Small Scale Smocking For Dolls: Part 2

Hi Everyone! Are you ready to move on to Part 2? Follow along as Kathy takes us one step further in our smocking journey. She will be demonstrating the basics of working with embroidery floss, creating the first stitch, the cable stitch and the outline stitch. I always love to see the various ways people do the simple things, like knotting the thread! I picked up a few new things to try in my everyday hand sewing that I'm sure will become new habits too!

Follow along in this video demonstration as Kathy walks us through the next part of the process:

Here's a full breakdown of the process, stitches, and a few charts too!

Part Two Preparing The Thread:

Cut a length of the DMC floss that is between 12” - 18” long. A ruler isn’t necessary. From your fingertip to elbow is approximately 18”.

Geometric smocking is most frequently done with 3 strands of thread.

The threads always need to be separated strand by strand and then put back together before threading the needle.

Hold the floss between your thumb and fore finger, locate a single strand and pull upwards to release the strand from the group. Shake out the thread bundle and then pull out another strand until 3 strands have been removed.

Set aside the bundled group and put the separated strands back together. Before threading the needle, stroke the strands between the thumb and fore finger to get the kinks and twists out of the thread ( 5 -10 times or more). This will result in a smoother stitch.

Thread the needle. Place a knot in one end of the strands and you are ready to smock.

Right Handed vs. Left Handed

Right handed individuals will smock from the left side of the fabric to the right side of the fabric while left handed individuals will smock from the right side of the fabric to the left. Instructions will be given for right handed students. The left handed student will do the same steps, only from the opposite side of the fabric.

Starting and Stopping

The pleats in the fabric can be referred to as having “peaks” and “valleys”. The “peak” is the top of the pleat that will be smocked while the “valley” is the depth between each of the “peaks”.

Looking at a cross section of the hand-pleated fabric, the gathering thread falls half way between the peak and the valley.

The first row and last rows of gathering threads are considered to be a holding row and will not be smocked.

On the second row (Row 1), come up in the valley between the first and second pleat. Pull up the needle and thread until the knot touches the valley of the fabric.

To take the first stitch, point the needle to the left (right for lefties) and take a stitch through the pleat, picking up about 1/4 of the peak of the pleat. Going deeper into the pleat would likely cause you to catch the gathering thread.


This is how to begin stitching each row regardless of the smocking stitch that will be completed.

As the end of each row is reached, the final stitch will be taken on the last pleat, then slide the needle along the valley between the last 2 pleats until the needle is next to the final stitch and push the needle to the wrong side of the fabric.

Once the needle and thread have been pulled through to the back side, pick up a small bite of fabric, pull it until a small loop is formed (STEP 1), then weave the needle/thread through in a figure 8 (STEP 2 & 3) and pull tight to secure. The knot should slide down and sit on the fabric. Trim the tail tow 1⁄4” – 3/8”.

Cable Stitch

Having taken the first stitch described above, keep the thread above the needle, go over to 2 pleats and take a stitch through only the second pleat. Pull the needle through.

Note that the thread hangs below the stitch. This first stitch is an “up” cable – the thread was “up” above the needle when the stitch was taken and stitch is “up” on top.


Leaving the thread below the needle, move to the next pleat and take a stitch, keeping the needle directly on top of the guide row. Pull needle through until it “kisses” the previous pleat. Note that the thread is now above the stitch. This completes the second cable stitch and is considered a “down” cable because the thread was kept “down” below the needle when the stitch was taken and the cable is “down” below the first stitch.

Continue this pattern of stitching to the end of the row. The needle always remains constant and at the same position on the pleating row – directly on top of the guide thread - while the thread will alternate position either above or below the needle with each stitch.

The goal with your stitches is to keep them smooth and straight with even tension, which will give good coverage. Remember to pull your needle through the fabric in the same direction as the needle is pointed.

Outline Stitch

The outline stitch is the tightest (least stretchy) of all the smocking stitches. It is worked with the thread always being held above the needle and moving over one pleat for each stitch.

Begin stitching as described previously. Keeping the thread above the needle, go over 2 pleats, take a stitch through only the 2nd pleat and pull thread through. Place thread above the needle again, move over 1 pleat and take a stitch. This stitch is always worked with the thread above the needle. The completed row will appear to slant upwards to the right.

Part Two Homework

Stitch a cable stitch on Row 1 (the second row of gathering threads) with DMC#3716.

Stitch the outline stitch just below the cable stitches on Row 1 with DMC#369. Slide the needle up the pleat until it is directly underneath to get the stitch just below the cable stitches.


Join us next week as we continue with Part 3!



April 16, 2021

I am enjoying this class so much. Kathy is an awesome teacher. I am so anxious for the next lesson. It is hard to wait for another week for the next lesson.


April 15, 2021

I am enjoying April’s class also and Kathy’s teaching method. I have a question: is the provided grid on paper the same as half-space row? I have several Martha Pullen patterns with smocking and half-space rows is in the directions. I have a pleater but am thinking it may be simpler to hand-pleat the fabric if I can make the size of the pleats right.


April 14, 2021

This class is WONDERFUL and Kathy is a magnificent teacher. She goes slow enough so you can easily follow along but not so slow that it makes you crazy! lol I have been wanting to learn how to do this since I first picked up a needle at age 16 (I am now 66!) and just watching the first two lessons has made me wonder why I waited so long to give it a try! Thank you SO MUCH for including this in the SWC program!!! I hope the course at some point will include how to pleat with a pleater too. Thank you again!


April 13, 2021

lots of information to process!! will do a piece of fabric as sample

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