Here is part 2 of my article on Smocking by Vintage Transfer. Come back to see the finished dress tomorrow!!
Why Use Transfers? Transfers were one way ladies could smock before pleaters were available. You are probably familiar with “dot” transfers that can be used to pre-pleat fabric for English Smocking. The transfers I have shown are also made of dots, but they are in a pattern, so that pleating and stitching are accomplished in one step! There is no need for measuring because the spacing and pattern is already set. If you want to smock without committing to the cost of a pleater or, like me, you want to try doing it “old school” then this could be a fun thing to try!
|Cute McCall's Girl's Smocked Dress Pattern, c1950|
Where Do I Find Transfers? Ebay and Etsy are great places to search “vintage smocking transfer”. You will pay anywhere from $3 up to $20 or so, but if you are patient, you can get them inexpensively. If you are lucky, Goodwill, yard sales and thrift shops will be great places to find these.
|Ladies Smocked Bed Jacket Pattern, c1940|
What Can They Make? Smocking transfers were most common for children's clothes, but they were also made for ladies' bed jackets and dresses, hats, bedspreads, curtains, and even lampshades!
|McCall's Pillow Patterns with Texture Smocking, c1960|
There are also smocking transfers to make different patterns called “texture smocking” for pillows and other items. These tend to make a larger smocked pattern.
|Interesting Mail Order Pattern for a Gingham Flower Basket, c1950|
How Do I Use Them? Prepare your fabric by prewashing and ironing. Cut a rectangle for your skirt according to your pattern. English smocking generally requires 3 to 4 times your finished width, while transfer smocking is less full and you will only need about 2 ½ times your finished width. Lay the transfer with the ink side down and slowly press the transfer. It might help to cut it into 2 shorter pieces and match them up, because once you start ironing, you cannot move the transfer or you will have a mess. There were even transfers meant to be transferred in a curved shape for bishop-style garments. Believe it or not, transfers from the 30s and 40s will still stamp perfectly well if they are unused! It is best done on solid-color fabric, as I found it very hard to see on prints.
|The Pattern After Being Ironed On: Ready to Go!|
How Do I Stitch? You will use 3 strands of DMC floss. Start on the top row on the left and come to the front just to the left of the first dot. Travel to the next dot and pick up just the fabric behind the dot (about 1mm). Pull up the thread. Tension is very important. I found I had to pull it much tighter than seemed intuitive.
|A Dress in Progress|
|Pink Dress Smocking|
|Transfer Used on Pink Dress, above|
The main difference from English smocking is that unsmocked areas will be “puffy” with no back-smocking able to be done. Where rows are very tight, the appearance will be very similar to English smocking with neat pleats. Where there are empty areas, fabric will puff out.