Monday, June 11, 2012

Pleating for smocking when you don't have a pleater.....

A few days ago I received a note from a lady on the other side of the continent from me who had purchased the pattern, "Pinafore and Sundress" from Grace L. Knott. Many years ago I had done the revisions on this pattern and added View C to it so I had a rather intimate knowledge of it.

This dear lady had never smocked before and was trying out the traditionally spaced dots for the first time. For those of you have never used the traditionally spaced dots, they are just a bit closer together than the machine compatible ones. If you have never smocked before, this spacing might be just a bit close for comfort.

I then discovered that she was also working with seersucker. Now seersucker on its own has a few challenges but when pleated with a pleating machine and aided by some spray starch, you can get some excellent results. I never gave a second thought and rattled off some suggestions for her to try, suggesting that she test out the method that she thought would work best for her.

Well, later that day I went into the sewing room to find a left over piece of seersucker from the very pattern she was about to work on! See photo above.

I chose to use a fine-point fading marker and my trusty drafting ruler. I marked the fabric at 3/8" intervals every 2" (the width of my ruler) being very careful to work from a straight edge (a pulled thread to guarantee straight grain). Then I joined up the dots I had made and had straight lines with which to work. In future I would have chosen a water soluble marker as the lines started to fade very quickly! Must have been the weather....

 First I tried picking up every coloured stripe as I suggested - not the greatest results. 1

Then I tried picking up every third stripe (1 coloured, skip 2 stripes, then pick up a white etc.) which didn't give a solid white on the right side of the fabric - but the pleats were better. You got sort of a shadow of colour. 2

Then I tried picking up every other coloured stripe (1 white, skip 3, pick up a white). 3 

This was probably the best of all. Now I have to temper this with the fact that this seersucker has stripes that were barely 1/8" in diameter. If your stripe is wider then all this could change again.
Here are the samples from the right side after a shot or steam. they still are not as even as a machine pleated piece but #2 and #3 are very good. 

Another fabric that hand pleats really well is 1/4" gingham. Here you see a piece of taffeta gingham that I use for the dolls top a few blogs ago. I didn't have to draw a single line to pleat up this fabric. 

I picked up a full square of the coloured stripe and on the right side I had a solid white area on which I could do my smocking. I've seen this done and it is very dramatic as it looks as if you have used an insert of white fabric for the stitching!
From the right side
From the wrong side
 I also really liked the black side and could easily see this gingham smocked in bright red for smashing results. 
Once again you can play with the proportions to get the size and depth of pleat you like. You can see the vertical spacing I used and that can change as well but by doing it as shown, you have the halfway mark defined for you.

And just one more point about working with stripes, plaids and gingham fabrics - they give wonderful effects when cut on the bias for piping. Do give it a try.

Hope this has inspired some of you to try hand pleating for interesting results.
Till next time then, keep stitching.....

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