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How to Make a Hand Smocked Baby's Bonnet How To Make a Hand Smocked Baby's Bonnet

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Instructions for making a hand smocked baby's bonnet

How to make a smocked bonnet

How To Make a Hand Smocked Baby's Bonnet

These instructions apply to the baby bonnet sizes shown in the following table. For these sizes, the best results are obtained using fabric of approximately 44” (112 cm) wide, from selvage to selvage.



Length (inches)

Length (cm)

Blocking length (inches)

Blocking length (cm)

Extra extra small






Extra small

New born

7 ½


10 ½



6 months






12 months

8 ½


11 ½



18 months





Extra large

2 Toddler

9 ½


12 ½


Extra extra large

3 Toddler





Note: The different lengths of the baby bonnets vary in ½” increments from size to size. The preceding table also shows the approximate length of the smocked area's blocking length as measured from ear lobe to ear lobe over the top of the head. This length differs also in ½” increments from size to size. Add ½” for larger or subtract ½” for smaller size.

What is Needed

44” (112 cm) wide fabric (the length depending on the size shown in the preceding table)
1 ¾ yds (152 cm) 1” (2.5 cm) wide edging lace
1 ¼ yds (114 cm) 1” (2.5 cm)  wide insertion lace
1 1/8 yds (103 cm) 1” (2.5 cm) wide double sided pure silk satin ribbon
¾ yd (61 cm) 1/8” (3 mm) wide double sided pure silk satin ribbon
3.5” (9 cm) piece of entredusx

Pleater, Pleater needles

Hand quilting thread in two (2) contrasting colors such as orange and blue.
Smocking pattern of choice
Cotton darner needles for the hand smocking
Water soluble marker
Measuring tape
Ruler (optional)
Rotary cutter (optional)
Milliner needles (for bullion knots stitches, recommended)

Sewing machine, Sewing machine needles (suggested universal 70/10), Zigzag foot
Double (twin) needles (2/80 for pintucks, optional)
Pintucks cord (for pintucks, optional)
Fine machine thread
Fine machine embroidery thread (100 % cotton recommended for the pintucks)

DMC floss (for the smocking pattern and smocking embroidered enhancement)


Preparing the Fabric

Straighten the edge of the fabric by pulling a thread along the width and then cutting along the line marked by the pulled thread.

You want a rectangle that is the width of the fabric (usually 44”  [112 cm]) by the "length" as shown in the third column of the preceding table. 

In these instructions the 44” width is used although the Superfina fabric is 38” wide and the Nelona fabric is 55” wide. 

The following instructions will not change with the different sizes of bonnet.

 The edge that is going to be pleated is one (1) of the 44” long edges. The other 44” long side is the crown edge. 

The narrow edges of the rectangle are to be part of the bonnet's neckline. 

In addition, the pleating is going to occupy approximately 2” (5 cm) and the pleating is going to be done about 1” (2.5 cm) from the long edge. 

Spray the piece with heavy starch in preparation for pleating. While the cloth dries prepare the threads for pleating. The piece may be also dried by pressing.
Cut hand sewing quilting thread in two different colors (I use orange and blue) at least one (1) inch longer than the width of the fabric. In this example, the fabric is 44” from selvage to selvage, the pleating threads are to be a minimum of 45” (114 cm) long. We cut six (6) orange threads and five (5) blue threads. This length of the pleating threads is important because you must be able to flatten the piece after pleating to allow adding lace to the edge and adding other enhancements such as pintucks, tucks, and lace in the body of the bonnet.

Fold and press a crease with a warm iron with the 'wrong sides' of the fabric together. Mark the half (1/2), fourth (1/4), and the eighths(1/8) of the fabric. The picture shows the fabric folded in half and creased  every 1/8th of the long dimension.


Using a contrasting thread color, and the sewing machine make a temporary basting seam along each of these folds. For a bonnet these seams are about 4” (10 cm) length. These basting seams are guides and are temporary. 

Pleating the Fabric

Depending on the smocking pattern, place 9 to 11 pleating needles into 9 to 11  half rows of the pleater. The pleating is to be done at about 1” from the edge. This procedure makes a bonnet brim of 1”. To guide the fabric, I tie a short piece of red thread around the pleating cylinder. Thread the needles with alternating colors of thread. 

