Smoking is an embroidery technique that is probably thousands of
years old. The name is coined only during 1700’s in England.The technique used
at the time was gathering. A full work shirt was gathered at the bodice and the
sleeves. This gathered effect in the garment was then called a “smock”.Smocking
was introdced to work man garment mainly to give fullness or free movement of their
body and arms. Smocked garments were worn by agricultural laborers,trades
men,and shepherds in earlier times. In the 19th century smocks were received by
artists, to cover their clothing,and ladies adapted them in a modified form
with fancy embroidery.Later babies clothing, silk under garments for ladies,and
even afternoon dresses appeared with smocking. Ladies magazines had
instructions for hand smocking and patterns for garments. At present smocking
has become the fashion statement.
The industrial revolution changed the smocking styles and patterns
drastically. There are many types of smocking known throughout the world. The
italians have “shirring”worked from the back of the fabric, the Romanians have
a patterned design using tubes that resemble reeds,and other countries stress
picture formation over gathered threads,again all done by hand. Smocking
basically consists of pleated fabric and a fibre (usually a floss) for
embellishment stitches. Pleats are created in two ways;
A set of dots printed or pressed on the fabric.
Dots are then used as a gathering guide to create hand pleats
Pleats used in English smocking look like small tubes (Figure
Small tubes are placed at equi-distant across a the fabric with a
thread running through the tubes
The threads running through the pleats are called as thread guides
These thread guides are removed after the smocking is completed
Thread guides should not be visible sometimes these stitches are
not removed at top and bottom lines to maintain shape.
Silk, linen, cotton, striped and gingham fabrics are used. Firm
fabrics are always preferred and are easier to embellish.
The gathering or embroidery techniques varied from area to area
within a country. However smocking is catagorised into three types such as
English smocking, American smocking and Canadian smocking.
English Smocking is of two types namely
Geometric Smocking and Picture Smocking.
In this type only two stitches are used. They are Cable stitch and
Trellis stitch. Simple borders, lines and thousands of patterns can be created
with cable and trellis stitches (Figure 9.21).
For picture smocking hundred percent cotton fabric is used. Fabric
folds are secured very tightly. On the fabric folds, embroidery is done with
stacked cable stitches. Embroidered pattern should cover the fabric fully and
the background fabric is not seen. Pictures such as flowers, animals, birds and
other sceneries’ can be created (Figure 9.22).
American Smocking is otherwise known as Counter change smocking.
It has been popularized by a young woman in Arizona, Anne Hallay. This smocking
is done on gingham, striped, or a gridded fabric. Basically 5/8” stripped
fabric is made into squares and a honeycomb or vandyke stitch is used to bring
the sections together. Finished fabric will have the illusion of a solid
fabric.No pleating is used for this type of smocking. This type of smocking is
more often used in teenager’s garments. English Smocking is of three types
namely Counter change
Smocking, Mock Smocking and Direct Smocking.
Counter change Smocking
This type of smocking requires a grid. Most often striped and
checked fabric is used to do this work. No stretch is created in this type of
smocking. Three times more fabric is needed to bring to the required length and
For this type of smocking, fabric folds are created. Any printed
or plain fabric can be used for this work. Little stretch is created in Mock
smocking. Only honey comb pattern is created in mock smocking.
Grid pattern is used for this type of smocking. Following the
pattern small stitches are made and secured. Trim the thread and complete the
Canadian smocking is also called as North American Smocking. In
this type textural effect is created on the front side of the fabric. No
pleating is required for Canadian smocking. A grid is drawn or designed on the
back of the fabric. Later it is used to create the three dimensional effect on
the front side of the fabric. This type of smocking is not usually pressed or
ironed. The texture would be flattened or destroying if the smocked fabric is
The fabric used should be cut on grain
Pleating threads are parallel to the cross grain
Fabric is not damaged by the needles or the pleating machine
There are no folds, bubbles, or splits
Any temporary marking have been completely removed
Smocking is appropriately centered in garment
No visible break on the front side where the threads have been
stopped and restarted
Stitches catch only the appropriate pleats
Stitch tension appears consistent for all stitches ;tension is
neither too tight that pleats are pinched nor too loose so that thread sags
Stitch depth is consistent
Threads within stitches are laid smoothly
Threads from any back smocking, are not visible on the front of
It creates a beautiful pattern on the right side of the fabric.
There are a few variations where the pattern of stitches is worked on the
front-one of these is called flower smocking. Grid pattern is used to mark
This smocking is created with the grid pattern. Textural effect is
created on the right side of the fabric. Three times more fabric is required
and good stretch is created.
This type of smocking is reversible. Patterns are seen on both the
sides. No thread is visible on right and wrong sides of the fabric.
Smocking is a technique of creating wavy patterns on fabric and
garments. Unlike embroidery more fabric is required for smocking. There are
different techniques used to complete the pattern. Techniques and materials
followed for each of the smocking type vary from region to region. English
smocking, American smocking and Canadian smocking are the three types of
smocking frequently used by the designers. Smocking is a common feature in
girls and women garments. It also finds its application in home textile
products such as cushions, wall hangings and so on. Today’s contemporary
designers introduce smocked fashion accessories in the market too.