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How To Do Smocking On a Sewing Machine: Easiest Technique 2023! 

How To Do Smocking On a Sewing Machine What You Need to Know!

Smocking is a traditional craft that involves sewing together fabric pieces to create decorative designs. This technique has been around since the 1800s and was used primarily as a finishing touch on clothing.

Nowadays smocking is often done digitally, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself! In fact, you can learn how to sew smocking stitches on a sewing machine and make beautiful decorations for your home.

We’ll teach you how to do smocking on a sewing machine and show you exactly where to place your needle and thread to get the most authentic look.

Related Topic: How to Make Scrunchies with a Sewing Machine (Easy Secrets)

Smocking: A Unique Embroidery Technique

Smocking is an embroidering technique where you gather the fabric into decorative patterns through tight pleats. Your stitching technique controls the fullness of each piece of fabric. This method of stitching creates a unique look that makes smocked items special.

The term “smock” originates from the Middle English word “smock,” meaning “to stuff.” The earliest known use of the term dates back to 1590. Today, smocking is used to describe many types of clothing, including dresses, blouses, shirts, jackets, skirts, pants, and even lingerie.

Materials Needed For Smocking

As you know smocking is a type of embroidery that requires a special thread. You will need to buy a variety of threads depending on the type of garment you are making.

These include satin, cotton, polyester, nylon, rayon, wool, acrylic, linen, and silk. Some of these threads come pre-spun while others require you to spin them yourself.


When choosing fabric, make sure that it is light enough to fold easily without tearing. Also, choose fabrics that are easy to work with because you will need to manipulate them many times during the process.


You will need several types of threads depending on what you are doing. Satin, cotton, polyesters, nylon, rayon, and wool are just a few examples. Each one has different properties that you must consider when selecting the appropriate material.

Sewing Machine

Finally, you need a sewing machine that is efficient to do small stitches as the smocking technique is dependent on it. The sewing machine should be set up before starting the smocking process

How to Do Smocking on a Sewing Machine: Step-by-Step Guide

Once you’ve got everything set up, you need to follow these simple steps.

Step 1

Marking out the pattern like a dotted grid is the first step in making a smocking. You’ll use a yardstick or straightedge to draw a line down the center of the fabric.

This line represents where you’ll cut off the excess fabric. Remember, always cut the fabric 3 to 5 times wider than the finished width so that it will allow pleating and smocking.

Step 2

Wind elastic threads around the bobbins by hand. Using a sewing machine won’t cause the threads to become too tight because there won’t be as much tension in the threads.

Step 3

Draw the selected thread on the machine as per the manual of your sewing machine and place the bobbin with the elastic in its place.

Step 4

Place your chosen fabric in the sewing machine so that its right (or front) surface is facing upwards, and the back (or wrong) surface faces toward the elastic thread.

Step 5

Sew a straight line across the entire length of the piece. This is done by holding down the buttonhole stitch lever while stitching along one edge of the fabric.

To do this, hold the needle in place with your left hand, and use your right hand to pull the fabric taut. Then, move the fabric forward slightly as you release the buttonhole stitch lever.

Continue to sew in this manner, alternating between the left and right sides of the fabric. When you reach the end, turn the fabric inside out and continue sewing around the perimeter of the bag.

Step 6

The final step is to pivot the smocked piece of fabric 180 degrees to begin the next row. This is done by folding one side over onto itself while keeping the other side open.

Then fold the bottom edge up toward the center of the fabric. Continue to do this until you reach the end of the row.

smocking on a sewing machine

Choosing Fabric for Smocking

When selecting your fabric for smocking, there are several factors to consider. First, you need to select a fabric that is sturdy enough to withstand repeated use.

Second, you should pick a fabric that matches your home decor. Finally, you should choose a fabric that is easy to work with. To get more pleats avoid thicker fabrics and use thinner (lightweight fabric) instead.

If you have selected thin fabric for smocking, add fusible interfacing to make the fabric stable.

To help you decide which fabrics are right for you, here are some tips:

  • Choose a piece of fabric that is durable and won’t fray easily.
  • Select a fabric that coordinates well with your home decor.
  • Pick a fabric that is easy to work with.
  • Avoid fabrics that require special care.
smocked fabric

Gingham Fabrics in Smocking

Gingham fabrics are lightweight fabrics that are perfect for smocking projects because they look pretty much identical to traditional gingham fabric. However, they’re easier to sew since they’re less likely to fray.

