I love smocking, but I’m really interested in a newer style of smocking. I like the contemporary look that can be achieved with very traditional methods. So last year I set myself a goal of learning to smock.
There were two photos that first got me interested in smocking. First there was this spectacular Bottega Veneta dress from a few years ago.
But that’s a bit much for a first project, wouldn’t you say? Plus, I’d only dare to wear something like that on special occasions. I want approachable, everyday smocking. More like this beautiful jacket from the Japanese brand Arts and Science:
This seems more wearable, like something you wouldn’t be afraid to put on for a day of running errands or going to work. My goal is to do something like this to the back of a Lisette Continental Blouse in a handkerchief linen. But first I needed to learn to smock, and I wanted something small that could be finished in a few hours with a minimum of fuss. I really try to keep first projects simple so I don’t get overwhelmed (prior experience has taught me something, I guess).
My favorite part of learning a new skill is doing the planning and research.
My Grandma made this beautiful fan a number of years ago. It’s quite faded now but still beautiful. She just gave me the instructions for making it!
This is a smallish project, but I’m an apparel designer and wanted something wearable. A necklace shaped like the fan, perhaps? Then it was a matter of finding the right materials for it. Silk chiffon ribbon was too light and difficult to work with. The finished necklace looked and felt like wilted spinach:
Handkerchief linen was too bulky, although I admit it was easy to smock and gave me the opportunity to add beads for the first time. (This particular linen is also printed with a metallic coating that makes it hard to photograph but subtly sparkly in person.)
I finally settled on an Indian cotton that’s perfect. It’s lightweight but holds its shape. And you can add beads, which is what I’m doing on the sample I’m currently stitching. Here’s my first version with the cotton.
I’ve been using a silk ribbon as the tie for the necklace, but Eva over at Tinctory has made some gorgeous smocked necklaces with chains. Her work is very inspiring!
I’ll be teaching this class at the Makerie in just a few weeks, and some of the Indian cotton we’ve pleated for use in the class is a pale linen color that would be fun to try dip-dyeing in Kaari’s Natural Plant Dyeing class. Would that be amazing, to give the smocking an ombre look?
And now that I know how to do smocking, I’m feeling ready to tackle clothing that incorporate it. So this is just the start of this smocking obsession, I think. Maybe for you, too?