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smocking – counterchange

Becky-book | Posted in Gather For A Chat on

Hey Solosmocker! (and anyone else who’s listening) I put smock and counterchange in my Google search and followed the trail to a neat description of how to do it … and this is what “Maga” did for us!!  I have some pink gingham left over from Emma’s dress… now what to make , and for which Grandgirl!!  Maybe just a little top with simple straps across the shoulders? 




  1. solosmocker | | #1

    That's wonderful. I can't wait to see what you come up with. A little sundress was one of my first pieces. I put little matte yellow beads on every stitch I picked up. Unfortunately I made it in the days before I starting taking pics of everything. Congrats on taking the plunge and if I can help in any way just email me or holler.

    ETA: I have found 1/4 inch gingham works best. You can also go thru the fabric store with your eyes peeled for even designs. Stripes are good (1/4 inch)and you could just mark the horizontal lines every 1/4 inch. I have seen lots of possibilities in the calicoes and homespun plaids.


    Edited 7/21/2007 10:12 pm ET by solosmocker

    1. User avater
      Becky-book | | #2

      Good morning!

      On Sat evening I had a few minutes while waiting for a friend to call back, so I got some white floss and pink gingham and..... wooo hoooo Look at me! I'm 'smocking'!!!  Well, maybe?

      The top row was done with 2 strands of floss... too much!

      next row - 1 strand of floss

      bottom row on the right... did not start the next row right, the gingham seems to twist (I'm left handed so I worked right to left)

      started over in the bottom row... left side looks better!

      measured the gingham squares - 1/8 inch ... I guess you're right 1/4 would be better for girl's clothes; maybe I'll make a doll dress out of this cloth?

      Laundry or sewing? hmmmmmm, maybe I can manage to do some of both today!


      1. solosmocker | | #3

        Becky, this is wonderful. I am so glad you are giving it a go. You will find with a larger gingham a pattern becomes more obvious. Do a few sample pieces before you commit to a garment because there are a lot of variables here. You can alternate you stitch pattern, in other words, start a row in the middle of the square. You can mirror image the rows also. You can do groups of rows. There is a lot more creativity possible than initially is obvious. I am so excited you decided to try this form of smocking. Let me know if I can help.

        1. User avater
          Becky-book | | #4

          Dear Solo,

          If I use a larger gingham should I use more than one strand of floss?

          Showing my ignorance,


          1. solosmocker | | #5

            I use two for that. On something tiny like the 1/8, one strand is fine. solo

          2. User avater
            Becky-book | | #6

            Thanks! I'll try that!

            On my way out the door this AM to son's orthodontist's appointment, I grabbed some red 1/4 inch gingham that was handy and the floss from the other trial.  Worked up a small sample while waiting...Oh how cute!! It does really look better on 1/4", the color changes show up much better!

            I realized that I have a new niece that has no baby gift yet (my bro. is 15 yrs younger and married later) Now if I could just find that baby dress pattern with the simple bodice and gathered skirt...

            Since the favorite pattern has gone missing, what would you suggest for a project for a new born niece?


            PS If your deadlines press too close, I can wait.

          3. solosmocker | | #7

            Here is what I did. I just smocked a piece of fabric larger than the bodice in the pattern I was going to use. I traced the outline of the bodice to the completed counterchange. I then did a small close zigzag on that outline of the bodice. I cut out the bodice just beyond the zigagging. I then proceeded to make the garment as per the pattern. You should be able to apply this technique to most infant patterns. They are of such simple design that this technique should transfer nicely to them. Good luck. solo

            Edited 7/26/2007 7:35 pm ET by solosmocker

          4. User avater
            Becky-book | | #8

            Thanks!!  That idea was sort of what was floating around my brain.  Now if I could just find that bodice pattern..... Guess I'll have to break down and buy a new one!

            I promise to post pictures when it's done.

            Hope the wedding goes smoothly for y'all


        2. User avater
          Becky-book | | #12

          Dear Solo,

          Hope your wedding garb is coming along well, and sun-dress too.  No Vac. for me this year.

          Counterchange dress is done, posted pics in note to Marcy.

          Thanks for the encouragement!


      2. fabricholic | | #9

        Becky, that is adorable. I can't wait to see the finished project.Marcy

        1. User avater
          Becky-book | | #10

          Working on it.... out of town company for the next few days.... maybe can sew if they want to take a nap????

          Promise to post pics when complete.


        2. User avater
          Becky-book | | #11

          Finally ! it is done!  turned out larger than anticipated so may give to Granddaughter instead of newest niece (baby).


