Gathering Threads

WIP: Gail Doane’s Eloise

Posted by on Aug 05 2010, in Smocking, WIP

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m working on a version of Gail Doane’s exquisite smocked wool dress, Eloise, from AS&E 87.


I don’t usually succumb to buyer’s lust.  I try very hard to be controlled in my stash building, especially when it comes to ‘wanna-sews’.  There aren’t enough hours in the day and if I gave in to the collecting bug every time it struck, in forty years, they’d find my lifeless body, crushed by a cascade of sewing magazines.   Not an attractive image, that!  But this time, I didn’t care.  I saw the cover, I wanted to make the dress.  End of discussion.

Luckily for me, I live in a town with some great fabric shops and finding the fabrics and notions I needed was very straightforward.  I found the exact shade of grey wool, in a lovely Italian summer-weight, at Ann’s Fabric.  Talk about gorgeous.  It just feels like…gorgeousness on a bolt! And I was able to get the silk organza for the collar (the real stuff, not a nasty synthetic knock-off)  at The Textile Centre, which always carries beautiful specialty fabrics.  I even found the darn near exact buttons that the dress uses, and best of all, they were 50% off, which, when they’re $10/card, is a good deal.


I’m always willing to pay a little more for quality fabrics because they’re such a pleasure to sew with (I’d like to think I’m discerning, not snobby!) but frankly being able to buy nearly everything locally adds up to significant savings when it comes to shipping and exchange rate fees anyway.   And I find that knowing where to go and who carries what means that I usually get my fabrics at very good prices while having the comfort of mind of knowing these are quality materials.

I shaped the lace for the collar Saturday evening.  It was a surprisingly straightforward process, given that I’d never done any lace shaping before and I’ve very pleased with the results.


Here is the one half of the lace collar, after it has been stitched to the organza underlay.  Still a little messy and untrimmed but it’ll look lovely when it’s done, I think.


My lace was narrower than the pattern called for, so I ended up with five rows rather than four but I really like the symmetry and the juxtaposition of the geometric and floral rows.  It will be edged with entredeux and then finished with this lace, which has a very strong presence and should really make the collar pop.  Doesn’t it show up beautifully against the charcoal grey wool?


But why, you might ask, if I was making such great progress on the collar, didn’t I finish it?  Because yours truly didn’t realize she’d used the last of the entredeux in her supplies, thus neglecting to reorder more in a timely fashion. *grumble, grumble* self-inflicted lack of planning, she mutters under her breath.  It’s the one thing I just can’t seem to source locally – at least not on a reliable basis, so getting more is always a production.

Now, despite that minor set-back of being momentarily entredeux-less, I have made progress and the smocking’s been blocked and the pattern pieces traced off.  Me being me, I can’t just make the dress exactly as written.  First off, I had substitute another pattern because the smallest size the dress comes in is a size 4 and my niece is only 2.  But a quick leaf through my smocking mags offered a solution and I substituted a basic yoke dress with long sleeves from AS&E 44, lowering the horizontal yoke seam to compensate for the deep collar.   I have also decided to go with a sash at the back, rather than the belt, because I though the style too severe for a toddler (although it’s a very good choice for an older girl who wants to look less ‘bow-y’).

The most visible change is the fact that I substituted another smocking plate because I wasn’t willing to shell out $80 for decorative buttons as per Eloise’s instructions.  Instead, I chose a geometric plate from the book “Smocking Inspiration” by Margie Prestedge and Sheila Bennett.


‘Caroline’ is a 9 row plate, which is a good depth for the tinier dress.  It will have the narrow white silk ribbon woven through the wave stitches, and I thought that it resembled a lace pattern, especially when it was worked monochromatically.  The teeny-weeny white silk ribbon criss-crosses through the centre band and I think it’s going to look lovely.  The ribbon is fantastic stuff and very narrow and will be threaded through with a narrow bodkin.

This is definitely an over-the-top dress, for all its steely understatement, but I’m so enjoying the creative process that I don’t begrudge the time at all.


  • Hi Claire,

    Thanks for sharing with me the tip on picture-smocking.

    The dress you are working on is to die for!!!

  • gaildoane

    Hi Claire, I’m so pleased to see your version of this project. I always like to see someone “make it their own”. I just posted another version of this dress on my blog ( then stumbled onto your blog. I love the way you write – I’m from Canada too.

  • Claire

    Hi Gail – wow. It’s like having a superstar in the house! *sweeping the sewing mess under the carpet* Gotta say – love your designs. Every time I open a SB or AS&E and go ‘gotta make that’, I seem to look at the byline and there’s your name.
    You think it’s a Canadian thing? I’m blaming it on the maple syrup and Tim Hortons. 🙂