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“Smocking not Smoking”

November 10, 2021 November 2021 No Comments

In 1994, Jill Baker the vicar’s wife from the Martinborough Anglican Church and Di Martin conspired to create a group where young Mums could get together.

Twenty-five joined the smocking group, often accompanied by their small babies in car seats. One of the Dads was very relieved that it was a smocking group his wife was attending because he had inadvertently heard the word “Smoking.” He was quickly corrected.

Of peasant origin, smocking was a means of reducing a length of material to a required measurement, simultaneously creating elasticity for movement. The word “Smoce” of Anglo-Saxon origin referred to a shirt or a shift. Over the years the patterns and decorations became more intricate with various designs or motifs indicating the occupation of the wearer.

For the Martinborough group the emphasis was in creating smocked dresses for their daughters. Smocked dresses were always in fashion. With generous hems the dresses could be let down and worn for a number of years as children grew. The elasticised bodices expanded to fit. And on one spectacular occasion the dresses were exhibited in a fashion parade held at Wharekaka.

2021. The young Mums have now morphed into grandparents or even great grandparents. 

Each winter over the coldest months they still congregate in people’s homes to enjoy the company and the gossip. Activities now concentrate on knitting singlets for premature babies and tapestry, while some still create beautifully smocked garments.

Photo caption:  Naomi Allaway, intricately smocking a nightgown.

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