SMOCKING NEWSLETTER Special Edition
Janaury 1, 2001
Website: Garden Fairies Smocking
& Needlearts Catalog
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Beginner's Corner: Eleven Rules Of Smocking To Remember © Beth-katherine
Kaiman - 2001-2015
These are a few things you must keep in your mind while you are smocking
in order to make your stitches perfect.
1) The main object of smocking is to connect the pleats together with
your embroidery stitches, whether it be on the front or back (known as
backsmocking). The reason for this is when you remove the pleating threads
if all of the pleats aren't caught somehow with the embroidery then they
will fly free and flatten out. Sometimes we may like doing this but
for the most part each and every pleat is caught with each row otherwise
there are gaps caused in your smocking.
2) When you look at a piece of pre-pleated fabric there are a few
things you need to know. The first is that once your fabric comes off of
the pleater needles the threads that hold the pleats are now referred to
as pleating rows. The spaces between the pleats are known as the 'valley
of the pleat'. You will see in instructions "come up in the valley",
they are talking about starting your stitch from the bottom on the pleat
in the valley rather than on the top of the pleat which would look awful.
3) When working different smocking stitches you will see references
to 'half space' and 'quarter space'. The spaces between the rows are sometimes
divided into equal part with our stitches. We refer to the middle of two
rows as the half space and the section between the half space and row as
the quarter space. Some stitches are totally worked straight across the piece
while others travel down or up; for example, the wave stitch can go down
to the next row or as a baby wave to the half space and back up to the starting
point. Advanced trellis stitches are sometimes broken into 5 or 7 step waves,
which is really just an outline stitch worked downwards.
4) Keep your smocking even and straight by placing the needle at the
same angle consistently. (This is actually a "most always" rule - the outline
stitch is best worked with your needle angled; especially when you working
undulating patterns, or when you are working the second half of the wheat
stitch you get a better look when you angle in your needle).
5) Always, or rather most always keep your needle parallel to the
pleating threads. Keeping this rule in mind at all times will guarantee that
your smocking will be even. (There is some controversy with this method but
for the most part keeping your needle parallel to the pleats at all times
makes for straight and even stitches.)
6) Even tension keeps your stitches smooth. You don't want to pull
your stitches so tight that the fabric shows. Nor do you want to have your
stitches so loose that they look uneven. I always tug my floss down or up
parallel to the pleats to lock a stitch.
7) There is a thing called muscle memory. Once you train your hand
in the proper way of holding the needle and placement of needle it will remember.
These first few times of working are very important as you are creating good
hand placement habits. Remember that it may be awkward at first but once
you practice a stitch a couple of times and your hands remember how you made
it it will become easier. ( I know this sounds a bit strange but if you think
about the first time you 'got it' while learning to ride a bicycle or a clutch
on a car you will 'know' what I mean).
8) Placement of needle going in straight on the top 1/3 of the pleat
or as I like it just a hair (or thread) above the pleating thread. All of
the experts seem to agree that the top 1/3 of the pleat is where you stitch
but I have found that it makes your smocking seem very shallow so I like
to take a bigger bite which covers more of your pleat (it's also good practice
for picture smocking).
9) Stopping and starting in the middle of a row isn't a disaster.
If you see that you are about to run out of floss try to always complete
your pattern stitch with a cable stitch and then shoot your needle to the
back through the two pleats and tie off with a knot. Then re-thread your
needle and try to come back up near where you left off. Knots are ok, in
fact we like them - just make sure they are nice and tight.
10) Unlike some embroidery and knitting techniques, traveling
of your floss on the back is a no-no. This is not as much of a neatness issue,
but when you first start out you may not realize that you may smock too tight
and have stretch out your piece and if you have these 'strands' it won't
work. Smocking was invented before elastic, so your smocking is stretchy.
If a color is needed 8 or 9 pleats down a row we go to the back and catch
the pleats in the outline stitch until the color is used on top. This makes
for a tidier back and lessens the odds of catching and breaking that 'traveller'
at a later date as well as making sure that all pleats are captured with
a stitch. Otherwise when you take out your pleating threads you may have
a surprise of loose pleats. (Unless of course this is the look you are going
11) Oh and I almost forgot the most important rule, relax. Smocking
kicks in the alpha and theta brain waves, it is very relaxing. Once you get
the stitches and the patterns you can engage 'automatic pilot' and sit back
and relax enjoying the rhythm of the needle in and out of the pleats. It's
good for your health, but be careful not to overdo it with the hands. Carpul
tunnel lurks in any repetitive motion. Just watch out for leaning elbows
or strained muscles. If you feel yourself aching in any spot, put your smocking
down walk around and if you are working with magnifier lenses take them off
and stare out at a tree way far away across the street to regain your distance
viewing. Oh and make sure that you are working with good lighting behind
Keeping these rules in mind will make your smocking beautiful.
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