I’m getting ready for a two-hour “pleat in” in Richfield on Saturday. The Lakes & Prairies chapter of the Smocking Arts Guild of America is holding a session to cut and pleat a few precious little gowns for the Wee Care program of this national organization. It’s been some time since I have created a little gown of this kind, so I thought I would refresh my memory. I’ve also been wanting to work with Acorn Fabric’s cotton voile, a very lightweight, airy fabric, and this is a great opportunity.
After hand washing and drying my one-yard piece, I pulled a thread and established the edge along the grain of the voile, cutting one 12″ X 36″ piece and two 5″ X 9″ sleeve pieces, as needed for the gown of a 3-4 pound baby.
The weave of the voile is nice and straight. I took a look at it under a microscope and found the width of the thread to be consistent all across the weave and the weave very straight and clean. Those characteristics were evident when I pulled a thread. It was very easy to see the cutting line and my pieces were straight and even all across.
I followed the Australian Smocking & Embroidery pattern from issue 48. This pattern is available as a free download at Country Bumpkin.
One of the biggest challenges with pleating a bishop style garment is getting the four seams–that join the two back pieces, the two sleeve pieces and the front piece–through the pleater without breaking a single pleater needle and keeping the fabric straight and on grain as it passes through the pleater. In the past, I concluded that the “seamless appearing seam” method that Nancy Malitz teaches in her “Practically Perfect Pleating” correspondence course is the best method, as most often I have experienced difficulty while pleating batiste weight fabric and regular or tiny French seams. Unless each seam was extremely tiny (as in no more than 1/8th of an inch), the seam would “balk”, I was left “rocking the seam” with very often a broken pleater needle or two, and the project ending in disaster for the little gown. This is why I’m excited about working with voile!
In my experience today, the voile cooperated beautifully. I created a plain seam and then serged the seam edge with a 2-thread rolled edge. I was very pleased to find the voile and the seams had no difficulty passing through the pleater–resulting in no broken needles.
Once off the pleater, I blocked the gown to fit the neckline to the “small” size.
I tied the pleating threads, leaving a 2 cm seam allowance at the back edges.
I pleated and blocked the sleeve edges.
The gown is ready to smock.