A ‘lost art’ found at AACC

First Posted: 10/14/2014

Pam Summa, of Dalton, started teaching herself the art of smocking when she began having children. Now, those first dresses she made for her girls are worn by her pre-school-age granddaughters and she is passing her knowledge of the craft along to others through a Smocking Basics class with the Abington Area Community Classroom (AACC).

“I’ve always thought that I’d like to teach it,” Summa said of smocking. “It is a lost art – not many people know how to do it, but it’s easy, it’s relaxing and it’s something to keep your hands busy.”

In smocking, a section or strip of material is gathered into tight pleats held together with decorative stitching. The finished piece is often part of a piece of clothing, such as a dress, but can be used for a number of other purposes, such as curtains and home decor.

During the second week of the class, students sat in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit working on vase skirts to wrap around glass vases as decorations.

As attendees worked on the projects, Summa shared with them the history behind the craft, explaining its origin during the Bronze Age, when men, mostly laborers, wore smocking around their shirt cuffs and necklines for elastic-like purposes. She said the clothing was made mostly out of blue – a poor man’s color – and coarse material and sometimes had designs representing the wearer’s trade stitched in to it.

When the industrial age made it dangerous for workers to wear loose-fitting garments, which would easily catch in the machinery, and machine-made clothing became more popular, the use of smocking on men’s clothing faded. In the 19th and 20th century, it made a comeback as a fashion rather than practicality, worn by artists in the studio and tennis players on the court. Today, it is most often found on children’s clothing and accessories.

One aspect of the craft Summa likes most is that the items, when handed down from generation to generation, become precious family heirlooms. She is enjoying teaching the class and believes the AACC to be a wonderful asset to the community.

Her students, all of whom attended previous AACC classes on various subjects, agreed.

“There’s nowhere else to take classes like this in the area,” said Valerie Davidian, of Scranton, who recently participated in a crochet necklace class.

Lindsey Hardy, of Clarks Summit, enjoyed taking a nature photography class, in which participants went to the Lackawanna State Park to practice their skills.

She said the best part was “getting outside with the camera, and seeing how other people looked at nature.”

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