Reader, I finished it. And then I married it, because I loved it so much. My first officially smocked-with-a-pleater dress. It's not perfect by any means, but it was a great experience. I am afraid of a lot of things in my life: flying, chair lifts, talking to authority figures (landlords, accountants, lawyers, doctors), going into actual brick-and-mortar bank buildings (yeahhhhh), drunk people, anything that has to do with remodeling part of the house, pleaters. So I am excited to check "pleaters" off the list because they are not scary at all (unlike the other terrifying things on my list). Pleaters are cool!
As I mentioned, this is called a Bishop dress. This is the back of my dress. It is basically made up of a set of rectangular pieces of fabric stitched together in a long row . Then the top edge is run through the pleater, which gathers up the fabric into a circular sort of "yoke." Nancy Malitz, who showed me the basics at the SAGA meeting last week, teaches people how to make a version of this dress through a beginner's correspondence course she teaches through SAGA. This is actually what you make in the beginners class, and now that I've done it in a weekend I can tell you that it is easier than it looks, honestly. The coolest part about that is that you do not have to have your own pleater to take the course. Nancy will actually pleat the dress for you. She'll send it back to you once it's pleated, and you will then do the smocking. Nancy's dress has a little angel sleeve instead of these 3/4 sleeve that I just sort of made up (those weren't part of the pattern). And I just chose this little diamond pattern for the smocking and made it up. You will learn eight different smocking stitches in the course (and you'll also learn how to center the design, which I didn't do). But if you are interested in smocking but don't know where to start, I think this is a really great opportunity. I can't say enough about Nancy's generosity and patience.
Anyway, I am excited. Remember the can-hugeifying skirt I made a couple of years ago? That one I pleated by hand, but I do so love the look of the gingham, so I am going to try another Bishop dress pleated with the pleater on gingham next. I also have a vision of oatmeal linen with red smocking (like that little sampler I started the other night). I have to say that in looking at a lot of images of smocked dresses over the weekend, I have a strong preference for the more rustic, simple designs that aren't too fussy or overwrought. It's the type of thing that can become twee pretty easily, so I think keeping the fabrics and colors simple and not too saccharine is key. In my opinion. I'm going for something much more Little Match Girl than Polly Flinders, you know what I mean?