Sewing · smocking

Learning to Smock

Disclaimer: I wasn’t sure if I should share my recent experiments with smocking. It’s still a learning process and there are various flaws in my work – the projects presented bellow are far from being perfect, still, I decided to go ahead and take this opportunity to learn more from my talented readers. Do share your experience (recommendations and tips) with me!

This summer, I put smocking on my “to-do” list. I had a couple of hours everyday all by my own (as per the doctor orders I wasn’t able to enjoy the beach as much as I would love to) and while I couldn’t take the sewing machines with me, smocking was exactly what I was looking for.

In my family, learning to smock passed down from one generation to another, but the tradition stopped before my turn, so I never had anyone to learn from and there aren’t any options for learning it where I live. As such, teaching myself how to smock was the only option.

I had purchased the A-Z Smocking book (highly recommended), watched lots of YouTube videos abut, to be honest, none of attempts is really worth showing it. Still, during the holidays and with enough time to spare, I was finally able to see some progresses – the book helped a lot specially with hand-pleating and basic stitches.

Smocked Blouse Pink Checks

I don’t own a pleater, so I need to hand-pleat every piece of fabric (the most difficult part as it’s very difficult to get regular and even-spaced rows with hand-pleating) and that makes a huge difference in the final result. The obvious tip, is to choose your fabric wisely – i.e. small checks or dots.

Smocked Blouse Pink Checks#2

With this in mind, I selected a small-checked print for my first attempt (Pink Gingham from Ratucos).

While the fabric made it easier for me (the checks are spaced 3 mm apart), I forgot to leave enough space before staring my first row of smocking and the smocking is not properly placed. Nevertheless, the blouse is wearable and hopefully, I’m the only noticing that ….

Smocked Blouse Tartan

I think my second attempt was a bit more successful, as I managed to correct some of my previous mistakes. I went with a plaid fabric (again from Ratucos, but on this one the checks are more widely spaced) I left more space before the top row, but I’m not sure about the thread color – not enough contrast? (in my defense, I didn’t have many options with me and looking for a shop was not an option).

Smocked Blouse Tartan#1

Smocking is quite addictive and apart from the hand-pleating, the actual smocking is really relaxing and calming. Usually I’m always rushing to finish my projects, but this was a gentle reminder for the need of slowing down and enjoying the process. Plus, it feels really good to have something to work while watching my favorites series.

Smocked Blouse Pink Liberty

As you can see above, smocking with Liberty was a bit more complicated – the hand-pleating was not perfect (I spaced it 5 mm, which was too much and you can see I kind of rushed it as well) and the final result shows all the flaws…

Both blouses were made using the Agnes blouse from Citronille which is one of my all-time favorite blouse patterns for girls – I’ve posted several non smocked versions here and here (just to name a few). These are a size 10 with added length (should have added a bit more). 

Smocked Blouse Pink Liberty#2I do wish I had learn how to smock a few years ago – my girl is almost 10 and a smocking dress/blouse is not something she looks forward to wear (still I do hope to sew her a Christmas dress – fingers crossed she will wear it).

I have already completed another smocking project, but it will have to wait for another post.

Happy sewing,

Boas Costuras,

Ana Sofia

14 thoughts on “Learning to Smock

  1. It looks like time well-spent (and a lot of time it must take, too!) your stitching is beautiful, and I hope your health is better!

    1. Thank you so much Masha – It did took me quite a while (probably 1 hour for hand-pleating the fabric and 3/4 hours for the actual smocking) but to be honest, I was surprise to actually enjoy it (a lot!!).

  2. I have been smocking for 35 years. There are some patterns suitable for older girls, unfortunately many are out of print. Oliver & S pattern, the Hide and Seek dress is a natural and your daughter will love it. Make the tunic version and smock under the yoke, front and back. I just did two of these. How can I send you a photo?

  3. Have you thought about buying a pleater? The 24 rows Amanda Jane is the best, and it will enable you to pleat 24 rows for a complete smocked yoke. E Bay has some or you can check Tosca co. In Houston, they might have some good second hand one. As with everything, practice makes perfect. I love your blog, your style and yes, I am an avid smocker. The Australian Smocking Magazine ( out of publication) is a good ressource, old copies available on Ebay or Etsy. Hope this helps and I am sure you next orojects will be beautiful as always!! Happy smicking!

    1. I would love to get a pleater one day – I’ve been looking for online suppliers but intl shipping and duties make it a bit more difficult. I already found a distributor that ships to Portugal and hopefully that will work for me. I have a couple of Sew Beautiful and Classic Sewing Magazines (lots of inspiration for heirloom sewing) and will certainly take a closer look at Australian Smocking on Ebay. Thank you so much for your help!

  4. Have you heard of Knotts Dots? They are iron on transfer dots for smocking. Makes hand pleating so easy! I get mine at I have made several of the Agnès blouses using these dots. I actually enjoy the process of hand pleating! I know, I’m wierd that way. It’s such a mindless, relaxing activity, and using these dots makes it go pretty fast, then you can get to the real fun, smocking!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment on transfer dots for smocking! I’ve seen them on Ebay and online shops (Children’s Corner also carries them) but wasn’t quite sure if they would work). I’ll definitely give them a try. On a side note, I like hand-pleating but dislike when the outcome is not as perfect as I had envisioned (and that’s so difficult to achieve with hand pleating).

  5. The Pauline pattern from Citronille is a great modern smocked pattern for older girls, it also goes up to adult sizes. It has long/short sleeves for whatever season. I would love to see you post your version of this lovely top.

    1. Obrigada Magda! Eu sou muito apressada (na costura) e fiquei surpreendida por gostar mesmo de fazer devagar (e ir descobrindo como ia ficando). Ainda tenho muito para aprender/praticar, mas estou entusiasmada 🙂

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