Gathering Threads

Tutorial: Designing Geometric Smocking Plates in Illustrator Pt 3

Posted by on Aug 13 2011, in Smocking, Tutorial

This is the third part of my tutorial on designing geometric smocking plates.   For the first two parts, including the illustrator file you’ll need to complete this tutorial, click here and here.

If you haven’t completed the first two tutorials, you’ll want to practice and complete them first before tackling the final tutorial on creating geometric plates, as I build on the basic skills from each of the earlier lessons.  You’ll find the first two tutorials and all related downloads here:

Tutorial: Designing Smocking Plates in Illustrator
Tutorial: Multi-Coloured Smocking Plates in Illustrator.

60.   Using the direct select arrow (Hotkey: A), select any stitches that extend past the pleats.  Delete them.  Tip:  Because the symbols are grouped, using the selection arrow (Hotkey: V) would highlight the entire grouping; using the direct select arrow allows you to remove only those elements or even individual bezier points without effecting the rest of the design.

61.  When you have cleaned up all of the rows, your plate should look like this:

62.  Open the layers window (F7).  Lock the ‘cables’ and ‘crossover rows’.  Unlock and highlight the ‘row’ row.

63.  Drag the ‘Title’ symbol from the symbols window onto the plate.  Drag the ‘row number’ and place it on the upper holding row on the left side of the graph.

64.  Change the keyboard increment (Ctrl+K) to 16mm.

65.  With the ‘row number’ highlighted, hold the Alt key and tap the down arrow, until each gathering row is numbered.

66.  Select all of the row numbers and the title symbol (Ctrl+A).

67.  Click on ‘Break Link to Symbol’.

68.  Using the type tool (Hotkey: T), rename the smocking plate “Cross Over Trellis” and your name.  Renumber the row numbers H, 1-9, H.

69.  Depending on which version of Illustrator you are using, the following message may appear:

If it does, click ‘update’ so that you can modify the text.

70.  Open the swatches window (Window>Swatches).  Click on ‘new swatch’.

71.  Create a new swatch with the following details:  Swatch Name 3053 Green Gray, Color Mode RBG, R 156, B 164, G 130.  Click ‘OK’.  A new swatch will appear in your swatch library.  When you roll your mouse over it, the name of the swatch and its DMC colour will appear.  Tip: for a complete list of DMC colours translated into RBG, click here.

72.  Repeat the process from #71 to create three additional DMC colours.  All the colour modes are RGB:

3831 Raspberry Very Dark, R 179, G 47, B 72

3883 Raspberry Light R 234, B 134, G 153

3716 Dusty Rose Med. Very Light R 255, B 189, G 189.

Tip: although it takes a little longer to manually create these new swatches, the advantage is that the swatches can be used for any plate you design and your colourways will be consistent between designs.  If you are making a simple design for individual use, using the colour window and choosing the colours by value is fine.  If you are planning on making your plates available for sale or publication, having consistent values and a ready made swatch book that corresponds to actual DMC thread numbers is advisable.

73.  In the layers window, lock the ‘row’ row.  Unlock the ‘crossover’ row.

74.  With the selection tool (Hotkey: V), highlight the cross-over rows.  Click on ‘break link to symbol’

75.  With the cross-over rows still highlight, click on one of your new colour swatches to change the cross-over rows’ fill colour.

76.  Return to the layers window and lock the ‘crossover’ row.  Unlock the ‘cables’ row and following steps 74-75, colour the rest of the plate to your taste.  When you are finished it will look something like this.

77.  Save your tutorial as ‘crossover trellis-yourname’.  This tutorial will print to an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.  It can also be saved as PDF for stable digital transmission.  To do that, click ‘Save As’ and change the file format from ‘Adobe Illustrator’ (*.AI) to ‘Adobe PDF’ (*.PDF).

78.  To make your own designs, reopen the file ‘’ and click File>Save a Copy>geometric

79. Now, have fun making your own designs!  That’s the most important step of all. 🙂


  • Diane

    I have been so excited to have your tutorials. Do you have a color chart for Anchor floss? Also, where you recommend to learn what the different commands do? The step by step work, but I want to understand the functions better.

  • Claire

    Hi Diane – I’m about half way through the DMC chart but the fall is always a busy time for me, so I haven’t made much (any? :)) progress on the colour charts right now. I hadn’t thought of doing an anchor chart. As for the commands, Adobe has some nice instructions here, including how to customize keyboard commands.

    Alternatively, try googling “Adobe Illustrator shortcuts” and loads of great tutorials pop up. Some of them are more geared to graphic designers, not smockers, so they feature functions I don’t use to create the plates, but they’re still very helpful and you can pick or choose, too. Or manuals. I have ones for Illustrator and WordPress in my library and I got them from a bookstore.