Rosy Little Thing

comments: 113


Reader, I finished it. And then I married it, because I loved it so much. My first officially smocked-with-a-pleater dress. It's not perfect by any means, but it was a great experience. I am afraid of a lot of things in my life: flying, chair lifts, talking to authority figures (landlords, accountants, lawyers, doctors), going into actual brick-and-mortar bank buildings (yeahhhhh), drunk people, anything that has to do with remodeling part of the house, pleaters. So I am excited to check "pleaters" off the list because they are not scary at all (unlike the other terrifying things on my list). Pleaters are cool!


As I mentioned, this is called a Bishop dress. This is the back of my dress. It is basically made up of a set of rectangular pieces of fabric stitched together in a long row . Then the top edge is run through the pleater, which gathers up the fabric into a circular sort of "yoke." Nancy Malitz, who showed me the basics at the SAGA meeting last week, teaches people how to make a version of this dress through a beginner's correspondence course she teaches through SAGA. This is actually what you make in the beginners class, and now that I've done it in a weekend I can tell you that it is easier than it looks, honestly. The coolest part about that is that you do not have to have your own pleater to take the course. Nancy will actually pleat the dress for you. She'll send it back to you once it's pleated, and you will then do the smocking. Nancy's dress has a little angel sleeve instead of these 3/4 sleeve that I just sort of made up (those weren't part of the pattern). And I just chose this little diamond pattern for the smocking and made it up. You will learn eight different smocking stitches in the course (and you'll also learn how to center the design, which I didn't do). But if you are interested in smocking but don't know where to start, I think this is a really great opportunity. I can't say enough about Nancy's generosity and patience.

Anyway, I am excited. Remember the can-hugeifying skirt I made a couple of years ago? That one I pleated by hand, but I do so love the look of the gingham, so I am going to try another Bishop dress pleated with the pleater on gingham next. I also have a vision of oatmeal linen with red smocking (like that little sampler I started the other night). I have to say that in looking at a lot of images of smocked dresses over the weekend, I have a strong preference for the more rustic, simple designs that aren't too fussy or overwrought. It's the type of thing that can become twee pretty easily, so I think keeping the fabrics and colors simple and not too saccharine is key. In my opinion. I'm going for something much more Little Match Girl than Polly Flinders, you know what I mean?


Alicia, it's beautiful -- and so very sweet. Wouldn't the world be lovely if all little girls could wear a pretty bishop dress.

Gah! You said twee! :-) You, are brilliant. And your dress is, too.

"Can-hugeifying" = funniest phrase ever.

Would love to know where the fabric for this dress came from?!

Kathy McDonald says: February 01, 2010 at 11:30 AM

Simply lovely, Alicia! Congratulations on tackling one of your fears. You did a beautiful job.

Way to conquer the pleater! What a gorgeous dress. You should be so proud!

Oooh, just lovely. I love the fabric you chose, too-- those wee little rosebuds! Well done.


This is really so lovely!

You're a natural. That's all there is to it.

So, so sweet! I love the fabric choice, too! You were not alone in your fear of the pleater(I am also afraid of bias tape makers and making homemade bias tape in general, even though I am a huge fan of bias tape!)... Again, you are so inspiring! I love smocking!

How sweet is this? Beautifully done.

This turned out so beautifully!!!! I do remember your skirt you made... I just adore gingham. I was going to try little cafe curtains before actually trying to make clothing but now you have me thinking! My Mom used to always sing the praises of Polly Flinders when we were little girls!

Just beautiful!

How beautiful. I love the colors of the fabric.

I'm also afraid of most of those things you mentioned, and a few more. I was finally able to conquer flying. It's all about feeling like you are in control as much as possible.

So proud of you! I recently begun picture smocking when my son was born and am totally addicted. I have been looking everywhere for a pleater, but they are soooo expensive! You are lucky to have been the kind recipient of went to a great home.

It IS perfect. So so so lovely!!! I'm definitely inspired to maybe tackle smocking:) My mom is amazing, though it's been a while, and I know she'd help. I've been on a quest to be more creative and this is just the kind of inspiration I love so much! Thanks so much for sharing your darling dress:)

It's beautiful.Love everything about it :)

A perfect little girl dress. Lovely.

A gingham bishop's dress would be so rad! I'm thinking Easter for three little girls I happen to know. Checking out the correspondence class, because I'm not likely to get a pleater anytime soon.

I love gingham too, but remember this when you run it through your pleater: Your fabric must be cut perfectly straight and run through the pleater perfectly straight. If you will sew a row of stitching about 1/4" from the neck edge along a row of squares, this will help you line up your bishop in the pleater. If you don't do the above, your squares will be all crooked. I had a gingham bishop pleated for me one time and it came out all crooked. I had to rip and have it re-done by someone else. This isn't as big of a problem if the gingham is smaller squared, but the larger the squares, the more it matters. Same thing when working with plaids, they have to match up, so no biggie really.

It's beautiful, I love the choice of colours as well. Great job, looking forward to seeing your skirt.

The dress is beautiful.


The dress is darling. I think that the material and colors would make a lovely adult smocked top too.

This post is so inspiring! I remember wearing a smocked dress my great-grandmother made me. The fabric was white with tiny pink rosebuds, and it had a eyelet pinafore. Perhaps a little twee, but I loved it, even at 5 years old. I actually picked up a vintage smocking pattern at a thrift store a few years ago, but haven't had a chance to try it out. Maybe if I have a little girl one day...

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at