Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pleating and Smocking

Over the years I have always admired smocking. Some of my favorite dresses as a little girl were the Polly Flinders dresses my mom would find at thrift stores. The soft calicos accented with complex smocking were a pleasure for me to admire even as a five year old.

The idea of learning to smock never occurred to me until I was around 19. It was about that time that I was introduced to Sew Beautiful magazine, which is truly a wonderful resource to those who enjoy sewing, embroidering or smocking. Through Sew Beautiful I learned about the process of smocking, and found ads for companies that provided pleaters. At first I was a little reluctant to purchase a pleater, due to the price, and decided to hand pleat my first smocked creation. It was a christening gown with slip and bonnet. It was not perfect, but I was pleased with the results. The set actually won best of sewing that year at the fair. : )

After that I knew smocking was an art I wanted to pursue. At that time I sent away for a pleater. The pleater is handy tool, as it saves hours of work over hand pleating. Sometimes I have found my little pleater tricky to use, but over time I learned a few tips that have made my pleating more successful.
Here is my pleater threaded, and my fabric neatly and evenly rolled. It is important to make sure your fabric is well pressed and evenly rolled. That way it can more easily be fed through the pleater without bunching.
 The middle bar can be removed by pulling out the little knob, allowing you to replace the needles. It is vital to have perfect needles. Over time needles can become bent, and a bent needle can spoil your pleating. I discovered this the hard way, more than once.
In this picture I have begun pleating the fabric. I always find it remarkable how the needles and grooved bars, working together, can so quickly and neatly pleat the fabric! I stand over my work while pleating, and go very slowly. I always made mistakes when I tried to speed through this step; the fabric would stretch out unevenly or the fabric would bunch.
All done! You can now just slip your thread off the needles, ties it off and start smocking.
The fabric is perfectly pleated and I have "lines" of thread. As I move the pleats I can see the thread lines, and this is a guide for my stitching. It is kind of like lines on a paper, you want to keep your pattern within the lines.
My favorite part of the process is the actual smocking. It is relaxing work. To create the pattern you simply pick up part of the pleat with your threaded needle. Here is a terrific tutorial to make the wave stitch.
It is always fun to add some roses and leaves! You attach your smocked section in a manner similar to attaching gathers, only you want to make sure your pleats stay even and don't become crushed.
           Jemimah's first birthday dress! It was such a joy to be able to create this special little dress for my daughter.

          I hope that those interested in learning more about smocking found this post useful! It truly is an enjoyable handicraft that I would recommend. : )

12 comments:

  1. That is such a sweet dress!! And Oh Wow!! That is SO neat to watch!!! I always wonder who you do that!!! Thank you so much for sharing!! God bless

    Kelly

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  2. It's so beautiful, Sarah! Such gorgeous handwork, and such a classic dress for a sweet little girl. I can't believe Jemimah is already a year old!

    Blessings,
    Shannon

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  3. This dress is so beautiful. My grandma used to make dresses like this for me when I was a little girl so seeing them always brings back happy memories

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  4. What a beautiful dress. I have always admired smocking. I really love the fabric you chose; so perfect with the little flowers. And the way you finished off the collar adds even more beauty. Something beautiful to keep!

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  5. Dear Sarah ... Oh my, this is such a precious little dress. I love calico fabric, so sweet and so pretty and the smocking makes it just that much more special for your little birthday girl. Hugs ♥ Teri

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  6. Beautiful! I have never adventured into smocking, but it looks very interesting! It was very popular on aprons in the 1950's-60's. Which I have often thought about attempting. That for the tips!

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  7. A beautiful dress, thank you for sharing smoking!

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  8. This dress is just beautiful! The smocking, flowers and lace on the collar, just adorable. You are so talented. Smocking is almost a lost art now. A few years ago, I came across a Canadian blogger, and she did smocking. Sadly, she closed her blog and Etsy shop. Ever think about putting some of these cute little dresses in your shop? :-) Thanks for sharing the photos on how it's done. ♥

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  9. WOW - that is just amazing :)) You are very clever and what a precious dress for your daughter.

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  10. SO pretty! I've wanted to try smocking myself for a long time, and seeing this has rekindled that interest. :) Thanks for sharing!

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  11. It's beautiful! I always wanted a smocked dress for my girls.

    Please drop by and say hello!

    Have a wonderful Christmas season!
    Blessings,
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

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  12. That is just beautiful! I have never seen one of those machines. I love smocked outfits, especially with seersucker material. Delightful blog you have here.

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