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  • Writer's pictureLucy Bentley

Handcraft At Home: An Introduction to Smocking Pt.1

Smocking is an embroidery technique which is thought to have originated in Europe in the middle ages. Traditionally smocking was used to gather fabric allowing it to stretch, so was often used to shape bodices, cuffs and necklines before the invention of elastic. Unlike most embroidery techniques which were purely decorative and were often used to symbolize social status, smocking had a very practical function and was often used in garments worn by laborers e.g. a farmhand’s smock.

Today there are many smocking techniques which are used to create 3D patterns and textures on textile surfaces. This tutorial will cover three of these, teaching you the basic skills needed to read a smocking grid and smock a sample piece of fabric with a follow-up post teaching you how to apply these techniques to create a one of a kind piece for your home.

You will need:

- Rectangles of fabric approximately 25 x 35cm (Cottons or silks work well, but the fabric choice is entirely up to you!)

- Needle and thread

- Scissors

- Ruler

- Tailors chalk or pen

1. On the reverse of the fabric, draw a 20x30cm grid of 1cm squares.

2. Copy the markings from one of the above smocking patterns onto your grid and repeat to fill the space, leaving a 1cm border around the edges (you may end up trimming the fabric). The diagonal lines show where you will be making a stitch.

3. Thread the needle and start your smocking on the reverse of the fabric at the first square with a diagonal line. Put the needle down through the fabric and back up at one end of the diagonal line, and then again at the other.

4. Pull the thread taught – this should bring together both ends of the diagonal line on the reverse of the fabric. Stitch back through to secure.

5. Repeat steps 3&4 across the full grid until your smocked sample is finished!

Why not experiment with this technique using different types of fabrics, threads and embellishments? Let us know how you found the tutorial, and tag photos of your samples on Instagram with #handcraftathome for your chance to be featured! Stay tuned for part 2, which will teach you how to use this technique to create a beautiful cushion for your home!

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