"Beginning Smocking Information - Garden Fairies by Beth-katherine Kaiman"

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, is included.

Price $12.00
Quantity requested    

For more Basic Yoke Dress Patterns that we carry, click here

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.  

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.

We carry two styles of smocking dots (regular spacing and pleater compatible) in two colors

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 Compatible)

Pleater Compatible Spacing 

Blue Smocking Dots

Price 6.00
Quantity requested    

Yellow Smocking Dots

Price 6.00
Quantity requested    

Traditional Spacing 

Blue Smocking Dots

Price 6.00
Quantity requested    

Yellow Smocking Dots

Price 6.00
Quantity requested    

Click here to read our newsletter on how to use these dots for bishop smocking.

Smocking Pleaters

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 and recommend:

Read Pleaters
24 row, Maxi (47 half spaces) or 32row

Designed with precision brass rollers, each Read plater has been carefully engineered to work perfectly every time. You have your choice of 3 styles:

  • Read Regular 24 row pleater $269.00
  • Read Maxi 24 row includes 47 half space rows (24 regular and 23 half space rows) $299.00
  • Read 32row pleater $299.00
Each price includes shipping in the continental US.

Price $269.00-$299.00
Quantity requested        

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.

24-row Thread Caddy fits Read Pleaters

Price $70.00
Quantity requested    

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)

9 rows ready for smocking (smock 7)

Price 4.95
Quantity requested    

12 rows ready for smocking (smock 10)

Price 5.95
Quantity requested    

16 rows ready for smocking (smock 14)

Price 6.75
Quantity requested    

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: smockingstore@gmail.com

In-stock Issue of Australian Smocking & Embroidery

Australian Smocking & Embroidery #96

Out of Print but still in stock

Simply Delicious is the title of this issue and it does deliver. Contents:

  • A Stitch in Time - Baby Bibs - Special bibs with heirloom appeal, in timelss white with quilting or delicate embroidery - obviously special occasion bibs
  • Seeing spots - White sundress with colorful temlate smocked spots and ricrac trim - 8-12 years
  • All Tied Up! - Cute apron dress desing in classic linenwithlace or contemporary crinkle cotton - Sizes 2-4 years
  • Cherry Pie - Pink pique' bishop dress with mock yoke smocking design and picture smocked cherries - Sizes 2&3years
  • Kelmscott - Beautfil William Morris print yoke dresses in traditional or modern styles - Sizes 4-6 years
  • Cherish - Sweet pique' bib with smocked and embroidered insert, soft pink piping and satin ribbon ties.
  • Periwinkle - Tunic top with alternating panels of smocking and beaded embroidery paired with capri ants - 6-10 years
  • Fancy Free - Adorable floral bishop top with lowered neckline, long sleeves & piped pockets - Sizes 2-5 years

Price $22.00 Quantity requested  

Here is a link to more Australian Smocking & Embroidery Magazines

I hope I have answered all of your questions, if you have more or want some special attention please email me at smockingstore@gmail.com and 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

eMail: smockingstore@gmail.com

Some Beginning Smocking Books

Beginning Smocking by Michie' Mooney

A wonderful brand new smocking instruction book which contains along with geometric and picture smocking instructions, 10 smocking designs and a smocked bonnet pattern.

Price $14.00
Quantity requested    

English Smocking by Children's Corner

This book is unique amongst all of our beginning smocking books in that it contains actual sewing patterns for a Basic Square Yoke Dress (sizes 1-6) and Armhole guides for a Sundress (sizes 1-8), a smocked baby's bonnet, and smocked collar.  Also included are seven original smocking designs with variations each for either a square yoke dress or bishop.  The smocking stitches are clearly presented in illustrations as well as written instructions.  Excellent value for your money.

Price $12.00
Quantity requested    

One Stitch at a Time with Ellen McCarn

An excellent introductory booklet on the subject of smocking for one who wants to know more but isn't sure enough to invest a lot of money.

Contents include:

  • How to choose a project
  • Learning about supplies & materials
  • Basic smocking stitches and techniques including elementary embellishment
  • 6 geometric designs in graph form
  • Projects: Smocked Pillow and a Smocked collar Size 2, 3-4, 5 & up

Price $5.00
Quantity requested    

"How to Smock" - Grace Knott $16.00  

A republication and revision of a 1957 classic with 10 updated color geometric smocking designs created in Grace's tradition by her daughter-in-law. It shows you how to pleat by dots and how to use a pleater, along with smocking instructions and collar suggestions. A wonderful book and the geometric and picture designs included are delightful.  The smocking design on the cover is one of the smocking designs included. (Grace Knott designed some of the first smocking plates in the 50's. Bold geometrics which sparked the smocking craze and eventually led to what you see today)

Please click on the link to see the lovely geometric designs of Grace Knott Smocking Designs.

Price $16.00
Quantity requested    

"Ellen McCarn On English Smocking" $12.00

This book is wonderful and in my opinion this is the book to get. One of the most definitive manuals on smocking with clear and concise directions and drawings. Includes seven design plates and 150 step-by-step illustrations and photographs. Covers beginning thru advanced geometric smocking.  An excellent guide for teaching yourself smocking as it is like Ellen is right there looking over your shoulder.   Ellen has been smocking and designing plates for more than 20 years.  This book contains the sum of her experiences.  Excellent publication.

To see Ellen's smocking designs please go to this page Ellen McCarn Smocking Design Plates.

Price $12.00
Quantity requested    

"Picture Smocking with Ellen McCarn" $12.00

A perfect companion book to the previous edition. This book tells you all you ever need to know about picture smocking. Comes with a stash of picture smocked motifs and geometric patterns for creating your own designs.  For more than 20 years Ellen McCarn has been delighting smockers all around the world with her picture smocking.  She shares her tips as well as some creative processes in this volume.

To see Ellen's smocking designs please go to this page Ellen McCarn Smocking Design Plates.

Price $12.00
Quantity requested    

For understanding your pleater I would recommend Sarah Douglas' The Pleater Manual and A to Z Smocking.

"The Pleater Manual" Sarah Douglas $18.00  (Sub-title: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of the Smocking Pleater).

This is THE definitive guide to operating a smocking pleater and working with pleated fabric. Written by an expert in smocking, Saran Douglas gives you more information than you ever would want to know about pleating and working with pleated fabric. Covers the basic subjects and then goes into a comparison of the popular brands of pleaters and advanced subjects like pleating on the bias and curves. Included is a glossary of terms, pleating directions for all types of fabrics and pleater maintenance instructions. The layout of the book is set up as lesson plans on every type of pleating, exotic or regular.  She certainly did her research well and it definitely shows. I recommend this book as a must have in every smockers library.

Price $24.95
Quantity requested    

Lattice Smocking by Laura Jenkins Thompson  $12.00

If you have ever wondered how to make those pillows from the 50's and 60's this is the book for you.  Two different lattice smocking patterns are included adapted for the following projects: Laura's Lattice Dress, Royal Weskit Smocked Sleeve Jacket, Princess Insert Dress, Channel Jacket - Canadian Style, Lattice Envelope Evening Bag, Lattice Cummerbund Belt.  I'm dying to try some of this on velvet as well as doing it in miniature.

Price $12.00
Quantity requested    

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