All the other students were fairly experienced dressmakers and wanted to apply the smocking technique to clothes. By contrast, I was more interested in using smocking to create sculptural effects.
We started with traditional English smocking, where the fabric is marked with dots before gathering it into pleats using the dots as guides. The pleats are then held in place by embroidering on top before removing the gathering threads.
Some stitches allow more elasticity to the pleats than others. Here’s a sample showing several different stitches.
From top to bottom, the stitches are:
- outline stitch
- cable stitch
- wave stitch
- honeycomb stitch
- vandyke stitch
- surface honeycomb stitch (with some beading).
Some of these stitches look quite similar but are subtly different.
The two rows of honeycomb stitch didn’t work too well on the sample because the pleats were quite tight, and I think it’s seen to best effect when there are more rows.
So I tried an experiment with radial smocking, where I started with a piece of fabric shaped like a ring doughnut, with the smocking dots in concentric circles.
Because the distance between the pleats is greater closer to the edge, the honeycomb effect is more obvious. The elasticity of the stitch also allows the structure to be manipulated – I actually like the tubular structure on the reverse side!
I also made a piece where the distance between the smocking circles was greater at the edge. This led to a flatter structure that was not so conical.
On the second workshop we did some North American smocking, where, rather than gathering, the stitch pattern (not necessarily in rows) is used to manipulate the fabric when it is pulled up.
The stitching is worked on a grid, so to save time by not having to mark out lots of grids, we used gingham fabric. 🙂
First we tried a lattice pattern.
Again, I was very taken with the reverse side, which was like puffy diamonds and curled up nicely into a ball:
Then we stitched a flower pattern. This was interesting because, depending on where you started stitching, you ended up with black and white flowers (like me) or grey flowers, owing to the gingham pattern.
And the reverse pattern:
I think this could be very effective stitched on thin prefelt and then felted.
Finally, I had a go at grid or Italian smocking. This differs in that, rather than creating a small stitch at every dot (or grid intersection), the stitches connect the dots (like running stitch).
The sample below was again stitched on a grid patterned fabric. I stitched two repeats vertically but only one horizontally, so the pattern is not very easy to see – it’s supposed to be chevrons. I should have started with a wider piece of fabric and stitched more horizontal repeats!