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Smocked apron

Peppered throughout the Luttrell Psalter are very pretty and practical aprons.  They have a honeycomb smocked appearance and since smocking was a technique known and used in that time period, it is a reasonable assumption that this is indeed the manner in which these aprons were created.

      From the Luttrell Psalter, 1305-1340.

Since I have been long craving my own apron, I set out to make a smocked one using a medium-heavy weight linen.  I am wearing it below with an early 14th century gown, and linen headdress.

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The apron was constructed using a smocking technique starting with gathering stitches set 3/8" apart on a piece of linen approximately 26" wide.  I used 6 rows of gathering stitches to make the smocking pleats.  The picture below shows 7 rows, but I removed one as the honeycomb pattern I intended to create is based on an even number of rows.

The gathering threads are pulled tightly and then the threads knotted off.  I used heavy button-hole thread in a high-contrast colour so that I could easily see the threads while making my smocking stitches.

The photo below shows the smocking stitches all set into the pleats.  The honeycomb pattern was created by linking pairs of pleats together with two satin stitches, then using alternating pairs of pleats in the row below.  Using this method, two rows of gathering stitches are smocked at a time.

The finished smocking pattern is shown below.  The gathering stitches have been removed, and the pattern stretched out gently.  The linen has been effectively gathered into half its width making a band approximately 13" long.

Smocking detail:




( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 30th, 2006 10:10 pm (UTC)
wow, so amazing! I am tempted to make some German garb to try my hand at this! How long did it take you to do the smocking?
Aug. 30th, 2006 11:07 pm (UTC)
It's a nice rainy afternoon project. The smocking only takes a couple of hours. Add 30 min to stitch in the gathering rows (to make the gathering rows you can either make your dots by hand, or buy iron-on dots (Knotts Dots(tm)) that wash out), and another hour to hem and add a waistband.
Aug. 30th, 2006 11:56 pm (UTC)
You are such an enabler!

Adding one to my project list...
Aug. 31st, 2006 02:27 am (UTC)
I aim to please. At least you know it's something you'll use quite often....
Aug. 30th, 2006 10:33 pm (UTC)
Neat-O! You have sure been busy this summer! :-D
Aug. 30th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)

I'm pretty excited to have a little time to myself now that Mads is older. My evening hours are precious to me and I'm re-discovering my main SCA bliss.
Aug. 31st, 2006 03:25 am (UTC)

You make smocking look so easy!
Aug. 31st, 2006 01:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks, but it's pretty easy when you do something as simple as I did. That was my first ever smocking.

Actually, it would make a nice class for Practicum.


Aug. 31st, 2006 01:24 pm (UTC)

Jan. 7th, 2008 06:06 am (UTC)
Lovely Smocking
I grew up with hand smocked garments that my mother made me ...to actually wear to public school not necessarily for special occasions... I am so glad that I didnt have any girls so that I didnt feel compelled to take it up myself... though you do make it look lovely and simply... hmmm am even tempted to do it myself... though the last apron i made i did out of an old linen card table sized table cloth... complete with frenched seams (not sure if those cute lil holes along the seams are period) but it looked great.
Feb. 3rd, 2008 09:16 am (UTC)
Smocking and other beautiful reproductions
Beautiful work Matilda - I am just about to try to reproduce one of the other smocking designs that occur in the Psalter (there are five different ones). The one I am planning, for the woman spinning, may also be based on the honeycomb stitch. The spinner's dress is also very interesting because of the closeness of the fit. We film the scene on the 11th Feb, in just over a weeks time. If you want to follow what we are doing the web site is: www.luttrellpsalter.org.uk
Jun. 26th, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)
Do both sides get smocked? or does doing just one side hold the pleats as necessary? I've never tried smocking but I'd like to and you make it sound so easy!
Jun. 26th, 2009 08:47 pm (UTC)
Hi, You just make the little joining stitches on one side, which will be the front of your article. It is very simple, you're right. There are smocking iron-on transfers that you can buy that are just rows of dots that wash off when you are done. It makes the whole business even easier. I think they are called smock dots... or something like that. If not, take a ruler and make a row of dots about 3/8" apart from each other, then make subsequent parallel rows under the first. The rows should be about 3/8" apart, as well. For this simple cross-hatch design an even number of rows is required.

When you finish your project send me a link to the finished product. I'd love to see it!
Jan. 15th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
Great Apron!
I found your site while searching for a historical apron pattern. I'm a novice sewer and I wanted something simple, but detailed, and this definitely fits the bill!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )