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What is Smocking?

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Smocking uses decorative stitching between pleats to create textural patterns. Smocking was used to give garments, such as blouses or bodices, elastic around necklines and cuffs. Nowadays, smocking is used more often as a decorative element in items such as baptism gowns or girls’ dresses.

Smocking is a method of using thread that is not stretchy to shrink fabric. This is in contrast to shirring which uses elastic thread.

7 Types Of Smocking Stitches

The size of your pattern (small stitches for smaller patterns, larger stitches for larger ones) and your level of comfort with needlework will determine the smocking stitches you choose. For beginners, simpler patterns are best. These are seven basic stitches that can be used to make anything, simple or complex.

  1. Outline stitch: An outline stitch, also known as a “stem stitch”, is a series of interconnected diagonal stitches that run in the same direction. This is the row that holds the pleats in their place.
  2. The wheat stitch: This is a step up from the outline. It’s basically two outline stitches that run underneath each other, with the diagonal seams going up and down.
  3. Cable stitch: This is one of the easiest stitches. The cable stitch involves placing the thread between the needle and the thread to create a row with interlocking cables.
  4. Wave stitch: A wave stitch is a combination of two parallel stitches and diagonal stitching that alternates between them. Because it reduces tension, this V-shaped stitch is often used as the last stitch in smocked garments.
  5. Trellis stitch: Two intersecting waves stitches create an X-shaped pattern with a trellis.
  6. Two rows of triangular: Stitches create a diamond pattern.
  7. Honeycomb stitch: A honeycomb stitch is a different embroidery stitch. It creates a pattern by the pleating, which securing the various parts together to form a honeycomb pattern.

What materials are needed for smocking

Hand-smocking is time-intensive but doesn’t require a lot of materials. Here are the materials you will need:

  1. Crewel needles are a type of sewing: Needle that has a longer eye than standard ones. You will need a crewel (also known as an embroidering needle) in sizes between five and eight depending on the project.
  2. Fabric: Although you can smock almost any fabric, lighter and softer fabrics will be more difficult to work with. Gingham fabric is a good choice for beginners, as the checkered pattern provides a guideline for sewing.
  3. Thread: For smocking, you will need a thicker thread called embroidery floss. The thread material you choose should match the fabric material. For example, silk thread is used for a silk garment. You should choose thread colors that match the fabric color.

How to Smock a Dress

Once you get the hang of it, smocking can become a relaxing and peaceful activity. This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to sew a garment.

  1. Prepare your materials. Prewashed fabric should be three times as long as the fabric you will use to pleat it.
  2. Your fabric should be plied. If you have one, use it. If you don’t have one, you can use a smocking template to place a grid under the garment (the “wrong” side of the fabric) or manually measure smocking points in even rows. Next, create a simple running stitch using gathering threads or floss. Pull your pleats tight and tie the gathering thread.
  3. Mark your center valley. It will be easier later to add decorative elements if you can identify the center of your pleats.
  4. Start stitching. Begin stitching by keeping your needle horizontal. Keep the spacing even as you continue along the row. If you’re right-handed, you should work from left to right. If you’re left-handed you can do the opposite.
  5. Repeat for remaining rows. Add any embellishments or decorations to the center of your fabric once the pleating has been fixed.
  6. The gathering stitches should be removed. You must keep your gathering stitch distinct from your smockings stitches. The gathering stitches are not part of the pattern, but guides.
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