all my own work by ann

Sewing and textiles with Ann

Smocking

Clearly it’s a dying skill, because spell-checks have all sorts of trouble with the word!

Thanks yet again to the Maker’s Atelier magazine (Summer 21) for inspiration for this project. Smocking is a dying skill, apparently now on the list of heritage crafts ‘at risk’. It requires patience and precision (and gingham!) but it is quite rhythmic, and once you get going, it isn’t difficult, or quite as slow a process as you might think. It could be done without gingham, but you’d have to mark measured squares on the fabric to accurately smock.

I have a drawer which contains various interfacing, a multitude of zips, mainly very old metal ones, quite a bit of felt, AND, some pink gingham. Just what i needed when i had read the magazine.

The fabric might be 10 years old… It was definitely bought on the B&M Fabrics market stall in Leeds, almost certainly before they had the shop. I must have bought quite a few metres, because i made a t-shirt and shorts from it, which i used as nightwear until they wore out, and that was quite a while ago. And now i’ve made the Smock top from it and there is still enough left for something for ‘Littl’un’.

I’m not sure whether to call it learning, practicing or what, but i tested all of the suggested designs on some scraps. Whilst rhythmic and not difficult, boy were my eyes tired when i finally looked up at the world outside of smocking again! It needs tiny stitches in the right places (the corners of the squares) but its not until you stop smocking that you realise how hard you have been concentrating!

The smocked top itself is relatively straight forward to make, using the selvedge for the centre front seam and neck facing so that no seam finishing is required. I found i had to lower the line of smocking by 4 squares. To find this out you have to partially make the garment and try it for length before doing the smocking, at a point where there is relatively easy access to the smocking area.

I cut a size 16, because i tend to find that size works for me with loose fitting TMA garments.

It’s a funny fit! The neck opening is quite close fitting; not tight, just close fitting. But there is still plenty of fabric at the waist. I wonder if i should have extended the smocking, which i kept within the pattern guidelines. But if i do that, will it be harder to take on and off?

I made it weeks ago; before the magazine was available to anyone but subscribers. But i haven’t worn it yet. This is partly because until the last week or so, the weather hasn’t been suitable, and also because i am not sure what to wear with it. If i stick to the rule about only wearing loose fitting on one of either top or bottom, then that limits the coordinating bottom layer to being tighter fitting – which i don’t often ‘do’ in the summer.

Regardless, i enjoyed making this and learning a new skill. Because i already had the fabric and it didn’t cost me much, and had been sitting around doing nothing for years, then the cost of supplies was minimal. Hopefully in the future i’ll be able to make more use of the skill and keep the heritage craft alive. Now that’s a satisfying thought.

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