Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Embroidery class, year 2 - fine needlework - smocking

Our last completed topic in the guild's basic course was fine needlework. Year 2 has a very different feel to year 1, because we've had people move away, drop out, etc, and we are down to a group of six. Very cosy and yet more competitive!

Fine needlework is technically anything done with a tiny needle, but for the purposes of the class it covered two types of work: madeira work and smocking. This post will be about smocking, as thanks to the pregnancy exhaustion of first trimester, I didn't fully complete my madeira work project before handing it in, and I'd like it to be done before I photograph it for the blog!

I've been interested in smocking in the past, even to the extent of buying a book on it, but the amount of preparation you need to do to pleat the fabric had always seemed daunting. There are techniques you can use to smock fabric without pre-pleating, like counterchange smocking, but it works best on stripes or checks and still requires some fabric preparation in terms of marking it up.  So being given a pre-pleated sample piece for the purposes of the class was an ideal opportunity to try the stitching part without the initial time investment.

For our class and assignment folder we had to produce a smocking sampler, so just trying a variety of stitches.  I do enjoy the freedom of producing samplers but it does occasionally end up looking a bit messy.
I ended up with about a dozen different stitches and variations on stitches on my sampler, and I'm quite happy with it. I didn't get the room to try picture smocking, or smocking with buttonholes for a ribbon insertion - two techniques I liked the look of - but it was a still a good range to get a sense of what is involved in the technique.
The finished smocking sampler for the class. 
The basic stitches are quite easy. A lot of the elegance of smocking comes from how you combine them - so using the basic wave stitch in a variation that forms these lovely triangles, between which I've added tiny cable stitch florettes:
These triangles are made up of one basic stitch - but are so effective!
Or using a simple stem stitch to create a trailing vine which you then embellish:
An embellished trailing vine is so pretty - in a final project it might need backsmocking to keep it strong.
I really enjoyed playing with these smocking stitches. My reservations still stand though. There would be a LOT of preparation of fabric. But the final result does look beautiful. I suspect that only the recent news that the impending baby will be a boy has stopped me researching pleaters on ebay. After all, how much room would a pleater take up?

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