Gathering Threads

Exotic Smocking Project Mailed Away

Posted by on Jun 09 2013, in Sewing for Children, Smocking

I’ve been working on my SAGA Exotic Smocking correspondence course samples for ages.

I’m embarrassed how long it’s taken me to get my final lesson sample done up.  I’m months overdue. But finally, on Friday, I was able to mail it off to Darcy.  You could hear my sigh of relief clear to Quebec.  Parts of the Northeastern States probably heard it too.

You’d think I hadn’t enjoyed myself, given how slowly I got this dress finished up but in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  The course was really worthwhile.  I just got…uninspired.  I was hmming and hawing, second guessing my choices of finished, frustrated when I had to rip out a couple of mistakes and the pieces just sat there all winter.

And all spring.

And suddenly, it was almost summer time and, I couldn’t  put it off any longer. I buckled down and said, the goal is to finish and learn, not make a perfectly perfect garment so fix your mistakes, finish it up and get it done!  And of course, all the glaring errors that had bugged me so much that I couldn’t contemplate finishing it, now seemed, on sober second reflection (not that I ever smock *unsober* ;)) not quite so fatal and not so hard to overcome.  Sigh, isn’t that always the way?

I’m really glad I stuck with it though, because I think it’s pretty adorable, if you can say that about your own stuff without sounding conceited.

It’s a corduroy a-line with smocked shoulder ruffles and pockets and a fine ivory crochet trim.  I really wanted to make a complete garment (because I’m a compulsive overachiever who wants to do everything to the best of her abilities!), so I drafted my own pattern.    This allowed me to play with where I placed the smocking.  Rather than going for something traditional, like across the chest, I turned the smocking sideways and used the natural fullness of corduroy to give me really ruffly shoulder straps.

Not a traditional use of smocking but then, the course is all about using non-traditional overdyed flosses and materials:  linen, wool, silk and corduroy and stitching with a range of specialty flosses.   I found some new favourites, especially with the wool, and really appreciated getting a chance to tackle pleating some of the trickier fabrics, since I’ll be seeing them again when I submit my artisan samples next year.

This dress used an over-dyed #5 pearl cotton and was smocked with a very simple geometric design of cables, trellis and waves.

I hand pleated the corduroy, marking the lines with an air soluble pen 3/8″ (1cm) apart.  The pleating ration was just a smidge under 3:1.

I tried machine stitching the lace to the narrow seam allowances of the pockets, ruffles and hem but the constrast between the deep wine fabric and the trim was too much and the zig-zag was crazy visible.  I ended up whipping it all on by hand (see above for crazy overachiever).

I’d hate for Jeannie Baumeister to examine it but the nap of the fabric was very forgiving of my hand stitching so it wasn’t too onerous a task.  But best of all, it’s finished!  That’s a great feeling, indeed!


  • It’s wonderful, Claire. If anyone deserves Artisan status it’s you!

  • Claire

    Thank you, Bunny. I’m plugging away at it, slowly earning my points. Thank heavens it’s not a race, though! I’d be lapped, for sure LOL

  • lindamueller

    Claire, I don’t know you but I just joined a smocking group in Minnesota and will begin my first smocking lesson on Thursday and your garment has inspired me- I hope by the time I am finished with my lessons i can show something as nice as yours off- I have been practicing and it isn’t easy- and nothing I have done on my own has even caused me to finish the line – thats how bad I am right now . But, I have a great teacher and I am praying she can do something with me. Sometimes even tho I enjoy something very much – I never can master it but I will give this a try as well- Yours is very unique and very pretty and corduroy isn’t easy to handle at all.Great job!

  • Claire

    Linda – I’m delighted to hear that! You’ll love smocking – it’s addictive. Best of all, you’ll meet the nicest people when you smock. I am sure you’ll be stitching away in no time, thanks to all their support and encouragement.

  • Very unique treatment for both the little sleeves & the pockets, Claire! Your smocking is pure perfection!

    I like how your background flowers even picked up the color in the dress. Well planned! LOL