The art of smocking - creating decorative embroidery over pleats - is more than just a hobby for Ann K. Piche and fellow members of the Ottawa Smockers' Guild. It's a way to use their talents to give comfort to others.
Since 1995, the dedicated volunteers have made and smocked baby nighties and donated them for use in Ottawa area hospitals, including being worn by critically ill babies in neo-natal units.
"I most enjoydoing the nighties for the children", says Mrs. Piche, who joined the 40-member group in 1995. "It gives me a sense of satisfaction."
The volunteer guild, which last year crafted almost 300 nighties, has also donated smocked bibs, bonnets and booties to area hospitals over the past two decades.
Smocking is one of the earliest forms of fabric manipulation, dating back to the 15th century. The craft gained popularitiy in the late 17th and early 18th centuries when smocking was used on traditional loose-fitting blouses called smocks, which were worn by agricultural workers, labourers and children in England and Wales.
Other items that can be smocked include blouses, skirts, dresses, coat hangers and napkin rings.
Although most novice smockers possess some basic sewing skills, a knack with needle and thread is not a prerequisite for guild membership, says Mrs. Piche. "You can learn from the basics up. The people (in the guild) are from wide ranges of professional careers."
Ottawa Smockers' Guild meetings are held the first Thursday of each month from September to June at 7:30 p.m. in the McNabb Community Centre, 180 Percy St.
- The Ottawa Citizen