Smocking is one of the embroidery techniques I had practiced before finding the SCA. My mother has done a lot of smocking and I became interested in it too. My great aunt Helen, also a prolific smocker, taught me some of her favorite stitches.
This apron is made from a fairly heavy weight white linen. This keeps the apron from blowing around too much in the wind; it is a functional object, not a decorative one and the recipient is a practical person.
I made this smocked apron as a gift for my mentor, friend, and Laurel, Mistress Annisa Gabrielli.
The most time consuming part of smocking is gathering the fabric. It must be done very evenly across the width and grain of the fabric and very precisely gathered so that the pleats are even widths and heights. Otherwise, the embroidery will not look right, it will not create the geometrically precise patterns that is so typical of smocking, and the fabric will not hang evenly.
Historically speaking there were several ways to pleat the fabric. Ancient Egyptians used a heat-setting method. Modernly and for lighter fabrics, one can use a pleating machine that looks like it was invented by a Victorian. I laid the fabric out on a flat surface and marked it with water soluble marker then gathered it using strong poly thread.
The stitches that keep the pleats together are spaced evenly and, when released, make a stretchy band of fabric along the top edge. I did all the stitching using linen thread including attaching the waistband to the top.