Ajaire from Call Ajaire loves to create things for her three year old daughter, and this Lattice Smocked Balmy Breezes Top was inspired by her. Download a 3T size and adjust the pattern for smaller or larger sizes, or use the lattice smocking for a different project. We hope you really enjoy learning this technique! Be sure to stop by Call Ajaire for more sewing fun. Ajaire is also on Instagram and Facebook, and her introduction is here.
Here is a great summer sewing project using one of my favorite hand-stitching techniques: Lattice Smocking.
Unlike traditional or Honeycomb Smocking, Lattice Smocking (I’ve also heard it called Canadian Smocking) is stitched from the back of the fabric and comes together quickly. The lattice pattern it forms on the right side of the fabric is perfect for dressing up the neckline of my Balmy Breezes Tunic (size 3T download available below), but you can use this technique to decorate any kind of project you’d like. The tutorial below starts off with how to do the lattice smocking since that is done before the garment pieces are sewn together so if you’d like to use the smocking on a different project then just print Page 4 of the pattern to get the template and follow the tutorial up until the tunic assembly begins.
- Balmy Breezes Tunic Pattern Size 3T (print page 4 for just the Template E)
- Knit or woven fabric
- Pattern transfer paper
- Hand sewing supplies (needle, thread, scissors)
- 1 Button
- Small length of elastic cord for the button loop
- Machine sewing supplies
Transfer the Lattice Smocking Template (to the wrong side of the fabric):
Step 1: The easiest way to transfer the template is to use pattern transfer paper. With the tunic Front pattern piece (A) wrong side up put the transfer paper on top of the fabric.
Step 2: Line up the edges of the pattern piece with the wrong side of the tunic front fabric piece and then tape the Lattice Smocking Template (E) to the edge of the center front, lining up the stars so that the pattern will continue across the chest.
Step 3: Trace over the dots and lines of the pattern so they will transfer to the wrong side of the tunic front.
Once the pattern has been transferred, the project is ready for hand stitching so it’s perfect for a small road trip or taking along to the beach/pool for the afternoon.
Lattice Smocking In a Nutshell:
The pattern is worked from top to bottom and back to top, snaking from left to right, starting at the top left at “a.”
Imagine the hash marks are lettered alphabetically and each set of dots attached by their hash mark are a lowercase and uppercase pair. Using the traced template as a guide, connect the dots between each hash mark, pinching the lowercase letter down to meet the uppercase letter and securing the dots together with stitches.
Lattice Smocking Details:
Step 1: Knot the thread and secure it to the tunic at “a,” picking up just a few threads from the fabric so the stitch doesn’t show too much on the right side of the fabric.
Step 2: Pick up a couple of threads at A.
Step 3: Pinch the fabric at the center of the hash mark and pull the thread so the A and “a” dots meet.
Step 4: Stitch through the dots twice to secure, picking up as few threads from the fabric as necessary.
Step 5: Moving downward to the next hash mark, pick up a couple of threads at B, leaving a little slack in the thread.
Step 6: Stitch twice to secure the thread.
Step 7: Follow the hash mark upward to “b” and pick up a couple of threads.
Step 8: Pinch the fabric at center of the hash mark and pull the thread tight so the B and “b” dots meet.
Step 9: Stitch through the dots twice to secure.
Step 10: Continue the pattern downward until the G/g stitches are secured.
Step 11: Moving to the right to the next hash mark, pick up a couple of threads at H.
Step 12: Stitch twice to secure the thread.
Step 13: Follow the hash mark upward to “h” and pick up a couple of threads. (At this point it may become difficult to find the lowercase lettered dots as they could be under the previously stitched folds, which is why the hash marks are important; follow them until the other dot is revealed.)
Step 14: Pinch the fabric at the center of the hash mark and pull the thread so the H and “h” dots meet.
Step 15: Stitch through the dots twice to secure.
Step 16: Moving upward to the next hash mark, pick up a couple of threads at I.
Step 17: Continue the pattern alphabetically, snaking up and down until the final dots are joined.
Step 18: Secure the final join and knot the thread.
This is what the smocking will look like on the right side of the fabric when it is completed.
Assemble the Tunic:
Note: seam allowance is 3/8″. If using woven fabric finish all seams either by serging or using the zigzag stitch.
Step 1: The neckline of the Front piece will have small pleats that have formed naturally from the smocking. Hand press the pleats down so that the neckline shape is a gentle curve. Once the pleats look nice, press and steam with an iron and baste in place. The Front Facing pattern piece neckline should match the new Front pleated neckline so it can be used as a template to get the correctly shaped curve.
Step 2: Right sides together, pin the Back (B) to the completed smocked Front (A) at the shoulder seams.
Step 3: Sew the shoulders together, finish and press the seams toward the back.
Step 4: While at the iron, press up 1/2″ and then an additional 1″ at the bottom edge of the Front and Back to form press lines to ease hemming later.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1 and 2 to sew the Front Facing (C) and Back Facing (D) together.
Step 6: Finish the bottom edge of both the Front and Back Facing.
Step 7: Right sides together, place the facings on top of the main tunic, lining up the neckline and securing the pleats on the Front.
Step 8: Enclose the elastic for the button loop at the marking on the Back Facing pattern piece with the loop sandwiched in the layers.
Step 9: Pin the necklines together and pin down the center back along the Back Neck Opening lines.
Step 10: Stitch the neckline and follow the Back Neck Opening lines around the center back, backstitching near the elastic loop to be sure it is securely stitched.
Step 11: Trim the neckline 1/4″ and cut through the center back, clipping a Y before the end of the Back Neck Opening lines.
Step 12: Flip the facings out, press the neckline seam toward the facings, and understitch to the facing around the neckline so the facing won’t pull up and be seen when the tunic is worn. Alternatively, the neckline could be top stitched, but with the airy feel of this tunic I prefer the lattice smocking at the neckline be undisturbed by stitching.
Step 13: Pull the facings through the neckline and around the back neck opening, taking care at the corners and press.
Step 14: To sew the arm holes, use the “burrito method.” For the left arm hole (right in the photo), with the garment face up, flip the left front and back across the center.
Step 15: Flip the left front and back facings underneath across the center.
Step 16: It may help to roll the right sides of the garment toward the center a bit, but the key is to have the left arm hole and arm hole facings meeting right sides together with the rest of the garment “burrito style” inside.
Step 17: Pin the arm hole seam and stitch.
Step 18: Pull the rest of the garment carefully out of the front edge of the burrito, press and steam the completed left arm hole.
Step 19: Repeat Steps 14-18 for the right arm hole (left in the photo).
Step 20: To sew the side seams, flip the Front over toward the Back and pull the facings out so that the Front Facing meets the Back Facing, lining up the shoulder seams.
Step 21: Pin and stitch from the facings, across the shoulder seam, and all the way down to the bottom of the tunic.
Step 22: Repeat for the other side seam.
Step 23: Press the side seams to the back and repress the facing down.
Step 24: Following the pressed lines from Step 4, press up the hemline 1/2″ and then 1″ again.
Step 25: Stitch the hemline with a double needle if available.
Step 26: Sew a button across from the elastic loop in the back of the tunic and the tunic is complete.
The Balmy Breezes tunic can be made out of a number of different woven or even knit fabrics, but is lovely in a double gauze. Thisreversible dots fabric from the Imagine Gnats’ shop suits the lattice smocking perfectly with its soft texture and the airiness of double gauze. I’ve made a few other lattice smocked projects which you can check out on Call Ajaire here, here, and here. If you make something using lattice smocking I’d love for you to share it on the Call Ajaire Facebook page.