Sunday, November 29, 2009

Can You Picture it ? Part 2

Okay, I have covered the 3 main ingredients of perfect picture smocking.

Before we start double check that you are not planning to smocking on the wrong side of your pleated fabric. On some pleaters the thread between the pleater will be longer on one side or then other. As Martha Pullen says "Long is Wrong".

Now let break it down to the lowest common denominator........The Cable Stitch.

Lets get started on the perfect cable stitch.

  • For this exercise I am going to thread a large eyed needle with 4 highly contrasting strands of floss. For example....1 strand each of red, blue pink and yellow floss.

  • My floss has been stripped and I have ran it through a piece of wool. My thread has been knotted at one end.

  • I am going to first start on the back of the fabric and secure the knot.

  • Because the knot on 4 strands of thread is large I do not want to bury it in the valley of a pleat. It will just get in the way of my picture smocking.

  • So instead I am going to secure the knot on the back of a pleat. I am making sure I am not going through any pleating threads.

  • FYI-I have covered the back smocking in a previous tutorial.

  • After the knot has been secured, I am going to bring my needle up from the bottom of a pleat. Again I am not going through any pleating threads.

  • If this was a picture smocking design, I would be coming up in the valley one pleat to the left of where I want to start.

  • Since I am right handed, I am going to bring the needle through the bottom of the pleat on my left. If I was left handed I would go to the right instead.

  • When Picture smocking I need to take a deeper bite of the fabric to help support my design.

  • I smock with my fabric turned sideways. I find I make better cables and it reduces the Carpel Tunnel because my wrist is not always bent. This is a personal preference. See what works for you.

  • I am going to be stitching my cable stitch away from me. If I was Left Handed I would be stitching my cable stitch towards me.

Your eyes are not seeing things. I changed the colors of my multicolored floss because they did not show up as precise as I wanted in the photographs.

  • I wanted to show you in this picture how separated the threads are coming out of the fabric. This is a result of using a very large eyed needle.

  • Now I am going to take my first stitch. I am stitching my cable stitch just a few threads above my pleating thread. I do this to avoid hitting the pleating threads.

  • My needle is straight up and down and at a 90 degree angle to the pleats. The needle is going into the fabric and coming out of the fabric at the same depth.

  • Gently pull the floss to complete the first cable. The cable stitch should lay across the pleats. It should not choke the pleat. Think light and fluffy. :-)

  • When I look at the cable stitch I should see every strand of the multicolored floss laying side by side. This also includes where the floss exits the fabric at the start of the cable and where the floss reenters the fabric at the end of the cable stitch.

  • Ready for the next cable? It will be the same as the first cable. The needle is at a 90 degree angle to the pleats. I am following an imaginary line. No matter if it is an Up Cable or a down Cable the needle will follow the line.

  • Some times no matter what, my floss get twisted. I always read in other Picture Smocking books to let your needle dangle and let the thread untwist. My floss is never that well behaved.

  • Notice the circle I have drawn on this photograph? When I am Picture Smocking and keeping my threads separated, I really only concerned about the 1/2"-1" length of thread at the base of the thread.

  • To untwist the floss I can pull up the cable stitch with the eye of your needle. Place your finger in the loop. With the eye of the needle separate the strands of floss.

  • Another way to untwist the floss without unthreading your needle is to bring your needle all the way down the floss so that it is sitting on the fabric. Then I can untwist and separate your floss.

  • I am going to continue stitching my cable row with the multicolor thread. Remember that every stitch is important.

Note: I have switched to pink thread for photographic reasons.

  • Here is my cable row. I am going to stitch 2 more cable stitches.

  • To stop the last stitch of my Picture Smocking from making a "Y", I am going to slant the last stitch.

  • This picture looks a little deceiving. I am still going to keep my needle straight just as I have previously done. But, before I pull my needle through the fabric I am going pull the needle eye to one side twisting the pleat. Then I pull my floss through.

  • Now to finish off. My floss is just above the last pleat. I am now going to bring the needle straight down into the bottom of the pleat.

To be continued.................. Next Up -Stacking.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Can You Picture It?

When I am stress it is best for me to pour my self into a project. So here it is..........A tutorial on Picture Smocking.