Plus, they’re available in a variety of colors and patterns, making it easy to create unique designs. Their check designs make it easier to mark before smocking.

Choosing Threads For Smocking

As you know that for decorative stitches in smocking, selecting threads is a very essential part. Normally the sewers use cotton thread for smocking. So, here we have shared important points when choosing the threads for smocking:

smocking threads use for smocking in a sewing machine

Thread color

Choose a thread color that matches the background fabric. This makes the design stand out.

Thread weight

Select a heavier thread than the fabric being used. Heavyweight threads are thicker and stronger than regular sewing threads. They’re perfect for smocking projects where stitches need to hold strong.

Thread length

Longer threads are better for smocking projects where there are multiple layers of fabric. Short threads work well for single-layer fabrics.

Thread thickness

Thickness refers to the diameter of the thread. Thicker threads are harder to sew through, which means they require more effort to complete a project.

Thread quality

Look for a smooth finish on the thread. Smooth threads are easier to handle during sewing.

Thread durability

Consider the longevity of the thread. Will it last long enough for your project?

Thread price

Shop around for the best deal. Some stores offer discounts on bulk purchases.

Thread brand

Check the label to ensure the brand name matches the thread color.

Thread texture

Look at the surface of the thread. Is it rough or soft? Rough threads tend to fray easily. Soft threads are smoother and won’t snag easily.

Bobbin Thread in Smocking

When using bobbin thread, you’ll want to match the bobbin thread to the fabric. Bobbin thread comes in different weights, so be sure to match them up accordingly.

Bobbin thread

For example, if you’re working with a lightweight and soft fabric, then you can use lighter bobbin thread. If you’re working with a heavyweight fabric, then you’ll need to use heavier bobbin thread.

Types of Smocking

A smocking stitch is a decorative stitch used to add extra detail to clothing. It is recommended to first learn embroidery stitches for authentic smocking.

The most common type of smocking is called French Smocking This style of smocking uses two rows of stitching to form a V shape at the top of each seam.

There are many different styles of smocking, including:

Straight Smocking

Most basic stitches use this kind of smocking. It consists of one row of stitches along the edge of the fabric.

Double Smocking

This is similar to straight smocking except there are two rows of stitching instead of just one.

Triple Smocking

This is a variation of double smocking where three rows of stitching are used.

Lace Smocking

This is another variation of double smocking. Instead of making a V shape, lace smocking creates a series of small loops.

Feather Stitch Smocking

This is yet another variation of double smocking. Instead of creating a V shape, feather smocking forms a series of tiny triangles.

Picot Stitch Smocking

This is an extremely detailed version of smocking. It involves multiple layers of stitching and looks very intricate.

Moreover, there are many other kinds of stitches such as zigzag stitches (diamond stitches), stretch stitches, etc.

For decorative embroidery like smocking, check your sewing machine manual for instructions on how to do smocking. If you don’t have access to a manual, ask your local store owner or contact your manufacturer.

Sewing Machine Needle Size for smocking

When choosing a needle size, consider the weight of the fabric that will be sewn. A heavy fabric requires a larger needle size than a light fabric.

You can also choose between a standard sewing needle and a sharp embroidery needle. The latter has a longer eye and is designed specifically for sewing with fine materials.

Embroidery needles come in sizes from No. 10 up to No. 20. You should get one that fits your hand comfortably.

Smocking Stitches

There are many different types of smocking stitches that you can choose from. However, you must know the basics of smocking before you start stitching. This article will help you understand the most important smocking stitches.

Cross Stitch

These stitch patterns can be used for decorative purposes. They are arrayed and X-shaped, which allows them to provide the best results.

Running Stitch

These are the straight stitches, which need to be used when running small stitches back and forth on your embroidering projects.


You will need to perform outline stitches on the smocking process for embroidery garments, which are known as running stitches.

Smocking stitches types
Smocking stitches types

Sewing Machines For Smocking

Smocking is usually done by hand using a sewing machine. However, if you want to save time and money, you can buy a dedicated smocking machine.

