Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lattice Work Smocking

I was first introduced to lattice smocking when I was working as an assistant costume designer for BYU's production of Hamlet. I was enlisted to smock nearly two yards of red velvet for a costume that was worn all of 10 minutes on stage (see Gertrude, the standing woman. I did the red stuff, which is about how it looked onstage unless you were in the first 6 rows).

Needless to say, it took me a total of 24 hours to do. I did it at home (my roommate Tiff can attest to that), during my TESOL/BEEDE classes (anyone whose ever taken those will understand why that was possible and possibly more educational that the actual classes), and whenever I had some spare time.

But boy have I put that skill to use! I used it on my baby's blessing dress, and on another dress I recently made her. So I've had a lot of people ask me how to do it, and I swear it's really easy. So here is a picture tutorial, if your interested.

1. First, you'll need to decide how big you want your lattice work, and make a grid. Doing smocking will make your piece of fabric about half of the original size.  I HIGHLY recommend doing the smocking and then cutting the pattern piece out. The red velvet above is done on a 1 inch grid, and the baby dresses I did on 1/2 inch. I wouldn't do anything smaller than 1/2 inch, which is what I'm using in this tutorial. I just made a grid on Word and printed it out, then poked holes in it, pinned it to my material and mark the holes. For this tutorial I used a marker, but you'll want something that will wash off or dissappear.

2. Here it is marked out (I just did a little bit for demonstration).

3. Below, I marked with a line the points you will be pulling together. I don't normally do this now, but I did when I first started and it made it easier.

4. You'll start on the bottom of your second row of dots. Make a tiny stitch to secure your thread. Then make a tiny stitch on the diagonally to the left. You'll pull the thread all the way through and pull the fabric together until the two points are connected.

5. When the points are pulled together, it will look like this. I like to make a little knot onto the fabric so the fold stays secure.

6. You'll notice that tucked into the fold you just created is the point that was the next one up from the first you started on. You'll make your next tiny stitch here, but don't pull the points together. Instead, give just enough length in the thread so that lays just how it is, and secure it by making another knot.

7. You'll now be connecting this point with the one diagonally to the left. So make a tiny stitch, pull together, and make a knot to secure it.

8. You'll then find the point that it tucked inside the fold and do as you did before (secure the thread to this new point) and keep alternating left and right. A row will look like this. Tie off the thread when the row is finished because you'll start the next row from the bottom.

The front will look like this.

9. Now it is time to start the next row. In reference to the first dot we worked with, you'll move to the right two rows. Secure the thread here and pull it together with the point diagonally to the left (just like you did on the first row).

10. You'll continue in the same pattern as before. You'll notice the thread lines line up making zig-zags across the fabric. You'll know that your off if your zig zags aren't lining up (or the front doesn't look like it's making a lattice).
With the second row started you can see the lattice forming on the front.

When you have to cut out your smocking for sewing into clothing, I recommend tracing the pattern onto the smocked fabric, doing a basting stitch just inside this traced line and then cutting out along the line, otherwise you might loose some of the smocking work when you cut the threads that created it.

I used this technique to make my baby girl's blessing dress!  It turned out lovely.  I also did some colorful embroidery along the bottom (for which I highly recommend The Embroiderer's Handbook).


  1. You can make your own graph paper here. Super easy. I am using it to start designing my own quilt blocks.

    Your smocking is great!

  2. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO glad you posted this, I've been wondering how you do this after I saw it on a throw pillow a couple of years ago but I didn't know what it was called or where to look to find out how to do it.

  3. I have been wndering how to do this as well, thank you for linking to my party and sharing your knowldge!

  4. seriously? i have been wanting to learn how to do this for ever, and didnt even know what it was called. my mom just found me a twin size piece of red velvet that i want to do this to. yeah!!!!!!!!!

  5. Thank you for teaching me how to do this!