Can You Picture it? Part 1

I will start with a Disclaimer........... Instructions on Picture Smocking is like the family recipe for Potato Salad. Everyone may do it a little different. Or they may think their recipe is the only way to make potato salad. :-) But guess what? You still end up with potato salad no matter what recipe you used to get there.

But, when I see another potato salad recipe I usually give it a try to see if I like any of the ingredients. Some time I do and sometime I don't.

So this is my recipe for Picture Smocking.............

There are three main ingredients for perfect Picture smocking.

The first is the fabric.

1. You need to use a Broadcloth weight fabric. I prefer 100% cotton broad cloth like Kona Cotton.

  • If you are using a lighter weight fabric then you can add German Interfacing to the wrong side to the fabric to pump up the pleats.

  • If you are using Featherwale Corduroy, your design may be distorted. I would do a test smocking first. You may need to use 5-6 strands of thread. Or you could add a row to the design or use a Kona Cotton Insert that matches the Corduroy.

  • I once smocked "My Little Ponies" by Mollie Jane Taylor on featherwale corduroy. It looked more like "My little Dachshunds". :-) I redid the insert in a matching Kona Cotton.

2. When you pleat the insert for Picture smocking, the pleats need to be pulled up till they they just kiss each other.

  • Picture Smocking does not stretch so the insert needs to be tied off to the exact measurement.

  • If the insert is not wide enough for the bodice then either add wings to the side of the insert or use 60" fabric.

  • Here is some examples of the pleats:

These pleats are too far apart.

These pleats are too close together.

These pleats are just right. Sounds like Goldilocks and the Three Bears! :-)

The Second ingredient for Picture Smocking is the floss.

1. To insure good coverage you need to use 4-6 strands of floss.

  • The normal amount is 4 strands of floss. Depending on your design and your fabric you may need to use more threads. For example, I smocked sheep on a hot pink bishop. I used 5 strands of floss to keep the pink from showing through.

2. The length of floss for Picture Smocking needs to be about 15-17 inches.

  • The reason for this is thread wears as it is pulled through the fabric. The more wear, the thinner the floss. The thinner the floss, the less likely the floss will cover. If you use a longer length of floss, by the time you got to the end of the floss it will have been pulled through the fabric more and the floss will be worn thin.

3. The last thing about floss and the most important is the floss need to be separated. This is called "stripping the floss".

  • To strip your floss, the best method is called "The bonk and strip". Okay, get your mind out of the gutter! :-)
  • Lets start with the "Bonk". Hold the floss (all 6 strands) in between your thumb and your first finger. With your first finger on your other hand, you are going to bonk the top of the floss several times.

  • You will notice in this photo (besides the fact that I need an manicure) that the end of the floss fans out and every thread is separated.

  • While you are still holding your floss that you have "Bonked" you can now "Strip" the floss. With your other hand grab one strand of floss and pull up quickly. Repeat.

  • To help keep your threads separated you can use some of these products. These products are just options and are not mandatory.

The first product is starch.
  • This is a Starch Box that was made by the Web Smockers and given out as a table favor at the SAGA convention. Thanks Webbies!

  • To starch your threads, mix one part liquid starch with 3 parts water. I use distilled water.
    I pour the mixture into a wide mouth half pint canning jar or a baby food jar. Anything with a lid. You can use the mixture from the jar or soak the small sponge that is in the Starch Box.

  • Dip your stripped floss into the starch mixture. As you pull the floss out you are going to squeegee the excess water of the floss by pulling the floss between your fingers.

  • Let the floss dry. The floss should have some body to it after being starched. It should not resemble dried pasta.

The next product is Thread Heaven.
  • It is a silicone based product. To use it, you place the stripped thread on top of the jell stuff. Hold the floss down with one finger then drag/pull the floss through with your other hand.

And the last product is a piece of wool fabric.
  • Wet your stripped floss with water or spit. Place the wool around the floss as shown. While holding the wool and floss, pull the floss through with the other hand. The floss should squeak as it is being pulled through.

  • Products or techniques I do not use are Bees Wax and ironing my floss. I don't like the residue that bees wax leaves and life is too short to iron my floss.

