Smocking: Altering a Pattern to add a Smocked Insert

Very few smocking patterns are designed to include an insert (especially patterns for girls), but instead include a pleated skirt such as Lee and Mary De. So why on earth would you want to alter a pattern to add an insert?

There are several good reasons.

  1. An insert is easier to pleat. If you are still getting comfortable with your pleater, a 6 or 8 inch insert is simple to pleat and keep on the straight of grain as opposed to that 20 inch skirt.

  2. You might want to picture smock and need a solid color neutral background for the design but want a print for the garment.

  3. You are planning on smocking a geometric design but the print fabric that you chose has strange markings when gathered into pleats. A solid color insert that matches the print would solve the problem.

  4. The best reason for using an insert - you are new to smocking and want to try it without investing in a pleater. Pre-pleated inserts are inexpensive!

So now that I have convinced you, in this video and blog tutorial I will walk you through how to add a pre-pleated insert to a skirt or bodice.

To alter the pattern, determine the height that you want for the insert. In determining this, consider the smocking graph that you would like to stitch and the number of rows that it requires, the size garment that you are making, and the overall proportions of the finished garment.

At the end of the day, there are no hard and fast rules here; it is just a question of what you, as the designer thinks looks good! Once you have determined the finished length of the insert, add a seam allowance to the top of the insert and the bottom to arrive at the cutting length of the insert.

For the width of the insert, use the entire width of the fabric - either 45 or 60. You can always cut off the extra that you do not need. The skirt pattern length is reduced by the finished length of the insert (it already has a seam allowance so no need to add one.)

There is one final consideration: the insert will probably begin in the armscye, but this is no problem! When pulling up the smocking threads of the insert, make sure to tie off the insert to the finished width of the skirt, not the bodice.

Smock the insert and then use the pattern to mark the arm scye curve on the insert. Using a small zig zag, stitch over the marked line. Cut just outside of the stitching. Your pattern should explain how to do this because you would be using the same procedure with a smocked skirt.

That's it! I hope you will try using an insert with your next smocking project, and check out the other posts in our Smocking: The Basics series!

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