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Smocked fabric

middle | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

Can any one tell the name and where I can buy the fabric used for smocked tops or sun dresses?  It is the kind that stretches to make a tube top or dress.

Thank you for your help





  1. solosmocker | | #1

    I saw about 6-7 bolts of it at my local Joanns. Hope this helps.

  2. fabricholic | | #2

    I saw some at Hancock where the top part of the fabric is smocked and the bottom is not.Marcy

    1. solosmocker | | #3

      Ok gang, I am going to get picky here, kind of like our fellow poster in felting/fulling post. The fabric I saw at Joanns and that I think the original poster means is shirred, not smocked. Smocked fabric is fabric that has been embroidered over the gathered pleats. It originally maintained the elasticity in the fabric way before elastic was invented. So we are talking shirred fabric here. I'm just being a pill, but like our felter friend I work too hard at my smocking to have it on the same plane as the shirred stuff at Hancocks and Joanns. Thanks for indulging my pickiness. solo

      1. User avater
        Becky-book | | #4

        Thank you for your 'pickiness'! My grandma did lovely hand smocking (no pleater to help) and it irks me also to hear that mass produced stuff called 'smocked'!! But the newbies don't know any better, so I don't get too steamed! You keep up the good work!


      2. fabricholic | | #5

        Thanks, Solo. I knew there was a difference, but I was just calling it the wrong thing. You are educating us.

        1. solosmocker | | #6

          Awww, you gals are sweet. I am glad I have such a wonderful forum to vent on. Now I'll go back to behaving like a good little girl. You are all the best. And welcome to our new poster with the question. Please keep asking questions. Its the only way we all learn anything.

          1. Ralphetta | | #14

            One of the things I like about this site is that it educates.  In my opinion a friend tells you nicely if you are using a term incorrectly so that you don't continue making a mistake. On this site the corrections always seem to be phrased politely. Since people come to this site to learn, it's appropriate to make corrections so that the information is accurate. That's how we all learn and improve.

      3. user-217847 | | #7

        Go Girl, you tell em.


        1. fabricholic | | #8

          Hi Wombat,I have a picture for you and decided it will go well with this discussion, because her top is shirred. Hope I spelled it correctly. I asked my daughter where she got the outfit and she said that I had bought it. I have a cracker jack memory. Anyway, happy Independence Day to all, a day late.Marcy

          1. user-217847 | | #9

            Ooah Marcy, what a georgious little miss thanks heaps, keep them coming. I wear my pink shoes the same. warm regards, wombat

          2. fabricholic | | #18

            She got a bad ant bite on her toe that swelled her whole foot. Anyway, her sandal wouldn't fit on that foot. Next thing I know, neither foot will fit in her sandals. Daughter had to buy her some new shoes. She had outgrown the sandals, quickly. Do you have those type shoes? Do you wear them with the strap on top, like she had them? I can't think of what they call those shoes.Marcy

          3. user-217847 | | #21

            Hi Marcy, yes in every colour you can imagine, mine are plain pink I wear them with the strap over the front but in water or on sand at the back otherwise they get sucked off.they are so cool and comfortable and lightweight. I still think they are ugly but so soothing when you have heel spurs.


          4. fabricholic | | #26

            Now I remember what they call them; Crocs. I had never seen them worn like she does. I go for comfort, also.Marcy

          5. Josefly | | #23

            Crocs? Sketchers? The shoes look like some my gs has. Your granddaughter is precious.Edited 7/8/2007 11:24 am ET by Josefly

            Edited 7/8/2007 11:24 am ET by Josefly

          6. fabricholic | | #28

            Thanks. They are those rubber shoes.

          7. MaryinColorado | | #15

            Love seeing that sparkle in her eyes!  She looks like such a confident little girl, that shows she knows she is very loved and secure, I think.

            I made a top last night with a product that works great for shirring.  It's called "Stitch and Stretch" by StretchRite.  It's an elastic pleating tape and worked like a charm.  (My strapless top stayed up, thank God!)  Very simple instructions included in package.  Sorry I have no idea where I bought it, it was in my stash of elastic.

