trellis down to row 4.
  2. Go to row 4 and do a 3-step trellis up to row 3 to complete the diamonds.
  3. Do a cable on rows 1, 2 and 5.
  4. Start at the center of row 6 and do a 3-step trellis down to row 7.
  5. Do a 3-step trellis down from row 7 to row 8 to make a diamond.  (Repeat these two rows for rows 9 & 10).
  6. Cable row 11.
  7. Start at the center of row 12 and do a 3-step trellis down to row 13.
  8. Do a 3-step trellis from row 14 up to 13 to complete the diamond.
  9. Cable rows 15 & 16 to complete the design.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Smocking Heart Plate for 18 Inch Bishop Doll Dress

If you scroll through the past tutorials, you will see one done on a Bishop's Dress.  In it I made a pattern for an 18 inch doll dress which is free for you to download.  Refer to these tutorials for the construction details.

Bishop's Dress For 18 Inch Doll Pattern

Cutting Directions for the 18" Doll Bishop Dress:
  • Fabric Requirements: 1/2 yard
  • Note: I used a rotary cutter to cut my pieces; however, traditionally they "ripped" the fabric squares and rectangles to ensure the fabric was cut on the straight of grain.
  • Front: Cut one 12 1/2" square, then cut out armholes from the PDF template
  • Back: Cut two rectangles measuring 12 1/2" by 7 1/2", then cut out armholes from the PDF template
  • Flutter Sleeve: Cut two rectangles measuring 3" by 8"
  • Note: Neck will be gathered using the smocking technique into a 10" circle
Here is the smocking plate I made for it.

Starting at the center of row 5 and do a 3-step trellis ups to row 4.  When I do these, I count, "1, 2, 3...Turn,...1, 2, 3...Turn" and so on.

After the first half of the row is done, flip the garment over and do the other half of the row.

Do baby waves on top of row 4 up to the  half space to finish the heart.

Do a cable on rows 2 and 3 to complete the design.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Crazy Ramblings! :)'s a story of one of my smocking adventures:

I visited my favorite local fabric store and asked for a nice, light-weight cotton voile fabric.  Everyone looked at me like I was some kind of lunatic or speaking some forbidden language.  Then, this sweet elderly (probably 70 or so) lady, with a sparkle in her eye came up to me.

"You smock?   I used to love it for my kids.  People your age still do? " she said, excited.

"Yes, well, I try," was my sheepish answer.

"You know, no one does that anymore.  It's becoming a lost art," she said.

"Yeah, but I think it's beautiful and want to do something special for my daughter."

With delight, she took me over to a hidden corner of the fabric store.  This sparkly lady said, "Out here, cotton voile is sold under the brand-name 'Sheer-mist'.  It works great.  Good luck on your project."

Yes, I bought all that was remaining of the ENTIRE bolt.  Don't tell my husband!  It's a safe/published secret---he doesn't read my blogs anyway!  :)  So...if you can't find cotton voile, look for "Sheer-mist" fabric.  Who knew?

So..on another note, did anyone see that Sew Beautiful magazine made a compilation of "The Best" of Australian Smocking and Embroidery Magazine.  It's on sale on magazine stands now.  It has 8 patterns re-printed from this now no-longer being published magazine.  My next couple of projects will be out of it.  I'm so excited!

I have been needing to record the smocking plates (graphs, charts--or whatever you desire to call them) that I made up for some time.   Unfortunately, I just never got around to it.  I live in a part of the world where hand-smocking is really a dying art.   So...I found this tutorial and am going to use it to post the three smocking plates I've made up and tries to show on this blog.

This is the coolest link I have found in the smocking world so far!  I have wondered where to purchase smocking graph paper to create and write my own designs.  I've seen really expensive programs on the internet--but it NEVER occurred to me to use excel to create my own template!  The above link is a tutorial that walks one step by step through the process--and then gives you a down-loadable file to create your graphs with--for free.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Welcome & Happy New Year!

Hello all and Happy New Year!

I've notice I have some new followers.  Is there a tutorial you would like me to do in this New Year?  Any questions you would like answered?  Please feel free to leave me a comment so I can write content you like  and thanks for following!

