Just Ask Rita

Do you have a question or problem relating to sewing, lace making, or hand embroidery?  Just Ask Rita will provide research and answers.  No problem is too small or too large to tackle.

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  • Stephanie  On July 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Could you please explain the difference between regular smocking and english smocking? My mom loves to sew and I know she has done some smocking in the past but I don’t know what kind. I would like to impress her with my knowledge.

    • Ritohn  On July 16, 2010 at 2:40 am

      Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks for your question. That is a very good question. I’m sure your mother is impressed that you even knew enough to ask that question. Most people are not aware there is a difference. I get that question a lot from my students because they only know the technique by the simple name “smocking”. When I mention that I am teaching English Smocking, that always causes raised eyebrows. Your answer is on today’s post – please check it out. I hope this helps. If you need additional information, please let me know. I would love to hear from you again.

  • Christina  On July 21, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    I love to sew for my kids. Recently, they asked me to make them super-hero capes. The cape is easy enough, but I’ve never done applique before. Do you have any tips on how I could make a great applique star for the back of the capes?

  • Ellen  On October 3, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Rita, I’m going to make a christening gown and I’d like to know which is heavier/opaque, swiss nelona or swiss cotton sateen. I have better luck smocking on a heavier fabric but I like the shinny look. I may not be able to get both in one fabric!? Thanks for your assistence!

    • Ritohn  On October 5, 2010 at 2:45 am

      Hi Ellen,
      Thanks for writing. Swiss Nelona is lighter weight than Swiss Cotton Sateen. Nelona Batiste is 100% Pima Cotton and is made in Switzerland. It is a soft, light, fabric with a gorgeous sheen. It has a very soft hand and a very shiny finish. It has a little body, but is still translucent. It usually has about 129 threads/inch. Martha Pullen carries a very nice quality of Swiss Nelona Batiste. I checked several sources and they all questioned the term opaque. They refer to the Nelona as translucent. I’m not sure if this is the same fabric you are calling opaque.
      Swiss Cotton Sateen is a heavier weight fabric – almost broadcloth weight. It is made of 100% Swiss cotton with a slight sheen. Either fabric would make a lovely christening gown.
      Martha Pullen is an excellent source for heirloom fabrics. She also carries a Victorian Batiste and Martha’s Favorite Cotton Batiste. The Victorian Batiste is a nice substitute for Swiss Cotton Batiste. It is slightly heavier than Nelona. Martha’s Favorite Cotton Batiste is more lightweight than the Victorian batiste and slightly heavier than the Nelona.
      Hint for smocking on lightweight fabrics: If you are using a lightweight fabric, press and lightly spray starch the fabric before pleating the fabric on the pleating machine. This gives the fabric extra body and makes it easier to run through the pleater and also makes smocking on the lighter weight fabric easier. I love using the Victorian batiste for my English Smocking heirlooms, however, there is definitely more sheen to the Nelona and the Swiss Cotton Sateen.

    • Ritohn  On October 16, 2010 at 8:33 pm

      Hi Ellen,

      I am wondering if you have made your fabric selection for your christening gown. I hope the little research was of some help. Please let me know if you need additional information or any clarifications.

      Thanks again for writing,
      – Rita

  • Ellen  On October 22, 2010 at 5:42 am

    Hello Rita,
    Thanks for your follow up. Your information helped me to choose a beautiful Swiss Cotton Sateen in a champagne color. I wanted a fabric a little heavier than Nelona and I love the sheen of the sateen as well. Your description of the fabrics was just what I was looking for. I have ordered the entredeux and lace edgeings in champagne, I’m pleated and ready to smock this weekend. It’s really great to find a site like your’s to answer questions. When I’ve completed the gown I’ll post a picture. Thanks for your caring and sharing! Ellen

    • Ritohn  On November 14, 2010 at 11:35 pm

      Hi Ellen,

      How is your Christening gown coming along? I’ll be anxious to see a photo when you have completed it – your description sounds lovely.

      – Rita

  • Vickie K  On November 14, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Dear Rita,

    I have several questions, actually…! I want to make a heirloom style winter dress for my daughter, and am having trouble deciding which fabrics to use. I am debating between wool challis and velveteen. What are the differences between the two in terms of drape and breathability? Does one gather better than another?

    I am leaning towards the velveteen, with satin accents…how well would cotton sateen go with this type of fabric? Is it “satiny” or more like swiss nelona batiste?

    I appreciate your help!!!

    Thank you, Vickie

  • Cindy  On June 16, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    I care for an elderly woman who is an excellent quilter and is interested in doing a smocking project for her great-granddaughter. Are there any classes in the Fredericksburg, VA area that you can recommend. Thanks! Cindy

    • Ritohn  On June 16, 2014 at 11:03 pm

      Hi Cindy. I will have to research this for you. I used to teach classes but have been pulled away with other responsibilities and have not had the time to teach. I am not sure who else might be teaching in the area. I will look around and get back to you. Thank you for writing.

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