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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 7 (October 2, 1939)



For babies’ and children's clothes, and for the housewife's morning frocks and overalls, no form of needlecraft is simpler or more attractive than smocking. Any type of simple garment which requires gathered fullness lends itself to smocking. So we find children's full skirts smocked on to a fitting yoke or at the waistline to give a belted effect. Full sleeves may be smocked to hold them in above the elbow or at the wrist. Some small girls’ frocks are smocked at the round neck-line after the style of peasant blouses.” Little boy” smocks, and matching pants which show below them, are charming. Heavy tussore is a splendid fabric for this type of garment.

Mother may have her morning overall or her daintiest blouse smocked on to a shaped yoke; or the yoke itself may be of smocking. A youthful printed cotton may have a corselet effect at the waist with several inches of smocking. Smocking adds charm to “very best” undies. A dainty sprigged silk or voile may have a smocked waist and yoke.

One great advantage of smocking is that it will give, almost like elastic. For growing children this is a speciallyneeded quality.

Smocking is always worked before the garment is made up. A suitable transfer, consisting of dots at the required intervals (1/4-inch between dots for silks, muslins, fine linens; 3/8-inch between dots for woollens and velvets; 1/2-inch between dots for very heavy materials) is ironed on to the wrong side of the material. A contrast tacking thread is run along each row, on the wrong side, picking up each dot with the needle. (See Fig. 1). In doing this preliminary work (which will be removed when the smocking is finished) be sure to start your running thread with a double stitch as well as a knotAt the end of each row, wind spare thread in a figure-of-eight round a pin until you are ready to draw up the fullness to the required length (about onethird of the “flat” length). Then fasten securely. Care taken in this preliminary work will ensure successful smocking.

The right side of the gathered material presents a series of pleats, on which the smocking stitches are worked from left to right.

Outline Stitch.—This is the commonest smocking stitch, and the one usually used for the top row to hold the gathers firm. In this stitch the needle, pointing from right to left, takes up the top of each pleat in turn. Progress is from left to right. The thread is kept below the needle (Fig. 2). Take care to keep each stitch exactly on top of the gathering stitch.

Double Outline Stitch.—Work two rows of outline stitch closely together, in the top row holding the embroidery thread above the needle, in the bottom row below it.

Vandyke Stitch.—This stitch is particularly useful as it is more elastic than either outline or cable stitch. The various forms of vandykes are worked with outline stitch. In the simplest, the first stitch takes up the first pleat just on top of a gathering thread, the second stitch takes up the second pleat a little above the gathering thread, the third stitch takes the third pleat a little above again, and the fourth stitch is worked directly on the line of gathers above. Three stitches are then worked down in descending order, then three up, and so on. In working up, page 58 the thread is held below the needle, and in working down the thread is held above the needle. (See Fig. 3).

Single Cable Stitch is a variation of outline stitch, the thread being held below the needle for the first stitch, above it for the second, below it for the third, and so on. (Fig. 4).

Double Cable Stitch consists of two rows of single cable worked closely together. In the second row the thread is held above the needle for the first stitch, below for second, etc. (alternate to top row).

Spring in the House.

Walls and Ceilings.—You may have just moved into a house or flat where woodwork and wallpapers are at the half-way stage to shabbiness or where the last tenant's colour-scheme makes you feel slightly bilious. Or perhaps you merely want to re-do the livingroom, now that dirty coal-fires are nearly finished with for the season.

In any case, stand and look with a dispassionate eye at the room you wish to make over. What is wrong with it? Smallness, low ceiling, drabness, poor outlook? Mentally list its bad points and then run through the following cures:—

Light tints—cream, light yellow or light buff—will make a small room seem larger. Paint the picture-rail and the skirting-board the same colour as the wall surface in order to extend the apparent area of that surface. Don't forget the size-increasing value of mirrors.

If the ceiling is low, carry the wall colour over the cornice. Have the ceiling the same colour as the walls, but in a lighter shade. Where the ceiling is too high, as in some old houses, bring the ceiling colour down to the picturerail. White is not the best colour for a ceiling. It needs a slight tinge of pink, buff or brown.

Aspect is very important. A sunny room can have soft greys, greens or blues included in its colour scheme, but these cool tones must be avoided in a room facing south. The south room must have artificial sunlight introduced in the shade range of cream, yellow, buff, tan. A tinge of pink in any of these colourings is an advantage.

The room with a poor outlook (e.g., on to a wall a few feet distant) is to be treated as a south room. All possible light must be permitted to enter, but the “view” must not be drawn attention to. Transparent glass curtains in a “sunshine” tone hide what is without, but give the effect of letting in the outdoors.

For the small house, it is well to relate the wall-papers. Decide on a foundation shade, e.g., buff, and select pinky-buff, yellowy-buff, tawny-buff, as required for the various rooms.


Glass Curtains deserve a paragraph to themselves. These transparent curtains, fixed to cover the glass entirely, have the advantage of obscuring the interior of the room from passers-by, while admitting full daylight with the glare slightly softened.

Fine nets and curtain ninons can be fashioned in many charming styles. For the kitchen, the curtains may be simply gathered on wire at top and bottom. For bedrooms and living-rooms the degree of elaboration is limited only by the general style of furnishing. A dainty room responds to cross-over looped curtains, to frilled edges or to parallel lines of frills. A dignified room with tall sash windows acquires a Regency air when the glass curtains have widely-spaced, lengthwise rows of gathers, forming looped divisions.

Drapes must be planned to suit the type of house as well as the type of room. The large, old house demands the dignity of heavy, luxurious fabrics. Glowing velvets will flatter it, whereas they may seem hot and stuffy in a bungalow. Printed linens and chintzes suit simple rooms. A richer tone is given by silky weaves. In a dark room, the drapes must not obscure any of the window space.

Pelmets, again, are simple or elaborate according to the type of room.

Remember that curtains and cushions give the chief colour notes to the home.


If you are adding any new pieces, give special care to their choice, so that they will blend with the surroundings.

Remember that the low-ceilinged room gains height when it is furnished with low furniture, of the type which is so popular nowadays. Even bookshelves should not be more than a foot above table height.

The dignified house does not want chromium and glass effects. Old pieces and good modern reproductions should be your choice.

If re-upholstering, study walls, floorcovering and curtains before deciding on a purchase. Type of material—cottage weave, chintz, moquette, velvet, tapestry, damask—will depend on the style of room. A noticeable pattern in upholstery is desirable only when carpets and walls are plain. In the “cottage” room, short chintz side curtains and matching covers are charming.