Here is a dress I smocked for my daughter for Christmas.  Yes, I smocked on navy blue velvet--what was I thinking!  I do not recommend--and neither do the manufacturers--putting velvet through your pleater.  Oh well, it broke some needles but she liked her dress!  I was planning on picture smocking a snowflake on the front yoke, but the velvet pleats were too thick to get adequate coverage by the floss so I just made up this smocking plate and put it on.  Maybe I should diagram out that plate if some of you would like to add it to your own work.

 Sorry for the watermark on the photos, but otherwise there is no way to copyright my images.  I've found people stealing rights to my work this past year, so this is the best way I can protect my rights.

I think she looks cute--and she thinks so too!  The ribbon around the bottom hem and the contrasting piping gave it a nice look I think.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tutorial--Pleating A Square Yoke

Well, it's time to continue with my last post.  As I showed you how to set up a smocking pleater, it's now time to demonstrate how to pleat a square-yoked dress.  In my opinion, this is the easiest to pleat since it is a simple piece of fabric.

First, thread your pleater needles.  You will need a length of thread at least 1 1/2 times the length of your fabric panel.
Use your favorite pattern and cut a square panel for the front skirt.  I like the yoke of this romper and have adapted the legs into a skirt by measuring the finished width of the front smocked panel.

Roll your fabric onto a dowel.

Insert the rolled fabric dowel into the back of the pleater.

As you slowly turn the pleater's handle, gently unroll the fabric under the pleater bar.  Be cautious to ensure proper alignment.  I align the fabric with the grooves in the pleater bar.  If you don't, you could get pleats where you don't want them.

Go slowly and gently pull the fabric onto the threads and off the needles.

You can see how the fabric gathers onto the needles.

As the dress fabric is completed, pull the pleated fabric onto the threads and cut it off the pleater threads.

Layout the smocking guide from the pattern and pin it to your ironing board.  Do the same with your fabric, un-picking the pleats that will be in the seam allowance.  Use your fingers and a hair comb to evenly distribute the pleats across the width of your fabric.  When this is done, tie the gathering threads together at the ends to this finished size.

Steam your pleats to set them in place.  Do not press with the iron, you want your pleats to set up.

This is a close-up of how high my iron is above the prepared smocking pleats.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Tutorial-Replacing the Needles on A Read Pleater

Now wait a minute...I should explain what a smocking pleater does prior to demonstrating how to change the needles!  Sorry about that.  It creates and presses in all of those tiny pleats that smocking stitches are worked across.  Here is a photo of a smocked panel:

Here is a close-up of those tiny pleats a smocking pleater creates. "Read" is simply a name-brand.

It is useful to know that breaking needles on a smocking pleater is rather common.  However, if you haven't replaced the curved pleater needles before, it can be a daunting task.  Since I needed to replace some needles before pleating my next project, I thought I would share this with you.

The first step is to identify which if any needles need replacement.

These two needles are bent up and need replacement.  Notice how they are not in alignment with the back-most needle in the photo.

Another view.  The two needles second from the left hand side are bent.  They are above the plane of the other needles.

Tip the pleater back by resting it on two empty spools of thread.  If you don't do this, all the needles  fall out when the brass roller pins are pulled out.

Pull the brass roller pins to their un-locked position and remove the brass roller bar.  Remove the bent needles and align all the remaining needles for your next project.

Replace the center brass roller and move the pins to their locked position.  Run a piece of waxed paper through the pleater to lubricate the new needles.

Thanks for visiting!  I'm sharing this post with Marlize over at Stitch by Stitch.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tutorial--Assembling A Square Yoke To A Smocked Dress

 This post originally ran in April on my other blog

You may have seen in an earlier post, the beginnings of this project that tells the AS&E Issue this smocked sailor dress was in. To create the dress, I am used the Sea Urchin pattern in pages 36-39 of Australian Smocking and Embroidery Magazine Issue #33 from 1995 (C) Country Bumpkin (now out of print).

