Strawberry Sundress


With the sweet spring weather we have had these past few weeks, I have had sundresses on my mind.  I came across pictures of this little sundress that I made for Laurel the summer that she was two.

Many such sundresses had been made for my daughter Rebecca from that age on, from a pattern that my friend Mary Hale Hoffmann and I made up.  Smocking this garment brought back sweet memories of those days.

Our daughters were the same age and we smocked around the clock for them.  This pattern was so easy and economical that our girls wore them like school uniforms.

We used the armhole curve from Katina, a Children’s Corner sundress pattern with a narrow yoke.  We added the width of the yoke to the armhole curve and voila’ we were in business!



With 30″ down the selvage of 45″ fabric, we had enough for the skirt front and back.  The fabric was then cut at the center fold, rendering two pieces 30″ x 22″.  The 30″ length, down the selvage, became the width, the 22″ became the length.  Pleating and then smocking perpendicular to the straight of grain made us feel like rebels!  The 30″ width allowed plentiful fullness for smocking for sizes up to 4.  Of course, this only works for fabric which has no directional pattern.

On  the raw 30″ edge, the top of the sundress, 3/4″ of fabric was folded down,  a pressed and then machine basted.  The armhole curves were drawn in wish washaway marker and  then the fabric was pleated with 5-7 rows, with the fold running through the first open needle groove.

Since the needles on a pleater are 5/8″ apart,  the raw edge fell between the first and second pleating threads.  The top edge was a clean fold and the raw edges were tucked between pleating threads and, later, under smocking stitches.

The 22″ length was also generous for little ones.  The depth of the hem depended on the child’s height and the desired length.  Of course, little girl dress styles were shorter then, but we always made “bloomers” to cover their panties.  Laurel’s bloomers are embroidered with her name.  If only we had had embroidery machines back then!!!

In addition to the 30″ needed for the skirt front and back, more fabric is needed for fabric straps, bias to finish the armholes  and bloomers.  Of course, these could all be made of contrasting fabric.

Laurel’s dress is made from a soft cotton strawberry print.  The smocking design is Apples and Berries by Ellen McCarn.  The picture shows that the width of dress was much too large for her.  She is a much smaller child than Rebecca was, both at age 2 and every year since.  Later, I cut a piece of white 1 1/2″ wide grosgrain ribbon to Laurel’s chest width measurement.  The smocking was whipped to that for a better fit.

The straps are made of red gingham pima cotton with strawberry fabric applique’d on top.  The straps are knotted rather than tied.  On an earlier sundress, she untied her straps so the knot was to prevent that.

The bloomers are made from the red pima check and embroidered with her name.

She will be six in just 3 weeks.  I’d better forget about sundresses and plan her birthday dress.

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