For my final year of University, I have been experimenting with smocking non-traditional materials. I came across this page in a very old smocking book and felt very curious about what could be achieved with more modern materials. I have created this instructable to give a basic tutorial of how this can be achieved. It is very versatile and great to experiment with once you have the basic idea! I am currently in the process of experimenting for my final year project. Here I have enclosed photo of my toile, where I have been smocking on a circle. I hope to enclose more images soon as I get more experimental!
Step 1: Equipment
All you need is your material, a ruler, a pattern drill to punch holes (or anything with similar results), chalk (or anything else which will mark your material) and a strong thread which will withstand the force of the knot tying. I used neoprene for this tutorial, but I have tested it with felt, leatherette, bonded fabrics. It should work with most materials that don't fray and you can punch holes into. I advise you to test the materials for punching holes before starting.
Step 2: Marking Out the Grid
To begin with you need to consider how big you would like your smocking to be. For this tutorial I made it quite large scale, but you can adjust according to preference. Smocking is the method of bring columns together, alternating on each row to create a 'honeycomb' pattern. Depending on the weight and the nature of the material, too wide a column can create a lot of bulk; However, too thin a column may not achieve enough definition. I've found 1cm minimum to be about right for neoprene or any similar material. Thus, along the width, mark out 1cm, 2cm, 1cm, 2cm and so on to the edge of the material. Then along the length mark out 4cm gaps. The shorter the gaps along the length, the fatter the diamonds, and the wider the gaps, the narrower the diamonds. So it is all down to preference for the desired outcome. I used chalk to mark the grid along the reverse of the fabric as shown here.
Note: Your material will shrink in size when smocked so please keep this in mind when apply this technique to any project :)
Step 3: Adding the Holes
Next, you need to punch the holes into your material. Where the lines intersect, you need to punch a hole. I used a pattern drill for this, but it could work an eyelet punch or a sixway hole punch. Make sure you protect your surfaces!
Step 4: Tying It Together
Now you've prepared the material, the final step is to smock it. For this, you need to take your thread and weave it on the right side of the first two columns as shown in the first picture. Knot the thread together and double knot to secure. Push the excess thread through to the other side and tie off to flatten the back and hide the threads from the front. Continue to do this along the rest of the row. For the next row down, start from the second and third column and repeat the knotting steps all along that row. Now repeat in alternation. You should now start to see the honeycomb pattern forming. Continue till the entire piece is smocked and you will have your finished piece!