Novelty Bishop~A Novel Technique

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This little novelty bishop and two others were loaned to a friend many years ago.  I had forgotten all about them until they were returned last week.  Of course, they will end up in the closet of our toddler granddaughter, Vivian Rose, though most of them will have a bit of a wait until she grows into them.

Vivi will probably be 4 or 5 before she wears this classic plaid school dress.

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Excuse the ugly section of my potting shed shown in the background.   It really is nicer than that.  See here.


I don’t know what happened to the Liberty bishop shown below.  The print is uniformly faded, as if it had spent time in a tub with bleach water. But the deep rose floss used for smocking is not faded at all.  Oh, well, it has not lost its inimitable, silky Liberty hand and still has enough life left in it to serve as a pre-school play dress.


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Seeing all three together, I was reminded of how much I like this technique.  So along with the how-to info, I am sharing it again with picturesof these new/old dresses and a few others that have been posted earlier.

So why is it called a “novelty bishop?”  About a hundred years ago I took a pleater class at the first SAGA regional seminar which was held in Spartanburg, SC.  Students were instructed on pleating yoke dresses, sleeves, inserts, bishops and what the instructor called “novelty items.”  Those were smocking projects which fit into none of the above categories, such as Children’s Corner Carol or Trudy Horne’s Toddler Smocked Apron.  So I called this novel technique “Novelty Bishop” and wrote an article for Sew Beautiful magazine.


nov bish Lib smock

I’ve always liked this unique smocking plate, Chinese Chippendale, by Barbie Beck.



Detailed directions for applying this technique to an existing bishop pattern are posted here.


nov bish plaid smock



Note that on each dress there is a trim stitched to the seam line between the smocked fabric and the body of the dress. That is not necessary for construction, but I like the way it defines the smocked area and covers up a utility seam.


nov bish smock



Here are a few other novelty bishops that might inspire you to try one of your own.



This is granddaughter Laurel’s AG doll, Molly, wearing a Liberty of London novelty bishop.  


The substitute fabric is pleated in one long strip across the width of the fabric. No seams.  Hurrah!  But  45 inches is not long enough for sizes above 3 or 4.  After that, two pieces must be seamed together to achieve the width needed to match the circumference of the front, back and  two sleeves.

Still, running just one flat seam through the pleater is much easier than coming face to face with 4 French or zig zagged seams.  That center front seam is open to the right side and pressed before pleating. Then a few pleats are released so the seam can be neatly covered with a tab of fabric to match the skirt.  See the Liberty goat dress below.



For details, see Liberty Goat Dress post. Can you tell that grandson Robert does not want to have his picture taken?


This dress is now being worn by granddaughter Vivian Rose.


Laurel's dress has an ivory yoke over a pale pink skirt.

Laurel’s dress has an ivory yoke over a pale pink skirt.


So what do you think of novelty bishops?  Why not consider this technique the next time you are ready to start a bishop.

Halloween Projects~Quick and Easy

candy jar pumpkinscr



Halloween has never been a favorite holiday of mine but our grandchildren get absolutely giddy with the fun it brings.  This year, I’ve joined in the celebration with sewing projects.

This candy jar was so quick and easy.   Our grandchildren are all big Disney fans so the embroidery design with Mickey and the pumpkin seemed perfect.  It was embroidered on orange felt then glued to a fringed circle of black burlap.  This was glued to a strip of fringed black burlap  then adhered to the jar with double sided tape (one of my all-time favorite sewing notions).

UPDATE:  A cute Halloween Treats design with a pumpkin for the ‘O” is available for free here from Lindee G Embroidery.  She has some lovely designs and lots of freebies.


candy jar alone

After Halloween, I plan to remove the burlap strip from the jar and replace it with a Christmas design and red or green burlap.


I expect that grandson Alastair, 5, will enjoy this Halloween pillowcase.


hall pc crop


Again, the Mickey Mouse design was used along with purple bat fabric and orange grosgrain ribbon.  I liked the way the bat fabric has stars that seem to match the stars in the embroidery design.

Much as I love the turn tube hem technique, the way this one went together was even easier.  The raw edge of the folded hem bat fabric was lined up against the wrong side of the white pillowcase body fabric.  The two pieces were then seamed together.  The seam was pressed toward the white fabric, leaving no raw edges on the wrong side of the pillowcase.


pc raw hem

Notice the thread is white, making it easy to line up the orange ribbon.


Finally, with a glue stick, the orange ribbon was place to just cover the white seam line.  Each side of the ribbon was stitched down with monofilament thread.

I love seeing the delight in their bright eyes when they open the candy jar or go to bed with Mickey and the bats.  It is said that at Christmas the children sleep “while visions of sugar plums dance in their heads.  This Halloween Alastair will be dreaming of candy corn, Mickey Mouse and bats in a starry sky.

Have you made anything for Halloween?




Trick or Treat Bag

treat bag

This sparkly trick or treat bag is a sweet girlie spin on the holiday that is rife with ghoulish images.  What little girl doesn’t love feminine Minnie Mouse, on a broom no less, wearing a coral colored witch’s hat?  And do you know anybody who doesn’t love candy corn?

