Gathering Threads

Advanced Stitches Sampler

Posted by on Sep 21 2010, in Smocking

In between dresses and magazine assignments, I’ve been working on a SAGA correspondence course, Advanced Smocking Stitches and Design. It’s a five part course, taught by Nancy Malitz.

It’s important to note that ‘advanced’ is rather a misnomer – although a few of the stitches are probably not a beginner’s first choice, most are very straight forward, especially with Nancy’s excellent instructions. It’s more that these stitches just aren’t seen as much in traditional smocking plates, so they’re far less familiar to most stitchers. The first three parts of the course comprise working a smocking sampler to try out a variety of less-than-common stitches: honeycomb, herringbone variations, van dyke, wheat stitch, barbed trellis and more.

It was strangely freeing to just ‘doodle’. No worries about getting things perfectly centred and my tension just right. I could play – try and inch or two with the needle held at a 45 degree angle. Now what happens if I make the angle shallower? Steeper? Totally different results. How fascinating.

It was also very interesting to see what difference spacing made – stitches that seemed to loose or unattractive worked across a full space were compact and attractive worked in a half space and vice versa.

And threads. I tried ribbon and wool, velvet and three dimensional stitches like turkey stitch. All things I wouldn’t normally do for fear of getting it wrong and having to rip it out.

I literally rummaged in my stash. That scrap of electric green batiste? Perfect. The orange quilting thread I bought for a magazine project? Gather round. My only rule was ‘no rules’. I changed my colours on a whim, so I never got bored. I could pick it up, work a row of cretan stitch and put it down again.

I tried a number of surface embroidery stitches (very few of which were successfully translated onto a pleated surface, which was a valuable learning experience in and of itself!) and added a few new stitches to my ‘I really love this stitch’ repetoire.

Now I’ve sent my sampler on its way to be assessed and begun the next portion of the course: designing an original plate that incorporates a range of these advanced stitches. I’ve already sketched out my vision for the plate and I think it will (hope it will) work the way I envision it.

I’ve definitely caught the correspondence bug. I have plans to finish up this class by the end of the year and when I do, I’ll definitely be enrolling in another one. I’ve got my eye on the ‘Smocked Laces and Design‘ class or maybe ‘Exotic Smocking‘ Choices, choices!