Smocking is a good way to add an extra dimension to an otherwise plain piece of material and can be used to liven up cushion covers. Whether for the sofa, the bedroom, or anywhere else in the house, smocked cushions are reasonably simple to make. Once you've mastered the basic technique, you can add decorative stitching to your cushion covers, or use a different pattern to create a wide range of effects.
Measure the cushion you wish to cover and add an inch onto the height and width. Cut out a piece of fabric to form the back of the case. Cut a second piece of fabric that is the same height as the cushion, but at least three times wider, as smocking involves bunching the material up.
Draw a series of rows and columns on the back of the wider piece of fabric. Ensure the fabric is stretched out on a flat surface to help your accuracy. To make it easier to follow later on, it can help to draw the lines in different colours. The columns and rows should be evenly spaced, the columns slightly closer together than the rows. You can decide on the distance between each column and row, but generally somewhere between 0.6 to 1cm (quarter to half an inch) works well.
Thread your needle with a piece of thread long enough to cover the length of the wider piece of fabric with some spare. Starting at the top, push the needle through the fabric where the first column intersects the first row. The needle should go into the material just before the column, and come out again on the same side just after, so a small pinch of the fabric is on the needle, no more than a few threads wide.
Repeat this at each point a column intersects the first row. As they are quite close together, you will collect a series of pinches on your needle. When there are too many to continue, push them off the back end of needle, without pulling the thread through so far that it undos the stitches you've made, then continue along the row.
Repeat this for each of the rows. Pair off the loose threads and tie them together at one end of the material, then, holding the other loose ends firmly, slide the material together. The material may bunch together unevenly, so tighten or loosen it until you are satisfied with the look and the material is about the same size as the backing piece. Tie off the other ends of the thread to secure the pleats.
Pin together your smocked fabric and the backing fabric so the fronts of the two pieces are facing inwards. Sew together three sides of the cushion case, making sure to use a backstitch at the end of each side to prevent the stitches coming undone. Remove the pins when you are finished and turn the case the right way round.
Insert your cushion into the case. Fold over the edges of the open side so you have a nice, clean line of fabric and sew together using a whip stitch. Use thread as closely matched to the colour of your cushion case to blend the stitch. If you prefer your stitching to be less noticeable, try using a slip stitch.
You could sew a zip onto your cushion case if you wish to remove the cushion to wash the fabric.
There are many more complicated patterns that create different effects. Once you've got the hang of this basic pattern, why not look for some more difficult ones and create a range of different smocked cushions for your sofa.
Use lighter fabrics to achieve the best effects, but avoid fragile fabrics, as they may tear or damage during the smocking process.