It is best to keep the 'short tail' on the needle thread on the same side of all needles. Make the tail a length of 3 to 4 inches.



When feeding the fabric into the pleater, watch for the marked seams. These seams will aid in controling the feed.

For the best results during pleating, make sure each of these seams is straight and parallel to the rollers. This shows that the fabric is feeding with constant tension. 

When the pleating is done, carefully remove the basting seams. Some of the pleating threads may have caught the thread in the basting seams.

As you feed cloth into the pleater, go slowly and release the forward pressure on the feed knob frequently. 

Do not allow too much pleated fabric to build upon the needles as the pressure from the new pleats, together with the friction from the older pleats, will break needles.  You will notice that it becomes more difficult to turn the drive knob as the fabric build up. Pay close attention to changes in the resistance of this knob.

Take care when removing the fabric from the pleater to avoid pulling any of the pleating threads out of the pleated fabric. It may be a good idea to tie the ends of the threads together at each end so that none of the pleating threads get pulled loose at either end.

Preparing for the Placement of the Insertion Lace

After pleating, stretch out the fabric along the pleating threads to flatten the fabric. Press. 

A band of insertion lace is to be placed across the bonnet, from neckline to neckline. On the right side of the fabric, mark the position of the insertion lace, using a water soluble marker to draw a series of points about 1" apart along a straight line parallel to 'front' raw edge of the fabric. This line of points is to be drawn at about 4 ¾” (12 cm) from the front edge and parallel to it. The insertion lace will be placed AFTER the taper is cut.

Note: To have this straight line of points, it is important to mark this line before cutting the taper. This straight line of points may be also measured from the opposite edge of the rectangle, that is, from the crown edge. However, the distance between the opposite edge and the place of the insertion line will vary with the sizes.


Cutting the Taper

With right sides together and matching raw edges, fold the rectangle in half. On the brim edge, and using a water soluble marker, mark a point measured 3” (8 cm) from the center of the piece toward the selvage. At the selvage and from the bonnet neckline edge, mark a point measured ½” (13 mm) towards the crown edge. Use a ruler and a rotary cutter to cut the fabric by joining these two points.


Whipping and Rolling

On the wrong side of the rectangle, unpleat approximately 1”  by unthreading  the pleating threads from each of the neckline sides of the fabric. 

Cut out the selvage without cutting the pleating threads. Using the sewing machine whip and roll the two short edges and the brim edge of the fabric. To do this use zigzag stitch such that the sewing machine needle zigs in the fabric and zags just outside, rolling the fabric.






Making the Crown Case

With the wrong side of the fabric up fold under ¼” (6 mm) and press. Repeat this procedure and make a second fold this time fold under 3/8” (1 cm) and press. Using the sewing machine and a short stitch, stitch close to the edge of the fold and along the crown edge to finish the crown case.


Attaching the Insertion Lace

Cut a piece of 1” (2.5 cm) wide insertion lace of approximately 47’ (119 cm). Center the insertion lace over the straight line of points already drawn and pin the insertion lace in place.

Straight stitch along each side of the header lace. On the wrong side of the fabric carefully cut along the straight line. Do not cut the fabric or the lace. 


Press open. On the right side of the fabric, use zigzag or pin stitch stitch again along each side of the insertion lace header. Press. 



On the wrong side of the fabric, trim the excess fabric along insertion lace edge approximately 1/8” (3 mm) from the seam. Do not cut the lace, the bonnet, or the stitches. Press. An alternative to this enhancement is the use two (2) lengths of ½” (13 mm) wide insertion lace attached to each side of a band of ¼” (7 mm) wide double sided pure silk ribbon.


Sewing the Pintucks

Using the short straight stitch and double (or twin) needles stitch three (3) rows of corded pintucks on each side of the insertion lace. Start by sewing the pintuck closest to the insertion lace. Position this pintuck approximately ½” (13 mm) from the lace header. Click here to see ‘How to Sew Corded Pintucks’.


