18 May 2009

Smocked Apron, part 2

Part two for this smocked apron consists of the actual smocking stitches. Smocking has been described (accurately, I think) as embroidery on pleats, rather than a flat ground. And like the various other forms embroidery, smocking has it's own set of stitches. Fortunately, however, they tend to be simple (most are variants on backstitch) and they are generally worked in straight rows rather than figured designs. The stitch I have picked for this apron is honeycomb stitch, which opens up into a diamond lattice when finished.

Step 5: For thread, I am using a medium weight white linen thread (35/2). Linen thread is particularly good for smocking, as it can be pulled snugly and won't slide back when not under tension, unlike silk. In the photo at right, I have just started the first row of stitches. You can see very faint pencil lines marking the row so that I stay in a straight line; these will wash out later. Also note that I've left some unworked width at the top, because we will be attaching the top edge to a band for the apron ties later.

Honeycomb stitch (expanded)
Here, I'm pulling the pleats apart a little to show the structure of the stitch, and how it creates the diamond pattern.

Completed smocking
Step 6: Because I'm only using the one stitch, I just repeat it until I've filled the entire pleated area. The bottom row here is a bit sloppy - this is because the last gathering thread is actually between the two halves of the last row of honeycomb stitch, so those stitches were worked over loose folds rather than tightly organized pleats. Which is why you should always pleat a larger area than you think you need - it can be difficult to get the last row to line up correctly, and better to have extra room than run over the edge.

Releasing the gathering threads
Step 7:Once the smocking stitches are complete, carefully snip the gathering threads and pull them out, letting the fabric relax to a natural width. If you look carefully, you can see the structure, with each of the original pleats zig-zagging back and forth.

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