Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Smocked Dress Tutorial

This is a very simple, comfortable smocked summer dress. Before you take a double look, yes, that is my son in a dress. I needed a model! I hope you all don't think that is too horrible that I did that to him.

First, here are some of the dresses I did for my special project...

Anyway, I'm making a bunch in different sizes for a special project. But, before I share the project with you, I need to get the tutorial up for others to copy. Since it is very late and I have been busy all day, there may be a few mistakes in here. If you don't understand something, please let me know and I will fix it right away. So here it is...

***There is a change to the straps for the Haiti dresses. The dresses that work the best are strapless or the straps sewn to the front ONLY so they could tie around the neck.

You will need:
1. Pattern paper or old sheet
2. Fabric with matching thread
3. Elastic thread

Here are your steps:
1. Make the Pattern
2. Cut out fabric
3. Sew sides
4. Hem top and bottom
5. Smock
6. Sew on straps.

No onto the details and pictures.

1. First, measure around the chest of the person wearing the dress. Then measure the length you want from just below the armpit to where you want the dress to stop and add an inch for hems on the top and bottom. For my dresses, I did 24 inches around and 24 inches in length for 6T; 23 inches around and 23 inches long for 5T; 22 inches around and 22 inches long for 4T.

Now take that 1st measurement, the one of the chest and multiply it by 1.5. Then divide it in 1/2. This will be the width of your pattern piece. I will use my 6T as an example. I had 24 inches around, times 1.5 I got 36 now divided by 2 and I have 18 inches.

I drew my pattern 18 inches across the top, went down 24 inches and 24 across so the dress goes out a bit and isn't just straight. I think it flows better this way. Here is my pattern piece.

2. Now, take your fabric and fold it, right sides together. I did wrong sides together, it really doesn't matter, but if you do right sides together after you cut it, you will just go right to the machine and sew. Anyway, lay your pattern on top and cut. My pattern might look a little big, that's because I forgot to divide by 2 up above. It took me a day to figure out why it was so big! Duh!

3. Now that your fabric is cut, right sides should be together. Take it straight to your machine and sew the sides with a zig-zag.

4. Then sew a zig zag around the top edge. Now because it's knit I don't even iron this part, just fold the top down a thumb width and sew straight along the hem. You can use the pressor foot as a guide for a straight line.

The bottom hem, I didn't do the zig zag first, I folded it a thumb width and sewed a zig zag along the folded edge. I didn't like the zig zag on the top so I did it with that extra step.

5. Once the sides and the hems are finished you are ready to smock. You need to take a new bobbin and hand wind the elastic. Be careful not to stretch it while winding it.

Stick your bobbin in the machine and sew straight lines around the top of the dress. I use my pressor foot as a guide for these lines.

Yes, it looks a tad messy at the top edge, but, in my defense, this was my first one; the trial one and I thought the contrasting thread would be cute. I wasn't exactly right on this one.

Anyway, when you have as many rows as you want, you are finished with the dress part. Iron up the top and it shrinks the elastic a bit more and you are left with straps if you want them.

6. For a child's dress, I usually take the middle and measure out 2 inches on either side. For the 6T, I measured out 2.5 inches, marked it and sewed on the straps.

***Since I was using knit material, I thought I would just try cutting some strips the non-stretchy way. (This knit only stretched one way.) So, there was no sewing for the straps, just to put them on the dress. Anyway for these particular dresses, they need to be very easy to get on and off. Someone had suggested buttons, but I was having great difficulty with the button holes in this very thin knit and buttons take me a very long time to sew. So, I left the straps long, fed them through the button holes and tied it off. It looked decorative.

Please remember this tutorial was done on the first one, the trial one and I messed up the pattern, making it way too huge! Also, the straps are way too far apart. I didn't follow my 2 inch rule because the dress was huge and I still hadn't figured out why. Once I realized what I did, I cut off the excess on the sides and made the dress much smaller. The other dresses turned out much better. But, this one isn't bad.

Anyway, here are a couple other dresses with some variations...


  1. love it!!! This is sooooo my next project, thank you!

  2. Thank you for posting. I am going to attempt my first dress. By the way, I LOVE both of your models. Sometimes you have to use what you have. :)

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