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Stitch Magic Stitch-Along: Smocking

 Hello and welcome to week 6 of our Stitch Magic Stitch-Along! This is our final installment, smocking. I saved this technique for last because it’s always seemed so mysterious to me. I’m happy to say that I now have a novice understanding of how this whole thing works. We’re going to do a honeycomb smocking technique to add to your group of samples. You can follow along on page 115 of Stitch Magic by Alison Reid. The above image of smocked and embroidered melton wool is taken from the book and you can see lots more pictures in the gallery.

Cut a long strip of fabric that is 10” tall by about 30” wide. Make a grid of dots on the wrong side, 1” apart from each other. I made 16 horizontal dots and 8 vertical dots.


Thread a needle with a long strand of all-purpose thread and enter the fabric on the uppermost righthand dot. Using your dots as a guide, stitch a running stitch through your dot pattern, going in at one dot and up at the next.


Pull the threads, two at a time, so that they form even folds.

Secure the thread ends together by placing a pin in the fabric and looping the thread tails around it in a figure 8 pattern.

Now you’re ready to smock! Note: Do NOT do what I did and do your smocking on the wrong side of the fabric, where your dots are. Those are meant to be on the backside. Oops!

Thread a large-eyed needle with 6-strand embroidery floss. Start at the uppermost left fold and enter the fabric from the back. Stitch the two folds together using a couple backstitches. From the back of the fabric, proceed to the 2nd and 3rd folds, moving down a row diagonally. I loved Alison’s illustrations explaining this:


Continue in this way until you’ve smocked the whole grid. Here it is! Pencil marks and all, I still think it's pretty cool.

I love how stretchy and sculptural it is. I’m eager to try this on some garment projects, and Stitch Magic has a great apron with smocked pockets for inspiration.

Well, readers, that concludes our stitching portion of the Stitch-Along. But I have a treat for you! An interview with the author is coming soon, which will wrap up the whole series.

Reader Comments (4)

This is a very novice question, but I've got to ask it sometime if I am ever to learn, do you smock the fabric before or after it is made into clothing? My guess is before, but I've been wrong before.


August 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmilie

Hi there,

To answer the question recently smock before you actually make up your garment. You can use printed dots which you can purchase to iron on, or you can purchase a smocking pleater, which means you are all pleated and ready to go really fast!!

If you use iron on smocking dots, it will advise you to go in to one side of the dot and back up the other side of the same must be really accurate and take the same amount of "bite" at each dot, to form nice regular pleats.

September 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarysia Paling

Gertie, I followed you over here. What you've just done is called honeycomb smocking. It's a type of American smocking or direct smocking. It's actually one of the easiest kinds and different from the English smocking you find on traditional clothing, heirloom sewing, and commercial boutique children's clothing.

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauraD

Oh gosh, i remember my first attempt at smocking 20 years ago...i had the iron on transfer dots as put me off smocking for many years after:(

I bought a pleater and have been much happier since. A great smocking resource is the Australian Smocking & Embroidery Magazine

They even have a fb page.

Lots of patterns for smocking and clothing in the mag; excellent value for money....and no i'm no affiliated, just a happy customer/subscriber.

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersuziwong66

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