          1. fabricholic | | #13

            That is beautiful and fascinating. You are very talented.

          2. solosmocker | | #14

            Becky, this is so beautiful. You did a wonderful job and its hard to believe its your first attempt. Isn't counterchange easy? And so effective, too! The wedding dress is done and I hope to have pics tomorrow if all goes well. I clean up pretty good, but it takes a while, ;}, lol! So what is your next project now that we are all so impressed with this one? I am sure it will be wonderful whatever it is. solo

          3. User avater
            Becky-book | | #16

            Well..... the counterchange was fun.... but getting the dress made was quite a challenge!  I want every thing to be perfect! HA!   The gingham check HAD to be matched (and that did not exactly happen! )  In order to trace the bodice shape I hand basted all the checks together above the counterchange so the neck and shoulders would come out "right".  And it is a little off, but you can't see that in the photos!

            If I can figure out a better way to get the garment finished, I'll do more of this!!

            Waiting to see you "all cleaned up" !!


          4. jatman | | #15

            Very, very cute!  I can't believe this is your first try at it either!  Nice job!


          5. User avater
            Becky-book | | #17

            I have made lots and lots of kids clothes, so I wasn't prepared for the difficulty I encountered in finishing the job!!  The actual counterchange is easy.... maybe I should stick to aprons!!


          6. Gloriasews | | #18

            Very impressive for your first go at this!  It is so pretty! You did a wonderful job!  Is there much give to the smocking at the sleeve?   How did you handle the extra fabric at the front shoulders - just gather it a bit to fit the back shoulders?


          7. User avater
            Becky-book | | #19

            Sleeves - yes, the counterchange stitching works almost like elastic.

            Shoulders - GRRRRRR I had to baste and baste and baste to get every thing to behave so I could stitch it together. The back is smocked just like the front. The bodice is lined to just below the sleeves. The lining keeps the shoulders from expanding!!!


            Edited 8/9/2007 8:43 pm ET by Becky-book

          8. ctirish | | #20

            Becky, I just read through this thread and the pictures of your dress with the counterchange are beautiful. I keep wanting to try smocking but I have many fears of it. I even bought a CD that does machine smocking but I have tried that as yet either. Your effort may be the impetus I need to try counterchange and see how that goes for me. Thank you, jane

          9. User avater
            Becky-book | | #24

            Dear Jane,

            The actual counterchange stitching is lots of fun, quite easy because you just follow the pattern of the gingham.  Making a dress out of what I had stitched was another matter!! But I made it harder than it had to be 'cause I wanted it to be "perfect"; then I messed up the button placket in back and must do all the buttonholes again (on the top side)!  Maybe I should have started with a pillow top (square, no fitting!)LOL


          10. Gloriasews | | #21

            Wow - lots of work!  It was worth it all - a great job, well done!  (Could you not have stay-stitched the gathers in the shoulders by machine to save all the basting)?


          11. User avater
            Becky-book | | #23

            Yes I probably could have just gathered the shoulders, but the counterchange did such nice patterns in the gingham that I wanted to continue that look all the way into the shoulder seam. So I basted all the little "boxes" together!  Maybe I should have just done a row of the counterchange with basting thread to hold the shape, then pick out what ever doesn't get sewn in a seam or cut off!  When Solosmocker gets back from her vacation I want to pick her brain about this technique!!  There must be some tricks she can teach me!!


          12. Gloriasews | | #25

            Now I can imagine how you did the shoulders - no wonder they look so tidy.  Your idea of doing a row of smocking at the shoulder seam is a good one, too; it would match the smocking well.  Hopefully, you will get further ideas from Solosmocker to maybe make it easier for you. 

            You could also make cute, easy, little smocked nighties with shoulder straps (to eliminate the shoulder seams & sleeves) or tops to go with pants for when it's hot outside.  Maybe I'll take up smocking & make myself some hot-weather nighties. In fact, they would make good gifts, too, for little girls or women (the nighties, that is).


          13. Josefly | | #22

            I just caught up on this thread, and loved your little dress. Nice job.

          14. solosmocker | | #26

            Becky, you have the makings of a real heirloom sewist. You want perfection and thats what its all about. You did a wonderful job on this. Can't wait to see the next one. solo

          15. User avater
            Becky-book | | #27

            Well, wanting perfection and getting it are two very different things; especially if you throw some impatience into the mix!

            Now that I have had a taste of something new, I need to get back to some fitting issues!! and finish off some promises to friends.

            When you get back from the wedding I'd like to pick your brain for some tricks or tips.


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