I was initially inspired to make one of these aprons after seeing the beautiful examples at Medieval Silkwork. Isis and Machteld always do lovely work and once again managed to inspire me to try something new. Here is my first-even attempt at smocking, done so I can figure out how much fabric I will need for the final apron.
You can see from the pictures that my first line of stitching got a bit wonky. For some reason I had a very hard time stitching in a straight line. I think if I chalk out some guide lines on top of my pleats I will be able to keep things looking a bit neater. Some of the pleats themselves are not perfectly even either, which probably didn't help. I cartridge pleated the pleats, and I think if I switch to the pick-up-the-dot method of pleating they may end up being a bit more even and easier to control (and also a little smaller, which I think will be a good thing). I ended up pleating 29 inches of 3.5oz linen into 7 inches of smocking, which will end up making a very full apron. I suspect I can eliminate a little fullness by making shallower pleats (I used 1/4 inch graphing paper to make a pleat template). Since I want the apron to be fairly narrow, this will leave me with a 60 inch wide piece of fabric pleated into 14 inches. I'll be doing another sample tonight or tomorrow with smaller pleats to see if I can improve that pleating ratio a bit.
My only other concern with this project is the thread used for the smocking itself. I used two strands of cotton embroidery floss on the sample, which worked well but could possibly be a little thicker. I am assuming that silk or linen thread would have been used in period. Linen thread will work better as it simplifies washing the finished apron (assuming I need to bleach or oxy-clean the apron, silk will not hold up), but the silk would make fuller stitches and cover better. Finding suitable linen thread is challenging in this area to say the least. I have some 20/2 weaving thread that might work, so I'll try that with my second sample.