Monday, July 25, 2011

Smocked Diaper Shirt

While rummaging around in one of my seriously large boxes of UFOs, I came across this rather forlorn looking smocked diaper shirt that I had started for my granddaughter. Since she was huge, a nine pounder, she outgrew the newborn size before I could finish it. (I always joke that she was a month old when she was born) So now I'll finish it for one of the grand nieces that are due to make their appearance soon. If you look closely at it, you'll see that the hem of the front was torn, not cut, making it straight with the grain of the fabric. Compare this to the two back pieces and you can see the raveling from the slightly uneven cutting job I did. I also smocked too closely to the selvedge edges which make up the back closing, which will be difficult to finish.

Something about this edging really bothered me. I thought about it for several days until I figured it out. It was lumpy and didn't lie flat against the fabric no matter how much I ironed it. I think this is because the Swiss edging is stiffer than the dress fabric, which is a cotton baby-lined pique.  I have no idea where I bought the fabric. When I found the project in my UFO box it had a photo copy of a smocking pattern from Australian Smocking and Embroidery, but no reference to any fabric type, issue number, or anything else. This is one of the reasons I started blogging, to make myself take notes!

I finally figured out that I needed some stitching on the seam line to give the edging/fabric transition definition so it will look somewhat smoother. I tried out a few of the heirloom stitches on my machine first on the pink pique above, then on he seam line below. As I've mentioned before, I have a Viking Husqvarna Designer I, and the D stitches refer to the heirloom group of stitches. I tried them out, finally settling on D46 L and W 2.5 using Madiera Cotona thread size #80 (that's pretty fine!). The #60 in the photo refers to Mettler Embroidery thread. It's somewhat hard to tell in the photographs, but the finer thread seems to look a bit more handmade. Notice the smearing of the notes in the upper right hand corner. I thought I'd be clever and wash out the blue lines, but the black ink turned out to be water soluble. Next time I'll use the Pigma pen for the notes.

As you can see, the machine pin stitching, stitch D46, is just the ticket. The transition between the edging and the fabric is much smoother, especially noticeable on the angle wing sleeves. I also finished the top edge and underarm edges with bias binding, and managed to make one bullion rose in the center smocked heart.  For the back opening, I turned under the seam allowances just once as that's all I had room for, and topstitched it 1/4 inch from the edge. Note to self: leave more room to turn under! I'll have to use snaps to close the opening as that is all that I can manage in that space. Many bishop patterns call for buttons and loops made out of chained stitched floss. I don't like these and prefer something a bit more solid.

This is a fairly long discussion on a pretty simple garment. It's a diaper shirt, after all! But I want to share with you what I've learned from trial and error, and to show that the simplest of garments can benefit from good planning and decision making, as opposed to what I'm doing here. The most significant things I've learned on this little garment:
  1. There needs to be a transition between fabrics when the weight and drape differ, as with the dress fabric and the Swiss edging. You can generally use entredeux, but in this case the pin stitching worked quite well.
  2. Leave enough room at the ends of the smocking for the back closure. If it's too much, you can always trim it. 
  3. Use the finest thread possible for machine pin stitching, to make it look a bit more hand made. I discovered this in another class on a lovely baby dress which I will post about soon. 
  4. Make samples, label them, and keep them in a notebook.  They are invaluable references.
The darling baby items I have been making are for two grandnieces that are due to be born soon, one in Ontario, Canada, that was supposed to have made her appearance a week ago, and the other here in Southern California that won't show up until mid-September. I am throwing the baby shower for the second niece, so am pretty busy on that as well.

I hope to finish the embroidery in the car this week on the two days that my carpooling partner drives. Wish me luck!


  1. Wonderful save on the transition. These is really so sweet and lovely for a newborn. Lucky baby!

  2. This is adorable. Lucky little nieces!!!

  3. It will come together nicely. I must say that when I did things for the girls when they were much younger I would complete the garment and then smock it. Worked better for me LOL

  4. One wouldn't know that you had such a time finishing it up. It is so sweet; love the angel wings.

  5. That's a charming top and definitely worth rescuing from the UFO pile. I really like the extra stiffness the embroidered trim adds since it lifts those darling angel sleeves right up!


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