Florence Roberson and King Tut

our Golden boi LeRoi, 14, with my granddaughter, Laurel, 3, wearing a Little Sunday Dresses pinafore

Remember the smocked pocket pattern featured in a previous post?  Credit was given to Florence  Roberson, designer and owner of the patten company Little Sunday Dresses.

1984~~my gap-toothed Rebecca, 6, wearing LSD pinafore ~see post Little Fawn Pinafore http://www.janicefergusonsews.com/blog/2009/09/06/little-fawn-pinafore/

I had copied it from an old SAGA Newsletter but didn’t know the issue or date.  A smocking friend from long ago, Lorraine Whyte, posted a comment that the pattern was published in the Fall, 1983 issue.  She also informed me that it was included in Little Sunday Dresses Sundress and Panties pattern.  She had used  that pattern to make a Valentine’s dress for her daughter, Monica, who appeared on the cover of Mildred Turner’s 2nd book on heirloom sewing.  Thanks, Lorraine!

Shortly after  that, this comment was posted by Mrs. Roberson’s granddaughter:

Dear All,
I was doing some research on the web and stumbled across this blog and questions about my grandmother, Florence Roberson. She passed away almost 10 years ago at almost 90 years old! In my opinion, she was one classy lady and I adored her. It is really neat to read what others write about her and to know her legacy lives on through smocking. I live in Fayetteville, Arkansas and still meet smockers who use her patterns and say she is a legend. I talk to my own daughter about her all the time. Thanks for continuing with the lost art… it is beautiful………Ann Catherine

see post Out of Retirement Pinafore http://www.janicefergusonsews.com/blog/2009/09/06/little-fawn-pinafore/

I agree heartily with Ann Catherine’s opinion that her grandmother was a classy lady and is now a legend.  Many readers are too young to know much about Florence and others may have come into the smocking world too recently to know much more.  So let me share my recollections of this dear lady.

First, do you all know that she was selected as one of three Master of smocking, when the Smocking Arts Guild of America was in its infancy?  When the Artisan program began, three teachers were “Masters,” due to their experience and expertise.  Florence was one and the others, if I recall correctly, were Elizabeth Travis Johnson and Margaret Pierce.  It was a huge honor and the recognition of their achievements were acknowledged by all who knew anything about smocking.

Years later, Florence and I were both  teaching at SAGA’s national convention in Jacksonville, Florida.  She was probably 70+ years old at the time.  On an off day, I was able to take one of her classes and was charmed by her excellent teaching methods, gentle, Southern charm and class.

That was the year that the King Tut exhibit was traveling around the country.  A highlight of the convention was a private showing of this exhibit at the old Jacksonville train station which had been converted into a convention center.  The closing banquet was to be held there, with all the usual hoopala, followed by brief remarks by an enthusiastic Egyptophile.

It was some distance to the  converted train station and all convention partipants were bused there after class was over.  Some lingered after class and our departure was later than scheduled.  By the time dinner was over and the program was handed over to the lady who was to give us a brief overview of the exhibit, it was well past time for tired teachers to be in bed.  Certainly, it was late for Florence who was 70+ years old at the time.

This historian droned on for more than 90 minutes!!!  We didn’t need to see the exhibit because she told, in painful detail, what we would see.  Finally, it was time to see the Boy King in all his ancient glory.

Security was tight.  We had to be screened by a guard who asked each of us if we carried any concealed weapons.  Florence was just ahead of me in the line and when this question was posed to her, she replied coldly,  “I do not.  If I did, I would have shot that woman more than an hour ago.”  Everyone in hearing distance cheered and gave her a round of applause.  We all loved her spunk.

Our bus was unable to leave at the appointed time because some ladies were so fascinated that they couldn’t tear themselves away.  We finally arrived back at the hotel about 1 a.m. and had to teach the next morning.

2009~my granddaughter Laurel, 5, wearing 25 year old LSD pinafore--Little Fawn Pinafore as shown above

I’ve used several Little Sunday Dresses patterns through the years and always think of Florence when I see them in my pattern boxes.  My all time favorite is the pinafore.

Some were sewn Sew Beautiful for photo shoots, some for my niece and some for my granddaughter.  The patterns are hard to come by, and you will be fortunate if you are able to purchase one.  But if you do,  please remember classy but  spunky Florence Roberson and her trip to see King Tut.