Attaching the Edging Lace

Cut a piece of 1” (2.5 cm) wide edging lace of approximately 60” (152 cm). Starch and press carefully not to stretch it. Place right sides together, matching the lace edge and the whipped edge of the fabric. Starting at one of the short edges and at about 3.5” (9 cm) from the crown edge seam and leaving a tail of minimum 1” (2.5 cm) of edging lace, attach the lace to the fabric. Use zigzag stitch such that the sewing machine needle zigs in the lace header and zags just outside the edge of the fabric. At each of the corners of the brim edge and the short edge, pleat the edging lace to make two (2) ½” (2.5 cm) pleats. These pleats are done by folding approximately a total of 1” (2.5 cm) of the lace. One of these pleats is to be done just before the corner, that is, on the short edge, and the second pleat just after, that is, on the brim edge. End the attachment approximately 3.5” (9 cm) from the crown edge seam. Leaving a tail of a minimum of 1’ (2.5 cm) edging lace.

Preparing for Smocking

 With wrong side up and on one of the short edge, tie the pleating threads one (1) by one (1) or two (2) by two (2). When using a couple of pleating threads, do this tie five (5) times and tie the last thread by itself. On the other short edge gather the pleating threads so that the length of the fabric is about 10” (25 cm) from pleating thread to pleating thread. Tie the 11 (9) threads in one single knot, tie each thread individually, or tie these threads two (2) by two (2) as desired.


Smock the pattern of choice. Do at least two (2) rows of back smocking to hold the bonnet’s shape.

Remove the pleating threads and block the smocked area to a length (from ear lobe to ear lobe) according to the preceding size table. Enhance the smocking by adding bullion knots roses, bullion roses, or cast-on stitch flowers, if desired.

Attaching the under the Chin Ribbon

On the right side of the bonnet, attach each end of a 60” length of 1” (2.5 cm) wide double sided pure silk ribbon to each short side of the bonnet.

Fold the ends of the ribbon once or twice as desired and place this fold in the center and at the beginning of the smocked stitches.

To attach the under the chin ribbon make three (3) very small stitches to secure the beginning of the seam. Set the machine to the largest stitch. Make one stitch forward. Reverse the stitch and make one stitch. Repeat this procedure two (2) more times to have a total of seven (7) large stitches. Use an even number of large stitches so that the beginning and end of the under the chin ribbon attachment is at opposite sides. End with three (3) very small stitches to secure the end of the seam.

On these stitches, add a ribbon rosette, or a small bullion knot rose on each side of the bonnet as desired.

Note: One advantage of attaching the under the chin ribbon after the bonnet is blocked is that the bullion knot roses on the smocked area and the bullion knot roses on each side of the under the chin ribbon may be done repetitively.

Closing the Back

With right sides together and starting just at the end of the crown case seam, attach a piece of entredeux (approximately 3.5” (9 cm) to each side of the short edges. Use a short straight stitch to attach the edge of the entredeux batiste and the edge of the whipped fabric. Press. This piece of entredeux connects the baby’s bonnet at the back neck edge and should end just where the edging lace is attached to the rectangle. With right side together and matching edges use a zigzag stitch to attach the two (2) tails of edging lace and trim the excess. Finish the back of the bonnet by hand stitching the center of the entredeux to the lace seam. This finishing seam will take two (2) or three (3) hand stitches.

Closing The Crown

Run approximately 24” (61 cm) of 1/8" (3 mm) wide double faced pure silk ribbon through the casing. Draw up the ribbon to form a circle in back and tie in a bow. The size of this circle may vary to allow for minor size adjustments.

Note: These instructions include interchangeable steps. For instance closing the back and attaching the under the chin ribbon may be done in reverse order. For simpler bonnets omit the edging lace, the insertion lace, and/or corded pintucks. Further simplification include the omission of edging lace from the neckline replacing it with a hem edge. Closing the bonnet at the back omitting the entredeux is also a simplification to be considered.

Printing of these instruction for personal use to make and sell bonnets is allowed. The selling of these instructions or its inclusion in any collections for sale is prohibited. When teaching a class, the use of these instructions is allowed only when the class is taught 'free of charge'. These permissions and prohibitions include the individual pictures. (c) 2010. All rights remain with Bumba Bella Boutique.

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