Category Archives: clothing

Too Big, Too Precious

8 yo loving her too large, unhemmed smocked dress


This dress and this little girl make my heart sing.  Our summer has been so full,  so busy, and absolutely fabulous, but this dress is one of the highlights for me.  All this busy-ness is why  it’s been so long since I have posted.

Our pilot son flew the family down from their new home in New Jersey.  11 yo Robert and 13 yo Laurel spent the week visiting with old friends and spending time with their cousin Vivi.  What a wonderful family time that was!  Cousins, pool, golf cart rides, puppies to play with–it was plenty to make them happy.


Robert and Vivian Rose


Robert stayed with us when the rest of the family went home.  The next day we drove to the North Carolina mountains where we stayed at a fabulous cabin.


Now this is a great place to enjoy smocking!


At wonderful Bear Ridge Cabin in Brevard, our daughter Rebecca and Vivian Rose joined us while 8 yo Alastair was spending his last week at Camp Watitoh in Massachussets.   Our mutual friend Zahra and her two children also joined us while the daddies stayed at home working.

The children were just delightful, a special treat for this Nana and Granddad.


After s’mores, the children were all jammied up and ready for bed.


Robert spent most of that week at Camp Ridge Haven and had a wonderful 1st time sleepaway camp experience.


Camp Ridge Haven


And at last, that brings me to the dress at the top of this post.

Zahra is a new and very enthusiastic machine embroiderer but was interested in learning about sewing as well.  She brought along her workhorse Brother ULT 2003D and was ready to try the sewing side of the machine.

I had brought along several “kits” of potential projects and both Zahra and her daughter Aliya chose this pattern.


This is a great pattern!  The shoulder ties and pockets are adorable and have great appeal for a child.


With lime green pique for the dress, orange gingham for the lining, orange whipstitch piping, and a pre-smocked insert, we were ready to sew.

Aliya is an average sized 8 yo but her mother thought making a size 10 would be a safer bet.  She surely didn’t want her first sewing project to be too small.  Zahra did a great job, but as it turned out, the dress was way too large for Aliya.  Still, she loved it!  I mean she reeeeeally loved it!


It is apparent that the dress is too big for this little girl.


The dress literally swallowed up  this darling girl.  Unwilling to wait until she grew into it, she deserved alterations.  Such drastic changes were beyond her mother’s new sewing skills so I did my best to make it fit.

Taking 1/2″ seams along each bodice side seam was a start, but was not enough.  So ties were added and attached at the altered side seams.


No one could ever say this was a well-fittied dress.  But it surely is a well-loved dress!


With the daily activities through the week–tubing, Sliding Rock, the Asheville Zoo, and gem mining–we only sewed at night, after dinner.


6 yo Kaden and 4 yo Vivi with their “gems.” Vivi is wearing her firefly outfit from two summers ago. I love the CC Jane pattern!


Time ran out before we got to the hem.

Our last day at the cabin we visited another summer camp.  For this outing, Aliya begged to wear her new dress, even unhemmed.  It was impossible for her mother to deny the child the joy she felt wearing her first mama-made dress.

Now Zahra wonders if the dress might be worn out before Aliya grows into it!  Can you think of many things sweeter than an 8 yo loving her first smocked dress this much?

Almost as sweet as Aliya’s delight is the fact that every single element of this dress was purchased at an absolutely wonderful facebook group, Smocking Destash.  This is like an on-line yard sale with only sewing items.  Many are used, some are new, some are long since out of print.  But all are at very low prices.  of course, it is a great place to clear your shelves of unused, outgrown patterns and fabric you just never got around to using.

It is a “secret” group, which means you have to be added by an existing member.  That keeps it very safe and there are, to my knowledge, no bad transactions.  If you have any interest in joining, drop me a note as a comment below this post or at

Meanwhile,  life is good  for the Fergusons and the summer has been great. My dear husband had knee replacement surgery 2 days after we returned from NC.  Rather than go to rehab he opted to come home.  It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to care for him, though his recovery is so remarkable that he requires not nearly as much care as I expected.

As I said, life is good.  I hope your summer is going well and you are getting more sewing done than I am!