Today's tutorial starts out with tips for creating the sailor collar (and some errata I would change in the pattern instructions regarding the collar) and then will proceed to attaching the square yoke bodice to the smocked skirt of the dress.  I still haven't set in the sleeves, but hey, it's Work In Progress Wednesday--so maybe by Wednesday night, I'll set the sleeves in and update this post!  :)


The first thing needed to be done was to iron fuse interfacing to linings of the collar pieces--both the lining and outer pieces.  I like to fuse the interfacing with the fabric down and interfacing on top (with glue dots touching the fabric).  The reason is that the glue dots will not gum up your iron and it protects the finished outer fabric from possibly being scorched.

Applying the ribbon to the outer sailor collar can be troublesome.  If the ribbon is simply pinned in place, it bubbles, the corners won't miter and it will--yikes---MOVE under the presser foot of your sewing machine.  I got around this problem by glue-basting the ribbon in place using a Dritz water-soluble fabric glue.  It washes out.  I pinned the mitres of the ribbon corners and glued the straight lines of the grosgrain ribbon down.  I chose to sew the inside of the ribbon down first as it caught the inner puckers of the ribbon's mitre which created a finer finish.

This step is where I had some trouble with the instructions.  The pattern said to baste the collar (triangle pieced) insert to the two large collar pieces then attach the yoke to this collar by sewing the outer fabric and lining on top.  Ummm, if the collar insert is basted there, you can't flip the lining into the dress!!!  Annoying, it took me two hours to figure that out--so hopefully this post saves someone some time!  :)  I finally un-picked the triangular collar insert, attached the right and left yokes to the collar and then sewed in the collar insert.  It was necessary to insert it in between the yoke and the yoke lining then whip stitch the lining closed.  Alternately, if you don't mind a raw edge on the inside of your garment, you can just top stitch it on, by stitching through the yoke with the collar up.


Needless to say, I was very happy by the time I got to this step--something I was familiar with!  To attach the skirt to a square yoke, place the yoke and the skirt right sides together.  Put the smocking on top to ensure that the pleats do not get crushed under the sewing machine.  If you choose to use piping, you will need to use a zipper foot to get the straight stitch close enough.  Use the upper-row holding thread as your seam guide so that no hand stitching gets caught in the seam allowance.  Sew a straight stitch down, then neaten the edge with a  zig-zag stitch.  If you're a heirloom sewing perfectionist, sew this line only to the outer yoke, then flip down the lining to whip-stitch it in place.  If you're short on time (or annoyed as I was by the collar mess), it is okay to use the modern technique of sewing both the lining and yoke as one piece into the same seam and skipping the hand-stitching as long as the raw edges are treated with a zig-zag finish (as shown in the photo).
This photo shows the square yoke attached correctly to the smocking.  The left hand side collar is lifted up to show the completed seam.
 Attaching the back square yoke to the skirt is the same for all square yoked dresses, both smocked and plain.  First, I ensure that there is a 1 inch wide strip of interfacing ironed to the lining of the center of the back-yoke piece.  This not only  helps with turning, it also provides stability for the button band in the dress and structure while sewing in the button holes.  When attached the back skirt, I sew the placket according to the pattern directions, sewing it to the inside then flipping it to the outside and top-stitching it closed.  The back skirt is gathered and the placket is then aligned with the center pieced of the dress back (aligned over the interfacing).  In this step, I do not treat the yoke lining as one as I did the front.  I've tired it before and it leaves a raw edge on the opening--instead I do use the heirloom method here.  The skirt is sewn to the back bodice piece, then the back bodice lining is flipped over onto the back piece and whip-stitched closed.  This encases the raw edge created by the placket and seam allowance.

Because this dress is eyelet lace, I wanted to ensure that the bottom seams of the lace aligned.  To do this, I used a French side-seam, starting at the bottom of the lace and sewed backward to the arm holes; thus allowing any ease to be taken or given in the arm hole area.  Traditional methods have you sew the sleeves in first, then sew down the sleeve and dress length, but this creates ease in the hem which would make the lace possibly not match at the bottom.  I'll have to set the sleeves in later...but since it's WiP Wednesday--here's my post for now.  Hopefully later today I can update this showing how I set in the sleeves.  Also, if you were to sew a French "Fancy Band" in an Heirloom sewing skirt, this bottom-up seam would be necessary to ensure all of the pin-tucks and lace inserts align.  Then the sleeves would have to be set in as well.