How to do smocking on a sewing machine – my 7 best steps

How to do smocking on a sewing machine

Do you want me to tell you all the steps of how to do smocking on a sewing machine? If YES, then let’s start all visitors.

Smocking is a unique design that thoroughly changes the look of the fabric. Therefore, it needs a special attention when making it professionally.

Before the advent of sewing machines, smocking was performed manually with simple needles and other tools. However, as technology evolved, sewing machines developed, and nowadays, they can do this all within an hour for you.

Read each point until the end, focus on the pictures, and everything will become clear.

Now let’s get down to business.

What is Smocking?

Smocking is a specialized fabric design that adds a decorative touch by gathering the fabric into tight pleats, making it appear more appealing to others. With smocking, you can add beautiful thread designs to the materials and give the clothes additional elasticity.

“Smocking enables smaller or larger garments to fit many body types.”

Things to collect before smocking 

Well, you don’t need fancy sewing machine accessories or items rather than these mentioned ones:

How to do smocking on a sewing machine

Sewing machine

Sewing Machine

The first and foremost thing you must have is the best sewing machine that is fast, powerful, and can make smocking easily. Selecting a sewing machine thoroughly depends upon your choices and capabilities, but I have my favourite Janome HD1000 Heavy-duty Sewing Machine, which has a sharp needle and is easy to operate. 

Pro Tip: use a domestic regular sewing machine of any brand you have or want. 

Note: I am not limiting you to this specific sewing machine; you may even choose a vintage sewing machine. However, what I mentioned above has been satisfying me for years.



After choosing the sewing machine, the next crucial step is picking the fabric for smocking works. But which one? I have used more rigid fabrics like canvas, denim, etc., and lightweight textiles like linens, cotton, and silk, but the result was perfect on light fabrics. 

In short, go for lightweight fabrics that can gather well to make pleats. 



Next, you need to have a specific thread, as different types of sewing threads cannot make smocking fabric designs. I recommend you go for Embroidery floss or Elastic threads, as they can be perfect. Moreover, the colour of the thread is up to you because it depends on the colour of the fabrics on which you want to do smocking. 

Marker or pencil

Marker for Dots

You can only make a perfect smocking design if you mark your pattern. So for that, I use a removable marker or sometimes a pencil. First, I draw dotted or straight lines with the help of a linear scale; then, I proceed to work further.

How To Do Smocking On A Sewing Machine Within an hour?

Follow these 7 steps to accomplish it.

Step #1: Preparing the fabric

First of all, prepare your selected fabrics. To do that, wash it thoroughly, dry it, and then press it gently with a pressing iron, so there are no wrinkles remaining.

Step #2: Cutting The Fabric

This step is crucial because I have found plenty of my students and other seamstresses making mistakes when cutting fabrics. Because if you don’t cut accurately, then there are more chances that fabric shortage issues may occur. Therefore, I mostly cut lightweight fabrics three times wider, and if the material is more delicate, even five times so that the fabrics can gather quickly.

Step #3: Mark Lines/dots on Fabrics

After preparing and cutting the fabrics, I take a removable marker to draw precise and clear lines or dots on materials according to the design’s layout. Spacing between the lines depends upon the covered area of fabrics, but I generally keep spacing of ¼ and 0.5 inches apart.

Step #4: Preparing the sewing machine

Now comes another crucial point, which is preparing a sewing machine. So, first of all, take a specific thread (Embroidery floss) and wind the bobbin carefully without making knots; otherwise, it will form skipped stitches. Then thread your sewing machine precisely according to the type of sewing machine you have (follow its user’s manual). 

Regarding types of presser foot, go for either regular or walking foot. But both can work, so select one of them. 

But, note one thing, as you thread your sewing machine, ensure to decrease the thread tension appropriately, so it doesn’t break frequently. In my case, I set thread tension to 3.6. 

Step #5: Place the fabric in a sewing machine

It is time to place your fabric in the sewing machine after making dots and preparing it. Most sewists make mistakes, even my students, but I always suggest they place the material with its right side (where you will create smocking designs) facing up and left side facing down.

Step #6: Start sewing on the dotted line

Following the steps mentioned above carefully, it is time to begin sewing in a straight line across the fabric.

First, I make a few stitches, then stop to tie up the thread ends so they don’t come out. Then I start my sewing machine and sew non-stop.

I recommend you check your stitches frequently. If the fabric is not curling or gathering, then decrease the lower thread tension, which will fix it. OK.

Step 7: What is next?

After you have sewn the first line accurately while making curls, it means you have done it. Then begin with the following line with the same procedure and way.

My some Tips for you

  • Stay under the marked lines.
  • Decrease the lower thread (bobbin thread) tension.
  • You can use any needle.
  • You can use a regular or walking foot.
  • Use a regular domestic sewing machine.
  • Smocking doesn’t need a specialized machine.
  • Sew all the marked lines completely.
  • Beginners and intermediates can even do smocking.

What are some basic stitches for smocking?

Embroidery garments can be smocked in a variety of ways. However, if you wish to perform smocking on your sewing machine, you must check for these basic stitches.

Cross Stitch

They are X-shaped stitches specifically designed to meet the needs of your fabric for decorative and design purposes. These types of stitches are popular among young girls. 

That makes sense. Here is the next one. 

Running Stitch

The running stitch, or straight stitch, is a stitch that runs straight on the fabric. As part of your embroidery project, you must run tiny stitches both forward and backward. 


Backstitching allows you to do outline stitches on embroidery garments during smocking. 


Basic smocking stitches move the thread around the edge of your fabric in a spiral motion. 


Smocking is an old technique used to add aesthetic value and elasticity to fabric. Many people wish to do this on their clothes, but most do not know how. This article explains every step above so they can easily smock on a sewing machine. 

The process is explained in detail and a simple manner. Give your expertise a new dimension by experimenting with different stitches.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Smocking?

The creation of pleats by gathering fabrics by hand or by sewing machine to make the fabric look more appealing is called smocking.

2. What is the difference between shirring and smocking?

A shirr is a technique used to gather the fabric to embellish a few areas of a shirt and to create round, evenly spaced tucks. In contrast, smocking produces pleats that do not stretch.

3. What are the different types of smocking?

The tradition of smocking dates back to the Middle Ages. As a result, different types have developed over time. The most famous types of smocking are Canadian, English, and American. f

4. How to do smocking on a sewing machine

If you want to learn smocking on a sewing machine then you must read and follow our comprehensive guide

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