Friday, August 14, 2009

A tale of three dresses (or more than you ever wanted to know about smocking, material and my quest for perfection)

In January, I decided to make my girls four matching smocked dresses to wear to their cousin's wedding in June. In the past I had been able to smock fairly quickly and felt like 6 months would be more than enough time to complete my project.

I went to the Smocking Bonnet to purchase 12 yards of Imperial microcheck in light pink. I also purchased about 6 yards of pink Imperial Batiste for lining. I had planned on making the dress on the cover of Sew Beautiful Issue 82 May/June 2002. My only problem is that I am a perfectionist and felt the compulsion to hand pleat the fabric so everything would be just right. Unfortunately it took me about a day to pleat one row. I worked doggedly at it, but by the end of February, I realized at the pace I was going, I would be done pleating by the end of May and would not have time to smock or construct the dresses.

I then decided to pleat white fabric to make inserts to go with the fabric I had purchased and smock the inserts with a combination of some of the pattern from the Sew Beautiful dress and a few others I liked. I worked hard, but the going was slow either because I have five children or I've become too much of a perfectionist. I finished one insert, without roses, when I realized my thread did not match the material I had purchased. While in the store it appeared to be a perfect match, after smocking, it appeared to be a bit too "peachy". Back to the drawing board.

It was now May and the wedding was drawing close. I decided the material would be perfect made into Simplicity 2918. I had more than enough material and I even found that I had trim that matched perfectly in my stash! Although the pattern did not call for the dress to be lined, I went ahead and lined them (with the pink batiste I had purchased as well) so the girls wouldn't need slips.

So that leaves us with the single smocking insert that I had finished, but did not use after all. I added pink and yellow roses and I bought some fabric that I thought went perfectly in the store. Got it home only to discover that the smocking that had appeared too "peachy" with the previous pink fabric, now appeared too pink with the new fabric. Back to the fabric store. Many fabric stores it turns out. I finally purchased a piece of fabric from Capital Quilts my local quilting store. I wasn't keen on the fabric, but Macy really liked it. So we purchased three yards and turned it into this:
A variation of Maya's Heirlooms Annika dress. Although there is no yellow in the dress, the green really works with the yellow roses. Macy loves it and I do too.

Of course you would think that was easy once I got the fabric, but nooooo. I had to get material to make piping trim as all good heirloom dresses have it. So I bought some at the store which looked to be a perfect match. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. It was too "pink" and made my insert look too "peachy". Was this ever going to end? Well yes, it did. I amazingly enough found some perfect not too pink, not too peachy fabric at Hancocks and made my piping. Here's a close up:
What about that lonely piece of microcheck so lovingly hand pleated you ask? Well several times I just about pulled those pleating threads out, but I am so glad I didn't. I had been looking at Australian Smocking and Embroidery Issue No. 73 for smocking plate ideas for the above mentioned smocked insert when I remembered the baby dress on the cover. I thought the material I had hand pleated would be perfect for the dress and I was right. I had by chance pleated just the perfect number of rows. I also knew of someone that was pregnant and her baby would be the perfect recipient of this dress. (Now she just needs to have a girl.)

So I smocked. And smocked. And smocked some more. This was a hard plate and I didn't enjoy it at all. There were times I was ready to throw it away, but I plugged along.

I added the bullion roses, which were a bear in and of themselves. They turned out better than I thought, but I'm still not happy with them. I need more practice.

The finished project which I am so pleased with.

So in the end I ended up with 6 dresses, three fair entries and enough left over microcheck to make something else for someone else. In the process I almost lost my mind. Of course I kept saying, "never again, never again" but now that everything is entered . . .

1 comment:

Mary said...

Wow, those are gorgeous! I know we'll be seeing some blue ribbon posts soon.