Gathering Threads

Lace! Lace! Lace!

Posted by on May 26 2014, in Smocking

Now that I’ve got the attention of the heirloom fans, I want to show you some shots of the dress I’ve just finished for my SAGA Smocked Lace correspondence course.

lace and wool smocked dress (5)

If you’re a regular reader, you might remember me showing you my samplers here and here.  The samplers were practice pieces that let me try out the idea of ‘smocked’ lace; this dress is the final project and will be sent to Nancy for evaluation and feedback.   These aren’t the greatest pictures – poor Stanley is far to small for this size 8 dress.  He’s swamped and barely fills it out.   But I know you’ll overlook that – my talents lie with my sewing machine, not my camera! 🙂

lace and wool smocked dress (10)

I’d been planning on a very different dress – different colour (white), different fabric (cotton batiste) and a different pattern (Daisy Marie, from a 2006 issue of Sew Beautiful) – and yet, I somehow ended up with a dark teal, wool version of Gail Doane’s justifiably famous AS&E Eloise.  About the only thing that did stay consistent were the ecru lace and my smocking plate choice.  Despite the design u-turn, I love! love!  love! this dress.

lace and wool smocked dress (7)

I’ve made Gail’s Eloise before and as always, Gail’s patterning and design sense are impeccable.  But I really wanted to amp this dress up and play with the idea of lace.  So not only did I make the shaped lace collar and cuffs, but I went to town and added a deep lace hem band and lace on the sash.

lace and wool smocked dress (9)

So much lace, so much fun!  In all, there’s about 20 yards of lace in this dress.  I got it all from Luc at CottonLace; the wool was a piece I found ages ago at Lens Mills, because I loved the rich shade.

lace and wool smocked dress (11)

The wool pleated beautifully – although some people find wool scary, I’ve always had good luck with it.  The trick, I’ve found, is to work slowly and steam the pleats as they sit on the needle.  If you do this, you’ll get even regular pleats and very few, if any, popped pleats.   It really does look like lace, doesn’t it?

lace and wool smocked dress (2)

I love this bow.  I can’t tie a bow to save my life – they’re *always* cockeyed and sort of scrunchy – but this bow just works! It’s a full 6″ wide.  Of course, given the weight of the fabric, I couldn’t do a tube with the seam allowance enclosed, as I often do when I’m sewing with cotton.  It’d be utterly unruly.  So I went with very tiny turned seams to finish the edges and then added one more dollop of lace at the ends of the sashes with 45 degree bands of lace.   This was the only spot where I used did hand french sewing – I rolled the edges of the lace by hand, rather than machine.

lace and wool smocked dress

Here’s the side seam, where you can see the box pleat I used to control the fullness.

lace and wool smocked dress (12)

Inside, most of the seams are enclosed.  The yoke is fully lined but clearly, the bulk of the wool precludes french seams – they’d be french saucissons (sausages!) and overcasting seemed out of keeping with the heirloom spirit of the dress.  So on skirt side seams and the sleeve seams, I used the leftovers of the silk organza that I used for the collar, and cut narrow strips, enclosing the raw edges with a Hong Kong finish.

Here is the hem – for some reason the entredeux looks much whiter than it really is and the lace looks much tauper in these images.   They do match, honest!  I had a hard time photographing this dress because of the contrast between the dark wool and the light lace – it was often over exposed or underexposed. But you can see the repeating bands of lace that I think serve to balance the collar.

lace and wool smocked dress (4)

Obviously, this is a special occasion dress but I don’t think it’s over the top.  The wool has texture and substance and because I limited my colour palette, I find this dress very restful to look at.   It will be sent off to Nancy for evaluation and then on for a photo shoot.  It’s going to be featured in SAGA News, likely in the winter.

Now that this is done, I can turn my attention to getting all my ducks in a row for my Artisan evaluation.  I’ll let you know how it goes, of course!




  • Pamela Rigby

    Beautiful Claire, my Grandmother would have loved this dress. It screams “class”. I am one of those who used to have problems with wool challis and pleating but I used “Ironing Aid” to get a bit of body in the part to be pleated. I never thought of steaming the pleats and waiting for them to dry before continuing to pleat.I had planned to make an Eloise for my eldest Great Niece but seeing your dress makes me think to use a different smocking design. Dare I ask if you will be charting this design and sharing it? You have done a wonderful job here.

  • Claire

    Pamela – I think you’ll find the steam does the trick. You can also use extra half space rows, if your wool is particularly finicky. And I have indeed charted this plate: scroll to the bottom of and it’s there for you to download. Enjoy!

  • Absolutely beautiful dress! You did a marvelous job and should be very proud of it. I’m surprised the lace looks so good with the wool. I never would have thought of that combination. I thought the bow tying wasn’t too bad. I take it you use the directions in “A-Z of Sewing for Smockers”?

  • Claire

    I’m guessing there’s not a lot of call for long sleeved wool dresses in your neck of the woods, Cynthia, so I understand why you wouldn’t 🙂 And no, I haven’t got a source for bow tying. I’ll have to check out your recommendation since the A-Z of Smocking is so good.

  • Just gorgeous. Those pleats are perfection as is your smocking. And it does look like lace. Beautiful job.

  • Claire

    Thank you, Martha! I enjoyed making this dress a lot.