Sunday, July 1, 2012

Is There Still Room for the Traditional?

I think I am a dinasaur.  I think the little girl sewing world might have moved to a place I just can't go to.  Don't get me wrong - I think alot of it is quite charming but it's just not me.  I'm stuck on the traditional.  I keep pondering the possibility of William and Kate producing a royal daughter and the possibility (the quite real possibility) of Kate choosing to dress her in a very traditional style.  I think it would make people like me instantly 'cool' again.  Just think, everytime you looked at the cover of a People magazine there would be a little girl in a traditional smocked dress.  Now that's progress for us dinasaurs.  Let me know what you think about this.

So, in the spirit of the traditional I have a few photos of another project I will most likely propose to teach next year at the Martha Pullen school. I love ( repeat LOVE!) real dotted Swiss. It has a beautiful hand, is quite wrinkle resistant, and washes beautifully. Anyone born in the 50's or 60's will surely have a memory of wearing a dotted Swiss dress.

I picked the dots out of the fabric in the area to pleated. It leaves you with a nice plain surface to smock on.  I also interfaced the area to be pleated with a lightweight fusible interfacing.  The dotted Swiss is very fine and pleats down to almost nothing.  The interfacing adds fullnes to your pleats and makes it much nicer to smock on.

The teardrop collar is made from plain white Swiss voile and trimmed with shaped premade robin's egg microcheck spaghetti bias.  The two bias edges are joined with a hand 'bridging' stitch.  A few cast-on stitch posies help bring some of the pink in the smocking up into the collar. 

I'm very lucky to have daughter's who still will dress their daughter's in traditional style dresses.  I'm counting on Kate to help bring some of this back.  But, even if she doesn't, I'll probably stay right where I'm at.

P.S.  Happy Canada Day!


  1. Good morning Gail! First let me say I have followed your work since I first discovered you in AS&E back when. I LOVE your work. I can see a dress or jacket or the sweaters and know immediately it was your work. Thank you for sharing your slightly non-traditional style!

    I have two boys, no girls, and Prince William was born between them. I had taken smocking lessons when my oldest was just a baby. It was exciting--especially down here in South Texas (not exactly the center of heirloom stuff like the East Coast)--to see Wills in his smocked outfits.

    I was a stay-at-home mom, and I smocked for my son and then two years later for his brother. That is about all they wore day in and day out. As my youngest outgrew each outfit, a lady here in our town would purchase them for her son.

    Now I have a 3 year old grandson who has had some smocked stuff and I have a 14 month old granddaughter. Needless to say--she has lots of smocked dresses, will have many more and I love having that little girl to smock for! Finding the classic shoes (a part of the deal!) have been a bit of a challenge, but I have located several sources.

    Classic never goes out of style. William and Kate are immensely popular and I suspect they will influence what little ones are wearing just as Princess Diana did when her boys were little.

    Thanks for providing fresh inspiration. I have your book with the jackets and will be working on little dresses and jackets for the fall and winter.

    I enjoy your blog, especially the pictures.

  2. Gail, can I join your dinosaur club? My oldest grandaughter, 8, pulled me aside at Easter and said, "Bunbun, can you make me some dresses that aren't so old fashioned?" What's a grandma to do? DDs definitely love the traditional look that I sew for them and DD#2 says they are particularly appropriate in their social circle. I guess she rolls with a more traditional group of friends. DD#1 let's her hubby and myself make all the "taste" decisions. She's just not into it but because of that she will put anything I make on Carly, at least until it needs ironing.

    One of my favorite celebrity pics is one of Grace Kelly with Princess Caroline in a beautifully smocked dress. It's on my Pinterest board.

    While we may be dinosaurs to some I think we are carrying on a skill set that MUST be passed on. Between your classes, publications, and my blog , and those of many others it will be!

    Thanks for the provocative post.

  3. Gorgeous dress, by the way! That skill set sure shows!

  4. I will join the club! I know that they will wear more trendy outfits and not just heirloom, but I think that heirloom still lives on. I am sure that the royals will have their baby show up in smocked outfits, whether boy or girl. Out time is coming once again!

  5. Stay right where you are, Gail! I too, can spot one of your creations and am immediately drawn to them! They are classic (not a bad word)and the color combinations are timeless and fresh at the same time. I am praying that I will have granddaughters who will wear these beautiful clothes. With two DD's and one DIL who appreciates sewing expertise, I think I have a chance! But first I need to finish your christening gown from Feb. '12 SOAF!

  6. I am thrilled and relieved to know I have some company in the traditional world of children's clothing! I fear that most pattern designers and fabric vendors have chosen to follow other paths. Maybe there will be a return, when a new royal babe is born.
    This dress is lovely! Turquoise is such a fresh and fun color, and nothing is better than real dotted Swiss!

  7. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Her Dutchessness dresses a child in traditional clothing, at least when it's quite tiny. Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie both wore smocked dresses often, and Wills and Harry turned up in Jon-Jons and lace-trimmed shirts until they were school age. More recently, Dutch Princess Maxima has dressed all three of her daughters in heirloom clothing quite often. The coming-home dress of Princess Ariane (b2005) was a gorgeous confection of vintage Dutch lace and silk batiste.
    I really like this new dress of yours! I'm not sure I'd have the patience to pick out the dots, though. I know I did it when I was five- I can remember my mom swatting my hands away from my skirt while at church one Easter.

  8. Your dress is exquisite as usual Gail. Please keep us inspired with your traditional creations. I am trying to find a pattern for my 13yr old dgd for a smocked neckline blouse. I know she would love it and I can still sew for her. You and all the other traditional experts have talent way above what I see from the newbies. Susan VH

  9. I know exactly how you feel. I am an heirloom seamstress as well and it drives me crazy that the ladies who don't know how to sew or try to sew are the ones with the big blogs. There is one blog where the lady lays down store bought clothes and traces around the clothes and then gets all the attention and is called an amazing sewer. She is not even on the grain line yet she is being marketed and asked to give advise on sewing. Drives me crazy. Thanks for letting me vent to you.

    1. I just did a big post on just this issue. Drives me nuts too.

  10. Gail - if being a dinosaur allows me to keep company with you - I am glad to join the club! Fantastic dress - thanks for keeping tradition alive.

  11. PS - the "box" loves your traditional garments ;-)

  12. All I can say is a resounding "THANK YOU!!" I truly love your work and traditional clothing for children. I find it alarming how even Sew Beautiful is becoming so much more modern and of course AS&E is ending as did Creative Needle a few years back. I am so happy to think there are designers like you still happiest with tradition. God bless and keep you!

  13. Just divine Gail and put me in the dinosaurs with you - there will always be a place for the traditional, and your work is just beautiful.

  14. There is always room for classic. I know many shops in London selling classic smocking, in fact Princess Marie Chantal of Greece owns one of them. I feel sure kate will dress her babies traditionally. I started smocking because my step daughter wanted traditional smocked clothes for her boys.I have posted two little suits I have made for her new baby on my blog. Keep up the tradition Gail!

  15. Absolutely beautiful! I'm dying to learn the art of heirloom sewing. Have tried a few things ... but can't find much in Phoenix. Do you ever teach classes here? I would even travel to Salt Lake for a class. Your work is exquisite.


    by the way ... I'm logged into my husband's google account ... hence the helmeted male!

  16. Hi Suzanne,
    I am going to be in Phoenix March 22-23 teaching for the Desert Rows SAGA guild. Don't know what project they will choose yet. Contact person in Phoenix is Joyce (

  17. I have 5 girls (ages 10, 5, 4, 2, and 3 months), and I'm all about classic styles. Not only that, but I want them to wear them every day!


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