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!


  1. great tutorial!! I have never tried holding my smocking like this, but will certainly give it a try!!

  2. I, too, am going to turn my smocking and hold it the way you do. Perhaps that will help keep my needle and stitches level!

  3. Karen and Sara,
    I find that this really heps. Just remember that ifyou learned the other way,it will be a bit awkward at first, but I think you will be pleased with the end results.
    Happy new Year!

  4. An informative blog entry. Thank you. Great , clear, photographs too. Haberdasher Smocker UK