Vintage style birthday dress with smocking

vintage style smocked dress A birthday is a good excuse for a new frock, as is itching to try out a new pattern and new technique.

Now when I say new pattern, I really mean, old pattern. I found this 1960’s shirt and trousers pattern in a fabric consignment shop in Pike Street Market, Seattle, called Our Fabric Stash, when I was there visiting my brother. I picked up another gem of a coat pattern at the same time which I will be sewing as part of the next round of Battle of the Stitches in a couple of weeks time.vintage 60's McCall's pattern for toddler shirt with smocking

This pattern proved to be the final nudge I needed to try my hand at smocking and even came with an iron-on guide to mark out the dots for the pattern. Unfortunately whilst the guide still worked, as it was blue grey in colour it didn’t show up on the lovely dusty turquoise fabric* I picked out for the shirt/dress.

*The fabric in question is a cotton shirting ordered from Fabric Mart Fabrics with the voucher they kindly donated as a prize for the Project Run and Play July challenge.

Plan B involved using the fabrics tiny checks as guide points for the gathering and smocking. I took the opportunity to make things a little easier and picked a gap between checks bigger than the dots on the guide of the original. This meant doing a few sums to make sure the smocked design would remain symmetrical, but it did make the gathering and smocking a bit less fiddly. And I mean a bit less, because it was still flipping fiddly. It did, however, get easier once the first few rows were done, but the experience has still given me a lot more reference for all things smocked.

smocking detail and piped peter pan collar

I decided to lengthen the shirt into a dress to make the most of the smocked feature and because in S’s pre-birthday excitement she had requested a ‘beautiful dress to wear and spider man facepaint. (Hopefully I delivered on the former and the latter wish was granted after these photos.) The other changes I made were to insert an invisible zip at the back and to use the sleeves from view B.

vintage style smocked dress back view

One of my favourite features of this design is the piping on the peter pan collar and the sleeve cuffs. I probably wouldn’t have thought of adding non-contrast piping or turn up cuffs if the pattern hadn’t suggested it, but I love how it adds subtle detail.  vintage style smocked dress


16 thoughts on “Vintage style birthday dress with smocking

    1. Me too Sabrina, my mother was really knowledgeable in all things smocking and wanted to teach me when my daughter was born, I didn’t have time or space in my head. Sadly she is no longer with us. Now retired I suppose I’ll have to teach myself!

      1. Ah, but you see, I have ADHD, so I’d have to be REALLY brave to try something requiring such patience. 🙂 But it is so beautiful, it’s definitely on my radar for “someday”. If only my daughter were littler I’d probably be in a hurry to learn, but she has hit the tween years, so smocking is a no-go right now. 🙂

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