Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Picture Smocking part 6

We left off in this tutorial with tying off our floss. Now we need to rethread our needle with 4 new strands of floss that has been stripped and tweaked like we did in the very beginning.

We are  going to stack our next row but we are increasing the number of cable stitches. Our design calls for 9 cables starting and ending with an Up stitch.

You can choose to start the new row to the left or right of center. It is totally a matter of choice. I am going to start to the right of the center line.

Just as we have done before, we are going to take the needle and floss through the back of a pleat to secure the knot. Bring the needle up through the bottom between the 4 and 5 pleat to the right of the center line.

Bring the needle and floss through the pleat on the right and we are ready to start stacking again.

I am going to stack 9 cable stitches.

Sometimes I use my needle to "Lay down" a stitch. Making sure my floss is separated, I place my needle under the floss. While applying a very slight tension to the floss with the needle, I am going to pull my floss gently down.

You could also use a needle trolly for this. To be totally honest, I have tried a needle trolley but didn't like it for several reason. One reason is everyone in the house liked to play Edward Scissor Hands with it. The second reason is I tended to poke myself every time I needed to push up my glasses. :-)

Okay, enough of sewing tools used for weapons of mass destruction. Our next row we are increasing again. Our design calls for 11 cables stitches starting and ending with an Up stitch.

This row is going to be a little different only because it is our 5th cable row. This insert was pleated on a 24 row pleater. This allows us 5 cable rows between pleating thread rows.

The same way a brick layer would use a level line we are going to use our pleating thread to make sure everything is level.

My fifth row is going to be just under and kissing the pleating thread row.  If your picture smocking was perfect you would just stitch your 11 cable stitches. But since the world and my smocking is not always perfect I use these rows to get back on tract.

I am going to start my increase row as usual (Come up in the valley between the pleats then take my needle to the left through the pleat.)

To straighten out your picture smocking we are going to either fluffy the cable row a little by laying down the cable stitch as shown before……..

Or we may need to flatten out a stitch with the side of our needle. Neither of these techniques are substitutes for bad cable stitches. If these slight adjustment don't work and you are really off then you will need to take out the previous row and restack the cable row and make corrections.

Everyone back on track? Our next row is something new. This row is a mirror image 11 cables.

When we ended our row before, we slanted our needle on the last pleat as usual. This would bring the needle and thread  in the center valley of our first stitch on this row.

I have stitched these matching rows 2 different ways. One is to just bring your needle and floss through the bottom of the pleat (as shown) so we are ready to stitch our cable row.

This works, but I find it doesn't give much support to my first cable stitch. After years of picture smocking I really prefer something different.

  • After I have stitched my last cable on the row before and my needle and floss are in the valley of pleat 5 and 6 (from the center line).
  • I take my needle down to the back through the bottom of that valley.
  • Bring my needle and floss back up the same valley but not in the same needle hole.
  • Then bring my needle and floss to the right through the bottom of the pleat as shown.

Notice that my needle depth with either technique is identical to the previous row.

We are almost done! Two rows left.  We are decreasing on both rows. The first row will be  9 cable stitches and the second will be 7 cable stitches. Both rows are  starting and stopping with a Down stitch.

Lets see if you know how to proceed on your own.

Walla we are done (with the Gingerbread Girl's head)!

Oh No!……...Before I tied off my floss I noticed the dreaded "Two headed Cable  Stitch".    I knew this would bug me so I unstitched my last row and fixed it by making sure my floss was really separated and slanting my needle more on the last stitch.

Now we are done!

What next?   Normally, I would say we were going to turn our work over and finish the body of the Gingerbread girl. Since the Gingerbread Boy's head is identical and everything is fresh in our mind, your homework is to duplicate what you have just learned.

  • You know how to read the design and dissect it.
  • How to choose your starting spot.
  • How to strip and and squeak you floss.
  • How to tie on.
  • How to start your row.
  • How to decrease a stacked cable row.
  • How to increase a stacked cable row.
  • How to stitch a matching cable row.
  • And how to tie off.

Note: We are getting ready for an Ice storm followed by snow to hit here at the farm on Friday. Due to the possibilities of having no electricity  the next installment may be delayed.   We are busy getting the farm prepared for the possibilities (gas for the generator and the vehicles, wood rack filled up, extras straw in the chicken house, everything charged up and something for me to smock) Stay safe and warm!~jg

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Picture Smocking part 5

Now the fun part. Lets stack our cable rows! :-)

(if you need to see any of the pictures up close just click on them)

We are going to work upwards completing the Gingerbread Girls's head.

When we stitch the second row, each cable is going to match up with a cable from the previous row.   Think of it like an online dating service…."Everyone has a match"


If you need more visual help, dig out a set of Lego's and practice stacking.

Besides stacking our next cable row we are also going to decrease the row. The row above is going to be smaller the the row before.

The next row, according to our designs, is 11 cable stitches and starts again with a Down Cable.

Bring the needle and floss down in the valley of the last pleat. We are going to do the same steps we did when we started with the very first stitch.  Bring the needle and floss up in the center valley of where we want our next cable to be.