These machines are easy to operate and make smocking a breeze. They are available in various models and prices.

Some of these machines include:

  • Hand-held
  • Foot-operated
  • Motorized
  • Portable
  • Electric
  • Manual

Basic Rules Of Smocking

Smocking is a type of embroidery used to add decorative details to clothing. The basic rules of smocking include:

  1. Start at the center back seam and work outward toward the neckline. Always make the outline stitch first. as these outline stitches make your smocking procedure clean and smooth.
  2. Work down one side of the garment before working across the front.
  3. Always keep the needle parallel to the edge of the fabric.
  4. Keep the thread taut throughout the process.
  5. Use a stitch length between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch.
  6. Make small stitches until you reach the desired depth.
  7. Stop stitching when the design looks complete on a smocked fabric.
  8. Trim off excess threads.
  9. Repeat steps 2 through 8 on the opposite side of the garment.
  10. Press seams open.
  11. Finish sewing by pressing the entire piece flat.
  12. Remove pins.
  13. Fold over the raw edges of the seam allowance and press them flat.
  14. Hand-sew any remaining loose ends of a smocked fabric.

Smocking vs Shirring

Shirring is a traditional technique used to finish hems on clothing. The fabric is folded over itself and stitched together at the top edge. This creates a decorative hemline.

However, smocking is a newer technique that uses a special needle to stitch through multiple layers of fabric. This produces a unique patterned effect. It uses embroidery stitches to add more visuals by creating different levels of stretches

Both techniques produce beautiful results, but which one should you use? Well, there’s no right answer here. Both methods work well, depending on the type of garment being made.

However, some fabrics may not hold up well to shirring. And, some garments require a specific style of stitching. So, it’s important to test different techniques before committing to any one method.

An elastic thread smocking technique

Smocking fabric is a fun embroidery technique that involves sewing strips of fabric together to create a decorative border. This technique also uses to make vintage patterns.

While smocking is easy to learn, it takes practice to master. Fortunately, there are several different types of elastic threads available to help you achieve perfect results every time.

There are two main types of elastic threads: flat and round. Flat elastic threads are ideal for beginners who want to learn how to smock fabric with elastic thread. Round elastic threads are best suited for advanced sewists who want to add extra detail to their projects.

Hand-Look Smocking

Hand-look smocking or traditional smocking involves stitching through both layers of fabric, leaving a hole where the thread passes through.

To achieve this look, you’ll need to sew two pieces of fabric together. Then, cut off the excess fabric along the seam line. Next, fold over the edges of the fabric and stitch again, creating another hole. Finally, pull the threads through the holes to form the decorative stitches.

hand look smocking
hand look smocking

This method takes patience and practice, but it’s worth learning since it’s a unique look that will add character to your projects.

Embroidery Techniques for Smocking

If you’re looking for an alternative to hand-smocking, try these embroidery techniques instead. They can be done using either a machine or a hand-held embroidery hoop.

The first step in each technique is to prepare the fabric. You’ll start by cutting out two identical shapes from the same fabric. Once they’re ready, you’ll attach them together using a zigzag stitch.

Then, you’ll fill in the shape with freehand embroidery. For example, you could draw a flower or design on the fabric. Or, you could simply leave the area blank.

Finally, you’ll trim away the extra fabric around the outside of the shape. This leaves a neat finished product.

The next technique is called “stitch-and-flip.” Start by preparing the fabric as described above. Then, flip the fabric so that the wrong side faces down. Stitch along the edge of the fabric, then turn it back over and continue stitching.

Once complete, remove the stitches and press the fabric. Now, you have a piece of fabric with a decorative border.


Sewing smocking is an incredibly fun way to add a unique touch to your clothing projects. It’s also a lot of fun to learn how to sew smocking patterns.

In fact, sewing smocking patterns is a great hobby to pursue because it allows you to create beautiful designs while still being able to wear what you make. So if you’d like to learn more about stitching techniques, visit our guide section


How Do You Choose The Right Fabric For Smocking?

Cotton and Silk fabrics from lightweight to medium weight work best for smocking due to their smooth and even surface.

When smocking, what kind of thread should I use?

Cotton thread works perfectly fine for smocking. for the thicker look on a smocked fabric use a thread with more strands.