Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Picture smocking

I thought while I was in the middle of some that i would post about picture smocking. Maybe some hints and tips that I have found useful.
The friend who taught me to picture smock warned me that it was difficult and while she gets wonderful results with it, it seems to be a struggle for her.  On the other hand, i love doing it.  I am not too keen on all the backsmocking rows required but they are a necessary part of it I guess.

Ok, tip no 1; speaking of backsmocking:
Because picture smocking is usually only using sections of the pleated piece, something is required to hold it all together. So rows of cable are stitched along the back at regular intervals. Now the question is when to do these. Personally I prefer to do them first. If you do the picture smocking first, you then need to try to do your cable rows around the knots and short stitches that are made on the back of the work. So for this reason, I do it first.  Also, it gets the tedious bit out of the way; it is like eating your vegies first; and saving the good bit for the end LOL!!

Tip no 2 (there aren't many to go)
Keep the tension fairly light.  If you pull your stitches too tight, there will be a pulling in of the stitches when they are stacked on top of each other and it will not sit together. So not as tight as geometric smocking.

Tip no 3
I have read articles that suggest using  a small needle to keep the threads together; I do the opposite and use quite a large needle; i find the threads can lie flat next to each other and not be bunched up in the eye; just a personal preference. Quite typical of me not to do as I am told!LOL!
No 4
Speaking of thread,  four strands of stranded cotton are usually used. These need to be stripped ie, separated from each other and then laid back together.  This way they don't clump and will sit flat next to each other on the material, giving you a nice even coverage. Some people iron their threads; I have tried this but find I get good enough results without doing this.

There was something else i thought of but being after my bedtime, it has escaped my brain cells for the minute.
Picture smocking is fun and can give a real lift to children's clothes (or adults; these owls were on a jumper of mine, much to my husband's disgust LOL!!)
Take your time and enjoy it would be the only other things I suggest.  Dont stress and it will all work out.  It can take practise to work out how far apart to smock each row to get the design to be the right height; often people find their rows are stitched too closely and their design ends up too short. My problem is the opposite; mine end up too big. I have no idea how but it all seems to work in the end.
This was my first attempt at picture smocking; you can see hints of the background coming through; especially in the black.
Not bad for a first attempt. This was before I had mounted it into some fabric and made it into something for a gift.
well I hope this helps someone out there in blogger land.
'Night all, off to the land of Nod for a well earned sleep. (I have a heavy chest cold and have been coughing through the night; in my sleep too apparently, so i think I need all the sleep I can get)

I remember now (after a good sleep)
The last tip I have for you is to take your stitches deeper into the pleat than you would for geometric smocking. With shallow stitches the material shows through between each stitch.


  1. Karyn, Thanks so much for those very helpful instructions. Hope you are feeling better soon. Laurel

  2. Hope you are up and at 'em again soon Karyn. I agree with all of your hints. I've only done minimal picture smocking, but seem to do what you've advised. I have to say I am not as good at it as I'd like, and perhaps that is my own fault for not keeping at it. I love the romper BTW, it's just too cute. Take care.