Some information about hand smocking technique (Part 1)

geometric smocked pattern

Smocked clothing is traditional clothing of many countries in the world. It is so beautiful and beloved by many people. However what is smocking technique and when did it appear? These questions are so hard for someone to answer. So, in this article, I will give you some interesting information about hand smocking technique. Let’s read now and get more knowledge of this traditional technique.

geometric smocked pattern

What is hand smocking?

Smocking is an embroidery technique that is used to gather fabric in order that it can stretch. This technique developed in England and has been practiced since the Middle Ages. This is considered as unusual among embroidery methods in that it was often worn by laborers. It was used most extensively in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Before elastic, smocking was commonly used in cuffs, bodices, and necklines in garments where buttons were undesirable. Smocking was practical for smocked clothes to be both form fitting and flexible, so its name derives from a famer’s work shirt – smock.

rainbow smocked sundress

Other major embroidery styles are purely decorative and represented status symbols. Smocking patterns can range from the most detailed of patterns to the most simplistic. Over the decades, smocking has become both functional as well as decorative. Different types of smocked patterns have evolved and include not only the sewing instructions but cutting and pleating directions as well.

What fabric do hand smocking?

Smocking requires lightweight fabric with a stable weave that gathers well. The most popular fabrics to do hand smocking are cotton and silk. Smocking is worked on a crewel embroidery needle in cotton or silk thread and normally requires three times the width of initial material as the finished item will have.

Historically, people also did smocking in piqué, crepe de Chine, and cashmere. People said that any type of fabric that is supple enough to be gathered can be smocked.

falling leaves smocked bishop dress

Fabric can be gathered into pleats in a variety of ways.

Each period, fabric can be gathered into pleats in a different way. Early smocking, or gauging, was done by hand. Some embroiderers used cardboard and an embroidery marking pencil. When iron-on transfer dots were available, it used to place evenly spaced dots onto the wrong side of the fabric, which were then pleated using a regular running stitch.

Since the early 1950s, pleating machines that used gears and specialty pleater needles have been invented. The fabric is forced through the gears and onto the threaded needles in 16-row, 24-row and 32-row widths.

I have shared with you some general information about hand smocking technique. Do you want to know more interesting information? Let’s wait for the next part and continue discovering!

Thanks for your attention!