Gathering Threads

Free 1940s Smocking Plate

Posted by on Oct 13 2010, in Smocking, Smocking Plates

I saw this cute late 1940s smocking pattern offered for sale on a vintage pattern site recently. I didn’t buy it but I was struck by the charming banded smocking pattern, which so typifies designs of the period. There’s a wealth of ideas to be gleaned from early patterns. I often study vintage pattern illustrations, breaking down the elements one by one and making note in my sketchbook of unique or unusual details that I might like to replicate in my own projects.

Variations on bands of diamonds and cables appear in lots of the pamphlets and iron on patterns during the period. As is common, they use very simple stitches (in this case, only cable, seed and trellis stitches) and a very limited palette of colours: white and floss in a darker shade of the fabric colour.

The pattern itself is a classic square yoke dress, with a very shallow partial yoke, a small peter pan collar, sash and puffed sleeves. The sleeves have a slight ‘cap’ishness to them, and are finished with what looks like a simple folded band. The skirt is very short to modern eyes but that was the style well into the 1960s for very young girls.

One stylistic element of interest is the fact that the back of the dress has a small yoke, to which the lower bodice and skirt appear to be gathered in one piece, like the front. This is different from many contemporary patterns, which see the skirt gathered to the back bodice with a seam along the back waist line but it does create a very relaxed, informal silhouette.

Replicating the design exactly makes for quite a deep design, worked over 20 1/2 rows. You can download a pdf of the plate by clicking here. If you are working this on a dress with a deeper partial yoke or for a younger child, I would simply omit one or two of the lower bands to shorten it.

Pleat 22 full space rows. Backsmock the upper holding row with two strands of floss before smocking design. Smock the design using three strands of floss.

Row 1: Beginning with an under cable over the centre two pleats, work cable stitch in coloured floss across the row.

Row 1 1/2: Work an echo of row 1 in white floss.

Row 2 – 3: Beginning with an *over cable over centre two pleats and using coloured floss, work a four step trellis down to row 3, work seven cable stitches, starting with an under cable, four step trellis back up to row 2*. Repeat from ** across row.

Row 2 1/2 – 3 1/2: Echo row 2-3, using white floss.

Row 4 – 5 1/2: Mirror image of rows 2 – 3 1/2.

Row 3 3/4: Work seed stitch in the centre of each diamond, using coloured floss and tying off between each stitch.

Rows 5 1/2 – 9: Work in the same manner as Rows 2 – 5 1/2 except that the cables and diamonds now alternate from the band above.

Rows 9 – 12 1/2: Work identically to rows 2 – 5 1/2

Rows 12 1/2 – 16: Work identically to rows 5 1/2 – 9

Rows 16 – 19 1/2: Work identically to rows 2 – 5 1/2

Row 20: Mirror image of row 1 1/2 in white floss.

Row 20 1/2: Mirror image of row 1 in coloured floss.

As always, you are free to share the link to this project with sewing friends and use it for personal or charity sewing. Please credit my website and don’t repost or resell the plate or instructions on your own site.  Enjoy!


  • em

    Man, after reading this I just hope my mom saved my smocked dresses so I can pass them on and never have to smock anything!

  • Steve and Jim never wore smocking as well as you did anyway 🙂