Their delicate handiwork often adorns the most fragile babies.
“Bonnets are tiny enough to fit a golf ball,” said Jane Ceely, a member of the Central Savannah River Stitchers of the Smocking Arts Guild of America, which helps make gown and bonnets for premature babies. The items are donated to the Children’s Hospital of Georgia through the guild’s Wee Care program. “For some of the babies, even doll clothes are too big.”
The guild meets on the first Friday of the month at Farmhouse Fabrics in Beech Island, S.C., and some of their designs are on display at the Columbia County Library in Evans through Tuesday.
The local chapter formed about two years ago, but many of the members have been smocking for years, starting when their children were younger.
“Some of us sell things, but mostly it’s a hobby and a loving of sewing,” said Regena Karasch, chapter president.
At their monthly meetings, the members, who live in Evans, Augusta, and McCormick, Aiken and Wagener, S.C., talk guild business, then share techniques and glean from each other. One of the members’ favorite teachers is the guild’s first president, Ann Shalders, who is originally from England and learned techniques from the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace.
“Her work is exquisite,” said Karasch.
Ceely said there’s more to smocking than meets the eye. It’s an intricate process that involves many layers. Smocking is a sewing technique in which fabric is pleated together and sewn in patterns using embroidery floss.
Smocking is most often done to children’s clothing. For the Wee Care program, the ladies make simple baby gowns that can be draped over the tiniest of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. The Wee Care program, started nearly 30 years ago, is adopted by smocking guild chapters across the United States.
Sometimes the gowns are given to the parents of stillborn babies.
Carol McGregor, a guild member, said her niece received a smocked gown when her baby was stillborn.
“She was given a beautiful gown at the hospital, and she was so touched,” said McGregor.
But their work also is often used for happier occasions, such as christenings and special events.
Members are passionate about their craft and would like to share it with others. The guild chapter is open to new members of all sewing skill levels, said Karasch. To learn more about the guild, email Karasch at email@example.com.