Do you have a favorite project with which you are completely satisfied? This size 3 bishop dress is one of only a few that fall in that category for me. It was a pleasure to make and if I were to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Made of cotton batiste, the dress and shoulder ruffle are blue while the neck binding, sleeves and Madeira applique’ hem are champagne colored. The smocked sleeves and shoulder ruffle are trimmed with champagne French lace.
Initially made for a little friend to wear to a wedding, the dress has had more lives than a lucky cat. In its first life at the wedding, the dress was stained with chocolate covered strawberries. This child loved them. There was chocolate alllll over the front and strawberry juice everywhere there was no chocolate. It was a mess. But with my stain stick and Wisk, it came clean.
Next it was modeled at the Brother dealer convention in Denver. After that, it was featured in ads for Brother’s ULT series (2001, 2002D, 2003D). Following that, it appeared on the cover of the instruction manuals for those machines, along with my gingham dog and calico cat quilt.
Every stitch of this dress, except for the hand smocking, was sewn on Brother’s top-of-the-line machine. The little frock showcases the flawless execution of machine’s heirloom stitches and delicate machine embroidery.
Pinstitching along the Madeira applique’ hem and joining the lace to the sleeve and shoulder ruffle was flawless. Delicate feather stitching echoes the pinstitch.
The machine embroidered flowerettes are from Fil Tire’ and Fancywork Elements collection by Suzanne Sawko and me. They mimic the smocked flowerettes. I would be happy to share these designs with readers.
After its 15 minutes of fame from the magazine ads and manual covers, the dress was loaned out to the granddaughters of several friends. Then my own granddaughter, Laurel Cade, wore it to a wedding. And like the Timex watches, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. Now, in near perfect condition it hangs in the nursery closet as I hope for one more granddaughter.
The smocking follows my personal preference for bishops smocked deeply in the front and back with fewer rows at the shoulder. I usually pleat as many rows as I possibly can, though the lower rows across the shoulder pleat very irregularly due to the armhole curve. But these rows will not be smocked so I just keep cranking the pleater across these difficult areas.
At this point, I examine the pleating and determine how many rows will be smocked at the shoulder. If 10 rows are pleated, the peak of the bottom wave will sit on that row at center front. Planning to smock 4 rows across the shoulder, I know the smocking must stagger waves up the front to row 4 at the sleeve seam. It would be easy enough to graph this out, but I don’t graph unless the need is great.
So usually I just sit down and begin smocking the wave at center front on the 10th pleating thread. I eyeball the distance and guestimate how many and how deep the waves must be for me to reach row 4 at the sleeve seam.
Usually, I have to redo this once or twice. But it is only one half of the front so it doesn’t take long. After I have one half of the front successfully smocked to the sleeve seam, I repeat this pattern on the other side of the front. Then the upper rows are filled in with more waves and diamonds.
The pattern is worked across the sleeves and down the back. Sometimes, I just continue the 4 rows (or however many I have smocked) across the back and eliminate the deep V at center back.
I brought this dress with me to our cabin in the mountains of North Carolina so I could photograph it for the blog. But when we return home, it will be hung once again in the nursery closet awaiting its next life.
If you would like the machine embroidery rosette designs, post your request as a comment. I won’t be able to send them out until I get home but will do so as soon as I can.