Hi Everyone! Today we kick off the April topic Small Scale Smocking For Dolls! I'm super excited to learn from smocking expert Kathy Dykstra and even more excited to have you learn from her too!
More about Kathy: Kathy learned to sew at the age of 12 by taking classes with the 4-H club and then continued taking many more classes over the years. She continued sewing for herself and then took pattern drafting classes in college.
After the birth of their first 2 daughters, Kathy learned how to smock and do French machine sewing. These quickly became her preferred sewing and she pursued classes over the years from many of the icons in the heirloom sewing world.
Kathy has been teaching smocking, French machine sewing and related needle arts since 1984 both locally as well as nationally. She is a SAGA (Smocking Arts Guild of America) certified teacher and has taught at smocking guilds around the country, Martha Pullen’s School of the Art Fashion as well as the national SAGA conventions and retreats.
In addition to teaching, Kathy’s patterns have been featured in Australian Smocking and Embroidery, Les Smocks (French publication), Sew Beautiful and more recently in Classic Sewing Magazine. Smocking and sewing for children continue to be her favorite pastime and passion. You can find more childrens size smocking pattern in her Etsy Shop Kathys Heirloom Sewing. The Analise Top is the girl size coordinating design to the Katya top used in this demo!
Let's Get Started!
Note: The Katya Peasant Top pattern can be redeemed for free with your coupon code, the April code is posted on the Sewing With Cinnamon Bonuses page.
For this introduction to smocking class, the fabric will be hand-pleated. However, if a pleater or pleating service is available, this is definitely a quicker way to pleat the fabric. For many, this may not be an option. Since the doll clothes are small and only a small section will need to be pleated, the hand-pleated method can be used effectively.
For the first time smocker, white Imperial broadcloth is the easiest fabric to learn on. Imperial brand of broadcloth is the highest quality poly/cotton blend with the nicest finish and feel to it. The weight is ideal for smocking.
A #7 darner or embroidery/crewel needle is best for smocking. Richard Hemming, John James or Tulip needles are high quality needles and will glide through the fabric much easier than the needles available at the big box stores.
Embroidery floss is most often used for smocking and is readily available in craft stores. DMC floss or Susan Bates/Anchor floss are the preferred brands to use as they are color fast and have good coverage.
Hand quilting thread in a color that can be easily seen with the fabric of choice should be used. This heavier thread will not break when it is pulled up and tied off for smocking, Quilting thread for machine quilting is not recommended as it is thinner and not as strong and the spools of hand quilting thread. Dark colors, such as black, navy or dark brown will show up well on white or lighter colored fabrics. Bright yellow or white will show up on most darker colored fabrics. If working on a print fabric, choose a color that can easily be seen with the fabric being used.
Plastic canvas (10 mesh) and a blue wash-out marker will be used to make the grid.
Preparing The Fabric
Making The Grid - Method 1
Place the fabric (6-1/2” x 8-1/2”) on a at surface. With a blue wash-out marker, draw a line 1/4” from one of the outside edges. Place the plastic grid on top of the fabric, aligning one side with the blue mark and aligning the top of the fabric with the top of the grid.
Skip the first 2 rows of holes in the grid and begin marking every hole on the 3rd row down from the top. Mark all the way across the fabric. Skip the next row under the marked dots and mark the dots on the 5th row - mark across the fabric. Continue marking dots on every other row until 10 rows have been marked.
To gather the fabric into pleats, cut ten 13” lengths of hand quilting thread. Thread the needle (do not put a knot at the end of the thread) and stitch a running stitch along the width of the fabric, inserting the needle into one dot and exiting from the following dot until the row has been fully stitched. Repeat this for all 10 rows of dots.
After completing the gathering stitches, on one side of the fabric, pick up the top 2 gathering threads and tie an overhand knot. Repeat this process with the remaining threads until all the threads on one side of the fabric have been knotted.
Pull the threads on the opposite side until pleats have formed. Count 30 pleats. Pull out any of the threads that extend past the 30th pleat.
Measure 1/4” away from the 30th pleat and trim away the ex- cess fabric beyond the 1/4” seam allowance. Ensure that both ends have 1/4” of fabric beyond the knots. Pull up the fabric until it measures 2” (including seam allowance) and tie off the pleating threads. The pleated section should measure 1-1/2”.
To tie off the second side, it is best to work on a padded surface (ironing board, etc.) To tie off the second side. Take the 2 top threads and make an overhand knot. Stab a pin between the 2 gathering threads, through the fabric and into the padded surface. Slip the circle that the knot formed over the pin. Holding the pin securely, gently pull the thread tails. The knot will slide down the fabric as it tightens up.
Repeat this process for the remaining threads until the pleated fabric is secured with knots on both sides of the fabric. Give the knots a good tug to ensure that they are secure.
Trim the thread tails to about 1/2”. The pleated insert is now ready for smocking.
Making The Grid - Method 2:
Another method to make the grid is to use the grid graph (PDF download can be found in the SWC Bonuses section) and a fine tip blue wash-out marker. Place the fabric (6-1/2” x 8-1/2”) on a flat surface. Measure in 1/4” from the outside edge of the fabric and mark a line extending from the top of the fabric to the bottom of the fabric. Tape the paper grid to a at surface.
Align the fabric on the grid with the side of the fabric aligned with the blue mark and the top edge of the fabric to the top of the grid.
Mark all 10 rows of dots (2” depth).
Continue following directions given for method 1 for gathering and tying off the knots.
Alternate Idea For Pleating:
If marking dots to make a grid holds no attraction for you, an alternate way to pleat fabric is to use fabric that has a built in grid such as gingham. 1/8” gingham check fabric can be used to create the grid, however, the spacing will be different than with the mesh which could be a bit more challenging to smock. It would be a great idea for creating a second oufit after gaining some experience with the first!
To create the pleats on the 1/8” gingham, start the first row of gathering stitches 2 gingham squares below the top edge of the fabric. Begin the gathering stitches 2 square in from the outisde edge of the fabric. The needle will go in on one side of the square and come out on the other side of the square. Follow this pattern across the width of the fabric.
Follow the instructions previously given for tying off the gathering threads and trim the fabric beyond the knots so that there are 2 gingham squares (1/4”) beyond the knots.
While gingham will be more challenging to smock, only because the spacing of the gathering threads will be a bit different, the effect of the pleated gingham is unique. On one side the gingham will be lighter while on the other side the gingham will have no white in the pleats and the color will be predominant.
Last Resort Method:
If no other methods or supplies are available, the ruler method for marking the grid can be used. It has the potential for more error and rarely is as accurate than using the plastic grid or using gingham fabric, thus calling it the last resort.
With a ruler and the blue wash-out marker, the grid can be drawn onto the fabric. Place the ruler 1/4” below the top edge of the fabric and draw across the width of the fabric. Move the ruler down 1/4” and draw the next line. Do this until there are 8 lines drawn on the fabric. Next the vertical lines will need to be drawn. Draw in the first vertical line 1/4” from the edge of the Fabric. This will be the seam allowance. Continue with moving the ruler across the fabric in 1/8” intervals and draw in lines across the entire width of the fabric.
When the lines are completed, put the gathering thread in by going in and out of the fabric at the intersections.
Gather and knot the fabric following instructions given in method 1.
Be aware that all hand-drawn grids will not be exactly the same as using a pleater, as suggested in the pattern. Each method results in slightly different spacing.
Once the grid has been completed, spritz the fabric with water or soak for 5 minutes in cold water (no detergent!!!) to remove the blue marks and allow it to air dry. The marks would be distracting.
Jump back in next Tuesday as we move on to Small Scale Smocking Part 2