Friday, December 24, 2010

Start Smocking - Cables!

      I am going to take you step by step through the process of starting your thread and beginning your smocking stitches!  The process I use may be a bit different from what you are used to seeing, but using this technique allows me to see exactly where my needle enters the fabric and where it exits the fabric, which allows me to see where my stitch is going to be. 

If you have questions, please post a comment and I will answer you.  Chances are, if you have a questions, someone else might too, and that way everyone can see the question and answer.

A smocking stitch always takes to pleats -
   an old pleat (the needle and thread are coming out of)
   a new pleat (the needle is going into)
The needle is always parallel to the pleating thread
The needle should always be pointing towards you
The stitch should be plaed about 1/3 of the way down the pleat
Threads should be untwisted and lie side by side, next to each other

Once you have your fabric pleated, you are ready to start!  To begin with, you need to choose a thread and needle.  Some thread choices are cotton stranded embroidery floss 3 strands), floche (2 strands), and coton a broder #25 (2 strands).  For your needle, I usually use an 8 embroidery needle or a 7 sharp needle. 
     When you start your thread on the fabric, you want your first stitch to look like it is 'the next' stitch.  You don't want it to be obvious that you are starting.  To get this effect, do the following:
1.  Bring the needle up from the wrong side (back) of the fabric to the right side (top) of the fabric between the 2 pleats that you are going to use for your first stitch. (See picture above). 

     At this point you want to turn the fabric so that the pleating threads are running north to south.  This is the way I hold my fabric when I am smocking.  It helps me see better!  The needle is always pointing towards me as I stitch. To hold you fabric so that it moves over your fingers:

Hold out your left forefinger (pointer) and put the finger under the pleated fabric

Put your second finger (tall man) over the fabric behind your first finger

Put your 3rd and 4th finger (ring man and pinkie) in front of the fabric, to the front of your first finger.  When you hold your fabric like this, you can see into the side of each pleat so that ou know where your needle is entering and exiting each pleat and you can also check andmake sure that your needle is horizontal to the pleat.
This may be awkward, especially if you learned to smock from left to right!
All I can say is - give it a chance!

     Right now, you have bright your thread from the wrong side to the right side through the valley between the two pleats of your first stitch, and then you turned your fabric.  Next, you are going to bring your needle through the first pleat (the one on the bottom).  Remember, the needle always points towards you, and the needle is always parallel to the pleating threads.
     For this first stitch ( a cable) I am starting it just a needle's width away from the pleating thread.  This will give me enough space for the thread in the stitch to lay butting against the pleating thread as I stithc along the row.
Something to remember about cables:
C is for Correct - in the cable stitch, the thread always wants to go the way it is supposed to go!  If the cable lays to the right, then you are going to be doing a right cable, etc.

Now my thread is coming out of the first (old) pleat and then my needle is going to the next (new) pleat and the thread is to the right, so I am going to be stitching a right cable.
I am placing my needle:
parallel to the pleating thread
needle pointing towards me
stitch about 1/3 of the way down the pleat

     As I pull the thread through the fabric, I catch the loop with my thumb, and my thumb kind of serves as a mini-press, to help keep the threads straight.

     You can see my thumb is caught in the loop and I run my needle through the threads to sstraighten them out.  If you look closely, you can see 3 threads lying next to each other.  If the threads are twisted, you will see one big thread instead of 3 separate threads.

          When you pull the thread to make the first cable stitch, the stitch will butt against the pleating thread and the embroidery thread will now be going to the left.  Your next stitch will be a left cable stitch.

    Next stitch - a left cable!  Thread to the left, your needle is coming out of the old pleat and into a new pleat, with the needle pointing toward you and parallel to the pleating thread.  The needle goes into the new pleat a threads width away from the pleating thread.

     Again, catch the loop with your thumb and use the needle to make sure the threads are straight. 

     Once everything is as it should be, complete the stitch.  This stich will NOT butt against the pleating thread - it will be a bit to the left of the original stitch.  The next stitch (a right cable) and every right cable will butt  against the pleating thread.

     Now ready for the next cable!  The thread is off to the right, so we will be stitching a right cable.  Same process:
Needle points toward you
Needle is parallel to the pleating thread
Needle is put placed about 1/3 of the way down the pleat

Repeat the steps for the left cable and the right cable until you have stitched the required amount. 

     A perfect row of cables! 

Remeber - if you have questions, please post them so all can see!  I will be posting lessons on Fridays, so hopefully youwill have a bit of free time on the weekend to spend a bit of time on them.  Anything that is posted I will try to have posted before the next lesson.

Happy Stiching!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Introducing................Violet Grace!

