Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheerful Cherries: My First Smocked Dress!

After seeing smocking on a smattering of girls' dresses in department stores over the last couple of years (and loving it!) (is that because I grew up in the 80's?) I finally decided to try my hand at it.  I also decided that if I was going to put in time doing the needlework, the rest of the dress should match it in quality, so I used a Vogue pattern: my first pattern with a difficulty rating of "Advanced."  It's taken a bit longer than expected to finish, but the result is one of my favorite projects to date.

Putting together the back of the dress took some surprising effort.  I'd never done a self-lined bodice the way this one was constructed, and it took a few attempts (and some time with a trusty seam-ripper) to understand what the instructions were getting at.
Oh puffy puffed sleeves:  Anne of Green Gables would be so pleased.  Isn't the red piping fun too?

I'm actually almost as proud of the inside of the dress as the outside since it has all the nice touches I often skip when we're mass-producing dresses over here: slip-stitch secured lining, raw edges hidden in french seams, a blind hem, etc.

Of course my favorite part is the smocking.  One of the most nerve-wracking moments in the project came shortly after I finished the actual smocking stitches and came to the part where I was supposed to remove the gathering threads that had formed the pleats initially.  I worried that without the surrounding grid pulling it together the whole pattern would just fall apart.

Next fall Robyn goes off to Kindergarten.  Three weeks later (ok...maybe that's just what it feels like sometimes...) all the kids will be in college and it will just be Bryan and me fretting from our empty nest.  Sitting on the couch counting pleats and squinting at the smocking chart, I kept thinking about our girls and about how fast things are going and wondering how we were doing.  Hopefully one stitch at a time we're helping them weave a beautiful pattern out of their lives.  Sure there are mistakes and miscounts, periods of monotonous repetition and parts that have to be removed and redone multiple times, plus some sections that will probably look lopsided even after every attempt to even them out...still, I hope the overall effect will prove to be smocking-like lives: lovely, useful, and enhancing of a larger whole.

As we slowly stitch along with the girls, I often wish there were an easier way to step back and see what the pattern looks like at any given moment.  And, like with Amber's little dress, I worry about what will remain when they start spending most of their lives away from the gathering stitches of home.

Thankfully, the smocking on Amber's dress held together just fine on it's own.  I'm going to take that as reason to be optimistic. 


  1. I cannot believe you made that dress! Wow!!! It is beautiful, as is your growing family! We love and miss you!

  2. Umm... did Amber have an accident? There are only 2 pictures that show her bottom half and in both of them she only appears to have one leg. What's up??? haha! :)

  3. Lynda: We don't call her the Preschool Pegleg for nothing... ;-)

  4. Great job! The piping is adorable on it.

  5. So amazing! (I mean SEW amazing!) Amber is beautiful and so his her dress! Tell Robyn Happy Birthday as well, from all us Hochstrassers!

  6. beautiful, Melissa! Maybe you'll have to teach me how. I found a fun faux smocking technique on pinterest that I want to try soon... :)

  7. Wow!! I am seriously amazed! That looks like one of those fancy boutique dresses! You are so good. I like your musings as well. I have been thinking about Maddy going off to kindergarten and it makes me cry every time I think about it. I only wish I were exaggerating! In fact, I am trying not to get misty-eyed right now. I feel the same way you I doing enough with/for my kids? Is there anything sinking in? Do I need to have a garden for them to turn out like decent human beings? (I have guilt for not having a garden recently ha). I hope you are right that in the end the whole picture will be lovely. I'm so glad someone else thinks about this stuff besides me.

  8. What a beautiful dress and model!!!! You did a wonderful job =D. I love smocking but I have never tried it, so you are a brave soul to give it a try and it turned out beautiful. Bravo!!