            I had the Hawaiian rayon print drawstring pants and shawl and needed a very lightweight top for an outdoor arts festival today.  This was a scrap I had left over.  It went completely together in about half an hour, including the pressing!  No pattern.  My brother had no problem keeping track of me, he said I looked like a monarch butterfly!  ha ha

          8. solosmocker | | #16

            Mary, I have used that product and it is great. I have some in my stash now but since I get most notions at Joanns I am thinking they might have it. Great stuff.

          9. MaryinColorado | | #19

            Thanks, I'll check there first.  I am hoping they have it in different widths, that would be a bonus.  Hope it doesn't shrink or the top will end up as a skirt for dgd!  Then she would comandeer the shawl.....I must go to the mirror and practice saying "no" again.  he he  Mary

          10. fabricholic | | #17

            I would love to see your outfit. Will you post a picture? I love the tropical prints in rayon. I am always drawn to them in the store. They just say Summer to me. Is this tape better than the elastic thread? Did you have to put some other thread in the bobbin or just sew it?Marcy

          11. MaryinColorado | | #20

            No, I just used Guiterman poly in the bobbin and needle.  The product has several rows of blue stitching lines to follow, then you zig zag the short edges or do a satin stitch at the side seam to reinforce one end.  Draw up the elastic threads in the product to the correct size, then zig zag the edge at the second side seam and sew the seam closed.   Maybe my daughter will snap a photo to send. 

            I will be on a hunt for this product now, starting with Joannes as Solosmocker suggested.  I've already gotten alot of requests for these tops and shawls.  Now if someone would just offer to pay for them, I'd be all set.  Mary

          12. fabricholic | | #25

            Yes, your time does cost, so start charging for them.

          13. proegge | | #30


            I don't know if Joann's carries it, but I looked online and found it at Newark Dressmaker Supply at what I thought was a pretty reasonable price!  The address is:



            Hope this helps someone!Paula

          14. MaryinColorado | | #31

            Thanks for the info.!  Mary

          15. Crazy K | | #22

            Oh.........what an adorable little princess!!!  Thanks for sharing!


          16. fabricholic | | #27

            Thanks, she is special to me.

      4. moira | | #11

        Does your reply mean there's a forum like this one for felters? I'd love to know how to find it. I bought my daughters (and myself!) a felting kit last Christmas and we had some fun getting started - but there must be so much more we could be doing.

        1. solosmocker | | #13

          No, there isn't a forum for just felters/fullers. I was referring to the following post http://forums.taunton.com/n/main.asp?qu=devalueing+&find=Search&webtag=tp-gatherings&ctx=search&cl=632361&af=10000&o=relevance&be=0solo

    2. moira | | #10

      I wonder if you've ever tried shirring your own fabric? If you hand-wind some shirring elastic without stretching it, onto your bottom bobbin and use ordinary thread in the top, you should be able to sew parallel rows of stitching which gather as you sew, but produces fabric which stretches just like the bought stuff. You need to hold the fabric taught as you sew each row. It can be time consuming but it's nice to be able to do it yourself. You can just shirr a certain amount if it's a bodice you're doing, and there your skirt is automatically attached. Great for a little girl's dress.I also did some real smocking when I was at school. It takes ages but is very special!

      1. fabricholic | | #12

        That's very interesting. I wouldn't have known how to do that. I want to do a little smocking. I have friends with pleaters, but I haven't tried it. Thanks for the information.Marcy

