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


  1. wow! I am learning so much, still back smocking but do have my plate marked.

  2. This is super! Do you have a particular kind of floss that you prefer to use? It appears that your floss has a shine to it?

    1. I prefer DMC floss. The shine maybe from the starch.