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Direct smocking

This technique is usually worked on gingham, as the coloured squares show up the puckers and folds particularly well. However, it could also be worked on spotty fabric but only if the spots are regular. It could be worked on plain fabric but you will need to mark dots on first, and the end result will look more like American Smocking.

Material and Design Notes

  • Direct smocking works best on pure cotton gingham; polycotton will not take the fold so well. Vintage gingham is the perfect fabric, if you can get it.
  • The gingham fabric provides a ready-made grid for working the stitches and the shading of the boxes creates additional effects.
  • Traditionally this technique is combined with embroidery.

Basic method

Follow the Direct Smocking stitch diagram carefully for the order of working the stitching.

Direct smocking A

Direct smocking stitch diagram: loops show where the stitch is pulled up.

1). Knot the thread behind the work and bring the needle out at point 1 on the first row. Go back over to point 2 and pick up a couple of threads on that mark. Pull tight.

Direct smocking B

2). Put the needle back in at point 1 then bring it up at point 3 (one square to the top left diagonally).

Direct smocking C

3). Bring the needle over to point 4, pick up a couple of threads, pull tight and put the needle back in at point 3.

Direct smocking D

4). Bring the needle back up at point 5 (one square to the bottom left diagonally).

Direct smocking E

5). Continue to follow the order of stitching across the fabric to complete the first row.

6). Work the second row in the opposite direction, so the first diagonal stitch is made downwards rather than upwards.


A different effect can be achieved by making the diagonal stitches on the front of the fabric so the thread is prominent; use embroidery thread for the best effect.

You can also vary the technique by bringing the thread out on the surface between stitches, rather than behind.

Direct smocking F

Direct smocking : basic method.

Fabric Manipulation
150 CREATIVE Sewing Techniques

Ruth Singer