Vintage Smocking in Décor

Do you know about smocking, and how it’s done? Have you ever been intrigued to try???

Smocking is a technique that originated in England and has been around since the Middle Ages. In the past, before elastic, smocking was used on cuffs and waistbands, necklines and bodices as a way to gather the fabric and create stretch. Fast-forward to the mid-twentieth century, most commonly the 60’s, and you’ll see smocking showing up in décor.

Here are some vintage Simplicity smocking patterns from the 60’s…

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And a few McCall’s patterns from that time too…

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This pattern is from 1962…

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And these patterns, from 1961…

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Do you recognize any of these fanciful made-by-hand cushions? Aren’t the patterns intricate? I can’t believe all this smocking is done by hand!

I know these cushions aren’t the going ‘style’ anymore, but it just seems so sad that craftsmanship like this has become a vintage recollection rather than a modern day charm. And what got me to thinking about this at all is that I actually own 2 of the round cushions you see in this last set of patterns. And believe it or not, mine are blue velveteen too! They were made by my friend’s mom, and given to me as a gift a little over 20 years ago. I’ve always admired the precision of the handiwork, but like so many things, these cushions have been safely tucked away.

Until today…

Notice how even the pleating is?

And look at the detail of the smocking pattern all around the sides.

Isn’t it incredible? The buttons are covered by hand too.

If you would like to give this pattern a try, here is a DIY tutorial to help you along.

Another smocking pattern is honeycomb, and you often see gingham fabric used for this one.

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I am including this one because I have a cushion smocked in this pattern by my grandmother. I think it’s safe to say this is a vintage treasure! You might remember my post, A Quilt of Many Colours

Here is a look at the cushion my grandmother made.

I don’t know how to smock, but I think working with gingham would be a good place to start. What do you think?

Click this DIY tutorial if you want to give this pattern a try…

There are so many smocking patterns, it’s hard to know where to begin…

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I think the round pillows are done in the Matrix pattern… but if I don’t have that right, please let me know!

I love the cozy feeling of a window seat…

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And these smocked cushions add to the coziness with some texture panache.

Just like this mix of cable knit and muslin.

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They call it a French lingerie mix of pretty pillows. Can you pick out the ones that are authentically smocked?

And smocking in decor does not have to stop at cushions.

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Isn’t this a dreamy space? I don’t think it would have the same feeling without the smocking…

When I look at the exquisite symmetry in these patterns painstakingly stitched by hand,  I think we’ve lost something in the culture of our décor. But I also think some of that might be making a come-back.

Afterall…

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If you can pair smocking with Eames, there’s still something timelessly modern about it!

Can you help me out with the names of some of the smocking patterns I’ve shown here? What’s your history with smocking in décor?

Related Posts You Might Like To Read

A Quilt of Many Colours 

June Cleaver I Am Not! 

Audrey Hepburn: DIY Inspiration

Antiqued Mirrors: A Now WOW

 It’s about coming home… If you want a remarkable space that tells your story, contact me to see how we can help!

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THANKS FOR READING!

13 Replies to “Vintage Smocking in Décor”

  1. See? That’s why I say I love your blog! You (and only you) make me think and analyze about decor. Not just its beauty but its source.

    I really wish I had some of these beauties! Trendy or not, they’re truly special.

    Have a happy day, Sheila!

    xo

    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

    1. Thank you so much Luciane. What a compliment. I really appreciate that so much. You always have a way of making my day!
      Have a great day yourself. Have you started ‘nesting’ yet? 😉
      xo Sheila

  2. Wow, Sheila, great post. It reminds me of all the times that I have seen the incredible talent required to make handmade items and how unappreciated it is now. A good example is the hand crocheted doilies and hand knit sweaters. Everything is just instant and made overseas now, it makes me sad.

    1. Thank you so much Sari. I know exactly what you mean by that sense of sadness. We have so many great models from the past: things were made with such care, and made to last… Funny you should mention the crocheted doilies and hand knit sweaters… they too have always been a big part of my life. It’s just what my grandmother and my mom did… still what my aunts do. But it’s fading in our world today, for sure, and my hope is that it will make a come-back, or we really have lost something…

  3. I remember – I had a dress with a fully smoked bodice made by my mother when I was not even ten years old and I must have learned it at that time too. Different times – different priorities of what children will learn from their mothers

    1. You are so right Ursula. My mom taught me to knit, cross-stitch, crochet… all that… and I was always doing some form of a craft or another with my grandmother when I was young. And now, I don’t do much at all… but I’m trying to bring some of that back into my life. When Kaleigh was little she was much more exposed to this because of my Mom, and she has the talent if she wants to use it… but she doesn’t. That’s the sad truth of our times, and our personal realities. I so hope we can bring some of the craft back into our everyday lives…

  4. I’ve always loved the look of smocking – both in decor and in fashion. I think smocking is so pretty on the front of a little girl’s dress or on a sweet little top. But in decor I think it’s quite the timeless look and could be used in a lot of spaces. The first thought that came to mind was West Elm as they have shown smocking on their duvet covers and other linens. It is amazing that this is done by hand. I think my Mom still has some pieces that my grandmother had done – I’ll have to ask her about those.

    1. Wow Holly, that would be so awesome if some of your grandmother’s pieces were still around. Do you smock at all? I don’t, sometimes think I should give it a try, and then life just seems to carry on… would love to see pics of your grandmother’s work…

  5. hello

    i really loved them and i want your patterns really bad

    im from iran

    may you suggest me some way?

    i’ll be grateful

    thanks for your grate work…

  6. I am so excited that i found your post. My grandmother ised to make these (the round pillow with the smocking on the circumference of the pillow). She taught me but I forgot how to do it. Now that I can do the layout from your instructions, do you have instructions for the sewing?

    1. Aaaggh. I’ve been asked this so many times and I wish I had the instructions, but sadly I don’t. I inherited my Grans’ sewing things but never came across the pattern for smocking the pillows. You are lucky that you have some hands-on learning from your grandmother. I sure hope you can find a pattern, because I bet once you get going things will come back to you that your grandmother taught you! Good luck!!

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