Smocking on polka dots – tutorial

It took me a while to work out how to smock on to polka dot fabric.  Here’s what I learned – mainly by making a complete hash of it!


Before you begin, mark the start point of each line of smocking with a removable pencil.  Ignore the line of dots which would be in the centre of each square if the dots were joined into a grid.  You’ll see in the following pictures that it would otherwise be difficult to find the right starting point when the fabric is gathered by the smocking.

My dots are 1cm apart.


Bring your needle up on the left edge of the first dot.  Take a small stitch from right to left on the second dot.


Then take a small stitch from right to left on the first dot, coming out through/close to your starting point.


Pull tight.  Admire the little triangle fold.


Insert the needle back down through/close to the right hand hole on your stitch, and bring up through the next dot (which will be the third one across).  Repeat.

smocking_polka_dot_tutorial_dottie_doodle-005So that’s all there is to it.  As a beginner, I found you get the best results by being as neat and precise as you can, and by taking your time.  I had to completely redo my first couple of attempts!

Tiny smocked dress – Purl Soho


Ahh, little girls’ summer dresses. I’m planning a few different styles for tiny niece this year.

This one is the Purl Bee Smocked Dress & Shirt  pattern which I received for free when I signed up for their newsletter.

I think I did some smocking at school, and it was fun to try it again.  I say fun – I decided to use polka dots rather than the gingham they recommend, and it took a few tries to get it right.


It’s a lovely pattern.  The smocking produces beautiful pleats at the neckline and a gently gathered full skirt.  The binding finishes the arm edge and extends to form straps.

The only thing I will change next time is the width of the binding.  I found 1 5/8″ rather narrow and fiddly, and the inside isn’t as neat as I would like.  I think making the binding a little wider would make the dress much faster to sew.


On Monday, I’ll show you how I did the smocking on polka dots.  It’s very easy but might save you some time if you’d like to try it!

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Trying to gain good habits – 2015 goals

One of my goals for this year is to become healthier – lose some weight, get fitter, eat more healthily.

Until recently I had done nothing about it.  NOTHING!  I don’t have a horribly unhealthy lifestyle – I walk Hetty twice a day and we eat very well (though perhaps too much, and not always the right things).  But I feel a bit bleugh a lot of the time.


I read Leo Babauta’s advice (of Zen Habits) to work on one habit at a time.  My inclination is to want to change everything at once, but as that wasn’t working  I thought I’d give this minimalist approach a go.  You can read his article on successfully ingraining new behaviours here.

My one habit is to practice Yoga or Pilates every weekday, and I’m using an app called Habit List to track my progress.  My main barrier to doing this is thinking ‘I’ll just skip a day and do it tomorrow’.  I’ve been using the app for a couple of weeks and (although I have missed a few days) it’s motivating to see the little green circles adding up.

I’m using Rachel Brathen’s new 20 minute yoga downloads.  It’s very hard to argue that I don’t have 20 minutes to practice, and I might even do two on a good day!


Hetty adores this new regime and expresses it in her usual exuberant fashion.  So far I’ve been rolled on, headbutted, had my feet licked, and her little face pops up in the most unlikely places as she tries to join in!

Easter bunny, and a budding seamstress

debbie bliss small rabbit knit

The pattern for this little rabbit comes from Toy Knits by Debbie Bliss.

The book was published in 1995, and I bought it soon after, which means I’ve been making this pattern for nearly 20 years!  I think the first one was for a sweet little girl called Eleanor, who is now a beautiful twenty-something.

There’s something about this cute rabbit in an oversized sweater that makes me come back to it again and again.  The sweater is knitted from two strands of DK yarn worked together, so I sometimes make a matching cardigan as a baby gift.

The pattern taught me how to increase and decrease, and to use smaller needles (3.25 for DK) so the toy stuffing doesn’t show through.

Here is Greta measuring her new rabbit (I’d just measured her for a dress).  She looks like a natural!


Do you have a pattern you’ve been using forever?

Chambray Banksia and sewing from the stash drawer


I started this Banksia top last summer, at sewing lessons, but made a mistake so hid it under my stash fabric – which I believe is the grown up response when mistakes are made.


I wanted to add buttoned cuffs to the pattern – which my sewing teacher showed me how to do.  My mistake was to put them on the wrong way, so the longer piece where the button goes was on the wrong side.   And how long did it take to fix?  About half an hour – I’m very glad I dug it out!


I’m hoping the chambray will get softer with washing as it’s a little stiff at the moment, but otherwise I’m very pleased with this.

I’m wearing it with another Colette Mabel from my stash busting list.

Having a list to work from is really helping me focus, and I came across this great series of posts from The Craft Sessions on having a thoughtful stash.

At the moment my rule is to only buy things I need to complete stash projects.  I stretched that rule yesterday to buy two half price Vogue patterns at Minerva.  Rules are made to be broken, aren’t they?!

Favourite Podcasts


I wrote about how much I love listening to podcasts back in November, and since then I’ve found more and more to enjoy.

One or two  are quite new, so I thought you might be interested to hear about them, if you haven’t already.  I’ve created a new page here (and also see tab above) to store my playlist.

My top three at the moment –

Dear Sugar Radio – based on the Dear Sugar advice column, with Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild) and Steve Almond.  Thoughtful and complex advice.

The Weekly Creative – Derek Walker chats about creative principles and how they apply to everyday situations.  I always feel like I’m catching up with an old friend when I’m listening.

Gretchen Rubin – the author of The Happiness Project discusses with her sister strategies for improving happiness.

Please do add your favourites in the page comments – I’m always happy to hear of more!

Make + Review – Pamper your Pooch by Rachelle Blondel


If you’re a dog lover, this book is probably worth buying for the cute pictures alone!  There are also some really great ideas to make for your dog, or as gifts.

I sewed a travelling dog bed for Hetty.  It’s made from brushed cotton and backed with  waxed cotton.  I filled it with two layers of wadding (the pattern says one, but I suppose it depends on the wadding you are using) then quilted by hand tying in a grid.

Pamper Your Pooch travelling dog bed

I’m keeping this on the back seat of the car – it stays put and doesn’t get rucked up like the blanket I was using.  She could also use it when visiting or under the table in a pub to keep her comfortable and happy.

Pamper Your Pooch travelling dog bed

I also made her some of the carrot and oat biscuits.  She loves these!  I hadn’t thought of making dog treats before and will certainly keep making them.  They only keep for a week and the recipe makes quite a few.  I don’t want a podgy pooch so I froze some of the dough to use later – which worked perfectly.

Pamper Your Pooch dog biscuitsThe downside of the book for me is that Hetty is very rough with her toys, so I wouldn’t make her any of the stuffed toys, or anything which might be damaged by chewing.

However, there is plenty for the feisty terrier. I’m going to try the plaited jute toy and the sweet potato chew strips.  I also love the towel with built in hand pockets for bath time.

I highly recommend Pamper Your Pooch.  There are so many patterns and recipes, most dog owners will find something they want to make.  Though if you’re making things as gifts, check they are suitable for that dog, and I would attach an ingredients label to the food items.

You can find some of the patterns and recipes, including the dog biscuits, here.

I’ll leave you with some more cute doggy pics.

Pamper your Pooch review