After altering the a line dress to a bishop dress as described in my post yesterday, I am now reaping the rewards of this change. First, this new version is much easier to pleat, as the neckline is on the cross grain. Instead of using the curved template that Burda instructs you to transfer to the neckline, which I can assure you is time consuming,tedious,and difficult to keep accurate, the new version can be pleated by much quicker methods. I used a pleater.
An alternative is to use a smocking dot transfer
Once you have pulled up the threads to gather your fabric, you need to block the neckline to the shape of Burda's pattern piece. Burda's instructions give a rough idea of how this is done. The template should have the top edge on the second row of gathering (this would be the first row if you use only 4 rows as per Burda) and the bottom edge on the 5th row of gathering (4th per Burda). If you lightly spray the fabric with starch, evenly spread the pleats in a fan shape. In the new version, the fan spreads out more gradually, as there is a lot more fabric. Pin the neckline to a flat surface, I use my ironing board. You can then either lightly steam the pleats, holding the iron above the fabric, or allow the starch to air dry. When the fabric is dry, you are ready to smock. However, although Burda tells you to mark the centre front of the dress, it does not tell you that your smocking design should be centred here too. After you have pleated the garment, your centre front is the valley between the 2 centre pleats. You do need to count your pleats to find out where this valley is located. If it is more than a few mm off the marked centre front of the fabric, you will need to unpick some pleats from the more numerous side in order to have the centre of your smocking design at the centre of your fabric. Start your smocking with an over cable at the 2nd line of gathering thread, work to one end, then turn and start from the middle again. This will make your design finish at the same part of the pattern at the back. I have chosen to finish at a cable, as I find this neat and visually satisfying.
I have used the same smocking design - the 4 step wave, as my take on the Burda intent and used in the previous version of this dress. The dress size is the same, and I have again used 3 strands of DMC thread. As there are more pleats, and the pleats are now close to each other, the effect of the same stitches is much more rich and textural. It was also far easier to stitch, and I had no difficulties in keeping the pleats in the blocked shape.
You can see that the first row of gathering has a cable stitch along the gathering thread. This is a holding row, to keep the pleats even during smocking, and in garment construction. You will not see this line in the finished garment. The gathering thread below the smocking is used to help keep the lower edge of the pleats evenly fanned out during the smocking.
I hope to construct the new version of the dress tomorrow. I have made one change to my pattern already - I think the sleeves are too long and too curved, and have trimmed them down around an inch at the deepest part of the curve, tapering to nothing at the side seam.