Tag Archives: smocking

Goodwill and Good Grief!

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Shop Goodwill!!!   And here’s why…

A few days ago, I dropped into Goodwill in search of knitting needles. Michaels, Joann’s and even WalMart were all out of size 6!  pssst….Is there some to-die-for new knitting project that requires #6 needles?  Is that what is causing a  run on this size?  If so, please share!

Walking past the children’s clothing I spotted this white broadcloth smocked dress.  It’s a perfect Christmas frock, loaded with bullion roses, priced at $1.49!


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Just behind that was a 24 months pink smocked bubble, also marked $1.49!


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The white insert on the pink seersucker romper is smocked with the most detailed little girlie pigs.  The bullion ring snouts just make me smile, as do the French knot necklaces. Continue reading

Gingerbread Christmas

I’m scrambling here, working on the grandsons’ Christmas outfits and preparing for tomorrow’s arrival of 2-1/2 year old Alastair.  He will be with us for a few days and will have my undivided attention.  So there is no time for a new blog post. I hope you will enjoy this re-run.

The children’s ages and Christmas garments are not current.  But the upcoming gingerbread house decorating activities will be just as described below–except that Robert may have a little more restraint with the candy.  Then again, he is a little more experienced and might get away with even more this year.

Whatever.  We will have a grand time decorating.  I hope you have a chance to do this with a child.  It is messy, yes, but sooooooo much fun.


“And I had but one penny in the world, Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.”  William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost



Laurel and Robert, wearing the gingerbread John-John now worn by his little cousin Alastair


Unlike the character in Shakespeare’s play, I’m not sure that I would spend my last penny on gingerbread. I’d probably go for a scrap of fabric or lace, or a needle …..but I digress. This is about gingerbread and Christmas outfits for my grandchildren.


The marshmallow snowman had a short life. And he did not melt, did he, Robert?

The marshmallow snowman had a short life. And he did not melt, did he, Robert?


If you have read more than two or three posts on this blog, you will know that gingerbread plays a huge role in our Christmas festivities. Robert and Laurel, at ages 2 and 3, seemed ready to be introduced to this family tradition. They made their first gingerbread houses, received gingerbread ornaments for their personal collection, added a charming book, Gingerbread Land, to their library in Nana’s nursery, and wore smocked gingerbread outfits for various holiday activities and on Christmas day. Continue reading

At Liberty

Yes, at liberty to start another project!  The  sundress is finished at last.  Hurrah!

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What was expected to be a quick and easy project became a career, entailing  continuing education, extra hours, supply problems, and lowered performance expectations.

This all started with a child’s vintage filet crochet yoke.  Purchased at least 15 years ago, it was saved for a someday granddaughter. Now, I have the granddaughter, she is the right size and I was ready to go.  All it needed was a smocked  Liberty of London tana lawn skirt.   How hard could it be?

Before I got very far on the smocking, I thought it would be nice to add Florence Roberson’s smocked puffy pockets.  It took two full days to locate the pattern.




Before I pleated the pockets, the top may edge needed to be finished with a tiny hem or trimmed with lace.  Since I was using a crocheted yoke, a crocheted edge seemed in order.   My first and last crochet project was a pastel granny square baby blanket for my newborn daughter in 1978.  Hmmmmm….so I pulled out some how-to needlework books and learned some simple, basic crochet.  Continuing education is good!

NOTE: The links above take you to  earlier post about the sundress and  pockets, which are just sweet as pie.


At Liberty smock front


The skirt is smocked with Florence Roberson’s plate Diamonds, by Ellen McCarn.  Smocking on Liberty or any print presents the challenge of achieving enough contrast without “fighting” with the print. Continue reading

Smocked Sister Easter Dresses


What a tender pose!

What a tender pose!


A few weeks ago as I worked feverishly on Laurel’s Tea Dress, I asked readers to share pictures of their Easter creations.  Jenny Jo, who lives on the prairies of Nebraska, graciously shared these photos.  I was enchanted. 

Her daughters look like Celtic lasses just returned from strolling in the highland heather and the dresses perpetuate the image.  As a matter of fact, I think I heard bagpipe music as I viewed the photos!

I’ve been reading a lot of Scottish historical novels and these little darlings, with their porcelain skin and tumbling auburn curls, look just like the well loved “bairns” (babies or children) described in these books.  Continue reading

AG Molly’s Lace Tape Nightie



Laurel is so excited about her doll’s new nightgowns that she is making Molly dress for bed and take afternoon naps.  This model was part of the wardrobe for another Sewing for Dolls school that Mildred Turner and I organized.

If I recall correctly, it was the school on Cape Cod. After class, our dear friend Barbara took us on wild rides in her incorrigible van whose tape player spontaneously broke out in sea shanties.  It didn’t bother Barbara who thought the random music added a little excitement to her life.  Meanwhile, our hostess Debbieanne,  a Cape Cod tour guide, was guiding us through the history of the area as Cape Cod Girls blasted away.  Barbara’s volume control was also broken.   So were our ears.




