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Adventures in smocking

November 17, 2010

It all started with seeing spots. Lots.
They stretched in never ending line along the margin of a sleeve…

Joining the ironed-on dots, with running stitches and strong thread…

One row down, 345,045,098 16 to go.

Some not inconsiderable time and several coffees later….

And pull! A-gathering we go….

Something like the underside of a mushroom?
The other side of the fabric, now gathered into a space 4″ across….

Now for the fun part. The smocking! Done in Anchor Pearl (or Perle) Cotton size 8….

Several decades hours later:

Hurrah! One small cuff section done of what will be Folkwear’s English Smock:

Only the other sleeve, front and back to go. Gulp.

This is a fantastic pattern- so well put together that even a novice smocker like me can follow it. The instructions are comprehensive, and even contain all sorts of historical background on the history of smocks and smocking. I’m using a lighter weight fabric (a cotton lawn) than the pattern recommends, but (ever optimistically) hoping it’ll work out. I’m really enjoying the fact that the actual construction of the smock itself is very simple, but it’s the embellishment (ie. the fun part!) that takes the most time. It’s not even as difficult as I imagined (providing you take the time to do all the prep work accurately…) and I love the patterns of light and shade that the smocking creates.

The aim (following my musings here over an amazing blackwork skirt in the V&A) was to spend a little more time and effort than I normally might in making something that I will keep and wear forever.

Hopefully. Well, that’s the plan anyway :)

14 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2010 4:20 pm

    SO neat!! I’ve wanted to take up smocking for a long time. You’ve inspired me! And I love that Folkwear pattern. My husband and I were talking just the other day about English Smocks- we were watching a movie and he had never seen them before. I love them!

  2. Sid permalink
    November 17, 2010 4:22 pm

    Beautiful! I have recently become intrigued by embroidery, not just admiring it, but doing it. I have really considered doing a “sampler” style project. First, I think they are beautiful, but I think it might be kind of fun too. I have the Readers Digest Needlework book , but, do you have any suggestions, or favorite ways of learning to stitch? Practice, of course, and it is turning into a stormy winter here, so I will have lots of indoor time to devote to it! I don’t have a cute little teddy to help me though…!

    • glassoffashion permalink
      November 19, 2010 12:38 pm

      Hi Sid, A sampler style project sounds like a great manageable idea- you can try out different stitches and not get bored, and perhaps frame up the finished piece, or make it into a cushion. (I always feel the need to make my embroidery part of a functional item!)
      Personally I suck at more traditional freehand embroidery with all its different stitches, as I’m not a neat stitcher. I tend to stick to more geometrical stuff- I need grids (so cross-stitch is good), dots (yay smocking!). Or sometimes the most simple stitches can be very effective for more elaborate designs, like a simple stem stitch here:
      And Holbein stitch here:

      I’ve also enjoyed sashiko in the past (a Japanese style of embroidery done mostly in running stitches). But obviously it depends on your personal taste, and what effect you’re after…
      You don’t have a cute teddy? Rush out and get one immediately- they’re essential for providing quiet non-judgmental encouragement :)

  3. Nathalie permalink
    November 17, 2010 6:23 pm

    That is so beautiful! Having just decided on a pattern-buying moratorium, I may have to reconsider… I’ve always wanted to learn to smock, but it seems so darned complicated and time-consuming. At least a pattern that provides comprehensive instructions might ease me in gently!

    Looking forward to seeing the finished shirt!

  4. November 17, 2010 8:17 pm

    oooohhh…thanks for posting photos of the progress…I really want to try out smocking myself! Can’t wait to see the shirt!

  5. November 18, 2010 2:44 pm

    This is turning out beautifully! Your stitching is really neat. I’ve done one Folkwear blouse before (an Edwardian style one), and their instructions are incredibly clear, aren’t they?

    Looking forward to seeing the finished smock :-)

  6. lindyhopper permalink
    November 18, 2010 11:30 pm

    That looks amazing and so neat. Look forward to seeing the finished garment, but no pressure!

  7. glassoffashion permalink
    November 19, 2010 12:26 pm

    Thanks so much for all your comments and encouragement! I will definitely be posting pictures when the shirt is finished, but that might not be for a while :)

  8. Sid permalink
    November 20, 2010 6:03 pm

    Thank you for you reply, and I am going to try those ideas. We just got snow, and I am going to stay cozy in the house right now! And try some stitching.

  9. November 21, 2010 10:17 pm

    Beautiful! I think this may be another craft I would like to try.

  10. November 25, 2010 2:50 am

    Oh my goodness, when I saw the first picture I thought it must be a photo of something from a museum! Your stitches are so neat and even, it looks wonderful. Can’t wait to see the finished garment. By the way, I chose your blog for an award on my blog :)

    • glassoffashion permalink
      November 26, 2010 12:21 pm

      Ooh, thanks so much for the award! I feel honoured :)

  11. Becky permalink
    December 4, 2010 12:42 pm

    Wow! I am astounded and dazzled, and hope that you will never, ever wear that blouse while you are eating spaghetti or drinking red wine!

  12. January 16, 2011 7:35 pm

    That really is extemely impressive, a job very well done.

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