Smocking The Basics: Pleating

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

Smocking the Basics

As I explained in The History of Smocking Part 1 and The History of Smocking Part 2, smocking is embroidery on pleated fabric. That of course means that you need pleated fabric, so today's post is all about pleating - both by hand and machine and the resources for both. Unfortunately, the pleats used in smocking cannot be formed by simply gathering the fabric with a sewing machine. The pleats are formed by rows of parallel gathering threads all starting and stopping in the same place. Traditionally, this was done by hand, and if you want to try smocking, you might want to just hand gather the fabric. While it may seem tedious, the gathering is done with a simple running stitch. Many smocking designs only require 5 or 6 rows of gathering, and I would bet you that while you are sitting there watching your child's soccer game, swim meet, music lesson, or sitting in the car pool line, you could have the necessary piece hand gathered. If you want try try hand gathering, the easy way is to pick a fabric with the grid built in. Quarter inch gingham is perfect. Below is the piece of gingham I hand pleated for my SAGA Artisan submission to pass level 1.

Hand pleated Gingham