Spring is well under way which means I have been neglecting this blog in favour of frantic digging, sowing, weeding, shed building, rain-dodging and general catching up on our allotment. Time now for a tiny breather, phew! The sewing room has also been a hive of activity as I have been making sample bishop dresses to take along to a vintage pram fair. I thought I’d take five minutes to explain how bishop dresses are constructed.
Bishops are very simple – consisting of five pieces: 1 front, 2 sleeves and 2 back. These are stitched together at the sleeves before pleating.
Pleating can be done by hand, but a pleating machine is much quicker and gives a more even result. This machine gathers the fabric with rows of tiny running stitches.
Before and after smocking the dress must be blocked. For a bishop this means fanning out the pleats in a circle to match the neckline of the garment using a guide, then setting the pleats by starching and steaming them. The image is of a baby dress being blocked after smocking:
Once hand-smocking is completed and the dress has been blocked again it is completed by finishing the neckline, side-seams, button bands and hem.
I made two baby bishops in matching pink and blue butterfly fabric:
However the dress of which I am most proud is a christening or naming gown, smocked in ivory silk on silk dupion fabric with bullion stitch roses and pin tucks at the hem: