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


  1. I really appreciate your sharing your knowledge. I am learning so much.

  2. Hi Janet! For several reasons I didn't get to join your smock along at the beginning but I have now done a lot of reading and will get "with it", I hope! I always felt so defeated because try as I might I couldn't figure out the Picture smocking thing. You've answered so many questions, I just might get the hang of it after all! Thanks, Terri

  3. I'm so very interested in learning to smock. I've read on the internet and basically taught myself enough to try a project. I marked and pleated by hand and this is so tedious. My first little baby dress turned out so adorable that I'd like to make more. ( I have 5 granddaughters ages 6 down to 3 mos.) Can you give me good information on purchasing a smocking pleater? I don't know anyone who does this and even have inquired at some fabric shops without success. Your site will offer me good info on improving my techniques, but the pleating comes first. Please help. Thanks so much!

  4. Anonymous~Welcome to smocking! The best pleater on the market right now is the Super Amanda Jane. What makes it the best is it has 24 full size rows and half space rows all the way across. Most pleaters only have half space rows only half way across or less.

    That being said I have been smocking for almost 20 years and have never had a need to half space rows all the way across.

    I recommend starting out with a 24 row pleater since you have a wide range of granddaughter to smock for. I have a 16 row Pullen pleater, a 24 row Sally Stanley and a 32 row Read. My Sally is a work horse and is the pleater I use 95% of the time. The Sally Stanley is no longer being made but used ones are available.

    I highly do not recommend a Dr Joe pleater.

    There are several places to look for a pleater. Used pleaters are the most cost effective way to go. Most of these pleaters are sold by women you no longer have anyone to smock for.

    There is a yahoo group called "Sew its for sale". This site is like a yard sale for sewing supplies. Sometime will have pleaters that have been donated. Most likely these pleaters are donated from adult children cleaning out mom's sewing room. Ebay also has used pleaters for sale.

    New pleaters can be could at places like All, Tosco and The Smocking Bonnet. I am sure there may also be other stores.

    You will also need to buy extra pleater needles. The needles are specific to the brand of pleater you have.

    I highly recommend looking to see if there is a smocking guild near you.

    Please feel free to ask more questions as they come up.~JG