Smocking 4: Smocked christening rompers in linen


Smocked Christening romper suit in fine linen (smocked by Mary Addison)

Smocked Christening romper suit in fine linen (smocked by Mary Addison)

Friday and I returned home from two and a half weeks of nannying and shower room painting. Necessity gently suggested an immediate start on the christening garment for Sunday’s service but a pungent smell hinting at a dead mouse brought a late surge of spring cleaning or at least spring tidying upon me and, after a power rest for an hour or so, I set to. No dead mouse appeared and as the vicar had never smelt it anyway, its whereabouts had by now shifted from somewhere in the house to the dark corners of my psyche. I went to bed.

Smocked christening romper suit: detail of simple smocking (hand smocked by Mary Addison)

Smocked christening romper suit: detail of simple smocking (hand smocked by Mary Addison)

In England it is still hot, hot, hot and as the baby was too big for his father’s family christening dress, we thought we would put him in the lightest, most minimal clothing we decently could. A vintage romper pattern bought online from the States arrived just in time and fine linen from The Cloth House was washed and ready for cutting. Throughout Saturday I jettisoned anything in the design that smacked as fussy. It is a long time since I did smocking, so I settled on simple zig zags. As usual simple was not so simple –  out of nowhere new little pleats appeared, so that some zigs have 4 stitches and others miraculously 5. Beyond my skill to rectify this, the mistakes remain, albeit – dare I say it – almost invisibly. Pragmatism rules at times like this while perfectionism flies out the window. Out of the window too flew sleeves in favour of binding,  which was also used instead of  a collar (although the baby’s mother was heard to somewhat wistfully say that she would have liked a collar). Out too went the pattern’s instructions for a poppered gusset which gave way, in a manner of speaking, to the permanent closure of a sewn seam. The leg elastics were tied in a reef knot just before we left for church – I’ll sew these later and at least this way if they’re too tight for the stout little legs, I shall be able to do something about it before he wears them again. Finished with an hour to spare.

A hot smocked baby thinking he may as well jump into the font if he's going to have more water poured all over him

A hot smocked baby thinking he may as well jump into the font if he’s going to have more water poured all over him

However, no cake or biscuits made – hey ho – hoorah for family bearing Waitrose purchases.  The baby’s other granny womanfully steered the hoover over the cat fur and bits of white fabric – hoorah for helpful women doing housework in their Sunday best.   Garden furniture rearranged by only son and girlfriend who then strode off to deliver jugs of flowers to the church – hoorah for dutiful young people. Waitrose sandwiches were delivered and befridged while mammoth prize winning Lake District pork pies waited patiently in their cool bag. More jugs were filled with yellow flowers for the house. The baby fed, watered and happy began to embrace his short term centre of attention with beatific smiles and angelic behaviour, saving a splendid old fashioned look for the vicar after the first shellful of water had been tipped over his head. Hoorah for babies.

Sometime much later  I realised people had eaten their sandwiches, pork pies and cakes on a garden table which still had  mounds of earth left over from a repotting session 3 weeks ago. We shall never ever come even slightly close to the perfection of a magazine shoot. But almost certainly we should never try to. Imperfection reigns too in computerland where my startup disk is still complaining about being full in spite of all photos now being transferred to an external hard drive. I must seek help elsewhere but meanwhile no more photos. (Hooray for clever vicar husband who persevered with working out a solution when I opted for deep despair.)

Smocked christening romper: hooray for babies

Smocked christening romper: hooray for babies


On 23 March 2013, Didcot A power station was decommissioned. It had opted out of  the large Combustion Plant Directive which meant it was only allowed to run for up to 20,000 hours after 1 January 2008. We had forgotten that it was scheduled for demolition by controlled explosion at 5 am on the morning of Sunday 27 July. Only son, who is doing a vacation job as a night security guard at Manchester Airport (and whose body clock is therefore all over the place at weekends) woke early and went for a run. No one was more surprised than he was when he came upon a group of people standing at a vantage point looking out in a somewhat mystical, semi-relgious pose west towards Didcot. It was a misty morning and the demolition was not clearly visible but he had been there and somehow it felt quite momentous when he told us at breakfast on the day of the Christening. Fortunately there is still Didcot B to keep us switched on in winter, although I gather, the power situation could be precarious. Didcot B is due to cease generation on  31 December 2023 and after that there will be no differentiating feature on the Oxford plain as you drive west along the M40 and cut through the Chilterns at the Stokenchurch Gap. We had come to quite like the power station as a landmark but it seems English Heritage didn’t like it enough to give it a listing. They’re probably right. The only thing is that now 3 of the cooling towers are down, the large low rectangular  building that is not scheduled for demolition has become more prominent and more visibly unattractive than it ever was in the shadow of the cooling towers – a fine working out of the law of unintended consequences!


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  1. Katie
    Posted July 29, 2014 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Wonderful telling of the story. It brought to mind ALL of the times a sewing project was finished just in the nick of time (even the details of my wedding dress). And I loved the part about the mounds of dirt on the garden table–whether they were actual mounds of dirt makes no matter, I understand that part, too. I’m getting ready for an outdoor dinner party in a few days and I’m sure we will have the same idea happening in various corners as well. So happy to read about a real life celebration.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted July 29, 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      I really try not to be sewing at the last minute but it always happens… And each time I vow it will never happen again. Thank you for enjoying my retelling of the story (even if I did leave out the bit when I became rather tetchy with those trying to help).

  2. Posted July 31, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    This is a lovely record of a family celebration, I can just imagine adorable chubby thighs emerging from that lovely little linen romper. It’s a bit of a relief to realise that you don’t always have to bake, isn’t, that sometimes shop bought is ok. Sounds like you had lots of willing helpers too, though I sometimes think that the only thing worse than a guest who doesn’t help is one who does…..

    • Mary Addison
      Posted August 4, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      Sometimes you do just have surrender to circumstances and not get grief stricken about what you would have liked to do.

  3. Lydia Sage
    Posted August 2, 2014 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    What a really lovely story you tell. The Christening must have been a delight and the baby resplendent in his handsmocked rompers too. A wonderful family gathering enjoyed by all….

    • Mary Addison
      Posted August 4, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Lydia, we did have a memorable time.

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