How to smock – tutorial

April 1, 2011

Here’s a little sneak preview of a project I’m currently working on. Can you guess what it will be? In about a week both my photographers will be back from holiday, so just a few more days of patience before I’ll have new photo’s to show. While I was working on this new piece (no, not saying anything), I took pictures to show how smocking works and wrote a step-by-step instruction.

Smocking is a certain way of adding a texture to fabric, by pleating it and sewing those pleats together in a regular grid. Lots of variations exist, but here I will show you how I made a honeycomb structure. The length of fabric you need is twice as much as the finished piece will be. So if you want for example a smocked waistband of 70 cm long, you need to start with 1.4 m of fabric.

Step 1 – Mark the grid you’re going to use as a guide with chalk. I used intervals of 2 cm (or 1 inch), but feel free to make the intervals bigger or smaller. As you can see, I made three rows of dots, which serve as a guide for three rows of stitching. I worked from right to left, doing the first two rows of pleats in one go and reversing the work for the third row.

Step 2 (top) – My camera had a hard time with the red fabric, it came out purple as you can see.. In reality the fabric is bright red though. But let’s get to the smocking: with the chalk dots as a reference, sew the first horizontally adjacent dots together (top left and right). You can see that when you bring those two dots together, the fabric will form a pleat between them (top right). To keep the pleat in place and fix it, make a few stitches on the same spot.

Step 3 (middle) – When you’ve finished your first pleat, stick the needle into the fabric and pull it out at a dot exactly above the second of the two dots you’ve just sewn together. You can now make a pleat in the second row. When you connect this dot to the next one you’ve marked out (middle left), again a pleat will form. Do you see how a diagonal mountain fold appears to form? That’s because this second pleat is one space further down the line than the first.

Step 4 (bottom) Once you’ve secured the pleat together with a few stitches, return to the first row and stitch the next two dots together (bottom picture). Continue this way, alternating between the first and the second row. After a while your work should look like this:

Step 5 – When you’ve come at the end of the part that you wanted to smock, reverse from left to right and use the dots in the third row as a reference to make pleats. You will now start to see that beautifull honeycomb pattern. I just needed three rows of stitches in this work, but if you want a a bigger smocked surface, just add more rows.

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  1. This is lovely
    thank you =)

  2. Oh this is great! I want to try it!

  3. Thank you for this lovely tutorial!

    I cannot wait to see what it will turn into!

  4. This is the most beautiful smock-style I’ve ever seen! I think, I’ll have a look at my fabric now! Need a new spring skirt!

  5. Very clear and nice explanation! Very stylish!
    You will get a lot of nice comments, I think, when you have finished it and wear it.

  6. Very unique effect of smocking

  7. Hello!
    I used your tutorial to make my daughter a little dress!
    You can see it here!


    Thank you so much

    • Hi Sertyan,

      Glad I could be of help, your daughter looks really cute and happy with her dress! Thank you, Renske

  8. Very interesting! I am going to try my hand at this tomorrow :) wish me luch

  9. Extremely plain and nice clarification! Very stylish!

  10. I just featured your smocking on my blog: http://kinder-words.blogspot.com/2011/08/how-to-smock-featured-post.html

    I think you’re awesome!!


  11. […] A tutorial on how to do smocking. I would love to be able to do this […]

  12. […] also this really pretty smocking tute by Renske, whose blog I discovered only recently. Smocking! You can do it […]

  13. Great tutorial! I used it as the “daily craft” on our facebook page. Check us out at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brushes-and-Thread/231012056980834

  14. Hi could you do a video tutorial on how to transfer measurements to fabric & cut

  15. Thank you,
    While my Mother used to smock, I kept to knitting but you make the process so lovely for adult garments…cannot wait to make a lovely nightgown. Thank you so much for sharing, K

  16. […] How to Smock on The Dress I Made […]

  17. What does the reverse side look like?

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