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Smocked Sundress

Source: The Martha Stewart Show, Episode 4147


This adorable smocked sundress is a perfect project for a summer weekend. The finished dress fits 12 months to size 4.

Resources: Special thanks to Heather Ross for sharing this project. Heather Ross fabrics by Free Spirit are available at and Purl Patchwork. All other tools and materials are available at sewing and fabric stores.


  • 3/4 yard of 45-inch-wide lightweight woven fabric, pre-washed (Any fabric that is lightweight enough to yield to the elastic thread will work. Quilting cottons, gauzes, lighter linens, chambrays, and shirting weights are all ideal.)

  • Scissors

  • Iron

  • All-purpose thread to match fabric

  • Elastic thread wound around an extra bobbin

  • Water-soluble fabric-marking pen

  • Transparent quilter's ruler

  • Measuring tape

  • 2 yards of spaghetti strap, bias tape (sewn closed), or ribbon for ties, cut into four equal lengths

  • Sewing pins


  1. With the fabric wrong-side up, turn and press the top raw edge 1/4 inch to the wrong side, and then turn and press this edge again 1/4 inch to the wrong side. Do not sew this folded edge yet; the pressed lines will be important guides later on. Unfold the edge, and lay the fabric flat.

  2. Mark smocking lines: With the fabric right-side up, use a water-soluble pen and quilter's ruler to draw six straight lines, each 1/2 inch apart, across the fabric's width, beginning 1 inch below the edge with the pressed creases.

  3. Loosely wind elastic thread around sewing machine bobbin. With elastic thread in bobbin and coordinating thread on top, sew, with fabric right-side up, along the marked lines to create 6 rows of elasticized smocking. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each row, and cut thread before starting a new row.

  4. Spray smocked panel with water until stitches are generously dampened. With a very hot steam iron, press the smocked area flat. The stitches should shrink up nicely, and the pen marks should disappear.

  5. With a measuring tape, take the chest measurement of the child you're sewing for, and mark a line at this measurement from top of dress to hem. Secure elastic threads by stitching across them at the line with a short, closely spaced straight stitch. Trim off the excess portion of the panel.

  6. Fold the smocked panel in half with right sides together, and align the raw edges. Sew along these edges to create a tube. Turn right side out, press seam flat (with seam allowances to one side), and topstitch the seam allowance in place by stitching 1/4 inch from the seam. This seam is the center back of the dress.

  7. Without stretching the smocking, measure 2 inches from the center back seam in each direction, and mark with a water-soluble pen. Then measure 6 inches from each marked point toward the center front of the dress, and mark two more points.

  8. Turn under the dress's top edge along the pressed creases, tucking the end of one strap underneath the folded edge at each marked point. Fold the strap up against the folded edge and pin in place. Edge-stitch the entire folded edge, securing the straps in place. Knot the ends of the straps to finish them.

  9. Determine the dress's hem length by measuring the wearer from her underarm to just below her knee, and add 1 inch to this measurement. Trim the dress to this length. Turn and press the bottom edge 1/4 inch to the wrong side, then turn and press again 3/4 inch to the wrong side. Edge-stitch the double-fold to finish the hem, backstitching at the beginning and end.

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