Saturday, August 20, 2011

pleating with polka dots

Pleating with polka dots can sometimes be a frustrating experience, especially if you tend to be like me, a perfectionist! I have to admit that it REALLY bothers me when I see a smocked dress and the fabric pattern is running at weird angles.  Once it's pleated, the smocking is straight, but because of the way the fabric print was pleated,  it tends to really make everything look totally out of whack! The sad thing is that it will take your eyes away from the beautiful smocking and you will be drawn to  the fact that the print is running on those weird diagonals. So, how in the world do you fix this issue, you might ask. No worries, I have a solution!! YAY! 
There are actually a couple different ways you can accomplish perfectly pleated polka-dots, but I am going to focus on the method that I recently discovered that worked like a charm for me!

Sooo, just how did I accomplish that?!? Well, it's really quite simple, but you are going to have to step outside the box to accomplish it!
I used the Children's Corner Bishop pattern and this brown polka-dotted fabric by "Brother Sister", available at Hobby Lobby.
The first thing I did was clip the fabric and tore it on the straight grain to see how straight the fabric was printed.
Not too bad, but if you look closely, it is just a little off - keep in mind that just this tiny bit of being off will reek havoc for you if you tried to pleat it. So here's the secret:
Fold the fabric on the bias and look how the dots line up magically!
I have placed my pattern piece on the fabric that is folded on the bias (45-degree). Notice how the pleating dots are all running perfectly straight with the dots on the fabric. This is very important because if those pleating dots don't line up with the fabric dots, then it won't pleat with the dots running straight around the neckline.
Also take note how the side seams are also running straight with the fabric dots.
Before I cut my sleeves out, I laid my cut front (and back pieces) on the fabric to make sure that I cut my sleeves out on the same dotted rows as the front (and back) pieces. This will guarantee that my dots will run evenly all the way around the neckline.
I have positioned my sleeve piece where it needs to be cut and now I am ready to cut them out.
I am now ready to sew the shoulder seams and I am making sure that the dots will all line up before I stitch the seam.
I like to use my serger to sew up a bishop, taking a really small seam, which will keep me from getting those ugly seamline bumps - check out my no bump bishop tute for more information about that.
I have pressed my seam open and look how nicely the dots lined up in my seam! Once all the pieces are sewn together, you are ready to run the dress thru the pleater. Once pleated, it should look like mine!
Remember, the entire dress is cut on the bias, which is how I got all my polka dots to run in a nice straight line all the way around the neckline. Another thing to keep in mind, depending on the pattern that you use, is to make sure the fronts, backs and sleeves are all cut straight across the top. Some patterns have a bit of a dip - you will need to ignore the dip and cut it straight. When the dress is pleated, everything will be nice and straight and the eye will be drawn to both the beauty of the smocking, as well as the beauty of the polka dots running straight all the way around the dress!
This method is not only for a bishop - try it with a yoke dress too! You might ask "Why not just cut not on the straight grain, but following the dots to keep things straight?" I guess you could do that, but if the printed fabric is off by quite a bit, you are going to notice the fabric grain running crooked when you cut out your pattern. Cutting on the bias keeps it all on the bias and the fabric will lay very nicely and the grain lines will look nice too! Call me a perfectionist, but little things like that bug me and I always strive to have grain lines looking good!
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial - I would love to have some feedback on what you think and please share my blog with your sewing friends!


Elsie said...

Laurie~ Thank you so much for this tudorial. No one in this town smocks and there are no teachers.
I went to Mississippi to a class but all she show was how to smock a bonnet and the stitches. I live in Louisiana.
My question is do you wash your fabric first, like the polka dots, or the Imperial batiste or for that matter any on your fabric to get the sizing out?
I am going to try the smocked soxes. I don't have little ones anymore but I can save them for gifts. I want to try a bishop dress, I have always wanted to try one. I love your blog and I appreciate your time you give to it. I always look forward to your news letter every week.
Thank You!!!

Eileen said...

Thanks for this! What a great method!

Esther Grant said...

Awesome Laurie! Things out of place like that drive me crazy too and I never thought of cutting it on the bias. As always, genius! Thank you so much!!

Jerry said...

Thank you for doing this Laurie! I know I ask waaaaay too many questions, but you always have the perfect answer!!! Soooo....with the dress cut on the bias, that will mean that since the seams will have some weight, they will "sag" a bit over time. Is this something you would let hang a few days before hemming to overcome that and keep the hemline as even as possible? (Much like one would with a circular skirt?)

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Laurie, you are an amazing and talented seamstress! I know that I have said this before...but OH! how I wish that you lived right next door!

I like Elsie's question: Do you wash all your fabrics first before doing any smocking or sewing? And do you have a tutorial for smocked socks?

Blessings & Aloha!
Have a wonderful day!

Ellie Inspired said...

Genius, Laurie!! Thanks for the tutorial!

Sheila Hartsfield said...

Thanks for the tutorial! My polka dots lined up just the way yours did!!! Yay me!!! You are wonderful! I've completely taught myself to smock using your tutorials.

LunaLoo said...

I don't know if you will see this as I am viewing the blog late but how much extra fabric do you buy to cut on the bias? is there an equation for that? this is a great tutorial whether smocking or not.. dots can be tricky if you are needing a particular visual!


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