Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Vintage Techniques: Smocking for Skirts

My mother loves smocking, and has made several dresses using this technique over the years. We most often see this traditional and labor intensive technique on pillows, yokes, and peasant blouses. While there are many many ways to do smocking, I have never really cared for the look of it until I saw it used on these really cute vintage skirts:

So I took a look at one of my old sewing books to see if there was a quick way to get the job done by machine, and sure enough, there are several methods to get the look of smocking without ever touching a needle to hand. I gave this one a try and and it was pretty and easy to do:

smocking example
  1. To make a skirt using this smocking method, cut a rectangle of fabric about 1-1/2 to 2 times the width of your hip measurement and the length of your desired skirt plus additional for a hem and waist seam allowance. 
  2. Sew the first row of stitches 5/8 from the raw edge and another row 1/8" from the first. Continue sewing double rows of stitches 1/8" apart, with a 1/2" between each set for as long as you car to, but not past the hip. I used a standard stitch of 12 stitches per inch, but loosened the top tension so that the bobbin threads would be easier to pull. On a longer length, or depending on your machine, you may need to use a longer stitch, so test the stitch length for yourself. 
  3. Starting at the hipline, pull both threads together from each group individually, gathering evenly, and shaping each row to match your figure. Generally speaking, each succeeding row will be more tightly gathered. Do leave at least a bit of ease (1 1/2" minimum) at the hip graduating to none at the waist. 
  4. Using contrast threads and a double needle, I set my machine to do a zig zag stitch just wide enough to span the 1/8" area. Continue to sew between each 1/8" double row.
  5. Sew up the back seam, add a zipper and a waist band and a hem, and you are ready to go!
smocked skirt
I'd like to make one up, but there is no time. Let me know if you make one for yourself because I would like to enjoy  it vicariously through you.  For now, my hipless half size mannequin wears this one well :)

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