Where I Smock It: Psych!

comments: 97


For the past two nights, I've sneaked upstairs early to work on another little project just for me me me. I got a beginner's smocking book several months ago at Kinokuniya and have slobbered all over it every time I've had a free moment to let myself make stacks of lists of things I wanted to attempt when I had some time.


I buy all my Japanese craft books locally at Kinokuniya so I can't help with other sources, but check Crafting Japanese for a lot of good information. This one is called Smocking for Beginners, ISBN978-4-8347-2578-0, and it is adorable. I wanted to make this bag on the cover for spring.

It's hard to find 1/2" check gingham, isn't it? I can never find it. I like the homespun stuff best, because it's cotton (and I'm actually using the wrong side of some lightweightish flannel stuff), but they don't have a whole lot of colors in my local fabric stores (this one's from Fabric Depot). I love this olive color though, so I lucked out. I have never smocked before but I've always wanted to do it, so I pulled out my needle and blue floss and tucked in. . . .


Hrrrrrmmmmm. . . . ! Wha' happened? Not so good! How do you keep the tension in the horizontal stitches without pulling on the diagonal stitches? Good question. . . .

Then I noticed in the photo and the diagrams (didn't really look too hard at the diagrams before I started, gulp) that the top is all pleated up first. Ah! Now, I don't know if it was the pleating at the top that helped significantly, or if I was just getting better at it the second time around, but look! (Update: I would like to think it was just me, wouldn't I? Natch. :-)


Let's look again! Can you seeeee it in there?


Not so bad, eh [puffing proudly]? I'm so psyched! I love smocking now. If you've been thinking about it, you should definitely try it. I'd like to do it all day long. What is very, very cool about it is that there is nothing to transfer, nothing to read (can't anyway), nothing to really count, etc., etc., etc., etc. Many etc.s there, 'cause it rocks. I like it. Any tips are very appreciated, too. I think I might go out and get a smocking book written in English today, though it was kind of fun to suss it out on my own, I have to say.

When I finish the bag I'm totally want to make this apron to wear when I am dishing up something in my Polish pottery (and thanks for all the info about that — I am totally gonna get some now, especially with the apron motivation and all!).

Smockingbook1 I'nt that just too cute? SMOCKING. You're good.


Just out of curiosity, where do you get Japanese craft books here in Portland? Uwajimaya? Or somewhere else?

Smocking is indeed awesome, I agree :)

Oh my gosh, I missed random-craft-projects Alicia. YAAAY. I'm never going to do this, but I love reading about you doing it. :)

I think i just died.


Just WOW.

I don't live in PDX anymore (sadly!!) but whenever I visit I always make a special trip to Uwajimaya just for craft books...well okay, craft books and humbao!

That olive gingham is lovely - and nice smocking work too! The apron is amazing too - looks like a lot of work though!

Totally cool.

And thank you, I was looking for something else to put on my to-be-crafted list.

Your bag is going to be too cute.

Very good for a first try at smocking! It can be tricky, even with directions in english. On a completely unrelated topic . . . I saw pictures of your studio on your website. Can you tell me the name of the wall paint? I love it! It looks like it's glowing. I could use a little glow this time of year! Thanks!

I've been thinking about trying smocking the past few months a lot and now I am thinking about it even more then a lot like maybe a lot a lot....
Very good indeed.

Cool! Yes, that apron would look great with the soon-to-be-yours Polish pottery! I am loving that aqua gingham handbag in your Japanese craftbook, too!

So funny, I was just talking with a friend on Wed about learning to smock and she said you do the pleating first. She said she used to use a template with little dots but now there exists a pleating gadget.

your smocking looks great! i saw this book in seattle at uwajimaya last weekend and just stood there with my mouth open looking at all the goodness...but i couldn't add it to my "i am already spending way too much money" stack of books. next time, i am gonna look through it again and soak in the inspiration.

and that apron is lovely...you must make it to wear when using your polish pottery!

I have never tried smocking, but I like to daydream about it. Have you seen these cool smocking stickers from Clover? I haven't seen them in stores yet -- and I have no idea how well they work, but they look like they would be cool. (You have to scroll down a bit.) http://www.clover-usa.com/product.html#32

Very cute! I've been wanting to try my hand at chicken scratch, and love that there's no drawing, transferring, measuring, counting, etc.

Had to chuckle about picking up books at Kinokuniya. Every time I go there I get faint of breath (the good kind of faint). So much to see, so much to peek at - so little time, so little money. And hubby and DS are usually on the other side of the window in Uwajimaya's watching me... waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Here in the South, smocking is a very popular thing. I'm actually learning right now with a friend that's been doing it for years. A great magazine, which gives lots of free patterns and ideas, is called Creative Needle. Check out my blog when you have time, and I have a post about smocking. The tradional method of smocking only requires 3 types of smocking, so when you've mastered those your set. Right now I'm smocking 2 girl's dresses. It's so much fun, and they are so beautiful when their done. A company to check out is called http://www.childrenscornerstore.com/patterns.html
and they have a good selection of patterns which you can smock. You just need to get a pleating machine and then your set!! All the smocking you could possibly want. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help!

your on the right track thinking that the fabric needs to be pleated first. There is an actual pleating machine that does it for you!!! ... and some shops will do it for you for a small fee. Sure looks like you're getting the hang of it. I love that you try different types of crafting. Love your adventuresomeness (is that really a word??!! probably not but oh well!) Thanks for all your sharing.

check out www.lazygirldesigns.com There is lots of info and a free instructional video on how to use the new clover smoking tool. Good luck

Hi Alicia,
Well, here's another thing I have to try! You are so inspiring!

My husband's grandmother made a dress with smocking (not smoking, as I just tried to spell it) for our daughter to wear to a family wedding when she was a little girl. Gosh, it was so cute, and I'd almost forgotten about it. Smocking is one of those things that just looks impossible to do, but you make the impossible seem possible! Someone must be able to do it - why can't I?

Your projects are adorable!

I need to learn how!
I like the turquoise and the olive combo. Very nice, very nice.
That last skirt is SO cute. I need it.
I also need pretty much every craft book from Kinokuniya. It's so hard not to spend $$$ when I go there.
Anyway, happy smocking!

Wow! That looks hard! I once had an Easter dress with a lot of smocking on it (I remember cause my mom made a big deal about it). Anyway, just wanted to let you know I listed you on my blog post about blogs I love to read.

You have discovered one of my favourite needle crafts. Well done.

Regarding the tension - like most things you improve with experience. When you do the horizontal stitches, just give the second stitch an extra little tug - gentle but firm. It kind of "locks" that stitch into place. then when you do the diagonal, you are more gentle without the "tug"

Your next phase of smocking is when you pleat up your smocking area first, and then do the decoration smocking on top of all the pleats.

And when you are totally hooked, you buy a pleater because it takes away all the hard work of hand pleating. Then you are gone ... you will be smocking every little girl you know a dress or two!!

Janet McKinney

Great smocking :) I'd like to try my hand at smocking someday. I just read your article in Hallmark magazine too - very inspirational. I am glad I had the privilege to read it!

You are a braver woman that I.

I (literally, 5 minutes ago) just got back from Kinokuniya (Seattle) and looked at that very book. I passed it up for a few patchwork books instead.

Happy Smocking...

Well done on the smocking. It's looking good!

So cool. So not an art I will ever master - very little patience. Lovely work - have an equally lovely evening.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.