Letters From Our Customers

Over the years, we have received many wonderful letters from you, our customers.  Here is a small sample.
We very much appreciate your support and suggestions over the years.  Thank you!
Your bishop pattern is my absolute favorite pattern. I've probably made over 100 of them for my 3 grand nieces and gifts! And I have almost all of your smocking plates, which are also my favorites! Thank you so much. Your efforts have made the little girls in our family look beautiful! Only more I could hope for is granddaughters of my own one day! I'll take grandsons too, but I don't think my sons would allow me to put them in a bishop!

Debra Parker
Hi Ellen,

I just purchased your smocking books - One Stitch at a Time and English Smocking from Debra Justice in Canada - they just arrived this afternoon and they are absolutely gorgeous!  I just finished a two-day smocking workshop and I sure wish I had had your books with me - they are much clearer than this lady was.

Nancy L. Wright
I have actually just received your book Ellen McCarn on English Smocking. I plan to devour it!  :)


Myra Dennis
I have enjoyed your designs for years and am amazed at how prolific (focused?) you are.  You just keep cranking them out and they keep getting better.  I have enjoyed the smiles on the grandchildren's faces and compliments from others when the praise should have been all yours.  Thank you so very much for sharing your talents.

Thanks again,

Jill Verley
Mrs. McCarn,

I have just begun to smock since I recently had grandchildren.  Actually my mother gave me a beginner smocking class (in Birmingham AL) for my birthday last year.  I was hooked after that.

Since then I've purchased both of your patterns for bishops and the yoke dresses.  Of all the patterns I have they are my very favorite.  You do a remarkable job of explaining everything with wonderful tips to boot.

Most all of the smocking plates I have are from your collection.  They are easy to understand and look stunning on the garment.

I just wanted to let you know what this has all meant to me and how much I've enjoyed learning from you.


Pam Stunda

Just wanted you to know how much I like your designs. I started smocking in 1981 after my first daughter was born.  I bought a Read 24 row pleater from you in 1984 but was never happy with it because no matter what I pleated there were always broken needles.  I put the pleater away until recently when I again pulled out my smocking box and bought a few new things as well. However, the pleater is still an issue and although I've tried a few suggestions found on the internet was hoping you  might have a couple of ideas to solve the pleater problem. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sewing friend,  Rhonda Elliott
I really like your patterns.  They are easy to follow & I like the generous sizing.  I teach English smocking & am always referring to your patterns & smocking plates. 

Carole Ellis
© 2011 Ellen McCarn
McCarn Enterprises, Inc.
I am finishing up my daughter's Easter Dress, once again from your Yoke Dress pattern.  I have lost trace of how many yoke and bishop dresses I have now made from your patterns for my now 9 year old.  I appreciate all the sizes and options.  I smock a lot of things from Australian Smocking, but always use your patterns as my basis to copy their ideas, because your patterns are like old friends!

Fanya Houston
I love your smocking plates and books.  I've used them for years!!!

Becky Daniels-Sowell
I retired from my shop, Smocked Togs, Inc., almost 10 years ago, but I've smocked most of the Ellen McCarn plates and always used the basic yoke and bishop patterns when I did cut and sews for my customers.  I am a great grandma now and do very little smocking or sewing but am glad to know you are still in business for the current folks who enjoy this art.  Thanks for your many years of service.

Virginia Fletcher Lane
Many thanks, I received the parcel yesterday and was absolutely delighted! The blocking guide will be hugely valuable as will be the pattern and the instruction book. I’ve spent most of today going through everything carefully and the instructions are written extremely clearly. I’m looking forward to starting on my first bishop this weekend. 

Before I start I do have a question, I apologise as it is very basic, even for a beginner like me. Most importantly, please do not feel obliged to answer. I realise you probably receive many technical questions and it just is not possible to answer everyone. 

My question is regarding the curve on the neck edges (front and back). The curve makes sense but I don’t understand how the pleating will accommodate the curves. Point 5 on page 6 says to roll squarely on grain without regard to the curve of the neck but I just can’t see how this would work. Surely the space between the first pleat and the edge of the fabric in the centre of both back and front will be less in the centre? My apologies but I’m totally confused by this. I’ve noticed that in some other bishop patterns the neck edge, hence pleating edge. is straight across so I could just cut mine straight but as I said, the curve on your pattern is logical so I’d like to be able to use your method. 

Again, thank you for the excellent products. 

Kind regards, Jenny G.

