How do I Choose the Best Smocking Fabric?

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  • Written By: Janis Adams
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 03 January 2020
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Before the use of elastic, a type of embroidery or stitching called smocking was employed to create gathered fabric that had the ability to stretch. While most styles of embroidery styles are purely decorative, smocking is instead most often found to be utilitarian. The smocking technique is used on many types of garments made of many types of fabrics. The one inarguable prerequisite for a smocking fabric is that it must be able to be gathered.

Originally, smocking fabric was a heavy versatile material, as the first garments with this type of stitching were worn by workers. However, as the technique became more popular and more intricate, the smocking fabric of choice evolved into a higher quality material. These fabrics include silk, cashmere, and crepe de chine, among a host of others.

The best choice when choosing a fabric for smocking is one that is light in weight. Heavier weight fabric tends not to gather as well. The more consistent and the smoother the gathers, which a lighter smocking fabric will produce, the more pleasing and professionally done the smocking will appear.

The weave of a smocking fabric is as important as the weight. The weave is the pattern produced by the yarns and fibers used to create a fabric. The weave of the fabric should be a stable one, not one that has any type of variations, for example like the basket weave.


Smocking, the fine fabric manipulation that uses gathers, is popular for children's clothing, including bonnets and little girls' pinafore dresses. The type of smocking material chosen for these types of garments most often is light cotton, gingham, and taffeta. For bonnets, often the lighter smocking material is chosen for the reason of comfort, but a heavier, stiffer fabric may be used as well.

The revival of heirloom smocking was seen in the late 1970s. With the popularity of the prairie look, people gained an interest in learning the age-old technique. With this came an increased need for smocking material, and it also found the newer generation willing to try the technique on fabrics that had not previously been used for this purpose. While any type of fabric that can be gathered may be used as a smocking fabric, the most common types of fabric used in heirloom smocking are silks and Swiss batistes and other fine quality light-weave fabrics.


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Can seersucker be used for smocking a little girl's dress?

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