I smocked a dress one time for my granddaughter and I said that was the only one she would ever have if I had to make it. Well, I saw a dress where the top was hand smocked using a box stitch. So, I thought that doesn't look too hard I am going to try it. It is not hard but it does take a long time to complete. I will share with you some of the things I learned along the way that may help you on your first try.
Step 1: Finding Your Material
You can use any material. But you will need to mark the material to make the squares. So I decided I would find material with a design so I did not have to make a lot of marks. I still had to mark the squares because it is hard to tell where to do the stitches as you go. The green is showing which box to stitch. Here is the material I chose and I marked the areas with black dots where you stitch on this sample piece. I wanted to see where to stitch. For this dress I bought 2 yards because it does take extra material because of the smocking. I also bought 1 1/2 yards of white material to line the dress. And a bag of pearls to add to each stitch. I took about 250 for this dress.
Step 2: Pattern
I took a dress that I knew fit my granddaughter and made a pattern. You need to decide on the pattern so you know how much to smock. I decided to smock the front top piece of her dress. You actually smock a bigger piece than you need. You will cut the pattern piece out after you finish smocking. Having the pattern lets you keep the piece close to the size you need, so you do not smock too big of a piece.
Step 3: Smocking Tutorial
I am going to show you how to smock on plain material. You can do this on any material. Use a washable marker and make dots 1/2 inch apart across and 1/2 inch down. You need to make the dots twice as big as you need finished because the smocking will take extra material. You start in dot 1 and move to dot 2 then to dot 3, dot 4 and dot 5 brings you back to dot 1. Next pull the thread until all the dots are together. Now put a stitch through a couple of the dots to close the gather. Now you can add any bead, I am using a pearl. If you do not want a bead you can just put a couple of stitches. Now go to the next block of dots. You can really start in any of the dots as long as you go all the way around and end back at the starting dot. Once you do a few you will start to go pretty quick.
Step 4: Start Smocking
I used material that had a design that worked instead of putting all the dots. But I still followed the tutorial with doing 5 stitches and then pulling a stitch to tighten. Make a stitch to hold the design together and then put a pearl. I added another stitch to keep the pearl extra tight. Here is a drawing so it is a little clearer what the stitch looks like. Once you try it you will see how easy it is to do. Just make sure you mark all your material. Also make sure you material is straight. I started on one end and thought I had some room at the top but the material was not straight and I lost a row of smocking.
Step 5: Start Sewing
After you have finished the smocking you can sew the pieces together. I cut out all my lining pieces and then cut everything on the dress except the front or my smocked piece. I was afraid if I cut the material some of the stitches would be loose. So I sewed the front lining to the top at the neck and arm holes. Then I trimmed the material and then turned the piece. Sew the back pieces to the lining and then sew the front and back together. Now you have the top together.
Step 6: Sew the Skirt and Lining.
Sew the skirt lining and skirt. Now you are going to gather both pieces. I sewed a loose straight stitch and then pulled the stitch to gather the skirt, Now you are going to sew the lining to the lining and the material to the material. Make sure you have the right sides together. Now turn the skirt and the dress is almost finished.
Step 7: Sashes and Buttons
Cut two pieces for the sashes to tie on the back. Fold and sew the top and side. I turn the sashes with a pencil. After you turn you can sew them in the side seam. I had to take the seam out a little because I forgot to add them earlier. Not do your button holes and sew on you buttons. My machine has a button hole stitch. If you don't you can do snaps and just sew buttons on the top.
Step 8: Hem and Finish
Now I hemmed the lining and the dress. I did a small hand stitch to hem the dress. Make sure you hem the dress first and then you can make sure the lining is shorter. You can trim it if it is too long. My granddaughter wanted a bow so I make a bow to put on the first and even put a few pearls on it to tie it all together. I also added a similar bow to her headband. I just finished it in time for her to wear to a friends wedding this weekend. She loved the dress so I may have to do another one. It is amazing what you will do for your grandchildren.