Dear Jenny, 

Thank you for your recent order and also for your question regarding the neck curve.  The curve around the neck is the reason for calling it the "Ultimate Bishop".

For years the only way to smock a bishop was to cut a straight edge at the neck. Next came the "V" shape which was fine gathering down to the point, but left crooked gathers pleating to the other side. Plus, it left an un-smockable triangle of fabric on the other edge. There was also a "dip" in the front and "hikes" under each arm of every garment. Hemming a straight edge on the skirt was a nightmare.

Frustrated by this since designing for the bishop garments is a favorite of mine) it came to me that a pattern that would gradually curve from being higher at the back of the garment and lower in front would compensate for that "dip" and "hike". Remembering the theories of concentric circles led to the success of pleating the curve as long as the seams are all perpendicular to the neck edges, which they are. There is also a built-in "puff" at the sleeve top, but the bottom edge is square, making it perfect for heirloom
sewing and lace attachment. Notice the picture on the cover of the pattern to see how straight the hem is.

The instructions in the booklet will tell you how to pleat your garment. Please read on to Step 7 on Page 6 for instructions on how to manage pleating the curve.

While pleating, keep your eye on a notch, as indicated in Pix. 25, that you will use as the neck edge guide, just as you would for pleating a straight piece of fabric, except move the dowel to the right & left as necessary to follow the curve. Only use as many rows as indicated for each size garment to keep the rows above the armhole curve as in all patterns. The pleating area is designed within concentric curves so it will begin and end approximately on a pleat that is square to the garment edges.

Just an additional note: The armholes are roomy for added comfort and longer wearing of the garment. And the additional pleats around the neck make the garment suitable for stacking and picture smocking.

I hope this will satisfy your questions so you will have a successful pleating experience. If you have additional questions please do not hesitate to ask.

Happy pleating & smocking!


Dear Ellen,

Sincere thanks Ellen for your very thorough reply, it is most generous of you. It does make sense now, I’m not sure why but I was under the impression that I should pleat straight across following the grain of the fabric which would of course have been a problem. I didn’t quite understand the significance of your “ultimate bishop” pattern being designed specifically to incorporate the curved front and back. As I said I’ve done a little smocking before but never a bishop and now that I have two new granddaughters (at last!) I am so excited about learning this technique as bishops are my absolute favourites and I’ve never been confident enough in the past to try one.

Again, your very helpful response is much appreciated and the instruction book is brilliant. I’m very much looking forward to starting my first “ultimate bishop”.

Kind regards, Jenny G.

Thank you for your time, and for the plates and books I have purchased over the years which have afforded me the pleasure of smocking for my children, grandchildren, and friends children - you are a blessing to me!

Ruth G., South Carolina

Our local guild is going to be having some programs this year addressing the smocked bishop.  I have had you tell me your pattern is fuller, allowing for more picture smocking choices.  Do you have any other knowledge about any of the other bishop patterns and their differences or fit?  Thanks for any help.

Sylvia F.

Hi Sylvia,

I just thought that the next question might be what are the differences in the Ultimate Yoke Dress pattern and the new Contemporary Yoke Dress pattern.

The Ultimate Yoke is designed the same as the bishop and as yoke dresses are for heirloom sewing.  The dresses are longer and have less-full skirts.  However, I still put in the roominess for comfort.

The Contemporary Yoke Dress pattern still has the roomy sleeves but is fitted a bit more in the waistline.  My granddaughter , who is 7-years-old now, wanted a more stylish look with a fuller skirt.  I noticed all her friends dressed like that when wearing dresses.  Also this pattern is knee length.

I hope you enjoy it as well!

Hi Ellen,

I am a retired Registered Nurse and was working in the hospital when I was introduced to smocking by one of the nurses. I was hooked! In the mid 80’s and early 90’s I was busy smocking dresses, jumpers and bubbles for my daughters and as gifts for close friends and family. Even smocked myself 2 skirts and a top. Now that I am retired and have a granddaughter, I am again smocking and referring back to your books, English Smocking With Ellen Mc Carn and Picture Smocking with Ellen McCarn for the handy dandy helpful tips that I have forgotten. I have a new found respect for you and thank you so much for all that I have learned from you.

I am saddened that the smocking store I used to go to in N.J. closed back in the 90’s and I can not go there to look at all the great patterns and plates from various designers. I go instead to your site often to see what you have there and if there is anything new I want to purchase for my granddaughter. So thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Best Regards, Ann Marie Schneider