Monday, May 14, 2012

More smocking

Following up on my last post, where I attempted smocking for the first time in preparation for a smocking apron a la The Lutrell Psalter, I managed to do a second swatch with shallower pleats this weekend.  This time I used a piece of cloth 10 inches long and pleated using the pick-up-the-dot method, rather than making cartridge pleats.  Both methods are described very well on the Pleatwork Embroidery website.

My dots were spaced 1/4 of an inch apart, resulting in 1/4 inch deep pleats on the first sample, and 1/8 inch deep pleats on the second.  My final bit of smocked fabric ended up being about 4 inches wide on the second sample, which means that my final apron will need to be only 36 inches wide at the hem, much better than the nearly 60 inches I would need using the cartridge pleats.  I also like the look of the smaller pleats better, even though they are a little harder to wrangle into place.  The large pleats give a more lush look to the piece, particularly in the honeycomb section, but  since I want to smock with more than just honeycomb (which is much stretchier than the other stitches), the top bit of the apron will end up a little tighter than the bottom section of smocking, an effect that will I think look well and control the fullness of the finished apron nicely without adding an absurd amount of bulk to the finished apron.  I may end up doing two aprons, in which case one will probably be plain honeycomb worked with deeper pleats.

I found that the pleats were easier to control if I ran my pleat/gathering lines closer together on the narrower pleats (no more than 1/4 inch apart), whereas I was able to do half as many lines of gathering on the deeper pleats.  I also found that by picking up the dots, I ended up with the dots on the surface of the pleats which created a nice straight line I could use as a guide for my first few lines of stitching.  This helped keep the second sample much neater looking than the first, and I had no need to draw in guide lines on the surface of the cloth.  I will need to make sure that whatever I use to mark the dots will wash out.  I used pencil on the sample, which tends not to come off the fine linen easily.  Somewhere I have some other fabric markers that should work better.


  1. What items were smocked back then and which cultures used this method of fabric adorment?

  2. It seems to have been in Northern Europe and England at least. There are pictures of what appear to be smocked aprons in the Lutrell Psalter (14th century) and mostly German portraits showing smocked aprons dating from the 16th century. There are also some shirt necks and cuffs that have been smocked. Check out for some good documentation.