Meet The Tutor – Ros

Millie FurbyNews

Meet The Tutor – Ros Atkins

Ros has been teaching Dorset Button and Smocking classes with us for a couple of years. She is running a Smocked Notebook Cover class on Saturday 17th March. Click here to book.

Who are you and what do you do?
Rosalind Atkins, ‘fibreholic’ lover of many textile crafts but with a special interest in smocking and making Dorset buttons.

Can you tell us a bit more about your craft?

Smocking is a very old traditional form of embroidery where simple stitches are worked in rows on pleated fabric. It was originally used to shape simple, protective over garments. My work on traditional smocks led me to making Dorset buttons, another old needle worked craft.

How long have you had an interest in what you teach?
I have been interested in smocking as an embroidery technique for about 40 years and Dorset buttons for over 25 years. Frightening!

How long have you been teaching your craft?
Teaching for over 20 years.


Who was the first person to show you this craft?
Nobody really showed me the smocking, I’m pretty much self taught. However with the buttons, I did get a lot of encouragement from Marion Howitt to both tackle the more difficult buttons and to start teaching workshops.

What do you enjoy most about your craft?
Neither craft is a particularly speedy technique and so you have to enjoy the process, which I do. I love hand sewing and find the repetitive actions quite soothing together with the need for full concentration.

Where do you get their ideas/inspiration?
Ideas come from various sources; walks in the countryside, pieces of artwork, etc. Designs usually take a lot of mulling over but often a piece of fabric will just beg to be used!

How long will it take a beginner to make something they’ll be pleased with?
Like many crafts your skill levels definitely improve with practice. However I do believe that anyone who is already used to hand embroidery can easily produce a piece of smocking to be proud of, in fact my beginners workshop has resulted in some delightful postcard sized samplers with only a few hours work.


Can you teach your craft to someone left handed?
Yes, no problem. My mother was left handed so I’m quite used to working either way.

What has been your personal favourite make?
The last traditional smock that I was commissioned to produce for a child in Canada. It had all the features and complexity of an adults smock but as it was smaller didn’t take quite so long. I love making one off beaded Dorset button brooches where I can play with colour and pattern.

What is a good starting project for someone who is new to your craft?
The smocked postcard sampler is the perfect way to see if smocking is for you and you can achieve a little masterpiece in not very much time which can be as individual as you like. For the Dorset buttons start with the basic cross wheel or the Singleton.

What secret tip can you give us?
For smocking, follow the lines of the gathering threads but don’t work directly on top of them. And for Dorset buttons, get those spokes evenly spaced and your centres true, work firmly and your buttons will last for years.

And now for some fun ones!
Favourite hobby outside of work
Just one?!? My Dalmatian Chester, spinning and knitting if I have to be restrained.

Favourite food
Vegetarian lasagne
Favourite book
Anything by Kate Atkinson