Jan SAL: Smock Patterns, Part I

Before I move into the pattern development for my third shirt, here’s a shot of the sleeve and yoke that will be the basis for the first and second shirts, already discussed in some detail for the first one, last time. And sorry, not going to get to the placket yet, as promised; I got derailed a bit thinking about this other pattern, which has been (is being) developed in an appropriately “folkish” way, just with a few measurements and some drawing, then simply slashing and basting about with muslin. But more on that in a moment; here’s that sleeve/yoke shot, and a glimpse of how wonderfully easy some pattern manipulations can be when done digitally, such as adding length to a sleeve by simply dragging out (while stretching) a partial copy of the lower third.

So, on to The Smock, or as I referred to this type of thing in my workbook, the “Folk” block.

This comes from the ancient scheme of building a loose top garment only from rectangles, based more on the shape of the cloth from the loom than on the shape of the body it’s going on, but marvelously useful and comfortable nonetheless. Plus, easy to design. Here are the inspiration garments as shown in the book:

The first two are distinguished by being entirely rectangular. Except for the top one’s hood, there are no curves anywhere and only the barest of diagonals. The last is the same idea, but with a little bit of shoulder shaping and sleeve angling, presumably for a better fit and more comfort, but in fact, hardly noticeable when worn. Can you see any hint that the green shirt below is more fitted than the blue? The main difference is that the red and blue tops don’t even have or need a shoulder seam, while the green one requires one.

There’s also no perceptible difference in freedom of movement between these two shirt/smocks; those dropped shoulders and cap-less sleeves may not be sleek, but they sure are flexible and freeing, no matter the shoulder slope.

To come up with my own pattern, I compared the rectangular body width of each of these—plus that of a couple of other garments I have that are big, boxy and supremely comfortable—with my chest measure (44in/112cm) and went with the blue smock’s 54in/137cm, cutting out two heavy muslin rectangles 28x 33.5in/71x84cm. (I need a shoulder seam because my intended fabric, a Woolrich blanket-throw, isn’t long enough to go over my shoulders and down to the hems front and back.)

The most compellingly obvious feature my two model garments share is how awkward it is to pull each one over your head and other clothes when getting in and out of them; neither is suitable for wearing over slippery bare skin (and both are very much not stretchy), so despite their shared width, simply getting them on or off (which is considerably more awkward than on) becomes a bad enough memory that you think thrice about doing again!

As a result, my primary design directive was to build in some sort of a CF opening. The obvious straight-down-the-front cut wasn’t going to work because I’ve fallen completely for the big, multi-pocketed kangaroo pouch you can see on the green woollen hoodie, and plan to include one on my own first version of this cut. After much silent, eyes-closed mulling and visualizing, I settled on the diagonally slashed, wrapped-front-with-side-opening arrangment you’ll see below, the diagonal placement of which was based on the width and position of the pouch, swiped right off the woolen pullover, thus:


The pull-over boat-neck neckline on my blue smock makes up for lack of depth with added width across the shoulder fold, without which it wouldn’t go over the head. It also features a very ancient addition in the form of those little triangular gussets that make a no-curves-allowed stab at rounding the final neckline and the plain rectangular band collar. I admire both these features, but since my smock will open in front, I can have a closer neckline, especially since I also plan a taller collar that I’ll want to wrap up close around my neck. So my triangles are cut longer, since I also matched the starting placement for the tip of each of my triangles to those on the blue smock, making my neckline narrower, but the shoulders the same. This leaves quite a dramatic back-neckline gap between the triangles, shown in the muslin close-up below.


To fill this in, I laid the triangles over a strip of muslin and traced in a simple flat filler, at left below, which I basted in so I could more easily add a band collar later:

Next, I took a deep breath and cut out the diagonal opening, then filled it back in with another rectangle of fabric to create an underlap, which I’ll cut down to match the diagonal on the overlap side. I have just enough blanket to make a single front and back, with partial sleeves only, which I’ll get too later, so this front slash idea needs to work with almost no blanket overlapping. Plus, I’ve never tried anything like this before and at this point I have no idea if I’ll be pulling this off or not. Here’s what I came up with, figuring I’ll need to also add a long vertical rectangle of something for a side-seam underlap as well, if this works:

Here’s the first try-on; seems to be OK! Altho I’m still wondering what the best hardware for securing the overlap will be…and where I’ll get it.

And here’s a close-up of the previously discussed back-neck add-on strip, far left, then various views of the roughly 4-inch-wide, perfectly rectangular collar I tried out first:

There’s plenty more to tell, but let’s save that for Part II, shall we?

Leave a Comment