When in childhood we saw in the picture books the illustrations of how "Simple Simon met a Pieman," we little thought that the frocks on the men were the smock-frocks worn at one time quite generally by the English countryman, in the fields, gardens and shops.

These frocks were made by the farmers' wives, of jean, or strong holland, which is a kind of coarse linen. A well-to-do farmer would wear a colored smock during the week, and a more elaborate white one on Sunday. The bodies and sleeves were gathered and stitched in wonderful designs, their beauty depending on the ingenuity and ambition of the needlewoman. The skirt was left loose and hanging. It is a matter of regret that the smock-frock has now almost disappeared, for it was most picturesque. Possibly in some remote English village one might find an old man still clinging to his smock, but it is quite doubtful. Within a few years, interested persons have tried to revive the custom and industry in some of the shires, but with poor success.

Smocking is the name given by the smock to this special type of embroidery. It is the application of a sewing stitch which catches the folds or tiny pleats together, and becomes decorative by varying the stitch to make dif-ferent designs, and by using colored threads. This embroidery is much used in England on children's dresses, and often on ladies' waists and gowns.

It is most essential in smocking to have the gathering threads which lay the pleats perfectly straight, and to regulate the distance of the stitches one from the other accurately. The whole beauty of the work depends upon the evenness of the gathering. One can buy a sheet of impression paper with dots to indicate the distance between the stitches and the gathering threads; but with patience one can manage very well with a tape measure, using a pencil on white cloth, or chalk on silk and woolen fabrics.

Lay the measure in a straight line across the material to be smocked, and make a dot at every quarter of an inch on the measure. Make as many of these dotted lines half an inch apart as the depth of the yoke will require, which is about fifteen. It always helps in smocking if a few more threads are gathered than are really needed.

Pass the needle from right to left in at one dot and out between the dots, or, if the material is very thin, the needle may go in at one dot and out at another, using a coarse basting thread.

When all the rows of dots have been used, pull up the threads (not too tightly, and very carefully), and adjust the gathers evenly. Fasten the threads around a pin, or by tying two together, and the work is ready.

Always in smocking the worker begins at the left and works toward the right, each pleat being taken up by the needle separately.

The Outline Stitch

This is the simplest stitch for smocking, not unlike the outline stitch in embroidery, and might well be called the smocking stitch, since all the other stitches are varying adaptations of this simple one.

Thread the needle and tie a knot in the silk or whatever is used. Begin at the upper left-hand corner; bring the needle out from the back at the side of the first pleat, insert the needle from right to left on this pleat, keeping the silk above the needle; draw the thread out to its full extent, take up the next pleat the same way, and so on, always bringing the needle out below the stitch.

If the gathering threads are straight, one can follow them in working, and so keep the smocking lines straight, or as a guide (which some may find helpful), baste a dark thread in a straight line, lightly catching it to occasional pleats, and work under or over this line as seems best and easiest.

Rope stitch is made by having the thread above the needle on one pleat, and below the needle on the next pleat, and so on.

To form diamonds, make three outline stitches, passing the needle through each pleat, each stitch a little above the other in a slanting line, then make three downward stitches, trying to keep the same slant. Continue this across the work, and there will be a row of half diamonds; then in the next row make three downward stitches and three upward, and so complete the diamond.

When the smocking stitches are done to the required depth, pull out the gathering threads, which are basting threads, and are no longer required to keep the pleats in place.

Rope silk, coarse linen thread, knitting silk, or silkatine can be used, the choice depending on the taste of the needlewoman, and the cloth to be smocked.

Smocked blouse, or frock, for child. Of material eighteen inches wide, take two straight widths for the front, two for the back, and two for each sleeve. The front has a seam down the middle. Join the sleeve section to the front width and then to the back width for eight or ten inches, to make the neck and the shoulder seams, the length depending on the size of the wearer.

The blouse or frock is now ready to gather for the smocking. After the gathering has been done, draw up the first few runs to fit the neck; smock a row or two, then the rest of the gathers can be adjusted to the figure or to a pattern that fits. Measure on the child, or on a pattern that fits, to ascertain correct sleeve length. When the smocking is completed, slip the garment on the child, and turn up around the bottom to desired length.