Shirring and smocking

It’s time for Sew Japanese in January over on Instagram, so I had a bit of a fossick in my many Japanese sewing books. I really wanted to use the cotton lawn that I recently dyed, using coreopsis flowers, assorted windfall flora and a lac dip. I used the new pot and gas burner that Archie gave me for Christmas, rolling the fabric round a piece of hose so that I could fit it into the pot.

The piece of fabric isn’t very big, and it’s quite light, so I just couldn’t decide what to make from it. Then my eyes lit on the shirred jumpsuit, Pattern L in Sweet Dress Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori and I decided that I might just get it out.

I had to cut it across the grain, and add a false hem but I managed to cut it out. When I added in the straps, some gratuitous pockets, and a piece to practice the shirring, this became a minimal waste make, which made me very happy.

It’s a really, really, simple make. Sew fronts and backs together, sew up the side seams and the crotch seam and you are almost there. Except… the shirring has to be done. I did a lot of shirring in the 1970s and my memory tells me that I was quite good at it. In retrospect I wonder whether I had outsourced it to my mother as I’m certainly not good at it now! I knew to handwind the bobbin, but then I was stumped. I googled settings and decided to increase the tension and lengthen the stitch. I had to do 15 rows and when I finished I thought it looked a little tight. Trying it on, I got one leg in and found that it gripped my thigh so tightly that no amount of shaking would budge it.

I decided to see if I could get the other leg in, and had to sit down to do it. I managed it and then had to winch it all past my hips. I do look a bit like a sausage bursting out of its casing, but it’s so comfortable to wear that I don’t care. I didn’t actually need any straps as it holds itself up pretty well, but I wanted to avoid any accidents.

I’m feeling as though I’m dressed like a toddler! The back pocket is to hold my phone when I’m cruising around the holiday place, and there’s a front pocket which isn’t useful for anything but I didn’t want to waste the nice piece of dyeing.

I put it on to take these photos, really for my own benefit, and many hours later, realised that I was still wearing it.

I might never appear in public in this one, but it will definitely be in high rotation in the hot weather!

I had thought about smocking the playsuit, but felt that was a step too far, so used the smocking pleater to gather up two rectangles of spotted rayon, which I then smocked using a variety of simple stitches. I sewed them together and decided that it would make a really good dress for my zero waste doll, Esme from The Craft of Clothes, which I realise I’ve never blogged. I added some cotton ribbon for straps and dressed Esme in it, and that’s what she’s been wearing ever since! She’s chatting to her chum the Patty doll from Pattern Division.

I haven’t mastered either shirring or smocking, but my interest is piqued so expect more.


6 thoughts on “Shirring and smocking

  1. In the 70’s my mum made me a beautiful royal blue patterned shirred dress, maxi on me, and I wore it to a friend’s 12th birthday party. All the other girls were wearing monochrome (grey beige in my memory). It took me years before I could wear colour again

  2. Lovely make in that dyed fabric and perfect for the current weather. Just wondering which Japanese book the pattern was in? My daughter was talking about doing some shirring.

  3. Love a shirred sundress! Yours is just right for a Perth summer.
    I’m glad to see Esme and Patty are getting along 🙂 both beautifully dressed too.

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