I start by cutting out the pattern. Here I'm using a lovely lavender scrap. Wonder what that's from? ;-)
Once the pattern is cut out, there are a couple of different options for pleating the material. There are iron-on transfer dots or the dots can be carefully drawn on with a fabric marker. Then the material is gathered by using a running stitch. Or the material is run through a pleater. I'm lucky enough to have the use of my mom's pleater. Some fabric stores offer pleating for a fee. That's the pleater on the left and spools of thread on the right. My dad built this board to hold both the machine and the thread. It really makes this process very smooth.
This is a Sally Stanley pleater. Those are the needles on the left. I didn't get a picture of those, but they have a crook and fit between two of the rods. You insert as many needles as you want rows of smocking. I want 5 rows of smocking, so I've inserted 5 needles.
The fabric gets wrapped around a wooden dowel.
Here's the knob that turns the rods.
The material feeds into the pleater...
...and onto the needles.
Gently pull the pleated material off of the needles and onto the thread.
Cut the threads, leaving plenty on either side of the material and stretch/shape to whatever you are making.
Now the fabric is ready to be smocked. The green threads are called gathering stitches. Smocking is done on top of the pleats, using the gathering threads as guides. It's very much like learning to write on ruled paper. There are some websites that outline the basic stitches.Stitches Link 2
I have a couple of books that serve as inspiration and instruction for patterns (like the baskets). Sometimes I just do my own thing. Luckily, it's easily pulled out and redone if you make a mistake (as I am prone to do!) or don't like the way it looks. There are also smocking plates.
Are you thoroughly bored now? I think smocking is great fun and I love to talk about it. In fact, I think it's time to start a new project!