Does Anyone Know How To Smock Anymore?

If you want to impress the church ladies, it’s time to dust off the pleater.

Black and white photo of girl in smocked dress
Photo: Lance V. Nix/Getty

Maybe I should rephrase that headline: Does anyone have time to smock anymore? I'm venturing to guess the answer is largely no, but I'm also venturing to guess that our grandmothers might be quick to point out that the days have not become shorter in the passing years, but maybe our attention spans have. If there is one thing I have learned in my six short years of parenting, it's that you have to pick your priorities. Somehow smocking isn't making the list for many of us—but maybe it should.

What is Smocking?

Smocking is not for the flighty of heart. The embroidery technique is used to gather fabric so that it can stretch, and embellishing a piece of clothing with this decorative stitching is a true art. That means it takes time, patience, and lots of practice. There are tools that can help simplify and fine tune the work, but even with all the accouterments at your disposal, it's still a commitment and sign of fortitude if you somehow find yourself a master of the craft.

How to Get Started

The first rule in learning to smock should probably be Know Thyself. If you change your mind faster than a popsicle melts in July, this might not be the hobby for you. For all others, ensure you first know how to sew on a button, then proceed with cautious enthusiasm as this will be a long road.

So you want to get started? Once you've mastered the pleating, whether by the old-fashioned measuring method, machine, or using one of those nifty pleating tools, the next step is taking on your pleat stitches. And there are plenty. If all this sounds completely foreign, it's time to refer to the pros. You can certainly try your hand at following an online step-by-step tutorial like that of MasterClass or you can seek out classes at your local sewing shop, but chances are there are some secret smockers lurking in your inner circle who will be more than happy to pass on the tradition. And besides, Grandma would just be beside herself to hear you've finally heeded her advice to take up the skill.

Not only is smocking a nice way to slow down and step away from anything involving mindless scrolling, but it's also a time-honored craft that has been on trend for little girls for generations. Whether you wind up making dresses for your own little girl or just adopt it up as a hobby for your own enjoyment, there is much to be gained in taking up this old-fashioned skill. Just know that you will mostly certainly have a crowd of Memaws circling around after church if you dress your little one in one of your new custom creations—grandmothers have a knack for spotting true workmanship from a mile away.

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