      2. mygaley | | #29

        I once had a teacher demonstrate the in-the-bobbin method for using elastic thread. When she finished, she thoroughly steamed the garment from the non-elastic side and the elastic thread drew up in a wonderful way. Perhaps it was just regaining its size from stitching.When my two granddaughters were preschoolers, I wanted to make an heirloom-quality dress for them: Martha Pullen pattern, Swiss organdy face, silk dupioni lining, pleated smocking with silk ribbon embroidery, mother-of-pearl buttons--the works. To my delight, I found the the independent fabric shop in Bossier City, LA where I purchased the fabric would pleat it for me; the worker was so helpful, she even advised me as to how big to cut the piece(s) to be pleated. There was a small charge, but by then I was in "the heck with economy, give the bird another seed mode". I want to mention that this project was a great blessing to me, as I was stricken with an illness and had to spend weeks sitting on the couch and was so thankful to have a challenging project to work on. My daughter helped some with the machine construction of the dresses, but all the handwork is mine. God bless you, Galey

        1. fabricholic | | #32

          Was your teacher in high school or a sewing class? It's great that you had something to create while you were sick. I always loved working on blouses, because there were buttons to sew on, cuffs to hand sew, and the collar and yoke had to be sewn by hand. I love doing those little things, when I wanted to sit down and relax or I was somewhere away from my sewing machine. Marcy

          1. mygaley | | #35

            Ilearned this technique at a Pfaff Club sponsored by the dealer from whom I bought my machine(s). I have been machine sewing over 50 years and I have learned as much from Pfaff Club and Gatherings as I have from all other sources put together. God bless you Galey

          2. fabricholic | | #36

            When I was unemployed, every month at the Husqvarna Viking dealer, they had women meet with their machines and someone would be there to teach us to use the different feet, etc. It was fun, because we also had a sort of "show and tell" with our projects. There were always new ideas.Marcy

  3. Vick | | #24

    One of the sewing magazines had an article on how to machine smock without having a pleater. Did anyone else happen to see the article? I don't remember which one of the magazines had the smocking articial. Of course Martha Pullen sells pleaters but I have not bought one yet. I do have a first granddaughter though, so I might try smocking. If I can do it with the pleater though, so much the better

    1. solosmocker | | #33

      There is something called Counterchange which is a form of smocking without elastic, a pleater, or dots. It is done by picking up threads on evenly spaced designed fabric, gingham for example. It is quite easy and goes quickly. You can also do it on solids by marking the fabric with intersecting lines. A google search can give you more. It is an easily self taught method and quite forgiving. The first 3 smocked outfits I made for my granddaughter were counterchange.Many heirloom shops offer a pleating service. I do my own pleating but you may want to google Farmhouse Fabrics, Childrens Corner, Addriennes Attic, to start. An email to them can probably connect you with someone who will pleat for you. Its usually quite reasonable to have done and you pay a charge by the row. I have heard from one to three dollars a row, but don't hold me to that as I have never had it done. Good luck and let me know if I can help any more.

      1. User avater
        Becky-book | | #34

        My grandma did this on gingham for us as children!! We had the cutest play clothes when she had scraps to "play" with!


      2. User avater
        CostumerVal | | #37

        I have the Readers Digest Complete Guide to Needlework with the dot instructions.  Threads did an article awhile back about measuring and marking with stitches.  Essentially, you run a row of large zigzag stitches and then pick up the fabric on the zag.  After smocking, rip out the zigzag.  I haven't done it,  Would it work like your printed fabric technique?

        1. solosmocker | | #38

          The concept seems similar. The difference is you pick up the threads in a pattern that is a little more complicated than the "zag" of a zigzag. There are many different patterns for the "pikups". And thats what gives you the final design. In this month's Sew Beautiful is a pattern for counterchange that uses a gingham and the stitches are picked up in such a fashion that you end up with three gift boxes with bows on top in the smocked area. So its a little more involved. solo

        2. ctirish | | #39

          Hi,  I have a question for our resident smocking expert (you). I purchased three to be exact inserts that are already pleated for smocking.  These are for the day I have nothing to do and want to learn smocking. Really, I do hope to learn a little smocking before the end of this year.  How should I be storing these inserts? I asked when I bought them and the response was like any other insert. Well, I don't have any other inserts.  I am just afraid I will store them wrong and when I go to use them I will have damaged them beyond repair.  Also, if you recommend a good very beginner book for smocking - if they make one for kids that might be a good one too?  Thank you, jane

