Good gracious!  Y’all have given me WAY too much credit!  I meant to mention The Smock Shoppe in my last post, but it just got soooo long that it slipped my mind.  I SMOCKED all three outfits, which means, I did all the decorative stitches around the top part of the dresses and the panel on Buddy Man’s bubble.


Everything else came from The Smock Shoppe, a little gem here in Dothan, Alabama.  I say it’s a gem because there are so very few locally owned, sewing and embroidery shops left in the country.  There are fewer still that not only sell the tools of the trade but teach the trade as well.  Mrs. Mary Strickland started The Smock Shoppe thirty-four years ago.  She is the same “Mrs. Mary” I remember as a little girl, showing me a corner of her shop where I could look at books while she taught my Mother silk ribbon embroidery.  The same Mrs. Mary who helped my grandmother pick out the fabric and lace for our Easter dresses.  The same Mrs. Mary who let me walk into her shop very flustered, with a baby on my hip, a few weeks before Easter and assured me that she could help me do the impossible–create three keepsakes in three weeks.

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I pulled a few from the archives 🙂

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I smocked these two and Grandma put them together.

I went in first and picked out the fabric, ribbon, lace, and smocking plate (or pattern) I wanted to use.  The traditional “Bishop” is the pattern of the girl’s dresses themselves–smocking all the way around the neck and then a straight fall to the length of your choice.  I usually get them all the way to their ankles so that they can wear them longer.  You will be seeing those dresses for the next year or two at LEAST.  The team at the Smock Shoppe is happy for you to do any of the steps yourself that you want to, but I paid for them to do every step but the hand work–the smocking.  So, after you decide on what you’re going to do, here are the next steps:

1) Cut out the dress pattern from your fabric.  2) Sew the pieces together (not finishing the dress just sewing 1/2 of the back, to the sleeve, to the front of the dress, to the other sleeve, to the other half of the back) {These are the only two steps I COULD do myself, BTW.  My sewing skills–with a machine–are atrocious} [When you start having to pick out different looking parentheses because you’re using them so much, do you think that’s a problem? :)] 3) Pleat the fabric.  There’s a machine to do this, although it technically can be done by hand–just not very well.  I actually have one little outfit from when I was a baby that my Mom pleated by hand.  It’s beautiful in its ugliness :).  My dear friend Lauren, who lived across the street from us in Birmingham, is the person who taught me how to smock and embroider.  She had a pleater and I have sweet memories of clearing off her dining room table and pleating dresses with babies crawling around our feet.  Why can’t I stay on task?  This is why I don’t do tutorials and I rarely answer people’s questions in the comments.  I can NOT just answer.  I have to tell a story with each bullet point until y’all can’t even be sure what I’m numbering anymore.  4) SMOCK your design on the top of the dress.  It really is easy, I promise.  There are two basic stitches to learn–a cable and a wave.  Except for the simple “Lazy Daisy” leaves on either side of my roses, those are the only two stitches on all three outfits.  And, if you start after Christmas, it’s mindless work for idle hands to do here and there while you’re talking to your husband, or watching a movie, or even (with a little creativity :)) while you’re nursing! 5) Finally, take the dress back to Mrs. Mary, or your grandmother, or anybody who can put more seams in than they rip out–like me–and let them construct the dress.


Here, Pace is wearing the first dress I ever smocked.

Now let me warn you, before you go running down to The Smock Shoppe to start dreaming and designing to your heart’s content.  This process is not cheap.  If you’re looking to save money by making your own clothes–think again.  If you can do steps 1-5 yourself and you’re not particular about the feel, and weight, and drape of your fabrics, then you might save money, though certainly not time.  If you pay to have the process done for you, you will most likely be shocked at how quickly you can drop money in such an innocent-looking little shop :).  Every time I’ve smocked anything, I have a moment of crisis where I wonder why in the world I am putting myself through the process…and then, I see my girls wearing dresses I made, and the satisfaction is so deep, or I think back to my memories of my Mom making our dresses and how proud I was to tell people that my Mom and my Grandma made them, or I pull out the chest of our clothes, lovingly preserved, still just as “in style” today as they would have been 100 years ago…and I know it’s worth every dollar and minute spent. They’re not just dresses, they’re art and they are treasures.


Mom made the crab dress for Pace. This is the Fourth of July.


Mom made this Watermelon dress for Pace's first day of school. Here, Mary Aplin is wearing it.

4 Responses to “Clarification”

  1. molly says:

    Abby, I love that you tell stories even in your bullet points! Those sweet dresses tell a story too- one of love and patience and generosity. Sweet pictures, as always.

  2. Gail says:

    Abby, I sooooo loved, loved, viewing your work! I tried my best, and Mary did, too….to teach me how to Smock. I sadly….failed “Smocking 101” It’s not easy and your work is wonderful!!! Soooo glad you are back home! Happy smocking, honey…and give Mary my love, please….:O)

  3. kristen says:

    They all 3 looked beautiful! I can’t imagine the sense of accomplisment. I feel proud to just sew on a button:) Glad to share the pew with you on Easter Sunday and so glad Benton and Jay Paul are nursery buddies!

  4. mary beth says:

    Ahhh…one day I will learn to smock! For now, I will enjoy the pleasure of looking at all of you and your mom’s beautiful handiwork. AWESOME job! {And I love how honest you are on here too. 😉 Smocking while nursing? Made me laugh so hard. 🙂

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