14 responses to “Florence Roberson and King Tut

  1. Debbie Brock

    Oh, Janice! What a wonderful story. Mrs. Roberson sounds just like another spunky lady who was in our church. Mrs. Iduma did her own yard mowing at 80+ years old when she had an accident and her riding lawn mower literally ran over her. She was very small in stature, and was injured, but not fatally. She was furious with her family when they insisted that she not mow her own yard after that. I hope I can be like them at 80!

  2. I LOVE this story! I do have a couple of her patterns and now will treasure them even more. Thank you! The pinafores you made are just beautiful!

  3. Mrs. Iduma sounds like someone Florence would have been friends with. Miss Alice, from our church, was a woman cut from the same cloth. You can read about her at http://www.janicefergusonsews.com/blog/2011/04/02/miss-alices-tatted-yokeanother-re-run/

  4. What a great story! And that’s precisely what I’ll think of when I see those patterns!

  5. Cindy Davis

    I was so thrilled to see your post about Mrs. Roberson!! I had the pleasure of learning to smock from her about 30 years ago. Of course I still have all the class handouts as well as many of her patterns. My one and only pleater was also purchased from her. She was an awesome instructor and a wonderful person!! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thanks, Karen, for your compliments and for reading my blog. I suspect the patterns from Little Sunday Dresses will soon be collectors’ items. But no collector is getting mine!

  7. Don’t you love knowing something personal about the designer? Sewing connects us to those who receive our stitching as well as to those who provided the patterns and inspiration. After the first year in her sorority house, my daughter said that every girl has a story. Likewise, every project we sew has a story, and now you can add Florence Roberson’s King Tut anecdote to any Little Sunday Dresses garment.

  8. Oh, this has to be one of my favorite blog posts… I love this story! I wish I had met her! Keep writing all of your years of stories so they will be remembered!

  9. I used Little Sunday patterns for my daughter and then later for a little sewing business called The Perry Patch. When I finished graduate school and began my practice, I found I did not have time for the business. Now, many years later, I am beginning to smock, construct and sew again. I have been looking for the undies pattern. I found my large, but need the small. Any ideas of where I can find it. Thank you for your help.

  10. Virginia, I have posted your request and will contact you if anyone has this pattern to sell.

  11. Michelle Scarborough

    I had the pleasure of working for Mrs. Roberson in 1985. I was a freshman in high school and came to her house 3 days a week. There I would package up many of her patterns to mail to possibly some of your readers. Every order, every customer was as important to her as her own family. My one regret is that I never learned to smock from this talented lady! At the time, I never thought it would be something that I would need or want to do. Now that I have a daughter, I look back and think “I could have learned from the best”. Mrs. Roberson was a classy, talented, caring, funny lady! I often pass her home while driving my kids to school and my day becomes a little brighter.

  12. What a nice remembrance, Michelle! I’m not surprised that she was as gracious away from her “audience”/students, but it is nice to hear that from someone who had such close contact with her. I’m sorry you didn’t learn to smock from her, but it’s not too late to take a class and pick up a needle. Thanks for sharing your memory of Florence Roberson.

  13. Leigh Roberson

    I am one of Florence’s other granddaughters, Leigh! I also stumbled upon this blog while looking for examples of my grandmother’s handiwork and patterns to show to a colleague. I love the story about Effie (as we called her) and King Tut, and I can absolutely imagine her saying that. Thank you for sharing — I will have to pass the link on to my father and uncle (as I am assuming Ann Catherine’s mother, Florence’s oldest, must already know it).

    I, like Michelle, am sorry that I never learned to smock from Effie. We often sewed clothes for my dolls, and of course I have a million beautiful dresses she made for me. However, I did inherit from her the attitude that I can learn anything if I put my mind to it.

    Thank you again for sharing, and I am so glad that her legacy lives on through all of you!

  14. Leigh, thank you for sharing a few of your remembrances of your beloved “Effie.” She contributed so much to the sewing and smocking world. Apparently, she put as much effort into loving and nurturing her family. One of her greatest contributions, I expect, is passing on the attitude that you can learn anything if you put your mind to it. What a wonderful gift!

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