Notice something different?  Look at the hint of the green border….we have turned our insert over.

Now, repeating what we did on our very first cable we are bringing our needle and floss through the pleat on the left so we are in position to stitch our second cable row.

After we have stitched our 11 cable stitches we are going to again slant the last stitch. 

Congratulations! We have stacked a cable row.  I've turned the insert back right side up (notice the green border?)

Now, check your work to make sure everything is correct. I have noticed that my floss is beginning to show some wear. I can get the next row smocked but I am going to have to change threads after that.

On our next row, we are going to be decreasing in the number of cable stitches again but we are going to start with an Up Cable.    Bring the needle and the floss down in the valley of our last pleat so we are ready for the next row.

Each cable row is about 1/8" wide. When I bring my needle and floss up I don't want to be exactly next to the previous row. Just eyeballing it, my needle and floss are coming up about 1/16" or half the width of my cable row.

As we have done before, the needle and floss are going through the pleat on the left. We are now lined up to start on next cable row.

We are stitching 7 cable stitches, starting with an Up Stitch. Notice the distance of this first cable compared to the row below.

Now when we take our second cable stitch, which is a Down cable stitch, everything is lining up perfect. If the row is not lining up, take the stitches out and reposition them.  Remember to keep a consistent  stitch depth.

I have finished my last stitch on the row and have slanted my last stitch as we have done before. My floss is showing wear so it is time to tie off and start with new floss.

To tie off, we bring the needle and floss to the back.

Take a tiny stitch in the back of a pleat.

Go through the loop.

Then go through the second loop and tug gently to form the knot. I leave about a 1/2 inch tail.

To be continued……….. Up next, Increasing our cable row!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Picture Smocking-Picture Perfect Part 4

Everyone ready to start?

Find a comfortable place to sit with good lighting and lets begin……

Choose one of the designs to the left or right of the center design to begin with. The reason for this is because the center design will be the focal point. As you smock your stitches will get better. Leaving  the best for last.  

I am going to start with the Gingerbread Girl.  Choose your floss colors. I am going to use DMC #400 (brown) for the Gingerbread. #911(green) for the Christmas tree and #956 (pink) for the border for this tutorial.

Looking at the smocking design, notice where I have selected to start. This is a suggested location. You can choose any location  to start as  that long as it is on a pleating row. You could start on the outside edge or start in the center and work outward.

I am going to start 9 pleats to the left (as you look at the smocking plate) of the gingerbread girl on row 4.

We have dissected the smocking design, now we are going to break down the picture smocking design down to the lowest common denominator …….The Cable Stitch.

We are going to start by threading the needle with 4 strands of floss(brown) that has been stripped. In all of these photos my floss has  only been "squeaked". 

Make a knot on one end. We are going to bring the needle through the back of one of the pleats near where we are starting. Four strands of floss makes a bigger knot. I do not want the knot to fall in the valley of the pleats and give me a lump to smock around.

Gently pull the needle and floss till it is snug.

Bring the needle up in the valley between pleat 8 and 9. I have placed a straight pin to show you the edge of the design on that row. 

I like to make my first row to be a just slightly above the pleating threads. This is a matter of choice. You could also make your first row straddle the pleating thread, just watch that you don't go catch your pleating threads. 

Now, bring the needle to the left through the 9th pleat. Take notice of the depth of your needle. You will take a slightly deeper bite then you would with a geometric smocking plate.

Now we are ready to take our first cable stitch. According to the design this will be a Down Cable.

Keeping your needle parallel to your pleating threads and at the same depth bring your needle through the pleat.

Walla! A perfect cable stitch.  Notice that my floss looks like a ribbon.  This is good.

This picture is included for three reasons. The first is so you can see the depth of the needle through the pleat. The second reason is to talk about how you hold your insert.

I prefer to keep my insert sideways (as shown in this picture) so that I am smocking away from myself. I find it reduces the carpal tunnel in my wrist. This is a matter of choice. Choose to hold your insert/smocking the way it is most comfortable for you.

The third reason is to show you how to make the second cable. Keep the needle parallel and the depth consistent.

How is your floss doing?  Sometimes it just doesn't behave. If your floss has become twisted after you have already made your stitch just pull it up and smooth it out with the eye end of your needle.

If your floss is really twisted, you can slide your needle down the floss so that it is laying on your insert and then straight out the threads.

Continue stitching your cable row. We need 17 cables for first row.

When you get to the neon green thread that marks the center be carefull not to catch the thread.

When you get to the end of the row  to stop the last stitch of the Picture Smocking from making a "Y", I am going to slant my last stitch.

I am going to keep my needle straight as I have previously done. But before I pull my needle through the fabric I am going to pull the eye end of the needle to one side twisting the pleat. Then pull the needle and floss through.

The first row is now complete!

To be continued…….

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Picture Smocking Part 3-Needle and Thread

We have back smocked  our insert,  and we have dissected the smocking plate we are going to use, and we have marked the centerlines of the different designs.

Now lets talk about 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 will make 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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Picture Smocking Part 2-Dissecting a Smocking Plate

Okay, Lets dissect a picture smocking plate and take the mystery out of it.

