Fabric Manipulation (Smocking)

Smocking is an embroidery technique which gathers fabric together into pleats to allow stretching. It is also used to add texture and decoration to the fabric. It was used before elastics were produced.

Materials required:

  • Needle and thread
  • Thick or stiff fabric (e.g. felt), striped fabric
  • Smocking template
  • Fabric chalk


  • Draw the grid or dots unto the wrong side of the fabric with the fabric chalk
  • Stitch with the needle and thread according to the guide
Smocking technique 1
Back and front surfaces, with gradation in sizes
Smocking technique 2
Back and front surfaces, with gradation in sizes

Applications include:

  • Controlling the fullness of fabric (e.g. in garments, curtains, upholstery)
  • Adding vibrant decorative elements to any fabric
Applications of smocking found on the internet

Personal reflections:

The end products were surprising as the gathering of stitches transformed the qualities of the fabric. The two templates chosen had the same dimensions and directions of stitches that were simply arranged in different configurations.  However, the patterns created by the distinct shadows and folds were  both unique. The gradation of the grid sizes in the same fabric also yielded more fluidity.

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