Gathering Threads

Christmas Bishop Complete

Posted by on Nov 22 2010, in Holidays, Smocking

A quick and cheerful bishop for the holiday season. The pattern is “Marguerite” from Country Bumpkin’s “Beautiful Bishops” book.

I’m on the fence about this particular pattern. While I love the idea of a bishop/yoke hybrid (just think of the embroidery and heirloom possibilities that lovely rounded expanse of fabric offers around the face!), there’s just something off about the shoulders and the arms in this pattern.

Too deep maybe? I think if I made this again, I would take 1 1/2 cm off the lower edge of the yoke and add them to the upper edge of the sleeve and see how that looks.

You wouldn’t recognized this dress as being the one in the book, so different are the colours and fabric style. The one in the book is *very* country – a blue goose with bows kinda look. This 60s inspired contemporary print is very strong, with electric colours and a great deal of contrast between the green collar and red piping.

Other than that, this pattern went together very easily. I didn’t even bother with a pattern. I just chose three shades of floss (dark green, light green and deep red) and working over 10 half space rows, did a row of wheat stitch along the top and bottom and then a series of closed herringbone ‘Christmas trees’ through the centre. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.

I think it took me all of three swimming lessons to complete it. (I measure much of smocking time in swimming lesson time. 30min/lesson x 2 lessons a week means a significant chunk of guilt-free smocking time)

I only made a few changes to the pattern and those were very minor. I had to shorten it significantly, given that I only had 1.5 m of fabric, that I’d picked up last year after the holidays. It was discontinued, so it wasn’t like I could pop out for another 20cm. It was use what I had or bust. Then again, it was ankle length, which to my mind is just asking for trouble with a toddler.

To compensate for the fabric limitations, I eliminated the pattern’s deep tucks and made a very, very narrow hem (only 1 1/2″) around the bottom edge. Would it hold up to a close inspection or win the blue ribbon? Hardly. But it’s a holiday play dress, meant to be quick to sew and easy to care for. Ellie should get two seasons of wear out of it, given the length, so I’m not going to fuss.

I really like the collar and the big red buttons that run down the back of this dress, though.  I had the devil’s own time getting both right. First, the cord in my stash was too thick. It looked like fat, red rope. Not good. Went out, got the correct piping cord and made up the next batch. Got it sewed on under electric lights. Next day, in natural light, what had looked very close was clearly not. I finally caved, and went to get another piece of broadcloth in a shade that actually matched (not ‘sorta-matched’) plus more cord and made batch #3.   Then, because I’d used a set of covered buttons with the ‘fabric that kind of matched but didn’t’ (TM :)), I ended up having to hunt to find another set of buttons the same size to fit the existing buttonholes.   Sigh.

Would anyone but me have noticed these details? Probably not but still…I put my head on the pillow with a clear sewing conscience now and that’s the most important thing, right? 🙂


  • Adorable! I like shorter bishops on toddlers too. I’m mailing your Christmas skirt this week. Is the girl I made it for “Ellie”?

  • Claire

    Yup. She’ll be a very well dressed little girl this holiday season! 🙂

  • I spell my “Ellie” the same way! I may have to throw a little something special in there – you know I have a soft spot for those “Ellie’s”. 🙂

  • I’ve never seen that pattern. I like the way the backsmocking makes the trees look like they are picture smocked. Too cute!

  • This is adorable and I just love that fabric, so special and perfect for the dress. FWIW, I think we are so accustomed to seeing a bishop flare out at the bottom with those arrow shapped trellis stitches that to finish the bottom off with the stem/outline stitch “looks” different. But no matter, this is adorable. Love your blog.

  • Oh, your article in Threads is fabulous.

  • Hey Claire! I don’t have your email address but I just sent you a message via ES forum. Can you check it please and get back to me when you get a sec? Thanks!