Category Archives: Freckled Laundry

Baby Bunny Bubble

It’s time to get started on Easter outfits for the grandchildren. In fact, I woulda/shoulda started before now but I am busy working up a design and embroidering tee shirts for Robert and Laurel’s Odyssey of the Mind competition next week.

I’m especially grateful for the 1000 stitches per minute that my Brother Duetta puts out.  The shirts are pretty ugly, but beautifully embroidered (film at 11, or after the competition).  There are other must-do’s but very soon I MUST at least have a plan.

For sewing mothers and grandmothers, there is no greater thrill than to see their little darlings decked out in their most elaborate and special garments, created with love in every stitch.

Those of us who have labored long and hard on these very special holiday garments often find that specific recollections of each Resurrection Sunday are tied more closely to the Easter outfits made that year than to the calendar year. Continue reading

AG Doll Bishop with Centered Embroidery

American Girl doll Marie Grace in her Valentine nightie

For Valentine’s Day, I am making my 7 year-old granddaughter a smocked bishop nightgown and this matching one for her American Girl doll.  If these hadn’t been cut out and pleated up before I got Custom Keepsakes  Sweet Dreams collection, I would be making nighties from that set.  But these have to be finished.

I wanted something a little more interesting than a standard bishop and decided centered embroidery would be a fresh look.  More than once, I have flattened the pleats at center front for embroidery or a tab and never found it to neither difficult nor problematic.

Doing this on a doll sized bishop gave me some unexpected disappointments.  I’d like to share with you what I learned on this little project.

But here are the particulars of the nightie.  The smocking is a design I just made up as I went along,  the fabric is Imperial batiste and the pattern is one I drafted. The embroidery is from Martha Pullen’s Little Pleasures  collection, though it is slightly rearranged.  Laurel’s gown will have the fil tire’ heart for embroidery.

The smocked sleeves were trimmed with French lace and embellished with French knot flowers, a cluster of three in the center and a single knot on either side.

Frankly, this is all nit-picky stuff and probably isn’t worth worrying about on a doll nightgown.  But I wanted to figure out just what went wrong.  If you don’t care, take a quick look at the pictures and move on!  The internet is full of fabulous blogs with interesting, fun posts.

First, in response to Jo’s question, just how do you prepare a bishop with center front embroidery?

  • Pleat the bishop as usual, but with extra long threads and with the center front marked.
  • Pull up each pleating thread at that center mark and cut.  Be sure to pull up enough thread that you can easily tie a hefty knot.
  • Remove the threads from enough pleats to accommodate the embroidery design.
  • Knot each of these cut ends.
  • See a flat center with a vertical row of knots on either side.

The problem I ran into was the neckline and binding.  First, in order to correct the inevitable dip in the hemline at center front, I always draft (or use patterns) with a straight neckline. Here is how I do it and then you will see what I should have considered for a doll pattern. FYI, I always use 1/2″ seam allowance at the neckline which I adjust on patterns that have a smaller seam allowance.

  •  After cutting out the pieces, I fold the front in half, with the fold running down the center front from neckline to hem.
  • Then I mark a dot 1/2″ below the top edge on the fold.
  • With a rotary ruler and cutter, I cut from the dot on the fold to the seam line of the front shoulder.  This removes a folded wedge from the neckline, making it 1/2″ shorter at center front.  The gentle taper causes no difficulty with pleating.
  • After sewing the pieces together, I run a machine sewn 3.0 length gathering stitch 1/4-3/8″ from the raw edge.
  • The bishop is pleated with the first pleating thread 1/2″ below the neck edge, which puts it right on the seam line.

So far, so good.  Then for center embroidery, I remove the pleating threads from that area as detailed above.

So what is the problem?  The neckline.

1.  The flat, embroidered section, 1-1/4″ wide has very little curve to it.  If there had been pleats there, the slight taper of neckline would have been greater at the center front.

As I thought about it, I recalled that approximately 3″ of flat fabric pleats up to 1″.  So the center 1-1/4″ of binding would have used up  3-3/4″  of fabric that had been tapered.  That leaves the center front much straighter.

I’ll have to check with my husband, the engineer, to figure out just how that could be corrected.  But I know it should have been a deeper curve.

2.  The flat, embroidered section has no bulk to fill the bias binding.  I don’t recall this being a problem with earlier flat center bishops, but maybe I wasn’t as picky  then.

As I was applying the binding and came to the flat section, I discovered that I had two choices, neither of which I liked.  The first was to fold the bias over just as I had on the smocked section.  That left the bias much wider, because it had nothing to wrap around.

The same amount of bias could wrap around thick pleats and measure 3/16″ in width while the flat section had nothing to fill it and measured 1/4″.  Does that make sense to anyone who has plowed through this minutiae?

The other option, was to wrap the bias over the same distance, and then stitch the excess width further down on.  But it shadowed through.  I chose this option as the lesser of two evils.  In retrospect, I probably could have just twisted a narrow strip of batiste to use as filling.

You can see the excess bias shadowing through the batiste above the embroidery.

Well, I could go on about how I wish I had lowered the embroidery and/or smocked fewer rows in the front, but this is more than anyone wants to read.  And it’s more than I want to write about.  I still have Laurel’s nightie to smock so I will move on to that.

Are you sewing/smocking/embroidering any Valentine’s gifts?  Tell us about it.


This is my post for Freckled Laundry and Pink Saturday.

Judith Dobson and the Tea Dress

This is my post for Freckled Laundry’s Air Your Laundry Linky party.


