When I started working on The smockworks it was like the perfect storm. A coming together of 3 key things I loved: Denim; Smocks; Workwear. I remember working opposite a colleague who had a postcard on her dress which read Life is Better in a Smock. I truly think it is – functional, easy dressing in a hard wearing fabric. Smocks have a rich history that is synonymous with functionality, worn by labourers and dating back to Roman times, key features being squareness of shape, simple construction, decorative embroidery and smocking.
I read with interest but not surprise that smocking is on the Heritage Crafts Assocation Endangered list. You can read more about it here
My husband is a traditional leatherworker under the name JS-YLEATHERWORKS and we engage in many conversations about the importance of sustaining traditional craft. But there is a BUT. Traditional craft will only survive with a modern approach, updated and applied in a relevant way.
Here at The smockworks, we embrace a modern approach to smock style and smocking, recognising a silhouette that has wearable volume, functionality (hello pockets) and smocking that feels grown up and sophisticated. Early on in the research process I’d seen some pictures of beautiful lattice smocking and wandered if it could be applied in a modern way. So I started smocking 12oz raw denim which did look stunning, but was pretty heavy as lattice smocking takes double the fabric length and width. It was also hard on the fingers and very labour intensive, taking 8 hours to hand smock the equivalent back panel to that seen on Sunday
For those who are new to smocking, it’s marked out on a grid system. I started by marking out dots with a one inch spacing, to which dashes are then added in alternate directions. I then worked vertically up and down the grid, smocking the fabric, using the diagonal dashes as my guide. I learnt a lot about myself in terms of patience and accuracy. The result is something you can’t take your eyes off – it’s imperfect perfect, with a texture that you can’t help but touch. Like everything handcrafted, the labour intensive process demands a high price and the lattice smocking is too beautiful not to see the light of day beyond the sampling room. It will be here soon.
As an alternative to the highly labour intensive hand lattice smocking, I’m working with a very talented and skilled maker to do the beautiful honeycomb smocking on our aptly named Honeycomb smock and wave smocking on Sunday Both of these are marked out by hand on the fabric using a grid system and then a sewing machine is used to sew the smocking pattern. Still requiring a high level of hand skill and a fair amount of time.
We haven’t set out to revive smocking (or have we?), but to create Simply Working Dresses. If one helps the other then that’s fine by us.