Welcome to our Mystery Ornament Smock-Along! You can find a complete list of materials needed for our Smock-Along at www.smocking.org. This post will take you step by step through pleating your fabric so you are all ready to start smocking when our first clue is posted on November 3rd! I also have some suggestions if you don’t have a pleater. Don’t forget to head on over and join our facebook group <https://www.facebook.com/groups/1554532568114047/. > I will be monitoring the group and will try and answer any questions. Your fellow smockers will also be able to give you some advice. Come show us your fabric and thread choices and be part of the fun! You can also check back here for step by step photos on completing the different stitches as we go through the Smock-Along. So let’s get started!
I have gathered all my supplies and am ready to start. You can use any color fabric you would like. My crimson fabric is plain 100% Kona cotton that you should be able to pick up at any fabric or quilt shop. If you would like online sources, go to our website and check out our business members, they will be happy to assist you with your fabric choice. The easiest fabric to pleat if you are a beginner is a good quality 100% cotton such as this Kona cotton, or Imperial Broadcloth which is 65% cotton and 35% polyester.
I have ironed and spray starched my fabric. Before putting the fabric through my pleater, I have used a purple disappearing marker to draw a long vertical line down the center of my 5 ½ inch piece of fabric. I will be pleating 11 rows and will line up this vertical line with the 6th needle on my pleater. I have also drawn 3 horizontal lines on my fabric at various points along the fabric. It isn’t important where the lines are drawn. The purpose is that as I am pleating the fabric, the horizontal line should go into the pleater evenly. This tells me that I am on grain. If one side of the line is approaching the pleater quicker than another, then I need to make slight adjustments, placing tension on one side to slow it down and let the other catch up.
I have pulled my thread out of one side of the fabric to form a seam allowance and tied off my pleats, two by two (and one three) and have pushed my pleats up against the tied off side. I want to block my piece of fabric at 9 inches which is what I need to go around my 3 inch ball. Before I pull out pleats to form the other seam allowance and tie off, I want to count my pleats. I did this by pushing a pin into the valley between every 20 pleats. Our directions specify that the design will be a 16 pleat repeat. I have 144 pleats (16 x 9) which is perfect. If you have less than 144 pleats, you can drop down to 128. The goal is a 9 inch piece of pleated fabric with the pleats nicely spaced and a total that is a multiple of 16. I have tied off my piece, given it a quick shot of spray starch and will let it sit overnight to set those pleats.
Troubleshooting: So maybe things didn’t go as smoothly with you and your pleater as it did for me. What do you do if you are off grain? Well that all depends…did I mention that this is an ornament, that it will go on the tree, and that there are no smocking police? The idea is to have fun. This isn’t a dress that has to drape. It is an ornament and its back side will be against the tree. So my advice is that unless your pleating is so bad that you will be fighting it as you smock, or it is going to keep you up nights, that you should leave it be. Having said that, if you do have lots of split pleats, and you are going to be fighting it as you try to smock, take out the pleating threads, give it a good spray with water, iron and starch it, and try again.
So what if you don’t have a pleater, and you want to make an ornament? Have you tried contacting your local chapter? Many of our chapters have pleaters that you can borrow. Still no luck? You can use striped fabric. Use that your purple or blue marker to draw lines every 3/8 inch across your fabric and then run gathering lines picking up the stripes every 3/8 of an inch across. This will take more time, but as you sit there waiting for the car pool, or watching the soccer game, in a few minutes you can have a row gathered. Again our business members will have an appropriate fabric.
You can also purchase iron on dots, and again you run a gathering thread picking up the dots as you go.
Finally, gather everything together and get ready to join our Smock-Along!