Saturday, July 14, 2012

A DIY Smocked Dress

The latest issue of Sew Beautiful showed up several of weeks ago, with this adorable dress by Claire Meldrum. It is a bishop that doesn't use a pattern. Instead, Claire gives detailed instructions on how to cut out and mark the dress. The smocking is honeycomb smocking, a variation on North American Smocking.

I'm using this fabric I had in my stash, a Debbie Mumm for Joann. I'll be smocking it with a light green floss, DMC 772.

Now, how many of you read Mary Corbet's post on DMC from June 27? (along with all the comments, mine included). It was very interesting, do read it if you get a chance. It goes a bit into the controversy about a perceived decline in quality of their floss. By the way, this particular color I'm using is not marked as colorfast. But then the fabric probably isn't very colorfast either.

I marked the fabric as instructed, but on the wrong side instead of the right side. No reason, just not following instructions carefully. I also made the bias binding in one long continuous strip as I
smocked in the car on our way to visit our granddaughter in Colorado intending to construct the dress after I arrived.

When I make any kind of project from a magazine, I copy the article to bring it with me in my sewing bag so I don't destroy the original magazine. Imagine my chagrin when I started to make the dress and found I didn't copy the complete article, just the smocking instructions. I had to drive to Jo-Ann Fabrics and buy a new copy of the magazine to get the construction part of the article.

It was pretty darn easy to put together, and here is the finished product modeled by my granddaughter while inspecting her mom's vegetable garden.

Likes and dislikes:
This was a very easy pattern, and I love the honeycomb smocking as an alternative to traditional English Smocking. It was very quick to smock, and only took 2-3 hours to construct. Most of that time was spent driving to get the magazine and hemming the bias strips and hem by hand.

I did not, however, like the fabric. As I mentioned before, it is Debbie Mumm for Jo-Ann. I've bought Debbie Mumm fabrics from quilt stores before, and they are completely different. This particular fabric ravels very easily and is prone to developing holes if you have to redo a stitch. The fabric seems weak and doesn't have the nice feel that good quilt store fabrics have. Needless to say, I won't use it again.

One thing I thought odd was Claire's instructions to make the neck front of the dress lower than the back by cutting the center front by 1 inch and tapering to the shoulders. It does look nice, but we don't generally do this on English Smocked bishops and we tend to be happy with the way they look. The reason I don't like it is that I feel it spoils the look of the smocking, as shown in the camera phone picture of Bridget eating ice cream. I also didn't arrange the pleats as well as I should have, which doesn't help.

I'd like to make this again, using a cotton voile for a nice nightgown, leaving the neckline as is and arranging the pleats more evenly.

We've been back from Colorado almost a week now, and I do have more things to show you, so stay tuned in the coming week! Happy weekend and I hope you can get some stitching done!


  1. Your dress is absolutely precious and your granddaughter is downright gorgeous! This pattern caught my eye when my SB arrived. I stumbled on the designer's web site and found her pattern corrections. Did you make this exactly as directed in SB or did you find the corrections?

  2. Thanks, Janice! Luckily, I follow the Sew Beautiful blog so I saw their post on the corrections before I even decided to make the dress. It was super easy to make.

  3. It's absolutely adorable! I know the neck instructions are a little weird :) Will it make you feel better if you know that that's not how I did them? The "Powers that Be" decided that you can't have a correction for the front dipping on the bottom, as I had originally done it on the sample dress. I cut the narrow wedge from the hemline and not the neck. "It's just not done!" Uh, yes, in this case it really does need to be done like that for exactly the reasons you noted - the honeycomb grid is distorted if you cut the wedge from the neckline. But alas, edits happen *big grin* But I'm glad you persevered, despite the wonky fabric. Your DGG looks like she's really into that ice cream.

    1. Yes, it does make me feel better. As I said in the post, I'd like to make it in a voile for a nightgown, without the neck correction.

      The ice cream flavor is "birthday cake", and it does taste like cake. I didn't care for it but she just loved it, and didn't get any on the dress.

    2. Claire, thank you for telling us! I don't know if you will see my comment here, but I was wondering if there was any way to do the dress with a sleeve that would still be pretty quick and without a pleater. I own a pleater, but I have 7 children, ages 10 and under (5 of which are girls). We've had some dresses wear out (my girls all wear dresses every day) and I need to make some new dresses as fast as can be. I love the time on this one, but for religious and personal reasons, I need to cover the shoulders and have a sleeve. I'd love to hear your thoughts on construction of this with a sleeve option.

    3. Hi Brandy,
      Please make sure you put this comment on Claire's blog, I don't know if she will see it here. The link is in the body of the post. Good luck with making your girls' dresses!

  4. even still, it turned out great as far as I can see.

  5. I love hearing your review of this pattern! Though it is featured in a playful print, I really want to make it in a solid, with some embroidered flowers on it. I want to do the heirloom look with less time so that it can be an everyday dress.


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