How To Do Smocking On A Sewing Machine

Smocking is one of the famous types of embroidery that allows you to add decorative and unique stitches to garments. In addition, you can create some elasticity in your garments while doing your stitches. Therefore, smocking is the best way to get finished embroidery garments with mesmerizing design and stitches. 

If you apply a smocking technique to your garments, you will be able to gather the fabric to make it stretch. If you want control over the fullness of your garment, then smocking is the best way to do it. Unfortunately, many sewers are confused about whether they can do smocking on a sewing machine or not.

Well, the answer is yes. You can perform smocking efficiently and effectively on a sewing machine by following a few simple steps. In this article, you will get to know about how to do smocking on a sewing machine. In addition, you will understand the importance of smocking, along with a step-by-step guide to do it.

So, grab the knowledge from this article and utilize them to achieve the best sewing results for your embroidery garments.

How To Do Smocking On A Sewing Machine?

If you want to control the fullness of your embroidery garment around the bodice, neckline, and shoulders, then do smocking. This embroidery technique helps to gather the fabric of these areas and makes them lose fitting.

You will have to add small stitches in smocking to create some elasticity around the fabric or garment. However, you will need proper equipment or materials to perform smocking easily and efficiently. The real trick behind a successful smocking of your garments is the preparation and stitching stage.

So, check out each stage prior to and after smocking to get the best-finished results for your embroidered garment. Moreover, each stage is subdivided and well-explained with a step-by-step guide.

Materials Needed For Smocking

Here are some of the materials which you will need for smocking your embroidery garments.


If you want to do smocking, then use lightweight fabrics such as soft linens, cotton, silk, etc. However, it is advisable to use gingham fabrics as their checks make it easier for you to mark the positions. In addition, thicker fabrics are hard to pleat, so try to use thin and soft fabric for best results.


Embroidery floss will be the best choice for smocking your embroidery garments. These threads can be separated from one to six strands easily and effectively. For instance, if you are working on a cotton garment, then use cotton thread. In addition, you must choose a thread that matches the colour of your fabric and design.

Sewing Machine

Finally, you will need a sewing machine with thin and sharp-edged needles for small stitches.

With the preparation, gathering, stitching and smocking stages, you will get to the final results for your embroidered garments.

Stage 1: Preparation Stage

If you want to get the best outcomes from your smocking, you will have to follow this stage accurately. In this stage, you will have to wash the fabric and press down the wrinkles on them.

If you’re using a very thin or lightweight fabric, then you can add some fusible interfacing. So, follow these few steps for the preparation stage for smocking.

Step 1: Cutting The Fabric For Smocking

Firstly, cut the fabric about three times wider than the width of the finishing line of the fabric. This will allow you to pleat and smock the fabric efficiently. However, if you’re using some fine fabric, then you can cut the fabric five times wider.

In addition, you can perform smocking before or after cutting the fabric. At times, if you’re working on a rectangular piece of fabric, you can smock earlier and then cut the armholes, sleeves, cuff, etc.

Step 2: Using Dots To Mark The Position Of Peats

Now, you will have to make a grid of dots to mark the position of the wrinkles on the fabric. You have to mark the pleats very precisely. In addition, you must place the peats in rows with the exact same distance.

If you want to determine the width of the pleat, you can use the width of the marked dots. For example, you can make dots in a one-inch grid. This will result in more prominent wrinkles, which are perfect for you to practice before working on smaller pleats.

Step 3: Using A Smocking Machine Gatherer

If you’re unconfident with the accuracy in your dot making, you can use a smocking gatherer machine. So, you can utilize the machine pleats for gathering. However, this machine is best for commercial use rather than the domestic one.

Step 4: Using Checked Fabric To Start Smocking

You can start smocking with ginghams and fabrics with stripes, spots or checks. This is because the checks are evenly distributed and make it easier to alleviate the step to mark.

Stage 2: Fabric Gathering

If you’re done with the preparation stage and marking of the area, you will have to gather up the dots. So, follow the few steps to stitch the dots, pull the threads and finally tie them off.

Step 1: Stitching The Dots On The Fabric

First, you have to tie a knot on the thread at the starting of the row. Then, you can weave it along with the dots which you marked before. In addition, you must ensure that knots are large and strong so that it doesn’t get pulled through.

Secondly, take a short position under the dot and proceed to the next one. This will help your gathering to look like long stitches between the dots and small stitches on the dots. However, you must follow this pattern to maintain the even gathering of your measured dots.

So, complete stitching all the rows and meanwhile don’t pull any threads. In addition, you can leave about three inches of tail at the end of each row.

Step 2: Pulling The Threads Of The Fabric

In this step, you can take about two threads at once and pull the stitches at the end. Then, you can firmly release the pleats to your gathered space on the fabric. Moreover, you’ll have to keep knots on one side of the fabric and keep loose threads on the other side.

Step 3: Tying The Thread Of Your Fabric

Furthermore, in this step, you have to evenly distribute the wrinkles and make even spacing to tie the threads of your fabric at a loose end on the other sides. In addition, you must not pull the pleats too tight.

Stage 3: Choosing The Right Stitches For Your Sewing Machine

 You have to choose the matching stitches for machine smocking.

Although there are a limited number of decorative stitches available for sewing machines, getting a suitable one won’t be so difficult.

You can choose a stretch stitch for the purpose of the traditional cable stitch on your embroidery garment. Moreover, you can also perform zigzag stitches with two threads with needles to create various shaped stitches.

Also, you can look for your sewing machine manual to get the best results for decorative stitches for smocking.

Stage 4: Smocking On Sewing Machine

If you have gathered and made the stitches, it’s time for you to do smocking on the garment. However, you must double-check if the gathers are even or not.

So, if your fabric is ready, start sewing from the parallel rows of your decorative stitches. Then, you can utilize the gathering stitches as a guide to create straight rows and work sewing in between them.

Finally, you have to start building up your group of smocking stitches on the spaced lines with equal distance. If you’re done with the smocking stitches on your sewing machine, you can remove the running stitches by easily pulling them.

This will lead to the release of wrinkles and conclusively enhance your garment design.

How Can You Do Smocking On Extra Small Or Fine Pleats?

There are several easy ways and methods to do smocking in your extra small pleats rather than drawing dots. For instance, you can mark in grids rather than dots. However, you may face the drawback of unclean fabric on the underside. So, try to use chalk or a removable ink pen in your fabric.

Moreover, you can measure about ½ inch lines between the rows and ¼ inch between the columns. Thus, if you want to work on extremely fine wrinkles, you can use about ⅛ inch grid lines.

Finally, you can sew up and down the fabric along the measured grid lines. In addition, try not to forget the tails on your pleats to pull them.

What Are The Basic Smocking Stitches?

There are several smocking stitches for embroidery garments. But, if you want to perform smocking on your sewing machine, then check for these basic stitches.

Cross Stitch: You can use these stitches for the decorative and design needs of your fabric. These stitches are arrayed and X-shaped, which allows them to give the best results.

Running Stitch: You can also consider these as the straight stitch, which is necessary to run small stitches back and forth on your embroidery projects.

Backstitch: You will have to perform outline stitches on your smocking procedure for embroidery garments. Here, the backstitch will act as a beneficial factor.

Whipstitch: This basic smocking stitch helps the thread to move around the edge of your fabric in a spiralling motion.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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