The pleats can be made by hand or by a machine called a pleater (kinda self explanatory huh?) that feeds the fabric through a series of rollers and needles creating the pleats needed for smocking.
Once the fabric is pleated, it is ready to be "blocked" to the right size for the garment that is being made. Smocking can be done on a straight piece of fabric used as an insert, bonnet, sleeve embellishment or on the top of a skirt in place of gathering.
Another type of garment popular with babies is a "bishop" style because of the loose, flowing fabric that is fitted closer around the shoulders allowing movement and growth. (Growth rings in garments are a great thing but that is another blog!) Typically a bishop can be worn longer (my daughter wore hers for 2 years with the aforementioned growth rings) because children grow in height and not shoulder width at this age.
Once "pleated" and "blocked" the fabric is ready to be smocked--my favorite part! An empty canvas for the smocking artist! Selection of a smocking template ( or a pattern with smocking stitches), an original design or a combination of both; thread colors also are limitless with a creative mind. One of the best memories I have of early smocking projects is the fact that my daughter and I selected the fabrics, template and colors together. (I like to think I influenced her decision to work in the fashion industry:))
Geometric smocking (just like it says, shapes) or picture smocking (making the cute images with stitches like flowers, hearts, cupcakes,owls....you get the "picture") can be done to create an heirloom garment.
Speaking of heirloom....I have most of my daughter's dresses from 20+ years ago waiting to be used by my grandchildren one day. Because I used good quality fabric and construction methods, they are ready to be worn by another generation. A great amount of time and love is stitched in each article of clothing. Quality is key when purchasing a smocked garment that you can pass down to other siblings and future generations.
Ney Ney's Stitches