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Honeycomb Smocking Part One

Posted on Mar 20, 2018 by in Camica, Construction, Informational, Italian | 0 comments

For the neckline of my Italian Camica I wanted to do black honeycomb smocking.  Honeycomb smocking is a method of gathering and sewing pleats that leaves a pleasing honeycomb pattern (diamonds not hexagons).  The end result was this treatment around the neckline.

With smocking you are able to have some stretch and give within the neckline but you do gather up a large amount of fabric.  However, it does not gather in as much fabric as you would with a normal gathered neckline with a bias strip binding.  As such, I had to adjust the panel sizes on Margo Anderson’s Camica pattern.  My first attempt was way too large because the smocking only took in so much.

To work around this, it’s important to understand the math behind honeycomb smocking, so I ran some tests to figure out the math based on the size of the pleats I wanted. I found that the stretched length of the smocked edge was related to the width of the pleats (X axis) and how closely they were spaced along the Y axis.

There are two different measures of the finished neckline to consider.  The relaxed neckline length which is what the neckline will look like most of the time.  The second is how much the neckline will stretch in the X axis.  The stretched length is a function of the size of your honeycombs.  To give you an idea what I mean below are photos of the relaxed neckline and the neckline when it is stretched to its maximum length. 



My testing found that my relaxed smocked length was about 75% of the stretched smocked length; this may vary for you depending on the body/weight of your fabric and the tightness of your stitches.

For fabrics with less body the percentage will be high, like 75% for my fabric.  For fabrics with a lot of body/stiffness the percentage will be lower.  I highly recommend you do a test of your smocking prior to ensure you have the right percentage for your fabric.

The relaxed length was the finished length I wanted for my neckline and was used for the calculations to determine the initial length of the garment before I did the smocking and therefore the size of my panels.  I wanted a relaxed front and back that were about 16.5 inches long.  This meant that stretched they would be about 22 inches.


I wanted my pleats every half inch (quarter inch deep) and I wanted my honeycombs to be about half inch tall so my stitches would be a quarter inch apart on the Y axis.  My grid was therefore .5 inches on the X axis and .25 inches on the Y axis.

To figure out the stretched length from the specifications for my pleats you solve for the un-smocked length or initial length, I.  I is a function of the size of your smocking stitches.  You take the initial length, divide by the distance between pleats on the X axis and then multiply by the depth of the stitches on the Y axis to get your stretched length, S.  So:
or with some algebra

This meant my total circumference before smocking needed to be 88 inches.  I wanted 8 total panels, so that meant each panel, with the lace inset seams, needed to be 11 inches.  With that in mind, I modified Margo’s pattern to have 8 panels each with a finished length of 11 inches instead of the suggested panel size in the pattern.

Coming soon, in Part Two, I’ll go into how to sew the honeycomb smocking!



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