I’ve been busy sewing over the last week but as it’s a gift for someone who occasionally reads my blog I can’t show you until it’s been gifted. So in true Blue Peter fashion…here’s one I made earlier…

SmockingLast weekend was Helen’s 18th birthday, as part of her present I made a photobook called the Alphabet of Helen. I wrote something about her personality or things that we’ve done under each letter and illustrated it with lots of photos from over the years. Looking at it made me realise just how many dresses I made for Helen. I made clothes for James too, but girls are so much easier to sew for!!

I learnt to smock through my mother, she’s one of those craft ladies who will get totally into a craft, buy all the kit, do it for a few years and then move on to the next craft. So when she was into smocking she bought a smocker, which does make it a whole lot easier. They are a pain to set up and thread, as they have about 26 needles, but you put your fabric in one end, turn the handle and it comes out gathered the other end, all you have to do is the nice bit of embroidering it.

SmockingMost of the patterns I made were from the Australian Smocking magazine, they have some stunning dresses. My first attempt was a pretty pink dress with an embroidered panel down the middle and a simple smocking design each side of the bodice. She looked really cute in it, I didn’t quite get the tension right but  I was pleased enough to have another go. It doesn’t show up well in the photo unfortunately.

Straight smocked high-waisted dresses were the easiest as the smocking was done on a straight length of fabric before the dress was made up. I usually used quilting cotton as it’s a nice weight and would stay nice after laundering, the downside of that was that in the UK, quilting cotton isn’t cheap!


SmockingSmocking is fairly simple and quick to do once it’s gathered. This can be done by hand but there is no way I would have the patience for that! The gathers have to be perfectly even both in depth and distance apart. The basic stitch is like a slip stitch which catches the crease of each gather, zig-zagging along the line of folds, the pattern is simply the arrangement of the zig-zags, interspersed sometimes with embroidered flowers or roses. At the end, the gathering stitches are all removed, leaving the embroidery to hold the gathers. Panels are made by leaving an area unsmocked.

SmockingWhen Helen was about 2 1/2 years old I made her a very pretty dress with a bishop neckline. It’s the only bishop one I did and has to be my favourite. A bishop neckline goes round in a full circle. The basic dress is made up first with raglan sleeves, the dress is then gathered right across the neckline. The gathers are carefully adjusted so they are tighter in the centre, looser on the edge, so the neckline forms a circle. The dress is then smocked around the circle.


The pattern was in the Australian Smocking magazine, it was stunning, I wanted to make it immediately. The original was in a pretty spotted dimity, that was out of my budget at  the time so I used a fine cotton stripe, it also meant I avoided the tedious task of unpicking the spots in the smocked area!

Smocked dressThe neckline is smocked in pink and green with over 60 bullion roses. The button band has a circle of embroidery and roses in between each button.

Smocked dressThe bottom of the dress has three rows of faggotting ribbon, each one embroidered with a simple feather stitch. I even made an underskirt with a length of vintage broderie anglais along the hem.

Helen looked gorgeous in it, I have it hanging in my sewing room now, I must admit I am tempted to have it framed in a box frame so that it is hanging. I’ve even made a co-ordinating coathanger, I just have to decide if it will work.

Smocked dress

About craftycreeky

I live in a busy market town in Yorkshire with my husband, kids, dogs and chickens. I love trying new crafts, rediscovering old ones, gardening, walking...anything creative really I started this blog after my New Year resolution worked so well. My resolution (the first one I've ever kept!) was to post a photograph of my garden on Facebook every day. My hope was that I would then see what was good in the garden and not just weeds and work, which was my tendency. The unexpected side-effect was that I have enjoyed many more hours in the garden. I am hoping that 'The Crafty Creek' will have the same effect. Happy creating!
This entry was posted in Dressmaking, Sewing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Smocking

  1. shoes15 says:

    Wow – this is so gorgeous!


  2. springystitches says:

    What an inspirational post! I love the bishop neckline – it should definitely be framed!


  3. Stephie says:

    Oh wow! I haven’t done smocking for decades, but I absolutely loved it and the effect is beautiful. Maybe I would have done more if I’d had a little girl, who knows. (My son’s 17 now!) Your Bishop neckline is stunning – I can’t imagine I’d ever want to dress a child in it for fear of them ruining it, haha!


  4. Deb says:

    Wow! That is a beautiful dress.


  5. This was such an interesting read! She’s adorable in these photos and your work is exquisite.


  6. Kaja says:

    What a beautiful dress – you should definitely find a way to display it: I was thinking that even before you said it.


    • craftycreeky says:

      Thanks Kaja, sorry for the delay in replying, it got caught up in spam for some reason! I’ve had it hung in my sewing room for a while, but I want something to protect it a bit more


  7. CathieJ says:

    Wow, the dress with the bishop neckline is definitely a keepsake. I would preserve it somehow. The other dresses are pretty too. You are quite talented.


  8. Gail says:

    I had a friend who did shocking when my daughter was little . She did the smoking and I made the dress for my daughter. Nice to see someone e is still smoking. I had smocked dresses when I was little


  9. Carla says:

    Oh my your smocking is fantastic! Something I always wanted to learn when my daughter was young. Didn’t know there was a smocking machine that might have helped!!!! Love your photos and isn’t it wonderful to look back .


  10. This was very interesting, and I never knew there was a machine for smocking. Lovely dresses!
    Barbara xx


  11. Maureen says:

    What a beautiful dress! I’ve done all kinds of stitching but never attempted smocking. I would be tempted to frame it also, it really is a work of art.


  12. Thimberlina says:

    That’s amazing! Yup framing it would be s perfect idea 😃


  13. Absolutely gorgeous! I have a couple of dresses my mom smocked for my daughter… I just love them still after 25 years 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.