First you'll want to decide how wide you want the insert, and that depends on your design. This dress is a size 8 and called for 14 smocked rows. My smocking plate is only 7 rows, so I'll go into how I increased my rows in another post. I pleated 16 rows - 2 holding rows and 14 smocking rows. I wanted an insert with more depth, so I decided to use a 60 inch wide insert. I didn't have 60" fabric, so I simply cut another insert and sewed a 7 1/2" piece to each side of my 45" wide insert. Then pleated as usual. Unfortunately, I didn't snap a picture of that, but you'll see the seams in the following pictures. Make sure you mark the center of the insert on the top and bottom.
Once you have the fabric pleated, you'll want to flatten out the ends and mark your armhole curves.
Now you'll simply match your armhole lines with the edge of the yoke as shown. Pin the insert to the ironing board where it meets the yoke.
You'll also want to match up your center mark on the insert with the center of the yoke.
You'll also remove the pleating threads up to where the yoke stops and begin tying them off 2 to 3 at a time. See picture for reference.
And after the thread are all pulled.
Now pin the other side. And you'll begin tying off that side. This is where you have to be particularly careful. You don't want to pull the thread so tight that the insert becomes smaller than the yoke. It should always be kept even. You also don't want it so loose that you see thread puckers in the insert. And you have to be especially careful to get the right tension on all the thread, or you'll wind up with a lopsided insert.
Here is how I pull them up to ensure an even insert. Always start at the top and work your way down. I always put extra pins in the side I'm pulling from. Take your threads and pull them very gently to get most of the "looseness" out. Then gently bring them back across the insert as shown. And give it a gentle tug. Once you are sure the thread is nice and snug, tie off the threads and keep going until you get them all tied.
In the next picture you'll see I actually pulled my bottom thread a smidge too tight.
And this is what you should have once all the threads are tied.
Now you can remove the pins and we are going to spray starch the blocked insert. This will help when smocking.
You'll need some fabric glue (or you can use Elmers). I like fabric glue because it dries quicker. Measure the amount of ric rac you need. Hint: your bottom piece will be much longer than the top. See pictures below. I extended my top ric rac past the yoke line. I want to catch it when I sew the dress together later. Place a small amount of glue along one edge of the ric rac or piping as shown below.
You'll repeat the same process with the bottom row of ric rac. Again, do not place it on the holding row. I placed it on the second row from the bottom, which will be my last smocking row. Now your insert should look like this. LET IT DRY!
That's all for now. See how long these posts get. I'll have more later once I get more of the smocking done, and I get the insert attached to the dress. The next post will be on how we attach it to the dress.
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments.