Modern Smocking Lozenge Pattern

Photo: Jack Deutsch 
Smocking is an age-old technique typically used in heirloom and historical garments. However, this traditional surface embellishment is making a comeback in unexpected ways in modern design. It was a featured technique on Lifetime Television’s Project Runway, and has resurfaced on ready-to-wear, and on designer runways.

The following pattern variation on North American smocking, known as the lozenge, is sewn using a grid that alternates taut and slack stitches. Once you get the knack of this variation, you can try creating other designs on a grid and stitching your own version. By changing the scale, placement, or number of repeats, you can fabricate an interesting smocked look.

North American smocking takes up fabric lengthwise and widthwise. Plan your design, and expand your pattern to accommodate the extra fabric needed.

 Choose your fabric
Smocking works best on light- to medium-weight fabrics. The technique creates multiple folds and pleats, so don’t select a material that has a lot of bulk. Typically, smocking takes up about two to three times the fabric’s width and length. If your pleats are very deep, more fabric is needed. Always test your design on scrap fabric first to estimate how much yardage you need.

Adjust your pattern
Before stitching the design,  measure a test fabric’s length and width. Smock the fabric, and measure it again. Divide the fabric’s original length and width by the new measurements. Multiply the quotient by your target measurement to determine how much fabric is needed.

For example, my 10-inch square scrap became a 5-inch square after smocking a lattice pattern (see Threads 151 to get lattice pattern). I wanted to cover the blouse front’s finished neckline, which was 13 inches wide by 4 inches long. I needed to expand the pattern’s width to 26 inches and its length to 8 inches.

Follow the grid to stitch the design
Now that your pattern is expanded to the necessary measurements, mark out your design’s grid, and stitch the smocking. The alternating taut and slack stitches help create the North American smocking’s distinctive look. Traditionally, these dots are sewn on a very small scale, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch apart. Here the scale is enlarged to 1 inch for a modern look.
Work from left to right to create rows of the lozenge pattern. Arrows represent taut stitches, and solid red lines represent slack stitches.

 1. Draw a grid on your fabric’s wrong side using a temporary fabric-marking tool. The dots represent each stitch; take care to make sure they are spaced evenly.

2. Begin your stitch design. Follow one of the grids below to sew the smocking. Begin at dot 1. Then pick up dot 2 with your needle, and pull the thread taut to 1. 

 3. Pick up dot 3 with your needle, but do not pull the thread taut. Tie a knot to secure the slack thread.

 4. Pick up dot 4, and pull it taut to dot 3. Continue alternating between taut and slack stitches. At the end of the row or column, tie off the thread. Add more rows or columns as desired.

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