Gathering Threads

Corrinne Elise complete

Posted by on Oct 25 2010, in Pattern review, Smocking

It was a weekend of ‘bits and pieces’ sewing. I made piping and finished up the few inches of remaining smocking on my niece’s winter bishop, getting it ready for construction; I sewed the underarm seams and started the bullions on her Christmas dress and I finished up this heirloom style dress too, marking its buttonholes, adding the buttons and popping out the petticoat.

The pattern is “Corrinne Elise” by PBJK. I blogged about it a couple of weeks ago, when I was having trouble deciding how to finish the yoke. Overall, I liked the pattern. The styling was excellent and the directions offered both heirloom and non-heirloom options, as well as smocked and unsmocked version.  You’ll have to forgive the pictures – my good camera is having battery issues and until I get it into the shop, I have to resort to my teeny-weeny Samsung :(.

The pattern pieces fit together well, and I’d be tempted to make it again in a print fabric for a more casual look. I’d probably draft a collar in that case, because the pattern doesn’t offer one and I think that would set off the yoke nicely, but that would be the only change I could see myself making.

The directions are overall, quite clear, although they could do with additional directions/diagrams on how to incorporate some of the heirloom techniques. I’m a confident sewer and if I can’t figure it out, I’m fine winging it but there were parts of the construction that could have been more explicit.

Now that it’s finished and I can hang it on Stanley, the sizing seems off to me. It’s either too wide or too short proportionally. My gut says too wide, given that the petticoat I made to go under it (Kwik Sew for Toddlers, whose sizing I trust) won’t button on Stanley but the dress does without strain. I need to see it on the little girl I made it for – she’s tall for her age – before I deliver a final verdict.

Also, a table of contents would have been useful. I didn’t sew the dress in one sitting. I’d work on it, set it down, come back to it and work on something else. This necessitated me flipping madly through the double sided sheets looking for a tiny measurement or construction detail a lot more than I enjoyed because the pages, while labelled internally, didn’t have a master list saying “sleeves” pg 4-5, cutting directions pg 1 etc. Would have been a nice touch and cut down on my flipping.

The one area of the pattern that does need to be addressed desperately is the smocking plate. I design original smocking plates for magazines. I’m totally happy working from vintage designs. I trust my smocking skills and my ability to decipher instructions. I can usually smock correctly the first time out and rarely have to rip work out.

Unfortunately, this plate was so small and so indistinct, and the written directions so unclearly written, that I ended up ripping out and redoing the all of the sections at least once, because I was two or three rows into the plate, having finished the featherstitching, before I discovered that the directions would create a design that was too deep for the limited number of half-rows I’d pleated and wouldn’t allow me to smock the half waves as intended. Grr.

I ended up making it up, referring to the photograph, and winging it but I imagine not all smockers would be able to do that. A bigger, clearer plate that is not 3 x 4″ is a must for any future reprints of this pattern IMHO. I’m glad I stuck with the pattern but I’ve set designs aside for less and the introductory frustrations I experienced in the smocking made me leery as I continued with the sewing portion of the dress.

I did however enjoy working the hem and the yoke.  The featherstitching was strangely lulling and I found myself in no hurry to finish it. I worked two bands of it around the hem, and ultimately, around the yoke, too, to tie the upper and lower halves together.

Overall Pattern Review: B-


  • lots of options for a variety of finished looks
  • pattern pieces fit well
  • instructions were clear and detailed


  • the smocking plate was miniscule and almost impossible to decipher
  • a lack of a table of contents made navigating through the instructions difficult
  • some of the heirloom techniques could have been more fully explained for novice heirloom sewers

Finally, I need to tell everyone just how much this dress cost me to make (or didn’t cost!).  There’s this sense that heirloom sewing is prohibitively expensive. It certainly can be, if you’re using silk and expensive English netting and silk ribbon. But the whole dress, including the petticoat and the pattern, cost me less than $30. Seriously.

  • Pattern: $12
  • Fabric: $1.50 (seriously, $1/m on the discount table!!)
  • Entredeux: $5
  • Lace: $4
  • Pearl beads: $0.75/bag (yeah, that’s right! And I’ve got a whole bunch more left on the waxed string!)
  • Floss: $1.50 (and that’s only ’cause I ran out of white floss and didn’t have the darker shade of pink – everything else was stash)
  • Buttons: stash from a SAGA basket win
  • Batiste: $3.00
  • Total: $27.75

Cool, huh?


  • This is absolutely stunning. This looks like a great candidate for a birthday dress… hmmm… checking out PBJK website right now!