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