Smocking, as a means of gathering fabric so it is elasticated enough to allow for stretching has its roots in the Middle Ages. The need for ease of movement was most required for manual labourers particularly farm workers who wore smocks. It is from the farm labourers’ smock or shirt that the term smocking derives.

Though used as everyday wear for labourers, shepherds and drovers best smocks were kept for special occasions such as feast days. One such feast was Plough Monday, which this year falls on Monday 11th January. Smocks were relatively easy to make and above all cheap. Given the poor pay of labourers, the lower the cost the better, as far as work wear was concerned. There is in fact some evidence to suggest that there was a direct link between declining pay rates, as they spread from one area to the next, and the popularity of the smock.

Though originally a functional method of allowing for ease of movement around necklines, cuffs and bodices, smock stitching took on a decorative element too. The lady’s smock frock emerged from the early 18th century based upon the functional smock described above.

By the 19th century the popularity of the smock was waning as cheaper mass-produced clothing became available. However the decorative smock designs remain popular to this day and can still be seen on cardigans, frocks and cushion covers. The idea of smocking became incorporated into knitting patterns in the 1940’s. This originally started off as true smocking worked on ribbed knitting and then more forms of working knitted smocking were introduced, leading to a variety of new stitches.

If you wish to try your hand at smocking we have several patterns such as:
1:12th scale carrying coat and shawl, where the smocking is added after the knitting:

miniature knitting
© F H Powell 2015

Or these patterns where knitted smocking patterns are used:
1:12th scale girls smocked dress
miniature knitting
© F H Powell 2015

1:12th scale girls mini dress
miniature doll
© F H Powell 2015

1:12th scale smocked cushion
miniature knitted cushion
© F H Powell 2007