“ that I love!”


our 4 yo grandson ready for the fireworks


Every day I am grateful to be living here in the USA, truly the “home of the brave, land of the free…”

We’re all eager to celebrate our nation’s birthday.   But it is important to pass our love and appreciation for the liberty we enjoy on to our children and grandchildren.

Special children’s clothing for the July 4th holiday shows them that this is an important celebration.  Since my grands are all far away this Independence Day, I’ve looked back at a few earlier celebrations with and for them.

This was granddaughter Vivian Rose’s first July 4th.



Our two older grands wore these outfits one summer.



Of course, the holiday specific food is also important—and enjoyed.


18 month old granddaughter Vivian Rose loves her corn on the cob!




always a favorite–cupcakes with tiny American flags


Sewing up some Americana is another expression of patriotism.  This mini quilt hung from our old farm bell which the children rang to call the family to dinner.



A pillow made from a linen guest towel is a quick project.  This sits on the wicker couch on my back porch.



I’ve wanted to make this Marcia Layton quilt for so long, but as yet it’s just a patriotic dream.  Her use of yo-yo’s is just delightful.



Celebrate our country’s birthday with kids’ clothes, home dec projects or traditional July 4th food.  But do celebrate!



May  God bless America!


Children and Puppies=Inevitable Damage

Children and puppies–I do love and enjoy them.  Damages are to be expected and the children who are the light of my life  never fail to deliver in their younger days.



Recently, Vivian Rose, 4 yo, was here for a week of Nana Camp.  She is a scamp so I rarely let her out of my sight.  But one  day she slipped away while I was on the phone.  She was wearing her back-to-school Children’s Corner Jane.


At the top of her head is what Vivi calls her “fountain.” This was her signature look for a few weeks at the beginning of the last school year. She loved it.


As I turned away from  the kitchen sink, Vivi stood behind me, looking quite artificially serene.  Her outfit was streaked with what looked like peach sidewalk chalk marks.


Vivi’s back to school Jane.  After laundering the stain remains


“What’s on your shirt, Vivi?”

Smiling sweetly, “Dirt.  Umm hmm.  Brown dirt.”

“It doesn’t look like brown dirt.”

Big blue eyes widen as she replies, “Well, the red polish was vewwy vewwy high u—uh, I mean…. it’s brown dirt.” She smiled and walked away.  End of subject.  What she lacks in honesty, she makes up for in creative explanations.

After laundering, the “brown dirt” still remains.  I can’t imagine what she got into in such a short period of time.  She had to leave the kitchen, run through the dining room, down the hall, up a flight of stairs, across that hall, through our master bedroom, and into the master bath.

The red polish is, indeed,  “very, very high up”  in  a wall cabinet above an antique wash stand. Vivian Rose travels fast and climbs high.  But the outfit is a year old so the loss was not great.

We had a grand time.  She loves to dump out  my button jars to sort and play with the novelty buttons, especially those which are heart shaped.  She sewed a kitty cat keychain.  Sewing is always a favorite activity with all 4 of my grandchildren.


Getting started on a keychain.


While she was here it was time to have pictures taken for our church directory.  She happened to have with her a white smocked pinafore that her mother had worn 35 years earlier.  It’s a little too big, but I loved seeing her wear it.


35 year old Little Sunday Dresses pinafore, smocked with Ellen McCrn’s monogram.


That Little Sunday Dresses Pinafore  pattern by Florence Roberson is a treasure.  Notice the armscye.  It is wide and square, with ties to draw it up to fit the child.  It can be worn for at least two years.

And she loved playing with our Shepherd/Great Pyrenees mix puppies.   Samson and Delilah are crazy about her.


4 month old Delilah is kissing Vivian all over her face and neck. Vivi is squealing with delight. Crabby 11 yo yellow Lab Rastus looks on with disgust at Delilah’s unseemly behavior.


But these pups, too, have taken their toll.

Confined to the utility room for a short while, they helped themselves to a few books from my homeschool library shelf around the corner.  I guess they wanted a good read that they could really get their teeth into.  Anne of Green Gables and  Greek Legends  are only legendary now.


The plastic bin of puppy chow covers a large area of unraveled carpet.Who needs carpet?


