Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Things finiished.....

Cheers to the lady who is a first time smocker who also tackled picking up dots by hand!! This is View C from "Pinafore and Sundress", a Grace L. Knott pattern. I added this view to the pattern when I did the update a few years ago.

Here is her second dress and her work is just as meticulous as in the first (lime green) dress. She wrote to say she hopes to make View A of the pattern, a yoked sundress with shoulder ruffles. Hope she will share this one as well....

Just a note about the "H2O Gone" fabric stabilizer that I used with the very stretchy knit fabric in the last post. The store where I purchased this stabilizer offered no information other than it was water soluble. 
You probably were not able to tell from my photo, but, the piece I pleated has some shaping to it as in my "Little Snowdrift" pattern. I have to say I had absolutely no problem with the pleating and shaping when there was sufficient basting done ahead. (Above is the right side of work - one side still has the basting in place.)

A friend uses this product frequently for her machine embroidery and she told me that contrary to most products removed by water, this one requires warm water, (about 80 degrees F). She suggested bringing a kettle to boil, pouring a large bowl of water and letting it sit for a few minutes - until you can put your hand into the water - then swishing the piece in the water to remove the stabilizer. 

This product is distributed by Marathon Threads of Winnipeg, Manitoba and I copied this information from their web site:
" Trim excess stabilizer. Too dissolve remaining stabilizer, submerge article in liberal amounts of warm water and apply a slight agitation, or run through a delicate wash cycle. Due to hard water conditions, it may be necessary to repeat this step."

Here is the Bumble Bee fabric all finished - in the same pattern in View A. Again a really, really good job done! If you go back a few segments in the blog you will see close-ups of the smocking design and how Marian managed to expand the design and choose the colours.


Marian also wants to dedicate a padded hanger to this dress when she gives it as a gift. She asked if she could use a snap to hold it in place. What a great idea! 

I suggested the female portion be attached to the dress so there would be no chance of skin irritation or scratching. Then she matched up the male portion on the 'shoulder' of the hanger and stitched it down. Now the little sundress won't fall off in the closet either!

So until next time, keep on stitching......

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pleating stretchy knits

Hello again! 

First I want to show you the green polka dot dress that our first time smocker made. I am so impressed and I think she is happy as well because she is starting another dress from the same pattern for her other granddaughter. 

Next on the list of things I wanted to show you is a series of samples I did up of a fine knit fabric which contained Lycra - so you know it was really stretchy - not just in the cross grain but also in the lengthwise grain! So there was no chance of pulling this fabric to keep it on grain as it was pleated. 
A lady from B.C. had written and asked if she could use a knit fabric to smock a nightgown for her daughter. The answer is yes if you take the proper care and precautions.

Here you see the knit fabric from the back with a piece of stabilizer quickly basted to it along all four edges. Remember this is only a test.
What you need to keep in mind is that the right side of a knit fabric of this type has courses running the length of the fabric. 
You can not straighten a knit fabric. You will have to work with it as it is as it has been heat set before leaving the factory and you can not tear it or pull a thread.
The stabilizer I am using is called "H2O-Gone". It is a non woven light weight product that came on a bolt and is used for machine embroidery. It is water soluble and shrinks noticeably if it comes in contact with steam! Do be careful; use a dry iron only.

So it went into the pleater beautifully and formed good neat pleats.
I could gently adjust the fabric if it started to go off but this had to be done carefully. However part way through I knew I was running into trouble. the layers were starting to feed at a different rate. When I was finished there was a bubble       which proved more basting was required to keep the layers together across the fabric. Below you can see bubbles that I pleated through at the end of the fabric.

For the next test I machine basted the two layers together at the top edge, and every inch below just to be sure. Here I have used a dark thread so it will show up in the photo and used a long stitch with the tension loosened so the stitching would pull out easily.
You can see in the photo first from the wrong side, how it looks with the pleats slightly flared as for a bishop and the basting threads are removed for half of the width. The second photo is the same piece but from the right side.

And how does it smock? Perfectly! The however is, no instructions came with the piece I purchased. I was simply to remove it with water. So I dipped it in tepid water and left it to dry. Not so great. It was so stiff and scratchy you would never put it on a child like that. So I poured another basin of tepid water and washed it. Much better but it would need machine washing or a lot more effort if done by hand. 

There must be many other water soluble stabilizers on the market that will pleat just as well and come out a little easier. I just wanted to try one of the new ones.
If I were doing this for a real garment I would remove as much of this stabilizer as possible before putting it in water. And, if I were sure it would not stretch, I would go back to one of the Sulky brand products.

If you have used one of these water soluble stabilizers, perhaps you would like to tell us the name of what you successfully used!
So until next time, keep stitching.....

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Follow-up on pleating without a pleater

I heard back from the lady who had never smocked before and was trying to pleat with traditionally spaced dots (as opposed to machine spaced dots).
Her work has truly impressed me and luckily she was willing to share her success with the rest of us.
Close-up of tight pleating

The fabric was dotted, not a seersucker as I thought. And fortunately the dots came up in a fairly straight line - not on a distracting angle or in globby splotches.

Pleating pulled up tight to steam and set
So to sharpen the hand pleated pleats, it is best to pull up the gathers as tight as you can, give them a shot of spray starch, a good bath of steam from your iron and leave them to dry overnight.
Do not press the pleats, just hold the steam iron over top of the pleats to give the lots of steam.

Doing this will define the pleats and make make the smocking (embroidery) easier. The gathering thread is on the very back of the pleats when hand pleated, not part way through as in machine pleating.

Smocking started

Here she has started the first row of her smocking. She writes that she now realizes that the matching green is perhaps not the best colour as her smocking doesn't show in contrast to the fabric.

Since the top of the sundress has been folded back to form a facing (eliminating the need to finish a raw edge) she needed to take a deeper stitch in each pleat to be sure to catch the second layer of fabric.

I suggested that she work out a plan for her colours and stitches on paper using coloured pencils to represent the colours of floss she was planning to use. This saves not only time but floss and fabric.

I can hardly wait to see the finished dress and she did promise to send a photo. I think you will all agree she has done a great job for a first go at smocking. It would be nice if you let her know by posting a comment below where she can read it!

So until next time, keep stitching......

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.....