From the 1989 version of the Tea Dress, this one is made of white Swiss batiste, ivory lace and entredeux, with a blue broadcloth underdress.

Laurel’s Easter dress has had its final press and is on a hanger, ready for Sunday. After a 22 year wait for someone to wear it, I have finally stitched this beauty. Since finishing it, the dress has been in my thoughts quite a lot. While my hands were occupied with mindless tasks like piping and machine embroidery for the grandsons’ outfits, my mind wandered over details of the garment.


Bodice features fil tire’ and surface embroidery. Except for a few French knots, all embroidery was done on my beloved Brother Innovis 4500D.

I couldn’t help but think about Judith Dobson, designer of this pattern. She seems to have dropped out of the sewing world, at least from my range of sight. Still, I have no doubt that she is out there, stitching fervently, beautifully and perfectly. As the mother of five children, including twin girls who modeled her creations for Belles and Beaus ads in Sew Beautiful and Creative Needle magazines, she likely became too busy to spend much time way from home since I last saw her. Now, with any luck, she has grandchildren to dress.

I’d like to share some recollections I have of this amazingly accomplished needleworker who has patterns, magazine articles, a book and more to her credit. Her background and experience is extensive.

I first met Judith when we were both teaching at Martha Pullen’s school in Huntsville. She taught a variety of hand embroidery classes, most notably shadow work and cutwork. Students lined up to get in her classes to learn how she stitched such stunningly beautiful designs.

Bodice back shows machine embroidered buttonholes. Flip flop lace is pinstitched above the puffing band and lace ruffle.

Bodice back shows machine embroidered buttonholes. Flip flop lace is pinstitched above the puffing band and lace ruffle.

Later, we roomed together in Jacksonville, Florida, where we were both teaching. I think it was a Classic Classes event, with Judith, Mildred Turner, Cindy Foose and Janet Hyde. Or it might have been the SAGA National Convention…whatever. There in Jacksonville we became much better acquainted and I certainly enjoyed our time together.

Sprigs of floral embroidery rest between ecru mother-of-pearl buttons from Farmhouse Fabrics.

Sprigs of floral embroidery rest between ecru mother-of-pearl buttons from Farmhouse Fabrics.

I learned that she and her five children had lived in Saudi Arabia for several years where her husband worked as an executive with an oil company. She described a culture which prohibited women from driving. That shocked me. Returning home to the United States was a great joy to her.

For some time, Judith gave children’s etiquette classes, serving high tea and lessons on propriety and manners. She also offered small group handwork schools when she lived in Colorado.

In addition to her design work, her children, of course, kept her very busy all day. But she carefully scheduled her time so that every evening, from 7-11 p.m. she stitched.

Her children must have been very well behaved. And her husband must have been very helpful and supportive. With just two children, Bob and I could hardly get baths, stories and homework finished by 9:00! I should have asked her for a class in time management.


Straight sleeves are embellished with more flip flop lace insertion and machine embroidery.

In Jacksonville, Judith graciously agreed to share our suite with my mother who arrived the second day of the school. When I called to extend the invitation, I chattered about what a gracious lady Judith was. Mother looked forward to meeting her.

While Judith and I were in class, my mother arrived at the hotel, picked up the key from the front desk and went to the room to get settled in.

She walked in the door just as a naked, dripping wet man stepped out of the shower to see who had entered!

Scandalized, my mother stormed out of the room and waited in the lobby until time for lunch, when I joined her. She was seething as she pulled me aside to speak privately.

Petticoat has 4 rows of lace, extending the too-short dress to an acceptable length.

Petticoat has 4 rows of lace, extending the too-short dress to an acceptable length.

“That Judith is NO lady! ” she sputtered through clenched teeth. “She has a man up there! We are NOT staying with her. I’m getting another room for the two of us!” Righteous indignation radiated from her black eyes.

Of course, Judith WAS a lady. The hotel had given my mother the wrong room key and we all had a good laugh about it. Actually, my mother only smiled politely. Since that incident, she has been unable even to say “Jacksonville” without a rise in her blood pressure

Older issues of Sew Beautiful feature many of Judith’s designs and articles. She purchased the Belles and Beaus pattern company from Betty Rast in Alabama and added to the extensive offerings of the company’s handwork collection. These patterns are spectacular and I am pleased that in my sewing room I have nearly every Belles and Beaus pattern published. Her lovely book, Roses and Delicate Embroidery, is like a work of art, with watercolor illustrations and careful stitch diagrams.

I haven’t seen or spoken to Judith in many years. In 2007, we were both scheduled to teach at Martha Pullen’s school in Huntsville and I looked forward to a little reunion. But there was some complication and she didn’t come. That was the last news I have about her.

I’m grateful to her for the beautiful Tea Dress pattern, first published in 1989. I am also grateful that it is now available for thos who do not have a 22 year old Sew Beautiful packed away. And I hope Judith is happy and well, wherever she is.

Lemon Meringue Pie



Frothy and yellow and sweet, this dress reminds me of lemon meringue pie, which, incidentally, is on my Easter dinner menu.  Laurel will look like dessert!

I know that too many pictures of this garment have already been posted.  From gathering supplies, to slip construction,  and even the complications, it has been posted and discussed endlessly. And yet, seeing it complete with the yellow underdress and the added rows of lace at the hemline, I feel compelled to show the overall effect.




From the planning stage, my vision of this frock presented a white dress with yellow shadowing through the sheer batiste.  The yellow shadow beneath the lace was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.  Continue reading