They’ve eaten the upholstery off the back of one dining room chair.  But dear Bob says not to worry! We can just put that chair in the hall against the wall.  They have chewed the binding and fringe from the dining room rug and eaten shoes and slippers.  But that still seems like small potatoes to me compared to earlier pups Jacob and Esau.

Those  black Labs were Olympic gold medalists when it came to damage.  Their biggest score just broke my heart.

A year prior to the “incident,” Capitol Imports had asked me to make an heirloom quilt for their traveling trunk show.  They sent a king’s ransom in laces, Swiss batiste and all manner of  trims.  Six weeks of work later, the 60″ square quilt was lovely in my humble opinion.  Capitol agreed.  It toured  the world with them.



I loved their champagne Swiss and trims.  Combined with pink lace tape and pink satin ribbon, and free motion quilting, the scrappy design was elegant.


I asked if I could borrow the quilt to show at a class I was scheduled to teach in Orlando.  Somehow, the dates were mixed up and the quilt had not arrived when I left for class. Later the FedEx delivery person simply threw the box over the fence. and drove off.  Dum da-da dum….

On my way home after class. I called my husband.  He said that Jake and Esau had chewed something up.  “What?” I asked.

“I don’t know what it is–something white and fluffy.”  I had no idea that it was my quilt.  At home, the quilt was a pile on top of the freezer, with nothing much to identify it but all the batting that had spilled out.



I was actually nauseous when I realized what had happened.  How could I tell Capitol?



How much would it cost to replace the materials and of course, the time recreating the quilt?




Monday morning Capitol called, cheerfully asking if the quilt had arrived in time for my class.  I didn’t even have time to prepare mentally.   I just blurted out that my puppies destroyed the quilt and I’m soooo sorry!!!!

There was a brief silence and then….and THEN…this lovely lady said she understood.  Her puppy had eaten a new shoe that morning.   I hardly thought that crime compared to Jacob and Esau’s evil act.  But her kindness was so appreciated.

She went on to say that if at any time I wanted to remake it, just let them know and they would send replacement supplies!  How amazing was that???

I never did remake the quilt.  It still lies folded up in my linen closet, a reminder of another day, another time, another beauty lost to puppy teeth.  Beauty is fleeting, don’t they say?

But the damage of children and puppies, as I said before, is small potatoes.  It does not make me any less eager to see them and to have them included in our lives.  It helps me focus on bigger issues, like what will I sew next?

What will you sew next?


Bubbles for Brother and Sister

Mickey Roadster bubble

Minnie Roadster bubble


What fun I had stitching these bubbles with the new Brother Mickey Roadster designs!  The digitizing is just excellent, with so much detail and such appealing, bright colors.  Children will love these.

The bubbles are featured at Brother’s blog, Stitching Sewcial, with detailed instructions, especially for the applique’ function on their Dream and Quattro machines.

Embroidery is straight stitched in place while in the hoop before it is completed with a satin stitch surround.


Minnie’s design is applique’s in place with with a straight stitch.  The fabric was cut closely to the stitching.  Then the satin stitch was worked flawlessly around the design, as shown on Mickey’s bubble.

Mickey’s roadster is very masculine.  Note the perfect tracking of the satin stitch around the unique shape of the design.  This was all done in the hoop.




The pattern is another delight, including two versions each for boy and girl.  I’d love to make every one of these.



Babies are so cute in bubbles.

Now that these are finished, I’m back to embroidering more camp logo shorts for 8 yo Alastair’s return to summer camp.  I just grin when I work on these, remembering the happy times I had at Camp Watitoh more than 50 years ago.  Bob and I met my ssecond summer there when we were counselors.  He taught sailing and I taught water skiing.  It just tickles me that Alastair is enjoying the specialof the Berkshire Mountains and having a wonderful camp experience.

So what are you sewing now?  Summer projects?  Or are you already on back-to-school garments?  I’d love to hear about it.


Maggie B’s Ode to Joy Dress



Maggie Bunch has created a new classic with her Ode to Joy pattern.  I love everything about this dress–quick smocking, easy construction, use of coordinating print and the comfort of a pull-on dress or playtop with no buttons to fuss with.  It is smocked front and back with only about 90 pleats sleeve to sleeve.



