"Beginning Smocking Information
- Garden Fairies by Beth-katherine
How to Start Smocking
We have decided to create a newsletter page for you of all of our products
that we have recommend over the years for beginners on their journey in
understanding how to do smocking.
To briefly paraphrase my "What is Smocking?" page:
English Smocking is embroidery on pleats that have been pleated before smocking.
It is an art form whose origin has been obscured in history but has been
handed down from generation to generation much like the sagas, songs and
myths; however it's roots are traceable to a point through looking at the
art of the past and in historical stitchery. If you look at paintings
from the Italian and German Renaissance you will see lots of examples of
a type of smocking on mens shirts and ladies chemises, as well as on linen
smocs (smocks) of the British Isles as far back as the 16th century. As
one source in England said "Smocking's been around for ages, long long time".
Smocking as we know it today is used primarily as a decorative way of
embellishing children's clothing.
Here is an example of a Basic Yoke Dress
|Ellen McCarn's Basic Yoke Dress - Two sizes:
3mo - 4 yrs; 5 yrs - 14 yrs - $12.00 each
This pattern has variations for smocked short sleeves, long sleeves, a jumper
variation, Angel sleeves, angel sleeve with overlay and collar overlay.
Two separate sizes, 3mo to 4 years and 5 years to 14 years.
Instruction booklet included has over 150 step-by-step illustrations and
instructions for Pleating, 10 Sleeve Variations, 8 Collar Variations, Scalloped
hem, Skirt Variations and heirloom Machine Sewing techniques. The
adjustable smocking design graph "Christy", pictured on the front cover,
For more Basic Yoke Dress Patterns that we carry,
To begin with smocking isn't hard but has a few rules that one must follow
in order to get a nice looking garment. First thing to consider is how you
are going to form your pleats to embroider upon. This is done either by picking
up iron-on dots with a needle and thread to form your pleats or to have your
fabric pre-pleated by a pleater.
We carry two styles of smocking dots (regular spacing
and pleater compatible) in two colors
There are two types of smocking dots available called Pleater Compatible
or Traditional Spacing which have evolved during the past 100 years of smocking's
history with the Traditional spacing dots being closer together than the
ones that are Pleater Compatible. Why the difference?
The main reason is that the majority of the patterns we sell have been designed
with the smocking pleater which has been manufactured with a wider spacing
than those of the traditional smocking dots so the dot designers came up
with a way for people who like picking up dots to use the smocking patterns
- hence Pleater Compatible Smocking Dots. These dots are spaced slightly
wider than the Traditional Spacing.
Iron-On Smocking Dots
- $6.00 per package of two 24" x 36" sheets.
Pleater Compatible spacing (to match the contemporary
smocking patterns we sell).
Your choice of two colors Yellow
for dark fabrics or Blue
for light fabrics.
Two styles (Regular spacing and Pleater
Click here to read our newsletter
on how to use these dots for bishop smocking.
The Smocking pleater was invented by Mrs. Read's husband in South Africa
during the late 1940's to assist in his wife's smocking venture. A
very ingenious man. Since then we've had two other innovators, Lord
Stanley (Mr. Read's son-in-law) who invented the first 24 row pleater that
worked and Jerry Konistra of Australia who took the 24row pleater to another
level by changing the traditional metal plates and screws that hold the front
roller bar (and needles) in place and adding side pins as well as enlarging
the handle bars to accommodate thicker pieces of fabric such as corduroy. Today Read pleaters are the only ones still being manufactured.
If you are interested in buying a pleater here are the pleaters that I sell
If you want to add in a Thread Caddy to your pleater order we have to charge
$12.50 for the shipping, but you can add any other items to your order without
incurring extra shipping charges.
This nifty little box, hand made of pine, has
a space for your pleater to sit up on top. Underneath the lid are dowels
to hold your spools of threads or wound bobbins. In front is a lucite
bar with holes drilled into it to keep your threads neat and tidy and where
you want them at all times. If you order with your pleater the shipping is
$12.50 as these caddys are a bit heavy.
Books to aid in the learning process
I would really recommend one of the following books to help you learn to
smock on your own:
On English Smocking by Ellen McCarn $12.00
English Smocking by Grace Knott $16.00
Beginning Smocking by Michie' Mooney $12.00
(click on name to view book)
Either of these books will give you the information you need to teach yourself
how to smock.
I would recommend that you get one of those books and a pre-pleated 9, 12 or 16 row
insert to practice your stitches on. Then when you feel
like you are ready and want to do more the next thing to consider is whether
or not smocking is going to become an addiction and you will need a pleater.
If you can see it's not going to be or if you just want to have things pleated
one by one I do offer a pleating service for a minimal charge or I do carry
packages of smocking dots that iron on (yellow for dark fabrics and blue
for light fabrics) and you can pick up the dots to form pleats. The dots
run $6.00 per package.
We only have available white inserts (Imperial Broadcloth)
As for your first project if you have a little girl to smock for I would
recommend a Basic Yoke Dress pattern
as it is an easy style for the beginner smocker (see beginning image of Ellen
McCarn Basic Yoke Dress). The other style called the
Bishop is a bit tricky for beginner smockers,
not difficult but tricky as you have to adjust the tension of your smocking
stitches as you spread out in the circular neckline. I have several
issues of Australian Smocking and Embroidery
which have a pattern in it for babies growing into toddlers. Issue
31 comes to mind immediately. If you have a little boy to smock for then
I would suggest working an insert to be inset into a shirt or sweatshirt.
If you are smocking for yourself there are lots of patterns for adult clothing
that are very elegant. Let me know which you are interested in for
your first project and I will steer you in the right direction.
We do have a ready to smock service if you are interested. Please write
to us with your wants and needs:
In-stock Issue of Australian Smocking &
Here is a link to more Australian Smocking & Embroidery
I hope I have answered all of your questions, if you have more or want some
special attention please email me at
I will send a reply ASAP.
I would also like to point out that there are two styles of English Smocking,
Geometric and Picture Smocking. Geometric is the easiest type of smocking
to do while picture smocking appeals more to children as images are so important
to them. On the catalog page (see link above below banner) there are links to all the smocking plate
designers that we carry. Oh and a smocking plate is a design plate
(as in color plate in a book) not an actual dinner plate with images printed
on it as one lady asked.
(To see more on the different types of smocking please go to this page
What is Smocking? )
Sincerely hoping I've been able to assist you,
Beth-Katherine Kaiman, Main Fairy in attendance
Some Beginning Smocking Books
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