Gathering Threads

A Peep at Bo Peep

Posted by on Nov 09 2013, in Smocking

I usually keep a bit of smocking in my car so that when I’m playing taxi, I’ve got something to work on while I’m sitting on the sidelines of whatever destination I’ve shuttled the boylets.

My latest project is a picture smocked design that I will be submitting in the new year as part of my Artisan program evaluation.

I’ve been working away at accruing the necessary points through workshops, articles for SAGA News and my correspondence courses.  If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be ready to submit in the New Year.  One of the challenges with the Artisan program (besides getting over the fear that they’re going to be judging you on *every* *single* *detail*) is making sure that you provide examples of all of the required elements between your two garments and your smocked sample.

It’s a bit like Tetris.  You’ve got a bunch of ‘gotta smocks’ that you need to include: Van Dyke, bullions, feather and chain stitch, bars, spools, honeycomb, herringbone etc. and figuring out where and when to use them is the puzzle.

Bo Peep is my smocked sample.  It won’t be shown to the evaluators as part of a finished garment.

The fabric is a very narrow blue and white printed stripe, which I hand pleated to avoid distortion.  I did 31 rows (29 + 2 holding) 3/8″ apart.  I had planned on using gingham but for the life of me I couldn’t find a 100% cotton 1/8″ check in the right shade of blue.  This works equally well and I like the sense of movement the alternating pleats of blue and white give.

I know Bo’s looking a bit bald.  She will have hair and a bonnet.  And a skirt.  And a second foot.  And lots of embroidered flowers and curlicues.  But I’ve only just started the picture smocking.  I’ve completed most of the backsmocking, using two strands of floss to work rows of mirrored cable across the insert.  It stabilizes the pleats and it’s very inconspicuous from the right side.

I’ve also started on the geometric stitches: Van Dyke and Surface Honeycomb for the band below her feet and then above her, a band of Closed Herringbone and five rows of Honeycomb.

Because of the depth of the insert, if I ever end up using this in a garment,  it will be in a full yoke style, rather than in a partial yoke dress.

Of course, what would Bo Peep be without some sheep?  She’s going to have two of them eventually, one on either side.  And what do you think of when you think of sheep?  Well, take a peep at this! (sorry, but I couldn’t not say it :P)  It’s a skein of Caron Collections Impressions in white.  Impressions is a 50% wool/50% silk thread and it’s lovely.  I worked with it taking my exotic smocking course and as soon as I conceived of the design for the sampler, I knew I would use it to make these sheep extra wooly.

So slowly, slowly Bo Peep and her sheep are taking shape.


  • Heidi

    Wow. It is looking so nice and even. I admire you for hand pleating as it would drive me nuts. Love to see the end product.

  • Claire

    Thanks, Heidi. It took me a while to get the ‘rhythm’ of the running stitch but once I did, the rows were nicely mindless. There are only a few instances where I do hand pleat (gingham, corduroy) but given how meticulous the evaluators are, I couldn’t run the risk of the fabric skewing in my pleater and going off grain. There’s just no hiding it with stripes 🙂

  • Jenny Jo

    Are you smocking the sheep? Or doing something more dimensional?

    Have you ever thought of doing the backsmocking in stem or outline? Lyn Weeks once pointed out that the cable stitch causes the pleats to be bunched into groups of two, whereas the stem or outline treats the pleats all equally….. I left the cable behind and never looked back! 😉

  • Claire

    I am smocking the sheep first and then hoping to add dimension with embroidery.

    As for backsmocking, I’m a cable girl. 🙂 I’ve tried both stem and outline and I don’t like the way the thread twists when I work it or the way it makes the pleats wave back and forth on the right side, if you alternate rows of outline and stem. I just find cable faster, smoother and more to my tastes. Vive la différence!