Ode to Joy was first taught by Maggie as a class project at Sewing at the Beach and she is now offering it as an on-line sew-along class.  She has given several sew-along, smock-along classes, reasonably priced at $25.  They are a bargain at any price.

Step by step, Maggie sews along with you and posts even more detailed photos in the process.   She is also  is available to answer questions.  The class begins mid- June.  Registration is limited so if you are interested, check it out ASAP on her website here.   

I learned so much making this little dress.  Sewing and smocking on a border print requires some special considerations and Maggie addressed them all.   Reading how she adjusts the garment pattern to accommodate the border fabric pattern others was so comforting.  I don’t EVER want to go  through trying to match side seams and the front button closure as I did on CC Jenni Leigh.  Now I can figure out a way to match the print more easily on most patterns.


Note the side seam near the yellow dashed line.


I first saw this dress made up in the same Michael Miller Swan Lake fabric on one of the smocking/heirloom sewing lists and just fell in love with it. I wish I could recall who made the dress so I could thank her for the inspiration.  The dress was modeled by an absolutely adorable,  curly red-haired child.  I HAD to make it. Already, my plate was full to overflowing, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Locating the fabric required an hour-long internet search.  Everyone, it seemed, was sold out of this charming print. Finally, I located a shop in Washington state which had both Swan Lake and the coordinating print in stock.

Vivian has been adamant that she only likes garments with kitty cats, hearts and rainbows.  To my surprise, the success of the pink bishop for which I had no hope, was due to the fact that there were hearts in the smocking.  Hearts in the smocking?  I can do that!

You can see  that the Swan Lake smocking is heavy with hearts, just what Vivi loves.  I expect she will wear this dress quite happily.  She arrives her on Memorial Day for a week of Nana Camp.  Film at 11.


Meanwhile, I sent the photo of the little red-haired girl wearing the dress to my Rebecca and gave her some persuasive arguments to convince 4 yo Vivi that this was the dress for her.  Yeah!

“Tell Nana no thanks.  I only like dresses with kitty cats, hearts or rainbows.”

Rebecca went to persuasion #1.  “Nana says if you will wear this dress and be happy, she will then make you another kitty cat dress.”

Vivi:  “Tell her to just make the kitty cat dress.”

Rebecca went to persuasion #2:  “Nana really wants to make this swan dress and if you don’t want it she will give it to Eloise (our pastor’s 4 yo daughter).”

Vivi: ” Ok, ok, ok.  I’ll wear the dress and be happy.  I don’t want Eloise to get the kitty cat dress.”

The fine print of that proposal went right over her curly head.  Whew!


Opinions Change–Hurrah!

Children’s Corner Gwen with lengthened sleeve ruffles.


Granddaughter Vivian Rose, 4 yo, has always had strong opinions about her wardrobe.  Her taste in fashion has been less than classic, requiring bribes  for her to wear many of the garments I have made her.

But now she has changed her mind!!!!  She is asking for more Nana dresses!

It’s like she is recognizing her femininity, the flip side of her (Tarzan’s) Jane or Moana Strong Female persona.



I love this picture, taken when the family was on a camping trip last weekend. She looks like an Amazon girl, bringing home the 5 yo “man” she bagged!

Last week, I sent a package with Harry Potter clothes for her 8 yo brother, Alastair.  This lace trimmed second-hand Rose confection was included just so there would be something for her.  Better to receive something she did not like than to receive nothing at all and assume Nana didn’t love her as much as Big Brother.

Her mother was shocked when Vivi squealed, “I love it!”  Hurrah!  She would wear it at her school program in a few days.

When Vivi came to breakfast the next day wearing the pink smocked bishop, Rebecca reminded her that they were saving that dress for the school program.  Vivi was not happy. She wanted to wear it to school that very day.


This is not a face you want to see at the breakfast table.


But Rebecca relented and Vivi was delighted, willingly posing for pictures before heading off to preschool.


The ruffle sleeve edge is trimmed with lace, pinstitched in place.


Back is closed with plastic snaps. Ribbon bows are tacked to the snaps at the end of each ribbon inserted into the smocking.


