Gathering Threads

Flowers, Showers and Smocking

Posted by on May 28 2014, in Sewing for Children, Smocking

And now for something completely different!

Rainy Days smocked dress

I don’t want you to think that I only like or smock ‘fancy’ dresses like my recent wool and lace confection.  In fact, most of the children’s clothes I sew are destined for everyday wear – I make play shorts and sweat pants for the boys, sundresses and easy to wear outfits for my nieces.   I still care about fit and style but I don’t fuss about interior finishes and choose my construction methods for durability and speed.

Back view Rainy Days

Here’s an example of that:  a picture smocked dress for my niece, Ellie, that combines my friend Janet Gilbert’s adorable plate, Rainy Days, with a vintage Pattorama dress from the 1950s.  As is typical when sewing with a vintage pattern, I added 3/4″ to lower the waistline and 3 inches to the hem length.

Pattorama 8410

This is a dress for school and the park and playing outside.  It’s cotton and it’s designed to be wash and wear.  Everything was done on machine, from the hem to the piping.  The inside seams are overcast with zigzag and the neck is bound with bias tape.

Picture Smocked Bodice

I’ve had the pattern in my collection for a couple of years and when I saw Janet’s plate, I knew right away that they would work perfectly together.  I like the arched insert; it makes a nice change from straight as an arrow inserts.   I used my freezer paper technique to cut and secure the smocked insert before I applied the piping.   I think the dark blue sets it off really nicely.

Rainy Days picture smocking

The raindrop fabric is the last piece of the puzzle.  It’s Timeless Treasures Raindrop and I couldn’t have found a more perfect fabric.  It’s bright and modern and balances well against the very classic style of the dress.

Close up Rainy Days picture smocking

I made a few tweaks to Janet’s plate – I changed up the floss colours so they would match my fabric.  I also went with cast on flowers instead of lazy daisy.  I also added ‘grass’ .  It’s just irregular single feather stitch, using two strands of green floss on top of a row of cable, but it adds a nice movement, I think.  But otherwise, it’s her design and I’m so pleased with how it turned out.  She does such nice designs.

cast on flowers

On one of my sewing forums, there was a discussion recently about the ubiquitousness of people selling patterns riddled with poor drafting, especially collars.  People were sharing their frustrations and their horror stories.  I definitely agree.  The difference is night and day between a badly drafted collar and a good one.  Look at the fit and the smooth shape of this collar.  It meets front and back and lies so nicely around the neck.  This is how a collar is supposed to fit!

Close up collar

The back of the dress is closed with four dark blue buttons.  These are vintage buttons, from my collection.  They suit the dress to a tee and they match the dark blue contrast fabric exactly.  You’d think I’d planned it but it was just a happy coincidence.

vintage button

So there you have it, a play dress that combines modern fabrics and smocking with a vintage pattern.  I think it’s a success.  My marching orders were “lots of colour, with flowers”.  Hopefully this meets the bill!


  • Your smocking is beautiful. The flowers are intriguing in how 3 dimensional they are. The whole dress is just adorable!

  • Claire

    Thanks, Anne. Ever since I learned the trick for cast on flowers from Gail Doane, they’ve been my favourite. They look great and they’re so easy to make!

  • Gorgeous dress! I can’t do picture smocking or cast on flowers, but I can make quite nice bullions. The fabric is just perfect with the smocked insert. Maybe some day I’ll tackle the smocking…

  • Angela

    This dress is just beautiful! I love all the details. I would love to learn to make cast on flowers.

  • Claire

    I learned to make cast on flowers from Gail Doane. She’s the master – hers are incredible. If you ever get a chance, Angela, I’d say go right to source! 🙂