The Art of Smocking

This art form that we call as ‘Smocking’ (also called as ‘English smocking’) is originally from The United Kingdom.

Smocking is a form of embroidery made on top of gathers. This makes the work elastic and controls the fullness of the fabric in a decorative way hence making it highly suitable for children’s clothing. It also has many other decorative applications in embellishing furnishing accessories, such as cushions and curtain headings. The choice of fabric, stitch design, color, and texture make each smocked creation a unique work of art.

Smocking requires lightweight fabric with a stable weave that gathers well. Cotton and silk are typical fiber choices, often in lawn or voile. Stranded embroidery floss is the most popularly used thread. The six strands can be separated in a way that only the appropriate number of strands can be used for a particular weight of the fabric. Metallic thread can be used to give a dramatic effect but, it is not easy to handle.

Smocking refers to work done before a garment is assembled. It usually involves reducing the dimensions of a piece of fabric to one-third of its original width, although changes are sometimes lesser with thick fabrics. Individual smocking stitches also vary considerably in tightness, so embroiderers usually work on a sampler for practice and reference when they begin to learn to smock.

Traditional hand smocking begins with marking smocking dots in a grid pattern on the wrong side of the fabric and gathering it with temporary running stitches. These stitches are anchored on each end in a manner that facilitates later removal.

Let’s learn how to make smocking stitches 

Stem Stitch – Bring the needle up just above the gathering line, on the left side of the first pleat. With the thread lying below the gathering line, pick up the second pleat on the same line from right to left. Pull the thread through completely without distorting the pleat.

stem and rope

Rope Stitch – Bring the needle up on the left side of a pleat, then pick up next pleat to the right allowing the needle to slant. The thread here is kept above the needle. However, it can be kept below with needle slanting upwards.

Cable Stitch – Bring the needle up on the left side of a pleat with the thread lying below the gathering line, then pick up the next pleat from right to left to make a horizontal stitch. Pull the thread without distorting the pleat to complete a down cable stitch. For the next stitch, make sure the thread lies above the gathering line. Make a stitch in the next pleat to complete an up cable stitch. Continue alternating the thread position for successive stitches to create the cable pattern.

cable and double cable

Double Cable Stitch – Two rows of cable stitch where the second row starts with an up cable stitch to make a mirror image pattern.

Chevron Stitch – Bring the needle up just above the lower line on the left side of the first pleat, with the thread lying below the gathering line. Pick up the second pleat on the same line from right to left to make a horizontal bar stitch. Pull the thread completely without distorting the pleat.

With the thread lying below, pick up the next pleat from right to left just below the top gathering line and make a stitch inserting the needle horizontally. Pull the thread through. With the thread lying above the gathering line, work a horizontal bar stitch at the same level, as the previous one, just below the gathering line.

With the thread lying above, pick up the next pleat from right to left just above the bottom gathering line to make a downward stitch inserting the needle horizontally. With the thread lying below the gathering line, complete the sequence with a bar stitch over the next stitch. Repeat this sequence till the end.

chevron stitch

Half-space Chevron – Two rows of chevron stitch where the second row is a mirror image of the first and is placed immediately below the first.

Wave Stitch – Bring the needle up just above the lower line on the left side of the first pleat, with the thread lying below the gathering line. Pick up the second pleat on the same line from right to left to make a horizontal bar stitch. Pull the thread completely without distorting the pleat.

With a thread lying below, pick up the next pleat from right to left to make a horizontal stitch a third of the distance towards the top gathering line to make the first step. Make the second step in the next pleat in the same way. Make the third pleat in the same way just below the top gathering line. Pull the thread completely.

With the thread lying above the gathering line, work a horizontal bar stitch over the next pleat, just below the gathering line. With the thread lying above, reverse the sequence to make a downward wave, finishing with a bar stitch. Keep repeating the step till required.

wave stitch

Wave Diamonds – Work the second row of wave stitch immediately below the first row to make a mirror image and produce a diamond effect.

Honeycomb Stitch – Bring the needle up just above the lower line on the left side of the first pleat, with the thread lying below the gathering line. Take a stitch through the top of 2nd and 1st pleats together, catch them together with a 2nd stitch but this time taking the needle down back of the 2nd pleat until 2nd gathering thread is reached, then bring it out. Catch 3rd and 2nd pleats together with a stitch, make the 2nd stitch over this and take needle up back of 3rd pleat and out at 1st gathering thread. Continue up and down in this way until the row is complete. Work the 2nd row on 3rd and 4th gathering threads and consecutive rows if required.

honeycomb stitch

Some more Smocking patterns

 

Keep smocking…until next time 🙂

Adios! Zaa

4 thoughts on “The Art of Smocking

  1. An interesting read.. a complete new topic I’ve come across and super informative! Well done .. will definitely try to do this 😃

    Liked by 1 person

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