Reaping Dress - Smocking

Remember how I was debating whether the dress in the movie had smocking or gathering/shirring at the neckline? No? Well of course not, you have more important things to remember, but in this post I came to the conclusion that it was probably shirring/gathering and I was just being paranoid or I must have a stiffer fabric or that I'd just have to add more rows of shirring. 

How wrong I was! Erin commented on my post that she thought it was definitely smocking after looking at the pictures again. I googled it and found an article where the costume designer is quoted:

We made dozens of different versions, some sheer, some not. Originally we thought it would be cotton, but rayon looked better. We found the fabric at the Western Costume fabric shop. And we bleached and dyed it to get just the right blue, and put some smocking at the top. It’s supposed to be her mother’s dress.

I could no longer lie to myself. Sure, I could've just stuck to shirring and be like "well I don't have to copy the dress exactly" , and while that's true, I think the smocking looks alot neater and since the fabric is simple and the neckline detail is really the center of attention, I knew I had to get over my apprehension and just learn the basics of smocking! (incase I haven't made it clear enough, this was a very dramatic turn of events you guyz!)


So after squinting at the picture to the left for a while to figure out what kind of smocking was used and finding a video that explained it well (I used the second one she shows, it's called the "honeycomb" stitch(?) I think), I started practicing on scraps of fabric.

And I'm glad I practiced, because it took me a while to figure out the perfect "ratio" of gathering stitch length : smocking stitch "height". It was off on my first sample, the folds where much to deep for the small stitches I made, and you couldn't really "open" the honeycomb pattern. 

I figured out the height had to be about the same as two gathering stitches (because that's how deep the folds are).

just a phone picture, sorry.. but can you see how the folds are too deep for the smocking?

just a phone picture, sorry.. but can you see how the folds are too deep for the smocking?

After two practice runs I started on my reaping dress, added the facings to the bodice pieces and did the smocking. I used 0.5 cm stitches to gather the fabric, and the height of the smocking stitches is 1 cm, worked out well. Even though the smocking is much bigger on my version than the film, I really like it! I mean, if I'm going to be adding details by hand, they better be visible! :)

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Also: narrow hemmed facings. They look soo neat and clean it's ridiculous!  I don't think the edges will show through on the other side, it's a very thin cotton, but I'll let you know if they do.

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I'm pretty much in love with smocking now. I love doing decorative hand-sewing, last summer I tried embroidery for the first time and now smocking! I haven't used embroidery on a garment yet because I don't feel I've had a good enough idea for a motif or placement yet... or I'm scared I'll get sick of it. Also, smocking is somehow more geometrical, working in a pattern and all. But both are relatively portable and surprisingly relaxing! You should totally try it! It's not as hard as it looks. I even dedicated a page in my sketchbook to it:


I did 3 rows of the stitch, but I think the movie one used 5 but with smaller folds and smocking stitches. If there's one thing that bothers me teeny tiny bit, it's that even though I adjusted the neckline slightly and moved the smocking further up, it's still sloping downward a little.


Now on to the next steps, sleeve band or rolled up sleeve? Probably sleeve band. A-line skirt or 2/3 circle skirt?  Hmm, probably a bit of both? I'll see tomorrow!