smock·ing | ˈsmäkiNG/ | noun : smocking
decoration on a garment created by gathering a section of the material into tight pleats and holding them together with parallel stitches in an ornamental pattern.
“Smocking is an embroidery technique used to gather fabric so that it can stretch. Before elastic, smocking was commonly used in cuffs, bodices, and necklines in garments where buttons were undesirable. Smocking developed in England and has been practised since the Middle Ages and is unusual among embroidery methods in that it was often worn by laborers. Other major embroidery styles are purely decorative and represented status symbols. Smocking was practical for garments to be both form fitting and flexible, hence its name derives from smock — a farmer’s work shirt. Smocking was used most extensively in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.” [Wikipedia]
February 8, 2014— Continued…
As we circled through the maze of The OC Mix, we walked past the glass sliding doors of the whimsical curated shop called Smocking Bird’s Baby Boutique. My eyes were instantly gratified at the vibrant chartreuse/neon green patches of moss laid out upon the grey concrete floor. Stones are scattered amongst the metal base and feet of jersey covered children’s dress forms, with arms cuddling adorable stuffed animals. Everything captured Evie’s eyes, or should I say, caught her fingertips. Inside, lovely clothes sewn in her favorite patterns climb across a white trellis, housing darling shabby chic furniture made specially for a little one. Evie found a seat on a pale pink and white rocking bench– where she beckoned me to come over, then elaborated on why we desperately needed to bring it home.
Let me back-track about a year ago. My dear friends, Megan and Brittan, brought Evie and I to The OC Mix for the first time. After a cup of coffee at Portola, we walked around the corner and discovered a baby boutique. We were delightfully greeted and invited into the shop by the owner (whom at the time I didn’t know) of Smocking Bird’s, Becky Pierce. Noticeably, Smocking Bird’s have expanded both in interior and assortment. Becky’s handmade smocked day gowns, bonnets, etc… are the most darling baby clothes I’ve ever seen; made to be heirlooms. An admirable collection of Children’s books are displayed as birds on sturdy branches of a tree bookshelf built against the entrance wall. Furthermore, this boutique invites featured authors to engage with children for story time and book signing. I would love to attend a book signing to also meet illustrators of children’s books!
A few days ago I pondered the thought of learning correctly how to sew pleats, gathers, and other details into my sewing projects. Some may say it is coincidence, but I acknowledge that God orchestrates days as these that reveal how much He hears our thoughts. A chalkboard propped outside of the Smocking Bird’s studio read, “FREE Smocking Demo!” Coincidence? I think not.
Two women were already seated across the table from Becky. Samples of her smocked bonnets, bibs, and bodices of unfinished day gowns were laid out across a rustic table. Evie and I pulled up a chair beside her after she waved us over to take a seat. She demonstrated how a smocking pleater works. It was the first time I’ve seen one. This small machine is an essential part of smocking; invented in the 1950’s by the Read Company of South Africa. Becky demonstrated how to feed the fabric into the pleater from the back– by turning the handle on the side, it pushed the fabric through grooved rollers onto specially designed needles; creating perfect pleats. After that step was done, she [quickly] showed us the tedious and patient art of stitching decorative motifs over the smocking. If I lived in Costa Mesa, I’d likely be caught at this table every Saturday morning, learning this fine sewing technique. What a great opportunity to learn from a professional, in an environment designed for creative people.