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??