          1. solosmocker | | #40

            Congratulations on entering the smocking world! I keep my inserts laying flat if I am working on them, but not while I am working on them, if that makes sense. It it is a blank or completed insert I pin it to my bulletin board wall in my sewing room. It is there to keep reminding me to "insert" it into something. You have chosen a great way to start. Pleating can be a little intimidating the first couple of times and who wants to invest in a pleater without know if they will be hooked? (You will be.) Many on line smocking stores offer pleating services or "ready to smocks". This way you can get right into the best part, the embroidery. I would recommend to you the "A-Z Book of Smocking" by Country Bumpkin press. It has everything in it that you can think of and more. If you get into this craft, then I would get as a second book the "A-Z Book of Sewing for Smockers". It has tons of info that you won't find in any other sewing book. I have been sewing for, ahem, 47 yrs now and I learned a lot of new things in this book. The section of sashes on childrens dresses alone is worth the price. So much info in that book I found new to me. If you have any questions or need some encouragement feel free to ask or email me. I would be more than happy to help you along. You will love this craft. Your next step is to decide on a plate. Whah????solo

          2. MaryinColorado | | #41

            I am wondering if she should press a fusable interfacing or stabilizer to the backs of her pleated inserts so the pleating doesn't come out?  I'm not a smocker, just an amateur who read this somewhere.  What do you think?  Mary


          3. solosmocker | | #42

            The fabric to be pleated is sometimes interfaced with a fusible to "plump" up the pleats on lightweight fabric or dupionis. This is all done before pleating on flat fabric. Fusing interfacing after the pleating is done will crush the pleats with the iron. A pleated insert is really quite tough and can take a lot. The pleats will not come apart. This is because after pleating the pleating threads which occur about every 3/8 inch are pulled to size and tied off. So there really isn't much movement even while you embroider. Then when you are all done the embroidery you remove the pleating threads and block it to size, like a sweater. That was a great question. There was a time when some smockers fused Touch of Gold to the back of a pleated piece after the embroidery was done. It was a cool fuse product that loosened up after stitching but was caught in the seams so didn't move. I haven't seen Touch of Gold in a while but also haven't heard of smockers using it for a while either. Smocking, like sewing, has more than one way to skin a cat so don't be surprised if there are other answers to your question. Thanks for asking. solo

            Edited 7/19/2007 7:33 pm ET by solosmocker

          4. MaryinColorado | | #43

            Thank You so much for clarifying that for me.  I am thinking of getting some of those little outfits from Martha Pullen that say "ready to smock", I  think that means the pleating is already done for you.  I plan to call and ask them when I place my next order.  Now I am relieved to know that the pleats will not come out when these stiff fingers try to work the embroidery.  Thanks again!  Mary

          5. solosmocker | | #44

            Mary, those garments, labeled ready to smock, are totally completed other than for the smocking. It would be a great start for you. Then if you decide this is something you want to do a lot of you can invest in a pleater. I am so excited you want to join the smocking world. Welcome!!!

          6. MaryinColorado | | #45

            Thanks so much, I've always thought I'd love to try it, I will have to try the pleating machine before purchase due to the arthritis limitations.  How nimble and strong do the fingers and hands need to be? 

            We are so blessed to have a "resident" expert here.  You are a treasure!  So the term "ready to smock" means already pleated?  I have alot of smocking designs from when I belonged to the Sew Beautiful Club. 

            Another great nephew is due this fall so it would be fun to make him a little outfit for church. 

          7. solosmocker | | #46

            Yes, ready to smock means they are completed and ready to smock. If you google ready to smock you will come up with sites selling different types of garments and hats including the Sew Beautiful site. They have fairly recently gotten into these garments. As far as the arthritis, a pleater really requires very little coordination. It has a knob or handle that is turned VERY slowly. The actual smocking would be more strain on your hands than using the pleater.

          8. MaryinColorado | | #47

            Thank You for the information!  I'll keep it in mind.  Mary

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