Of course, I was thrilled with this change of opinion.  I was doubly pleased because the dress has been hanging in the nursery closet for some time, waiting for Vivi to grow into it.  When I showed it to her when her family was here for Easter, she told me “no, thanks.”

But as she said when she called to thank me, she said, “I didn’t like it then, but I love it now!”


The same lace was inserted above the hem, also pinstitched.


The lace is one of my dearest treasures. Mr. Russell, owner of the renowned lace wholesaler M.E.Feld Co., always generously shared his wealth of knowledge about the kinds of lace and its history. He always patiently answered my many questions when we spoke on the phone as I placed my order. It was his practice to send his customers a huge box of lace from which to choose. The unwanted, or in my case, over budget items were then returned.



In one of these boxes, whose arrival usually put me into a state of hyperventilation, there was a bolt of lace, wrapped on a blue card and marked “Made in France,” just like the others. But this one said “100% nylon.” Mr. Russell explained that these were called “levers” lace (though I have since seen it spelled “leavers”) and were just as fine as the cottons, but intended for lingerie or other items which would be subjected to heavy and/or frequent laundering.

Technically a galloon with a decorative edge on both sides, it is straight enough to be used as an insertion as well as an edging.  For more information about galloons, check out this post Antique Lace Galloons.  You will see that other galloons have been used as edgings as well as insertions.

This is especially appropriate for a dress for Vivian Rose.  Her mother’s aversion to ironing (I’m talking about my daughter–this is clearly a genetic mutation) means that not only the cotton batiste which tumbles nicely but the lace will be presentable right out of the dryer.

The dress was made about 20 years ago for our god child whose mother returned it for Vivian’s use.   So I was doubly pleased for the dress to have a second chance at being worn.

FYI, Rebecca asked Vivi’s teacher for mercy with regard to the dress.  This sweet lady directed Vivi in such a way that the dress came home on our rough and tumble little student from school totally unscathed and intact.  It required nothing more than laundering to be ready for the school program.  What a miracle!

Sigh…I am one happy Nana.


More Harry Potter

Harry Potter Gryffindor crest on shirt and Hp golden snitch on shorts


Grandson Alastair, 8 yo, is still enchanted with the Harry Potter series.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, prior to HP, this 2nd grader was a good but unenthusiastic reader.  Now he can’t put the books down and is an excellent reader with a greatly enlarged vocabulary.  His college English major Nana couldn’t be more pleased.


reading Harry Potter while waiting for  his orthodontist appointment


So I’m feeding his literary enthusiasm with Hp embroidered items, like the Gryffindor crested shirt and the shorts with the prized golden snitch shown above.  The designs were all found on Etsy.




He was absolutely delighted with the 9 3/4 applique shirt I sent last week.


This  is Alastair modelling his shirt just moments after he opened the package. This design I arranged myself in my Brother PE-Design is free for the asking. Just leave your request in a comment below.


This black shirt  was also included in the package I sent today.  The Marauder’s Map embroidery really tickles me because I love the fun that comes with glow-in-the-dark thread.  The footprints are stitched in Superior’s NiteLite but I couldn’t wait until dark to take a picture of the glowing tracks.   You can use your imagination.

FYI:  from— “The Marauder’s Map is a magical document that reveals all of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Not only does it show every classroom, every hallway, and every corner of the castle, but it also shows every inch of the grounds, as well as all the secret passages that are hidden within its walls and the location of every person in the grounds, portrayed by a dot.”



I thought this sleeveless black tee was perfect for the bad boy image the design projects. It’s funny because our compliant,responsible,  obedient, well-behaved little guy is anything but a bad boy.  He can do a little role playing while wearing this.



He can do a little role playing while wearing this.

Just in:  Alastair playing the bad boy.


It’s really ridiculous that I spend so much time trying to get exactly the look that I want.  It’s likely that Alastair neither notices nor cares that the applique’ fabric is fussy cut to show the vintage compass.

It is part of a fabric collection celebrating the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. The print is of an antique map, much like the one  explorers used when–you know what’s coming—

“In 14 hundred and 92 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  October 12th they sighted land, And set their feet upon new sand.”