How well I remember this ditty, a favorite of the phantom cassette player manager.  If you would like to ride vicariously with Barbara, close your eyes, stand on one leg and turn the volume up to its loudest setting while you listen to a sample clip.  Click on the link below:

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Perfectly Pink Christmas X 4


4 matching Christmas cousins

4 pink beauties


Judy Day never ceases to amaze me with her breathtaking creations and the vast number of projects she designs and completes.  Her grandchildren are so incredibly fortunate.  And it sounds like at the tender ages of 6 and 7,  they have begun to recognize the beauty of the garments Judy makes for them.

Here is Judy’s story about her perfectly pink Christmas: 

These dresses were in my mind years before I ever put needle to fabric.  I saw this dress in the Sept./Oct. 2000 issue of Creative Needle…now that I look at the date, it was before the girls were born!

Kennedy with her matching AG doll

When I see a magazine article I really like, it goes on the corner of my cutting table for future ideas.  Continue reading

Peach Bishop


This is one of my all-time favorite smocked dresses.  I made it for Rebecca when she was just 4 years old and now, 30 years later, still enjoy seeing it hang in the nursery closet.

There are several interesting features to this peach Imperial batiste bishop dress.  The  extra deep smocking front and back, white sleeve overlay, and original smocking design made it a pleasure to design and stitch. The bottom rows of the smocking design were drafted to mimic the sleeve overlay fancyband.

EXTRA DEEP SMOCKING: The number of rows smocked front and back on this dress greatly exceeds the recommended amount for this size.  You can see that the smocking goes far below the beginning of the armhole curve, normally the absolute last row of stitching.  Smocking rarely goes beyond this point because 1) it would exceed the width of the child’s shoulder and 2) it is impossible to pleat through that curve.




The first restriction is eliminated by smocking only a few rows at the neckline, well before the edge of the shoulder.  Secondly, the pleating is done before construction, allowing pleats to go to any depth.




This is most easily done by working with a block of fabric, rather than a cut out front and back.  The armhole curve is traced with a washaway marker onto the fabric block before pleating front, back and sleeves from a straight edge to a straight edge.  Later, the pleating threads are pulled out up to the seamline of the armhole and knotted off.  Then the armhole curve is cut out and the front and back pieces are joined to the sleeves.

SLEEVE OVERLAY:  The white sleeve cap overlay includes a Swiss embroidery from Capitol Imports, entredeux and French Val lace edging.  This detail alone elevates the easy care bishop to a more elegant level.  Continue reading

Second Hand Roses




I’m really into recycling Rebecca’s dresses that have been packed away for 25+ years.  It’s amazing how timeless a smocked dress can be and how well they hold up.

Some, like Barbra Streisand,  may turn their noses up “second hand,” but neither Laurel nor I mind.

I had to drop the hem, as little girls’ skirts are longer now. Fortunately, when the dress was made, I followed the standard recommendation of putting in a 6″ hem so  I had a good 3″ to drop.

This basic yoke has a sash that ties in the back.  It is smocked to just above the waist and meets the back yoke at that same depth.  The sash snugs the dress up and feels more like a big girl dress.

The intriguing smocking plate is Chinese Chippendale by Barbie Beck, an almost ancient design.  If you blow up the photo, you will see how interesting the design is. Continue reading

Out of Retirement Pinafore

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After a fabulous weekend with both of our son and daughter and their families, I started pulling out some of Rebecca’s dresses that have been packed away for Laurel. Sadly, many are already outgrown, as I missed the small window of opportunity to pull  them out for a second generation.  But this one is out of retirement.


It hurts to see the rippled yoke. I do a better job now.

It hurts to see the rippled yoke. I do a better job now.


The Little Sunday Dresses pinafore is just the right size for Laurel now.  Smocked with Ellen McCarn’s monogram, the skirt and shoulder ruffles are Swiss embroideries from Capitol Imports.  The bodice is Swiss batiste.

I had planned to pick out the monogram and re-smock it with Laurel’s initials. But the stitches are  just old enough (25 years) and the blue floss just dark enough that I’m afraid the color may have marked the fabric permanently. So I’m just going to leave it.

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Everything-Wrong Birthday Suit

Alastair, hanging out with the girls

Alastair, hanging out with the girls


Everything Right Birthday Party

Family and friends just celebrated Alastair’s first birthday at a party in his back yard. His parents did a fabulous job of making everyone welcome with good food, good company and thoughtful accommodations for all. From the 86 year old great grandmother to Alastair’s friends and cousins, ages 9 months to 5 years,  there were fun treats and comfortable seating. Yet Alastair’s parents made the event look effortless.





The menu consisted of really excellent pizzas, a flat of fresh strawberries, coolers of cold drinks and a cupcake tree laden with darling bug and caterpillar cupcakes made by his mama my Rebecca.

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