Gathering Threads

Finished SAGA retreat outfit

Posted by on Jun 23 2013, in Pattern review, Sewing for Children, Smocking

I’ve finished the Farmhouse smocked dress and embroidered jacket I began on retreat in Pennsylvania at the end of April.

The dress is very flattering and while the construction is very detailed in this version (everything is sewn with french seams and hand stitched bias binding), I can imagine many possible short cut variations for this dress, including long sleeves and a turned up hem.

Overall, this pattern is a great balance of  smocking with casual comfort and I highly recommend it and expect to make it up regularly.

On to the details, shall we?  Here is the CF smocking detail, with the cast on flowers.

The belt.  (btw, I don’t tie pretty bows – just pretend it’s flawless and symmetrical, OK?)  There were a lot of buttonholes involved in making the belt.   In the interests of speed, I think I’ll skip that detail next time.  Buttonholes don’t make my heart sing faster.

The back has a touch of smocking, too, just below the piped yoke.

The shape of these sleeves is really nice – a blend of a cap sleeve and a puff sleeve that suits little arms very well.  The fabric has enough oomph that they hold their shape well without being overpowering.  I’ll likely be ‘borrowing’ these sleeves for other dresses.

As for the coat, it’s also lovely, but I’m less sold.  I do love the details and the pattern goes together beautifully again but I’m so-so on the practicality of a white coat like this.   I can see it working well with a pair of jeans and a long-sleeve -shirt for a casual look or for a really over the top style when it’s worn in conjunction with the dress.

The styling is very flattering, especially the back details and the wrap-over front that ties with a gingham bow.

But it’s a bit…much for what is at its heart a very casual look.  There’s just so much hand work  and binding for a small body.  And speaking of the binding! It’s on the neck, the sleeves, the hem, the coat!

As I stitched it down, and down, and down, I felt like Sisyphus.   You know, the ancient Greek guy who ticked off the gods and was condemned to push a rock up a hill for the rest of eternity?  I didn’t get a sense that birds were gnawing my innards or anything but maybe I should send Gail an email?

Dear Gail, you design beautiful, fabulous clothes.  Your workmanship is exquisite and you are a funny, gracious, knowledgeable person.  I enjoyed every minute of our class together and learned a ton.  But please, for the sake of my sanity and my fingertips, ease up on the bias binding.


Claire of the very tender fingertips

Err, maybe not.

Regardless, it is done and I learned a lot from it, including several valuable techniques that I have already incorporated into my sewing repetoire.  And wait until I show you the knock-off I’m making, using the same fabrics.   It’s still coming together and I don’t want to ruin the surprise but I’ll give you a clue.  Think little.  As in newborn little… (But not my newborn!!!  A niece newborn, OK? :))

If you’re inspired by my version (or frankly, Gail’s much prettier versions), you can even buy the 4 piece set in kit form for yourself from Gail’s Etsy shop.  Gail’s instructions are so detailed, with every step outlined with point by point instructions and excellent illustrations, that I defy anyone not to find success with this project.

I leave you with some flowers from my garden. It’s an old-fashioned rose that grows just outside our kitchen.  It smells divine and right now it’s in full bloom.  Isn’t it pretty?


  • Rochelle

    Soooo cute! You do beautiful work!!

  • Jenny Jo

    Claire, your smocked dress and embroidered coat are fabulous! Those cast-on flowers look perfect! I agree about the coat being a smudge over-the-top. And I’d been wondering if it was quite kosher to use two different colors of piping in different areas of a dress. If you did it, it must be! 🙂

  • Claire

    I’m not the authority on piping etiquette, Jenny. 🙂 It was Gail’s suggestion, in order to add texture but limit the visual distraction. If it had been up to me, I probably would have figured on making it all one colour like you.

  • Claire

    Thank you, Rochelle. I’m glad you like it.

  • The whole ensemble is very beautiful. You did a marvelous job with all the handwork. Wow!