With the fifth birthday of my twin granddaughters approaching I have been working through the projects I planned for the event. The largest (in terms of work) of these was a smocked dress, Splendour in the Grass, from AS&E Issue 92, designed by Simela Constant. I really enjoyed making Simela's High Five jacket in AS&E 87 and love the look of Splendour in the Grass.
I had bought a kit for this dress for Niamh, but had not yet to worked out what to do for Veronica. I do have a kit I bought for her, but decided to leave it for another year or two as it will fit up to 7 years and is probably better for a slightly older child. So I need to choose something else.
In the meantime, I got on to the smocking of Splendour in the Grass, which is in a lovely soft, pale blue chambray - rather more washed out in the photos than in reality.
I like the design a lot - both the smocking and the dress itself. It is smocked in a series of interlocking diamonds - a very interesting and effective way of combining simple two-step trellises.
My challenge was to manage the cutting and sewing without my sewing room or the kitchen! Our kitchen table is in Jim's study, so I managed the cutting there.
My sewing machine is currently in a corner of my study and I hadn't tried it out. It proved to be workable-so I was in business.
I had to follow the instructions closely because they used a few techniques I hadn't used before. The dress has very clever side panels, cut away and stitched together at the shoulder to form the armhole and providing a backing to the frill. This really allows the smocking to shape the dress.
Both the front and back yokes open, the back closing with buttons, the front with a tie. This is a great design for small children, allowing a lot of flexibility in dressing and undressing.
My major challenge was in attaching the frill using Simela's technique of turning under the top edge of the frill panel and gathering through the two layers, then stitching the gathered frill on to the body of the dress through the two layers before removing the gathered threads. I should have practiced! I am used to gathering frills through one fabric layer. And chambray wasn't the easiest fabric to try through two! It was more successful when I pinned and gathered in sections about one eighth of the circumference of the dress.
Nevertheless, I mastered it, and love the result. I think this is a pioneering design. I love the way the smocking gives such shape and fall to the dress and the side panels give an elegant form, allowing the shoulder frills to sit flat without any gaping at the sleeves. The ties hang easily because they are weighted by the beads. The dress allows very easy movement and will be so comfortable to wear.
I do hope this design is picked up and used by others. I'd love to keep making versions of it as the girls get older. It is really modern but also classical. I think it might be the best design of any I have made.
I wonder if Niamh will agree? Or Veronica - I've now decided to use this design for her dress as well.