Sunday, November 19, 2023

Weekend Review: Smocking Secrets

Smocking Secrets / Maggie Hofmann
CT Publishing, c2022
96 p.

This is a book written by an award winning costumer, sharing how to use smocking for costume effects. However, it's also a fabulous book for anyone interested in fabric manipulation for any use! It's clear, thorough, and colourful, with lots of large photos. Great instructions, diagrams and close-ups make it even more useful and inspirational, too. And there are images of cosplayers who use each pattern or technique in an outfit, to show what can be done. Pretty cool book overall! 

It's divided into two sections, on North American smocking, and English smocking. The North American (or as I've always heard it called, Canadian smocking) is shown on the cover in all of the images except one, the yellow one on the bottom -- that's honeycomb smocking in the traditional English style. The difference is that the North American style is done by stitching fabric points together, usually on the back of the fabric, to create a textured design that is fairly set. English smocking is decorative stitching done over tiny pleats, to create a design with some elasticity and more movement in the garment. They're actually quite different. 

I'm more drawn to the North American style at this point, and would love to try a couple of the beginner designs to see how it goes. She shares a number of designs in both sections, and they are rated from beginner to advanced. Each one has large clear photos and a stitch diagram -- which is basically a grid of points with lines showing the order to pick them up and fasten off. It looks a little confusing but I'm sure once you're actually doing it, the rhythm will make sense, at least after some practice. 

I liked that each style is then shown in an outfit made by a cosplayer (credited) in full gear. It's helpful to get some idea of how these techniques can be incorporated into costumes or even regular garment making. Seeing examples on a garment were helpful for me to imagine which ones I might like to try or include in a piece. 

I was impressed by this one -- it's colourful, bright, engaging and full of useful information for anyone to follow along and learn some of these techniques for themselves. I think someone with a familiarity with sewing and fabric will most easily be able to use this book right away; knowing some handstitching and being familiar with fabric will make it more intuitive for sure. 

While it's aimed at cosplayers, I think any sewist interested in fabric manipulation techniques will be interested in this one. Lots of ideas and inspirational photos too. Recommended!

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