The last ingredient is the Needle.

  • You need to use a needle with a very large eye . When you are Picture smocking you need to use 4-6 strands of floss. If those strands of floss are trying to squeeze through a small opening then they will not lay flat. If you use a large eyed needle it makes a bigger hole.

  • I prefer to use a # 2 Crewel Needle or a Cotton Darner. The length of the needle is a personal choice. I like to use a shorter needle.

  • Remember the smaller the number the the larger the needle

    To be continued................

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

To all my Smocking and sewing friends I want to wish y'all a Happy Thanksgiving.

I really appreciate all the prayers for my mother. Thank You.

Want to see something neat?

I was looking out my sewing room window and saw this guy walking across my back yard. It is a Wild Turkey! And you thought it only came in a bottle. :-)

I need to call him Lucky! He was able to walk across the yard without my 2 dogs, 3 cats or my husband seeing him. :-)

He was with a flock of about 12 others. He was the only one who walked across the yard. The others stayed in the field.

Here is a close up.

I felt like running outside and wave my arms yelling "Fly away, fly away. It almost Thanksgiving!"

Trivial pursuit answers.........Wild Turkeys can fly. Domestic Turkeys can't.

This year I am thankful for several things......
I am thankful that no one in my family is in a war zone for the first time in 4 years.

I am thankful for my family and friends.
And I am eternally grateful to all of y'all for reading my ramblings on this blog and loving my designs.

Once Again, I wish you all A Happy Thanksgiving.~Janet

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Spelling, Cookies and the State

This week has not been the best.

First off, I get a letter from my daughter's dentist that they will no longer accept the State of Illinois Dental insurance due to lack of payment by the state.

When I called the insurance company, they said that from bill to payment is about 170 days+ right now.

Second, Girl Scout Cookie sales for my troop are down by more than 50%. Part of the problem is the economy.

The other problem is they moved the cookie sales from Jan-Feb to Oct-Nov. Why I don't know. So we are competing against every other school fundraiser. Also everyone is trying to buy for the holidays.

They also raised the price to$4 a box. We had a Cookie Booth yesterday at a very busy gas station. We sold 100 boxes in 4 hours. Last year we sold almost 3 times that amount at the same location. 85% of our customers complained about the price.

And the last problem with the G.S. Cookies is Wal-Mart is selling knock off Thin Mints and Tagalongs for $2.38.

The third thing that happened this week and the worst is I learned how to spell a new word this week............Leukemia! My mother was diagnosed with this yesterday. She is suppose to start chemo before Christmas.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gingerbread Cookies Smocking plate

I have been working on the actual insert to show you this new smocking design but I am running in the slow mode all week. So for now I will just post the smocking plate and will update this post when I have it finished.

This design is suppose to be clickable so you can print it out. Let me know if it is not.
The usual restrictions apply. The design is for personal use. You may use it for gifts. Do not mass produce. Do not make changes or embellishments then call the design your own creations. Nuff said.
The insert I am working on is done in lime green and pink but you can use any colors you desire. After the smocking is complete you can embellish the gingerbread people with back stitches and bows. The same with the Christmas tree. Decorate it up as you would a cookie with icing and sprinkles.
Enjoy! ~janet

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day!

To all my Fellow Veterans that have served or who are serving now.....THANK YOU!

I wanted to show you some old photos from my past..........

My parents pinning on my bars.

This is my older brother and myself right before graduation at Texas A&M. He was the first person I saluted after my commissioning.

This is a few years later at England AFB in Louisiana. The aircraft is an A-10 Thunderbolt.

Hug a Veteran today and say Thank you.~janet

Monday, November 9, 2009

Smocked Christmas Wreath Construction

If you have participated in this tutorial for a smocked Christmas wreath I hope you have completed the smocking.

If you are just reading this, here is the links to the previous posts.

Back Smocking:

  • To help ease in the construction you will need to back smock row 11 with a very loose cable stitch. Do not tie off the ends of your threads at the ends of the rows.

  • Also you need to back smock rows 1-2 with a Chevron Stitch. Again do not tie off the end. Leave about a 2 inch tail.


