Hindu has covered it
This unusual form of embroidery is part of the cottage industry near Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
What comes to your mind when you see the photographs of the 19th Century European carnivals and balls? For one it is the fitted gowns with frills, flares and gathers, with matching drops for ears and ballet shoes. Gathers in colourful threads on cuffs, bodices and necklines popularly called smocking, spread across the world as a chic fashion statement.
Smocking became popular in India during the early 19th century in MHOW (short for Military Headquarters of War), near Indore, Madhya Pradesh and is one of the popular hub in the country that nurtures this craft.
It forms a cottage industry in this sleepy town offering livelihood to several women. The shops in the city market frocks, night suits and robes with smocking.
Made with a crewel embroidery needle, using cotton or silk thread, smocking has sophisticated patterns and stitches. Traditional hand smocking is done by marking dots in a grid pattern. The cloth is then gathered into pleats with a temporary running stitch, which is removed after the embroidery is completed. A row of cable stitches along the top and the bottom, stabilises the work. But unfortunately, with few takers for this intricate work, few people opt to take it as a profession.
“Smocking is a dying craft these days. There are a few people working on it with the women, who are normally associated with the work,have opted to go for higher studies and other professions like teaching, medicine and so on. Very soon, smocking will be a part of the history of this little town,” says Mr Deepak Solanki, who sells smocking garments in the MHOW market.
But, no visit to MHOW is complete without a purchase or two of garments with smocking work. So, the next time you buy one with smocking work, do have a word of praise for the expert behind the rare handwork.
Smocking is a kind of embroidery. It gathers the fabric so that it can stretch.
Smocking was commonly used in cuffs, bodices, and necklines in garments where buttons were not used.
It is mainly seen used in England especially during the Middle Ages when the farmer and peasants wore it.
It is much later that it became a fashion.
The name comes from the farmers shirt, called a smock.