Monday, August 8, 2011

The Tablecloth Dress, Vintage 1950's


All done! I am pleased. My template smocking has a way to go but for the first time I think it will pass. I have never been a strong picture smocker.

The challenge of getting a viable dress design out of the limited yardage and design of the tablecloth was really great fun and I totally enjoyed the process. If ever faced with this challenge, know that it really isn't difficult. You just need to sketch it out and play with it for a while. 

Pattern: I used Butterick 5020 for the bodice only. Everything else above and below was original and based on how best to utilize the print of the tablecloth. I wanted to keep with the vintage feel and went with a classic "pinafore" look.



Here you can see how I cut the skirt front. I used the big corner flower for the center panel, putting piping on each side.
I used the corner sections for the back skirt. It wraps around in one piece to the piped center front panel. The sash was deliberately made to end with the white border like the skirt. I guess everything was deliberate when figuring this all out.

Fabric:  In case you missed the obvious, this is fabricated from a vintage 50's card table cloth, only 54 inches square. It is all cotton and in a birds eye weave. It was lovely to sew and has a very nice drape, sort of the same weight as a good damask tablecloth, not like quilting cotton at all. 
Details:  The seams were finished with the serger. This fabric was quite prone to ravelling. Here you can see the bias seam allowances of the piping. They will not ravel so no finish there. I ironed them open only to spread the bulk out, not sure if that is really important but it seemed like the right thing to do. 

All edges on the front were piped in the maroon binding which was also vintage. I am not sure what year but it was 25 cents for the pack of bias. I used a bias tape and ironed it flat and open. Then it was wrapped around the cord and stitched into piping.

For the smocking I tried "template smocking", something new  for me. I always like to try something new to give me a new tool for the toolbox. I will try this again, if for no reason other than to get better at it. Here is the process in a nutshell:

  • Transfer your desired design to oaktag (manila folder). I did this by tracing the flower off the tablecloth and and then transferring to the oaktag with a transfer pen. Simplify the shapes. 
  • Cut out each  part of the design to give you templates. Leaves would be one, a flower another.
  • Pleat your fabric and then trace around the template with a marker on to the pleated fabric. 
  • Outline the design with either and outline, stem, or chain stitch made with just one or two strands of floss. I used one strand and a chain stitch. 
  • Starting at the widest area begin your rows of cables filling the design area. 
 I did use other embroidery stitches as well. French knots were used in the flower center and a heavier outline stitch was used after the stacked cables were done. This was all pretty free form. My lack of experience shows on this but Carly won't know the difference. Truthfully, neither will her Mom.

I messed up on my holding row as well. I cut it when the smocking was complete. I did try to backsmock the row back into submission but that only helped a little. This has been a real learning experience for me with this template smocking but I know the next effort will certainly be an improvement. The only way we learn is to stretch ourselves and I stretched on this one. It was great fun doing so. It will go out in the mail shortly to Carly so she can squeeze a few wearings out of it. I have extra strapping in the bodice so I can let them out if necessary...I would definitely do this again if I could just find another great tablecloth....Bunny


22 comments:

  1. Wow this is so pretty , who would believe it's a tablecloth.

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  2. Oh MY! The finished dress is just beautiful. Your description is wonderful too. You do make it sound like something I could accomplish. Wonderful project. Fabulous finish. I've so enjoyed reading your progress

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  3. Bunny

    this is so pretty and the attention to detail is great.

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  4. Oh, it is really cute and precious! Such a good use of the fabric and the way it was originally printed. Good for you for trying something new and stretching yourself a bit.

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  5. It is adorable. A perfect example of your creativity and artistry. Isn't it wonderful how sometimes the constraints of using a particular piece of fabric, like your tablecloth, can bring forth a most beautiful, unique product? You remind me of my mother, who also could do amazing things with a little bit of fabric, some on-hand trims, and her own sewing skills. What fun for you.

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  6. That's very pretty. I think it's good to step out of one's comfort zone and present ourselves with a challenge. Stretch ourselves and our creativity. You did a fantastic job on this tablecloth dress.

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  7. Absolutely darling! Your smocked flower looks like it came right out of the fabric! Good choice on the color selection for the smocking. I've had the same problem with my holding rows getting cut and having to hand pleat it. One smocking teacher I know recommends using dental floss on the holding rows for ornaments, but I think I'll try it for dresses, but just for the top. I bet it will work wonders on bishops.

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  8. Your template smocking is great! I have never tried it, it always seemed daunting to me. Yours achieves exactly what you set out to do, match the fabric. Great job!

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  9. Lovely, lovely dress with such special smocking. This is a delight to see.

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  10. How pretty is that? Great use of the tablecloth. I remember as a kid we had a similar one and used it as a tablecloth! Love that vintage flower design.

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  11. This is really cute! Great refashion. No-one would ever know it started life as a tablecloth.

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  12. I love your smocking, I might need to give it a try one day. I think you did fabulous I am jealous of your mad skills.

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  13. Lovely -- I am in awe of your talent! Karen

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  14. It is just beautiful! The piping works so well in defining the seams and allowing the use of the large motif in the front skirt.

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  15. Bunny - it's absolutely amazing! I love it! You can see how much thought went into making this work and I love the back corners and how the ties reflect the same design.

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  16. I love your taste in fabric and style, this dress is a treasure any girl would love to wear!

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  17. You make me want to go hunt up an antique tablecloth! Beautiful work

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  18. It's lovely Bunny! I'm trying to remember the name of the lady that "invented" this technique (or at least was the first person to have it published to MY knowledge. I'm not much of a picture-smocker myself, but I think you did a great job. I AM a little puzzled as to why you first did a chain stitch, and then an outline stitch over(?) it when you had completed the cables inside?
    designdreamer

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  19. BRAVO BUNNY!!! This turned out Beautiful! I love the entire look...vintage style & fabric both. Just Perfect & the piping in the maroon binding really works as a wonderful accent color. Sparked it up nicely.

    I love *listening* to you walk through these processes. I learn SEW much from you.

    I'll be anxious to hear how you solve the dilemma of that Butterick 5387 top next. You're so brave to tackle what others had trouble with. I'd be runnin' the other way!

    Hugs,
    Rett

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  20. Bunny, I finally am getting caught up on reading blogs and I am so so so so glad I didn't miss the finished dress. It is wonderful!!! And your template smocking is wonderful too. You did a lovely job! Perfect dress!

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  21. Simply stunning! What love went into this. Just came to your site to see if I could find the name of the fabric weave for a cloth I just received.

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