  • After wreath has been completely smocked and back smocked, remove pleating threads from the outside of the wreath (rows 6-12).

  • Unpick (do not cut) the knots on the pleating threads on the inside holding row and rows 1-5. Re-knot the ends of each pleating thread so you don’t accidentally pull the thread out).

  • Pin the wreath to a blocking board or ironing board and fan out into a complete circle .

  • With the open ends facing you, look at your smocking design. To achieve a seamless wreath the smocking design needs to be continuous. This is done by unpicking your smocking threads until the design matches up. Do not worry if you are unpicking an inch or more of smocking. The wreath is 90 inches of fabric.

  • Unpick the smocking until the design is a mirror image on both sides. See the example. Unpick one more stitch on the right side and tie off smocking threads to the back. Left side threads are still loose.

  • Unpick back smocking to match up with front. Tie off the Back Smocking.

  • Cut off knots on the ends of the pleating threads and pull out pleats until they also match up with the smocking on the front.

  • Trim the un-smocked ends down for a 1 inch seam allowances.

  • Fold un-smocked ends under and reposition pins and fan out the wreath again.

  • Steam wreath with a steam iron. Let dry.

Back of the Wreath:

  • The back of wreath should be one piece of fabric 5”x45”.

  • Thread your pleater with 2 half space rows. Run the Back fabric through your pleater.

  • Unpick the pleats on the ends until you have a 1/2" seam allowance. Fold the outer edge (unpleated side ) down a 1/2 " and press.

  • Mark the center line of the fabric by creasing a fold or by using a small pin.

  • Pull up pleating threads until fabric measures 18 inches end to end.

  • Remove smocked wreath from the blocking board.

  • With right sides together pin back of wreath to the back. Pull up pleating threads of wreath if needed. Match up ends (end of smocking with the pleating thread on the back) and center lines. Distribute pleats evenly.

  • Stitch the two pieces together with a 3/8 inch seam allowance. Outside edge is still open.

  • Return the wreath back to the blocking board with right side up. Pin wreath into a circle. Steam if needed.

  • With wreath ends facing you double check your continuous smocking design. Thread a needle with each of your loose threads on the left side. Take one more smocking stitch joining the two sides together completing the design. Pull threads to the back and knot off securely.

  • Open wreath up. Tie each of the remaining pleating threads together. Do not pull threads too tight and distort the circle.

  • Place the 10 inch craft ring on the inside of the wreath. This will stop the wreath from warping after it is stuffed.

  • Turn wreath to the back side. Fold seam allowances back, Pin the outside folded edge of the back of the wreath to the loose cable row (Row11) that you back smocked. With matching thread hand sew the two sides together.

Stuffing the wreath:

  • Stuff the wreath with polyester batting. I fluffed the batting first by pulling it apart into little clouds.

  • Work from back towards the openings. I found the end of a wooden spoon helps to get the batting to the back. Craft ring should be in the middle of the batting.

  • When stuffed to your desired fullness slip stitch the back opening closed.

Finishing the wreath:

  • The center of the smocking design is a perfect place to add you choice of decorations. I used Christmas bulb buttons. Each bulb was sewn on separately then a ribbon was threaded through holes.

•Five plastic rings are sewn to the back to help hang the wreath with out it tipping forward.

And finally, if you do not like the area where your your seamless smocking joined together Just cover it with a pretty bow. :-)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Outstanding In My Field

Let me rephrase that..........I am out, standing in my field! :-)

This little guy has been interrupting my smocking and sewing time. But he is cute and the weather has been great so I do not mind.

I have a lawn chair under one of the trees. It is cool enough I need a sweatshirt but sunny enough I need a hat and sun glasses. So while he is grazing I am sketching out new smocking designs and pattern ideas.

Life is good! :-)

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Halloween was a little more exciting for my daughter this year.

Meet Jasper, her 6 month old miniature horse.

It was just by coincidence that we picked him up on Halloween. But he made a wonderful Halloween present. :-)

Here he is with his mom before we picked him up.

It was a mini rodeo for a little while. A mini rodeo for a mini horse seems fitting! :-)

She just wasn't as enthused about going Trick or Treating after he arrived. I wonder why? :-)

She hasn't quit smiling!