I only took one picture of the smocking step when I learned how to smock in the embroidery hoop, but I think words will explain the rest of the process well enough for you to play around with it. The design on my jumper (see previous post) was from a design CD called Smocking in the Hoop.
We also used a ready to smock insert, which made things much easier. Both the CD and insert are available from Martha Pullen Co.
We gathered the insert as small as it would go by tying off the pleating threads at one end and pulling the gathers along the threads from the other end. If you wiggle the threads up and down, back and forth, a bit, you can straighten the gathers better. Once it was tightly gathered, we tied off the pleating threads on the other side as well. Pleating threads were never cut until we removed them after all stitching was complete. They were just tied off and left hanging.
We placed sticky water soluble stabilizer in the hoop without any fabric. After removing the paper we stitched out the first step, which was a basting stitch outline. Then we centered the insert over the basted outline, making sure to cover all the basting stitches, and tried to get the pleats as parallel to the ends of the hoop and to each other as possible. We covered the insert with a second piece of sticky water soluble stabilizer that covered all of the pleats and held the insert to the hooped stabilizer, but ended just before and did not cover the pleating thread ends.
Then we repeated the basting stitch to hold the insert and pleats in place more securely and stitched out the design. The flowers on the sundress in the previous post were from the Sew Beautiful freebies, # 119 Flower on the first row, and these were embroidered after the smocking design finished.
The stabilizer was trimmed away from the edges, but it was not washed out until the whole sundress project was finished. After the excess stabilizer was trimmed, the pleating threads were carefully removed. It’s best to hold the pleats in place by laying the insert on a table and placing your hand over as many pleats as possible. Snip the knots off one end of the pleating threads and pull the other end out gently. Now the insert is ready to be used in any project you dream up!
Much more detailed instructions for this technique can be found at Martha Pullen in the free downloads section. But I hope you see from this description how easy this is, and the results are beautiful.
©Sherilyn Siegmund-Roach 2012