Thursday, August 5, 2010

*Guest Post Thursday* - Smocking Basics

Hello!  Today we are going to learn about smocking.  It seems there are less and less of these beautiful dresses being made, and yet it really is quite simple to achieve such elegant and sweet clothes for our children to wear.
My mom has been smocking for a long time.  She smocked many many things for my sister and me to wear when we were young, and now she is making beautiful things for Charlotte to wear.  Here are some of the dresses she's made: 
Aren't those beautiful?!  Don't you want to learn?!  Take it away mom...

Hi there, I am Jessica’s Mom and today I am going to give you a brief introduction to the art of English smocking. I fell in love with this style of children’s clothing when my girls were very young and have enjoyed designing and constructing many beautiful garments over the years. And now I am thrilled to have a beautiful granddaughter to smock for!
Basically, the smocking affect is created by hand stitching on top of pleated fabric. The possibilities for designs are endless, from simple, simple geometric designs (easier than cross-stitch) to detailed picture smocking of really any subject….frogs, teddy bears, snowmen, mermaids….. you name it!
Smocking can be described as embroidery stitches on top of tiny pleats. If you are brand new to this art I suggest that you purchase a garment that is already pleated and constructed. All you need to do is the hand stitching! There are a number of web-sites that sell these, but they can be pricey. I have purchased some “ready to smock” garments on e-bay - they are very reasonable and I have been pleased with them. Search “smocking” or  “ready-to smock” on e-bay. 
If you are interested in pleating your own garments, you will need a pleater. A pleater is a small hand-cranked piece of equipment that holds the needles that pleat the fabric. You can purchase online here. I suggest that you purchase a book - that will give you all the information you need to begin.  Two books that I can recommend are:
Sew Cute Couture: Create Adorable Embellished Jackets with Matching Dresses, Skirts and Shirts Sew Cute Couture: Create Adorable Embellished Jackets with Matching Dresses, Skirts and Shirts
Beautiful Bishops: Nine Glorious Garments

Both of these books include multi-sized dress patterns and smocking instructions.
Overall, realize that you will be making a timeless piece of clothing, and always use high quality fabrics. Cottons work well, imperial broadcloth and even dupioni silk also work, just don’t choose a fabric that is too thick or it won’t pleat nicely. Ok, here is the process for preparing a bishop style dress to smock:

Cut out the 2 backs, the front and the 2 sleeves, stitch together at the sleeve seams and lay out wrong side up.
Next, you roll the entire dress onto a small wooden dowel
Now you are ready to run the dress through the pleater:
When the dress comes out of the pleater it will look like this:
The final step before smocking is shaping the neckline.  You lay it out on the ironing board, shape into a circle and steam it to set the pleats. Let it dry and you are ready to stitch!
This dress is for Charlotte’s birthday. Check back in a few weeks for a pic of the completed project! I love to see little girls wearing dresses and, smocking can be designed in so many styles, from sturdier play dresses to fine heirloom styles made from high quality cottons. They are VERY durable and can be machine-washed.  Thanks for looking and I hope you have been inspired to try this beautiful and EASY art of smocking! 

Thanks Momma!  Charlotte and I both love all of the things you make her and we love you!


  1. I wanna know how your mom got the ribbon smocked on, on the anna maria horner dress. I have loved that one from I first time I've seen it!
    Happy Weekend Jessica!

  2. Well, the ribbon embellishment is woven through the smocking stitches after the smocking is finished, really very easy!


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