This project began with a basic black tote 14″ x 14″.  The side and bottom seams were opened first and then the Trick or Treat text was embroidered.


bag  top

Since the embroidery unit was still attached, the next step was to hoop up orange felt and embroider Minnie as she sails past the moon. The design was inserted into one of the built-in frames on my Quattro.  The excess felt was cut away near the black satin stitching and the piece was put aside. Continue reading

Vintage Wedding Napkins

F35~06brideor 37 years now the 8 women who make up PlayGroup Mamas have served as a sisterhood/support system that has enriched each of our lives.  The group also hosts bridal and baby showers for each of our 23 children and does the heavy lifting for their weddings.

Sweet Melissa, the youngest of the PlayGroup Kids, is getting married this weekend.



PGM's host a baby shower for my daughter-in-law Shelly, the young one in the center with the long hair

Here we are, minus one who was out of town.  PGM’s hosted a baby shower for my daughter-in-law, Shelly, the young lady in the center with the long hair. The group includes a university media specialist, veterinary assistant (to her husband), assistant manager of a major airport, four teachers and one passionate needleworker (that’s me).

The troops have been called up to active duty, having already pulled threads for  24 burlap table runners and worked on centerpieces.  Friday and Saturday we will gather at the reception site to set up.

My major responsibility is decorating and I always start with the table settings. As you may already know, I love, love, love textiles and have an extensive “resource center” of household items.

The past few days, many hours have been spent ironing 150 napkins and once again enjoying the beauty and workmanship of these vintage treasures. Some are family pieces, though most were purchased but never bought new.  Each had served on many a  table before it moved to my house.   And of course, they do not all match.  I think that is an advantage as the variety adds interest and elegance to the overall appearance of the dining room.

I spent a lot of my ironing time speculating and daydreaming a biography for them.  Here are a few of my favorite napkins and a bit of their histories, some true and some not.


wed nap set


These lovelies just scream WEDDING!!!  to me.  Each measures only 17″, a tad short of the average dinner napkin size of 20″.  But I don’t care.  I always use them for weddings. Continue reading

Halloween already?

Mickey pumpkin tabletopper outside


As I’m sure you have noticed, the stores have been jam packed with Halloween costumes, decorations and jack ‘o lanterns for a month now.  With all that pumpkin exposure, I couldn’t help but get in the mood to make something to celebrate the season.

I’ve always found that the orange and black signature color scheme just too grim.  But with the addition of purple, the entire Halloween mood is lifted, at least for me.

And my goodness, the fabrics!!!!  In addition to the adorable prints, the currently very popular burlap is available in a rainbow of colors, printed with text, and to my delight, with orange polka dots.  Now that was something I could work with. Continue reading

Beach Baby Outfit

Marcy pattern

I like the way the rick rack bordered yo-yo sun turned out but wish I had placed it further to the side.

Though we’ve been extraordinarily busy, we took a moment to enjoy our first sort-of fall day here in Central Florida.  We actually turned off the AC and our hairy dog Hannah enjoyed napping on the breakfast porch instead of inside.

But after that brief moment, I was off to our son’s house to work on costumes.  Our 10 yo drama-loving granddaughter, Laurel, has written a woodland play which is in high gear production now.  As director, she had her cast of 8 girls alternately rehearsing and working on their leafy, nature-themed costumes.   I was busy sewing a shaggy white fleece stripe down the chipmunk’s brown hoodie and making a pastel colored mane for the unicorn. Who knew that 25 years after purchasing a fringe fork I would finally need and use it?

It was such fun to see all those junior thespians alternately rehearsing their scenes and working on their fairy, gnome, and evil witch’s outfits.  They had scored big at the local Goodwill where they found most of the foundations for their costumes.

But back to fall and the beach baby outfit. Continue reading

Seaside Madeira Table Linens



Making these  table linens was a nice break from sewing for my granddaughters. Fine white linen is paired with lime green and embroidered with a fun blue fish.  This color combination reminds me of the beach, just 30 miles away.

Sitting on the screened breakfast porch, looking out over our front yard with this table setting made me just as happy that I was not roasting on Daytona Beach and scanning the waterfront for sharks.  It’s very peaceful on my porch.  I enjoy pulling out dishes and napkins that coordinate with the setting.

Linen is one of my favorite fabrics and Madeira applique’ is one of my favorite sewing techniques.  Add pinstitching and embroidery–well, just let me tell you I was having a big time!  I never once missed lace or a girlie  angle.  If there is any interest, I would be happy to put up a Madeira applique tutorial.  Let me know if you would find that helpful. Continue reading

New Ariel Design and Outfit

Ariel 1

This bright little outfit features one of Disney’s favorite princesses, Ariel.  Another new Brother design, it is impressively fresh and current.

The pattern for the top is the girl’s jumper from Applique, Martha’s Favorites. Continue reading

Modern Minnie Chills

minnie chill

Have you seen Brother’s  new Disney designs?  I absolutely love them.  So many of them are fresh and contemporary, so well suited to the styles of the day.  As you can see, Minnie is not just black and red any more, but she could still rock those colors  if you like.


Minnie chill emb close

Continue reading

Fishy Swim Suit & Sewing Log


This little ready-to-wear swim suit was embroidered for granddaughter Vivian Rose early in the summer.  Like all Florida children, it is vitally important that she learn to swim and her lessons were beginning in earnest.  Of course, wearing this she was one cute little fishy, but I have no photos of her wearing it.

UPDATE:  My sweet daughter just sent this photo.

Vivian Rose ready to take the plunge.

Vivian Rose ready to take the plunge.

Continue reading