I wasted precious time searching unsuccessfully on-line for old map fabric, then studied all the tan fabrics in my stash, even checking the wrong side hoping to find an old parchment look.   My thoughts returned to an earlier post, How Good is Good Enough?     I was so pleased when I found just what I wanted right there on a shelf in my sewing room, a piece I had long since forgotten.

The footprints caused me no end of grief.  That thread does not like short stitches and each footprint has a multitude of tie off stitches at the beginning and end of both the foot and the heel.  For each of the first two footprints, I rethreaded at least 5 times after the thread broke.

I soon figured out that one or two tie offs was adequate, then advanced the design stitch by stitch until they were longer.  Still the back is messy and there were some thread breaks.   The design includes 18 footprints, 9 above and 9 below the text and map.  In frustration, I skipped the last two which would have completed the circle next to  “I”.    In retrospect, I would have had fewer problems if I had resized the footprints a bit larger.

Now I’m off to embroider more Crookshanks (Harry Potter) kitty cat shirts for Vivian Rose.  I had to include something in today’s package for her so an unphotographed Second Hand Rose pink smocked bishop dress was included.   But without a cat, rainbow or leopard skin component, I doubt she will wear it.

So what are you sewing for summer? for your children or grands?  I’d welcome the sight of some stitching other than Harry Potter.



Free Harry Potter Design

free applique’ design 9 3/4, the train platform where students board the Hogwarts Express.  Request the designs by leaving a comment at the end of this post.


Our daughter and her family recently spent the day at Universal Studio’s Harry Potter World in Orlando.  What a grand time they had!


“I don’t want to share with my sister.” “Ok, Daddy can drink it.” “I want to share with my sister.”


It’s no surprise that Alastair would be so smitten with Harry Potter.  Both of his parents are rabid readers and great fans of the books and movies.   Before Alastair, their first child, was born they asked me to sew a Harry Potter themed nursery for him.

The Harry Potter  books have had such a great impact on 2nd grader Alastair, 8.  Before he began the Harry series, he was a good reader but he did not enjoy it.  Every night as he sat down to read for the required 20 minutes, he dreaded it.  Once he began reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, he couldn’t wait for reading time, finishing hoework and chores quickly to have extra time.  He read on the school bus, at the orthodontist office, and at every possible opportunity.

He even reads to his beloved NanNan when he visits her.  Of course, his wand is at hand.


Alastair and his beloved NanNan


His reading comprehension, speed,  vocabulary,  and spelling skills have sky rocketed.  He is just finishing book 6 and can’t wait to move on to book 7.

At Universal, Alastair bought his very own Hogwarts robe.  Just where he plans to wear it outside Harry Potter World I can’t guess.  But he loves it.

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Style Conflicts

CC Charlotte top and Parker Pants shorts–she likes it!!!!  I love the Confederate jasmine in bloom.  The scent is heavenly.


I doubt I’m the only Nana who has issues with what I want to sew and what a child wants to wear. My passion for sewing for my grandchildren and the fashion preferences of 4 yo Vivian have been at odds more and more frequently as she grows.  Even at a very early age she had strong preferences for her outer wear.  As you can tell from the name of my blog, I am an old fashioned Nana.  Vivi is a modern child, 2 generations removed.


enjoying Butterbeer at Harry Potter World

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Beautiful Easter ’17

What a hambone! This little girl in her smocked Swiss voile bishop loves the camera.


I hope you all had a joyous Easter.  Ours was beyond fabulous, with a beautiful worship service and all four grandchildren and their parents for the weekend.  It could only have been better if our pilot son had not  been flying out in the wild blue yonder.

It was a non-stop celebration.  Saturday morning a church family hosted an Easter egg  hunt for 40+ children.  Wonderful as the hunt and the huge bounce house were, the highlight for most of the children was fishing in the pond.  Those fish were hungry and hit on every line.  Every child caught at least one fish. Grandson Alastair, 8, caught 4!  He was ecstatic.



Vivian Rose also caught a fish but she seemed more disgusted than thrilled.  She was happy to have her daddy’s help dealing with her catch.  She looked so cute and comfortable in her Petite Poche Penny. Continue reading