Some time ago I did smocking on gingham, using the checks as a natural grid for spacing the stitches and forming pleats. That eventually became a sundress, and I liked it enough to want to keep doing it. So some smocking practice this week, this time on dots. In that first smocking tutorial, I sketched out some smocking stitches and patterns. If you already know how to smock, or have been lucky enough to have someone show you where exactly to poke the needle in and out of the fabric, you'll find those sketches easy to follow. If you are new to smocking, though, it is trickier to position the stitches so that they are regular and even, especially if the fabric is already all scrunched up in pleats.
I normally stitch and pleat as I smock, adjusting the tension as I go. But last night as I was smocking and spacing out, I suddenly and quite by accident found a way to smock faster and illustrate in less diagrams what the smocking stitches look like. After congratulating myself with, "Well, look what you invented because of sheer laziness! The First Ever Smocking Map!!!!" I realized that this is very likely how everyone already does it, except me. Ah, well.
Anyway, I am sharing this because it is such an immediately visual thing, and I am such a sucker for visual aids. It's a teacher curse.
So here it is - A Smocking Map!
Looks like regular old running stitch, you say? Where are the pleats? And why is everything so flat? How is this smocking?
This, skeptical people, is Smocking: Pre-Tension. (Geddit - Pre-tension? Pretension? Hahahahaha! Hit me on the head, someone.) Ahem, you know, like how you gather fabric by sewing a long straight stitch and then pulling it into folds?
Hypothesis: If all the stitches are executed before pulling the fabric into pleats, then it is
- easier to poke the needle in and out of the right places to get an even pattern.
- easier to teach smocking to other people.
- more fun for lazy people.
Awful hypothesis aside, here is how it works:
You thread a needle with a very long thread and knot it about 2" from the end (this is to tie thread ends together later). Then you poke it through the first dot in your pattern.
You sew the row(s) of stitches - see the tutorial for sketches or just follow the map. With the fabric flat, you can more easily count the dots and ensure the stitches are evenly spaced and correctly positioned. When you get to the end of your rows, remove the needle but do not knot off the thread. Thread the needle with thread of a different color and begin a different-colored row of stitches.
Here is a sequence for the 3rd and 4th rows of honeycomb stitch, sewn right to left (the 1st and 2nd rows were sewn left to right):
And here's a sequence for the wave stitch, also sewn right to left, and directly under a pair of rows of cable stitch:
Here is a picture of the stitched piece of fabric, pre-pleated, with a pleated version above it for width comparison:
Start pulling the thread, stitch by stitch, to form the pleats as you tighten the stitches. You can adjust the tension as you like it:
The top pair of rows of cable stitch (blue):
The first pair of rows of honeycomb stitch (white)
The second pair of rows of honeycomb stitch (white)
The next pair of rows of cable stitch (blue)
The row of wave stitch to form the hearts (blue):
Here is the pleated smocking panel- quite untidy, because I didn't take the time to really manipulate the pleats nicely.
Also, I was experimenting with the spacing of the stitches among the dots and I didn't like the widely-spaced honeycomb rows as much as the more closely spaced ones here:
If you had actually ironed the fabric into pleats before stitching, you'd get much sharper and more regular pleats. I always realize this on hindsight, of course. That's what I get for spacing out.
P.S. Did you notice how many shades of blue/teal/whatever that same fabric is in different photos? Note to self: do not experiment with camera settings as if you knew how to operate a camera.