Gathering Threads

A New Project Underway

Posted by on Jun 09 2011, in Smocking, Tutorial

Now that soccer season has started and I’ve got two boys playing this year, I’ve started another smocking project to keep my hands occupied on the sidelines. I know, I know, what kind of a parent smocks during the game? Who am I, daring to look away from all the scintillating action of 12 five year olds meandering round the field after a ball like a bunch of neon coloured lemmings? The kind who has to sit through 2 games and 2 practices every week from June to the end of August, that’s who. 🙂

I cheer. I encourage. I smock. I think it’s a fair trade off.

Here are three things I can promise you about the new dress:

1. It is not a bishop.

2. It does not have bullions, detached chain leaves or surface embroidery of any kind.

3. It does not have lace, insertion, beading or edging, either.

Because I need a break from all of those things.

I’m using a really lovely red and white striped cotton. It’s glazed so it’s got a bit of a sheen to it and 36″ wide, rather than the more common 45″. I picked it up a while back on a buy 1, get 2 free deal so for $6, I got plenty to make a dress.

For the first time ever, I’ve hand gathered my pleats. I did it this way, rather than trying to get it through my pleater so I could be assured of a nice regular pattern. The stripes are perfect for this, as the white stripes are approximately 3/16″ and the red stripes are 1/8″.

Wasn’t hard, just took a bit of time to get it done. I drew faint pencil lines on the wrong side, each 1cm (3/8″) apart, which is the same spacing as my Read pleater then picked up the pleats with a running stitch.

Here’s what it looks like from the front side:

And from the back:

And here’s what it looks like when it’s gathered. As you can see, the white dominates as I had wanted. I’m going to be smocking a simple geometric design in red, so I wanted it to stand out. (I think it’s fair to say, this won’t be a *subtle* dress when it’s all done up :))

My pleating ratio worked out to about 3.6:1. I didn’t tie off super tight since I’m not an overly tight smocker. Once I block it, I’ll see what the final numbers look like but they’ll be close to that, probably about 3.2:1. I will have to add width to the sides, since I’m making a partial yoke dress and the fabric is too narrow for the size 5 I’ll be making.

And for all the folks who’ve been downloading my Illustrator tutorials for designing your own smocking plates, I have been making good progress on writing the third tutorial on geometrics. I’ve finished the plate and am now writing the step by steps. I expect to have it up in the near future, so keep your eyes open for that. I’ve had a lot of feedback from people who’ve found them really useful and that makes me happy I can share my knowledge so other smockers’ design efforts are that much easier.


  • From a mom of three boys in baseball, I know just what you mean! 🙂 I have never hand-pleated anything before. Yours turned out wonderful and I’m so excited to see how it turns out!! I know it will be beautiful.