Machine smocking tutorial

While working on my Eleanor Guthrie cosplay, I researched how to do smocking with a sewing machine (rather than by hand) I’m quite pleased how it turned out, and I thought I’d share a little tutorial. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out!

What you’ll need:

  • Sewing machine with decorative stitches
  • Embroidery thread (I used Gütermann Sulky Cotton Multicolor in grey/beige tones)
  • A ruler or measuring tape
  • Chalk or disappearing marker

1.  First, you must decide on your ratio (how much fabric you will gather), and mark your gathering stitches lines. I went for a 1:3 ratio and marked lines 18cm long. My desired final gathered length is 6cm. My lines are 1.5cm apart, but you can experiment with lines closer or wider apart for a different effect.


2.  After sewing a long gathering stitch on each line that you marked in step 1, gather your fabric down to the length you decided in the first step (in my case, 6cm). Press your fabric to set the pleats.


3.  Go back to your sewing machine and sew decorative stitches between each gathering line. This will permanently set the pleats. Note: smocking isn’t elastic like shirring is, don’t confuse them! They kinda look the same and they both reduce the width of your garment by gathering fabric, but they have very different in behavior: shirring keeps its elasticity by using elastic thread as the bobbin thread, while smocking is permanent. I see smocking as something more decorative rather than functional, like shirring is.


4.  Remove all your gathering stitches (the most tedious task of them all!), give your fabric another good press with steam, and there you go! Admire your beautiful smocked piece!


And done!

There are many other methods, including smocking by hand, but I hope this short tutorial will have inspired you to give it a try! Smocking is not difficult and the final result is sure to make a statement on your costume!

Liked this tutorial? Don’t hesitate to share it! Sharing is caring! ♥