This is the hemd (chemise, shift, whatever) I'm working on to go with the green and black kampfrau gown. I've got a little under a week to get everything finished and ready to go, and it looks like I'll make it. The gown itself is finished and I've got feathers on my hat, so all that's left is this, and it mostly just needs seam finishing and hemming.
This is the first time I've done smocking, and it seems to be turning out all right. (I'm very much a learn by doing type of person.) My main reference for this was a book called The Art of Manipulating Fabric. It's a manual on a lot of very interesting techniques for shaping flat fabric into objects with volume and texture. Most of the stuff is not particularly useful for garment sewing, but some is, and it's all fun to look at. Anyway, I did three rows of gathering (dot pick-up on a 1/2 inch grid) using polyester upholstery thread (strong and slides easily). The smocking itself is done in a silk embroidery thread.
The biggest problems I had were with tension (I was nervous about pulling too tight when I started, which of course meant that things ended up much too loose) and trying to get the finished result to a particular size (in this case, to match my neck). The gathering threads are tied off at the correct length, but the smocking would relax to a longer length if they were cut out (like they would normally be) so I might need to leave them in. Either that, or go back and add additional tighter rows to stabilize it. I also need to figure out what I'm going to do for closure on it. Maybe a pair of ties at the top and bottom edge, tacked down to the first half inch or so of pleats?