I hope to inspire and entertain you with a lot of sewing and a little of everything else!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Smocking: 1940s Style

I tried something fun this week. I learned English Smocking when I was 10, but I had never tried "American" Smocking. I had some vintage smocking transfers from the 30s and 40s and I used one!

With English smocking, you pleat the fabric first, then do the hand smocking stitches. With American smocking, you pick up the transfer dots in a pattern, which creates the smocking.

This transfer is about 75 years old, so I guess I was thinking it would be very faint. I just slapped it down and ironed and it transferred beautifully. Not straight, because I didn't plan well!
I used pink Imperial batiste. I smocked with a darker pink, aqua, and purple. I wanted to do something colorful and how I imagined it might have been done in the 40s.
Here's a close-up. The pleats are not as defined as in English smocking and it is stretchy, but not as much as English smocking. It also has less of a gathering ratio, working out to 2.5 or 3 to 1 versus gathering of 3 or 4 to 1.
These are the supplies I put aside to finish a size 1 yoke dress with this piece. I have some perfect purple Imperial that was part of a mystery box. It just so happens to match exactly! I found the crochet thread in the exact right color, too- I couldn't believe that find! I am thinking of crocheting a little edge on the collar and cuffs. I also had the pink piping from a mystery bag of piping! Whoo hoo- I just want to do something fun and colorful with this. 
I probably spend longer choosing the dress pattern than it will take to make it, but I found a 40s yoke dress in size 1 that I can use.

THE VERDICT: I think doing English smocking is easier because you can see each pleat. The dots get a bit lost as the row above gathers up. I like the look of English smocking better, too. However, this is an awesome way for someone to try smocking without investing in a pleater, it still looks great, and it was a super thing to work on while my boys played at the beach. I will definitely do this again!! WHAT DO YOU THINK??


Kris C said...

I've used a number of old smocking transfers and it is fun! Another advantage of this type of smocking is that it uses less fabric than English so is useful in adult smocking where you don't want so much fullness or are trying to use a small piece of fabric for a child's garment.

GinaRosati said...

This is what you were working on at the recital, and it's gorgeous!! I haven't tried it yet, but I'm looking forward to getting my floss out and giving it a go. Thank you again for showing me and for the fabric!

Elisabeth Rose said...

Kris, you are right. I can see a lot of good applications for this. Gina! So glad you found me. Hope we will chat again and I'd love to see your spun wool!!

Karen said...

What fun! I love the colors you chose and I am looking forward to seeing the competed dress. I prefer English smocking, too, but it is a great way for people to try smocking. I enjoy reading about your chickens.

Knitty said...

I don't smock often now, but fell in love with English smocking years ago and was lucky to be gifted with a pleater for my birthday early in my infatuation. The English method seems more precise to me.

I am about to smock a dress for my newborn granddaughter. The bishop dress is light pink but I haven't decided on thread colors or design yet. If my daughter-in-law is excited by this, more smocking will follow but I try to hold back and not overwhelm her with what I enjoy doing.

Lee said...

Lisa, I believe that the beautiful smocking you have pictured here *IS* English smocking. Trellis, cable, and wave stitches are English smocking, whether they're done with a pleater or the dot method. American (or North American or Canadian) smocking is more in the fabric manipulation family. Recognizable patterns include lattice, flower, and y-shaped. Those smocked satiny pillows from the 70's have American smocking. The golden yellow dress from Project Run and Play has American smocking of the flower variety.

Elisabeth Rose said...

This is the definition I found, Lee:
English Smocking is embroidery on pleats that have been pleated before smocking. North American Smocking (for lack of a better name) forms the pleats while you embroider. There is a slight difference in look between them but the English Smocking is more versatile as you can readily form the pleats into round shapes whereas with the North American style you are conformed to a rigid grid as there are no pleating threads to shape your piece.

Lee said...

I'd be interested to see where you got that information. North American smocking is done on flat fabric, and the shapes are formed as you pick up dots from a grid. But the grid is much wider, and the shapes are 3-dimensional. North American smocking wouldn't be stretchy at all. What you did was one-step English geometric smocking. You pleated the fabric in the same step you formed your trellises and waves. It's a little shallower and a little less stretchy than smocking done with a pleater, but it's still English smocking. Here's one source that describes the different forms of smocking: http://lasewist.blogspot.com/2008/08/different-types-of-smocking.html I think your one-step English smocking is interesting and unusual. It's great for people who don't have pleaters. But it isn't American smocking.