     I'd like to introduce you to Violet Grace!  It will be nice to have a name for my 3T dress form!  I am heading to LA next week to wrap up my Basic Yoke pattern, and Violet Grace will be going with me!
     And congratulations to Joyce Ross from the Baltimore area - she submitted Violet Grace and is the winner of 10 skeins of coton a broder #25.  She belongs to the Chesapeake Treasures SAGA Guild - I taught for their group and had a loely time!  These will bo out in the mail - enjoy!  For those of you who submitted a name and it was not the one drawn out of the hat, don't despair.  I have a 12 month dress form that needs to be names and will ask for names again in the spring.
     Next post will be cables, followed by baby waves and then smocking and constructing a basic yoke dress.
     My chickies are starting to head home to roost!  Annie got home this afternoon - about 12 hours late.  her flight out of Boston was delayed, so she spent the night in the Atlanta airport (you ca do that when you are young!).  Nathan (#2) is already home and Zak (#1) will be home Christmas Eve morning.  We have a short 36 hours when everyone is home at the same time, but 36 hours is better than none!
     I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and get to spend time with loved ones and friends.  Be happy and safe, and
Happy Stitching!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


    Before you can smock, you have to have a piece of pleated fabric to work on!  The easiest and quickest way to do pleat something is with a pleater (vs. pleating by hand).  To get started, I have my pleater needles in my pleater.  At this point, I will put as many needles as I need (one needle = one row of pleating) and make sure they are nice and straight.  Bent needles can cause them to pop out of the pleater bars and can be very frustrating.
    The next thing I like to do, especially if I have not pleated anything in a while, is to run a piece of wax paper through my pleater.  Please note that the needles are NOT threaded at this point!  I take a piece of wax paper that is about 12 inches long and 'pleat' it.  This helps to lubricate the needles and the fabric seems to glide right through.  You can save the wax paper and use it again.
     Thread your pleater needles.  I have my pleater sitting on a Thread Caddy - it helps me keep my threads untangled, especially if I am doing a lot of pleating (kits for a class, etc.).  Thread the same number of needles as rows of pleats that you need, and don't forget your holding rows!  I like to have 2 holding rows at the top and one at the bottom for a total of 3 holding rows.
Note:  to help guide your fabric through, I usually follow the guide for the next full space row that is not threaded.  As you can see, I have 15 needles threaded, so I lined the fabric up with row 16 and used that as a guideline.
   Once you know where to line up your fabric, start it through the pleater.  It does help to have 3 hands (or a kid or a husband), but lacking those, it is possible to feed the fabric through evenly.  Remember this is not a race!  It also helps to know your pleater.  I have several pleaters that I use, and they each have their own personality.  The more you pleat, the more you will get to know your pleater.  Don't be afraid to pleat something for practice!
Note:  I pleat with the needles in the front, the handle on the right side with the fabric feeding through from the back.  That is the way I learned!  I know there are people who pleat with the handel on the right, the fabric going away from them.  There is not really a right or wrong way - whatever is most comfortable for you.
     As the needles fill with fabric, pull the pleats off and then pleat again until the needles are full.  Repeat this until all the fabric has been fed through the pleater.  Remember, slow and steady!  Watch the fabric and keep it straight so that the pleating theads are on grain!
     Once the fabric is pleated, CAREFULLY pull the thread out of the needles.  Make sure you are pulling out the end that is not still attached to the spool.  Once all of the needles are unthreaded, pull the pleated piece out so there is (at least) a good 18 inches of thread at the pleater end.  It is better to have too long than too short!  You should now have  long tails of thread at each side of the pleated fabric.  At this point, cut the threads, and tah dah!  your pleated piece of fabric!
Next lesson is blocking the fabric.

Don't forget to name my size 3 dress form!  I have had some cute names come in - drawing is soon!
Happy Stithcing (and pleating)!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Baking!

December is here and I have started my holiday baking!  Mrs. Marshall, one of my mother's friends, used to make a bunch of these for our church bazaar every year.  I received the recipe at my bridal shower, and then promptly 'lost' it in packing everything to be shipped from Kentucky to California!  I found it several years ago and it has become a favorite year round- both for my family, friends and neighbors!

JoAnn Marshall’s Coffee Cake

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Mix until crumbled:
3 Cups flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup margerine or butter, softened

Take out 1 cup and reserve for topping

Add to remaining crumble mix:

1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Grease and flour pan ( either a 9x13 or 2 – 9 inch round cake pans).  Pour batter in pan, and drop reserved crumble mix on top.  Bake 40 - 45 minutes @ 350 degrees for round cake pans,
Bake 45 – 50 minutes @ 350 degrees for 9 x 13 cake pan.
This is wonderful for a hostess gift!  The Aluminum 9 inch round pans are perfect!