Friday, November 21, 2008

A link to the past

Julie from Smocked Clothes commented #2 DD's birthday post that she hadn't heard of picking up gingham squares to smock the fabric. It is similar to the picking up iron on dots.

There are two ways to use iron on dots, since I think they are evil I haven't used them in 27 years. One way is as I described, you pick up the dots as I did the gingham and that creates your pleats and smocking design as you smock across the fabric. This method has been referred to as American smocking. Not many people have heard that term, like many people from England have never heard it called English smocking. English smocking can be done with iron on dots as well. This way to use the dots is the truly evil evil side of those &^%$# dots. You pick up each dot with a tiny stitch to form pleats across the fabric that you then go back and stitch the smocking on. (I am sure my oldest daughter and my friend Jan are cringing at the grammar in this paragraph. Sorry girls.) I pleated ONE dress with those dots, never finished it. I was so done in by pleating it by hand, I had long lost interest by the time it came to smock. I love the smocking part, not the prep part.

I think I found the pattern that I used to make that little blue gingham dress. I found it at "America's Garage Sale" aka ebay.

It is the same smocking design. This pattern is from the 70's the seller stated. I may have bought when my oldest was born. I thought I still had the pattern. I still have the pattern I made my sister a toaster cover with, why I have no idea, but I didn't keep this one. Anyone want a pattern for a toaster cover? In the description for this pattern it states that it has the transfer dots included, but I am sure it has the gingham directions as well. I wouldn't have used those dots twice.

I pondered re-making the same little dress out of this blue plaid, and Children's Corner Lee. I am sure the embroidery would be light year's better, I would pipe the yoke, pleat it before I smocked it on one of these handy dandy gifts from the gods, the Super Amanda Jane pleater,

and surely the construction would be immensely better. But I stopped myself. I loved that little dress, love that picture, I loved that I had made it for her and so began the legacy of taking pictures of my children in their mommy-mades. If I remade it, it just wouldn't be the same dress made by a young mom with two tiny children, little to no time on her hands, working full time to help put her husband through school; but loved her children enough to wrap them in stitches of love. Sewn while babies napped or everyone else had gone to bed. That little dress really can't be replaced. So I walked away from the project. Its better that way.


  1. Martha, I have recently finished 4 gingham dresses of different colors, different sizes - Stacey's smocked sundress by Nancy Coburn - and spent many hours with the dress front on the table in front of me, taking needle and thread and making row after row of gathering by picking up the squares in the gingham. The dresses turned out rather nicely for my first smocking attempts, but that hand gathering got old by the time I got to the last one! I think my next smocking project will be one that can be gathered on a pleater! Your little ebay pattern is adorable.
    Have a great weekend.

  2. Nell, Bless your heart for your perseverance! Do you have a local shop that could do the pleating for you? Just about any project can be pleated on a pleater. If not I know there are some internet shops you could send your piece to to be pleated. You could probably have smocked 12 dresses in the same amount of time. Good on you. Thank you for you kind words.

  3. Martha,
    Thank you so much for this post explaining how you do the pleating and then smocking on gingham. It makes perfect sense. I used to use gingham for counted cross stitch. As modern inventions take over, we forget the old ways. Anyway, I love needle work and especially smocking. I used to have a pleater, but I ended up selling it when my children got older. I might just have to buy another when the grandchildren come along.

  4. Hi, Martha. When I first started smocking, iron-on dots were the only option. My first dress was smocked to the waist front and back. It's amazing that after all those dots, I didn't abandon the sport altogether! Even though I rarely use them, I still like the dots as the rows are just a smidgen closer together than the pleater. I must be a glutton for punishment!

  5. Thanks, Martha. Yes, there is a lady at my church who has a pleater and has offered to pleat for me anytime I need it. So I'm taking her up on it with my very next project!

  6. Ah yes, picking up dots (or in my case the corner of the gingham square) I have a pleater, and still did it, to avoid the moire effect that you often get with gingham. Once was quite enough, thank you, and this was many years ago - picking up those "dots" is still fresh in my mind though! I love the end result though.

  7. Great post, Martha! Here's what *I* think you should do with your pretty blue gingham...make the AS&E dress named "Elspeth" - I think my all-time favorite! That way you can "hand pleat" your pretty gingham instead of running it thru your pleater....and make a size you have to hand pleat 16 rows of 60 inch wide fabric...;)))

    ok...I'm outta here ;))))))

  8. LOL, you know Elspeth is one of my all time favorites. I wonder if I can make it in a size 3 months?

  9. That form of smocking is more commonly called "Counterchange Smocking" these days.

    If you use a pleater with gingham you will end up with a wavy moire effect over the pleated area. Hand pleating gingham makes the pleats much more even and balanced across the width. Totally a matter of personal choice!

    I own a pleater and love it, however have always hand pleated any gingham larger than 1/8" squares.

    The last time I used iron on dots was while I was in labour with my daughter! All day I picked up yellow dots on white lawn.... came back to it a week later and realised that the dots wouldn't wash out and could be seen on the right side! I threw it out, although it certainly did fulfil it's purpose of keeping my occupied between contractions!

  10. Yes! "Elspeth" that's the one I did!!!
    And Counterchange smocking is an entirely different type of smocking. I personally know Anne Hallay, (a designer from waaaay back that popularized Counterchange). She was in my smocking guild.

  11. I must tell you...I love to transfer dots...Lots of work but still think the result becomes much better... =)

  12. This a bit older but nothing is lost in the web-- such beautiful sentiment reading about y'all sewing beloved garments for little ones in the early years. It's so heartwarming. I remember doing the same, to a different degree-and now refreshing skills for my dear greats- & loving the connection to others in the loving atmosphere of the sewing communities. Thanks to all who lend an ear or advice!


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