Tips to learn smocking with elastic thread!
Learning how to do smocking with elastic thread is a game changer! It's one of those sewing skills that can be a bit tricky to learn at first, but is super useful and easy once you get it down. Personally I was confused when I was trying to learn it via Google search, so hopefully this explanation is helpful.
The first important step is to wind your bobbin by hand, NEATLY, with the elastic thread. It should be tight but not overly stretched out either.
Once you've filled the bobbin, put it back in the bobbin case. To the left, you'll see little metal pieces or grooves on the case. You want to make sure that the elastic thread is hooked around this with enough tension. It should create a line that looks like an L, with the elastic thread coming from the bottom of the L, around the hook thing (corner of the L) threaded up through the needle plate (top of L)
Next, thread your machine as normal, with normal thread as the top stitching. The normal thread is the color that will show.
The most tricky part now is making sure that your bottom and top tensions are right. You'll probably have to play around with this to get the exact setting for your machine. On mine, I have to tighten my bobbin case by turning the bobbin case screw a full turn to the right, with the top thread tension set to -1.
Now, get ready to smock!
The best fabric to try this out on if you're new to elastic smocking is scrap striped cotton. It's harder to sew in straight lines while smocking than it looks. If you don't have any on hand, don't bother buying it from a fabric store. Just pick up an old men's striped collared shirt from a thrift store as practice fabric.
Make sure you are sewing with the front facing side of the fabric up.
If your top thread and bottom thread are nicely looping around each other in a way that you can pull the elastic to get your desired effect, but it's not looped together so tightly that the elastic behaves like normal thread (ie not movable), you've just done your first line of smocking! Make sure to tie the ends of the elastic well.
Keep doing lines of these stitches and you'll have a nice waist accent, panel, or bodice for a top...lots of options! I use this particularly for tops and for dresses, sometimes to make frills on the bottoms of puff sleeves.