Are all smocks created equal? Well no. There’s lots of smocking popping up these days - which is wonderful news all round, but there is a difference between machine smocking and hand smocking. As members of the Smock Flock, we wanted you to know the inside scoop, the secret tell tale hallmarks of a genuine hand smocked item.
Hand smocking is done by hand - no surprise there! The fabric is pleated and the stitches are made one by one, with a needle and thread. The pleats are made by sewing in a straight line at longer, even intervals and then pushing the fabric together along the thread to create the pleats. This pleating is what creates the beautiful volume in our garments.
Then comes the magic - the smocking stitches themselves. On a hand smocked item, these stitches are done individually, making them plumper and tighter as each stitch is delicately pressed into place. It also allow for amazing variations in design - the fabric is quite literally our canvas - zigzags, diamonds, waves, spots, leaves, flowers, even ice creams, you name it, we can hand smock it! To change the colour you change the thread and hey presto, the rainbow is your playground. It's a slow, beautiful, ancient process that can transform any garment into a joyful work of art! This is why our collections are always small and always limited, they allow for this slow manual process to create an item that will last a lifetime.
Machines however are more limited. They are faster and can automate the pleating and the stitching, but the stitches come out thinner with less variation and less pleating. You can spot machine smocking with a couple of tell tale signs - the designs are more basic, usually just zig zags or lattice in one or two colours, the stitches tend to be looser and thinner and the pleating more spaced out. Sherring is also done by a machine, the fabric is pleated like smocking but it is held together with elastic which creates a very stretchy pleated panel. While these mechanical techniques are lovely, they are not true hand smocking and their look and feel is more folksy and basic- but hey we might be just a little bit biased!