This is a picture of the smocking plate that has been marked up. This is what my smocking plates look like when I am ready to smock.  I refer to this as my "marked up" copy or my "working copy" of the design.

You should be able to click on it to get a better view. Let me explain all the marks:
  1. I have marked the top and bottom of the center line of each smocked figure.
  2. I have counted pleats and marked the number of pleats between the center lines. (36 pleats)
  3. I have drawn lines to mark the outside edges of each figure, then I counted the number of pleats for each figure (24 pleats) and the number of pleats between the lines (12)
  4. The suggested starting point of each figure was already marked but if it wasn't, it needs to be included in the "marked up" design.

On my insert I have smocked the top cable row of the border with 3 strands of floss. I like to do the top row because it helps me set the design.  I will do the zig zag trellis later. If each of my smocked figures were standing on a border then I would have also smocked that before I start picture smocking.

In this picture I still have my safety pins in for the areas I back smocked. I can remove them now or leave them.   On the top, I have placed a small safety pin in the center valley of each smocked figure. I counted the pleats on my graph, then counted my pleats on my insert. Then, I double checked and counted everything one more time just to be sure.

Now for something you probably haven't seen before. I like to mark my entire center valley of each smocked figure.  I use Neon Green Rayon DMC. I use rayon because the colors do not leave a residue (ever removed red DMC thread?) and neon  green because I have mature eyes. :-)

Using a tapestry needle (it has a rounded point), I take one strand of the rayon thread and knot one end.  I take a small stitch at the top of the center valley above the holding row. I then run the tapestry needle under my pleating threads.   Because the rayon floss is under my pleating threads it should not be caught up in my smocking threads.

The finial results! Can you see where the center valleys are suppose to be?

If you have any question on any of these post or something is confusing, please post a question or email me. ~jg

Friday, November 15, 2013

Picture Smocking -Part 1 Q and A

Before I post the next installment of this Smock-Along let me answer some questions first.

1.Why do you use a stem stitch instead of a cable?

I use a stem stitch for several reasons. The first one is because I do  a lot  PS, so I do a lot of back smocking. I not have to think about a stitching a stem stitch like you would with a cable stitch where you need an Up and Down cable.  

I am a sports mom, so I spend a lot of time waiting for practice to end. I can carry my inserts with me and back smock in the car where the light and the environment are not always ideal.

A stem stitch does not distort the pleats on the front. If you do a cable stitch as back smocking then every row need to be identical. If you start with an Up stitch then every row needs to be an Up stitch.

2. What Thread are you using for Back Smocking? 

I am using DMC #12.  I used white thread for this tutorial but I actually prefer to use a thread color that is slightly a different color. Off white thread for a white insert. Black thread for a navy blue insert. I find it reduces eye strain.

I store my thread in these cute little plastic jars from The Container Store . NAYY (No affiliation, yada yada)   A tip I borrowed from Martha Stewart is to make a hole in the bottom and pull the thread out from there. I made the hole in the bottom the same way I did the holes for my  Pleater Thread Box.

3. Why are you using the fabric you choose?
 I use a broadcloth weight fabric for picture smocking so that it can support the weight/denseness of the picture smocking.  I prefer 100% cotton Kona Cotton because it come in 271 colors and it is easy to smock. 

Could you use Imperial Broadcloth? Of Course you can. You will feel your needle will have a little friction when you pull the needle through. This is from the polyester blend in the fabric.

I usually say this several times when I am teaching smocking………The Smocking Police does not exist!  What I love about SAGA (Smocking Arts Guild of America) is you discover so many different techniques that people use, and guess what it is still smocking and you can't see mistakes on a moving child! :-)

If there is any questions that you may still have feel free to ask or email me. ~jg

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Picture Smocking Smock-Along Part 1

This tutorial is dedicated to Nonie who claims to be picture smocking challenged. I am hoping I can change that!

You have probably seen this plate before. I first shared it several years ago. Here is the original post. gingerbread cookies smocking plate

I choose this smocking plate for the tutorial because it has very limited half stitches and no color changes.

The original plate was designed on an older smocking software program. I have upgraded the smocking plate  and made it clearer to read. You can download the free smocking plate from my website.

updated smocking plate

Okay, lets get started! First, you will need something to smock on. The Gingerbread smocking plate can be smocked as an insert or as on a bishop dress.  For this tutorial I am using an insert of Kona Cotton. This is a 100% cotton broadcloth.

(Just a note…..If you click on the pictures you can see them close up.)

There are several steps here.

  • My 45" insert was  pleated 11 full row with alternating color pleating threads. 
  • The pleats were tied off so that I had about 20 pleats per inch. 
  • I also counted pleats and place a small safety pin in the center valley.
  • So that I don't back smock more then I have to, I place more safety pins to mark the area that need to be back smocked.

Next, I back smock the 5 rows needed for the design. Back smocking the holding row is optional.

Here is a link to one of my  previous back smocking tutorial. I still prefer not to tie off my black smocking threads until later.

To be continued………...