Finally! We get to start smocking our bishops! By now, you know me, I tend to do things a little differently. So...!
Cut a length of floss about 40" long. Stay with me here!
Strip the floss into strands by drawing one strand away from the rest and set it aside. Remember which direction you placed the floss! Pull out as many strands of floss from the 6 plies as you want to use to smock. Place them in the same direction.
I know there are those teachers who will stand over you with a ruler, ready to whack your hand if you use your floss in the wrong direction. ~gasp!~ While it IS true that embroidery floss has a grain, in smocking, it is not usually evident. Cross-stitch, yes, smocking, not so much. HOWEVER! I do recommend stranding in one direction or the other as mentioned above.
How many strands of floss do you use to smock? It depends on several things:
1. Quality of the embroidery floss. Anchor has the best coverage. DMC can be hit or miss. Some other brands are even worse seeming 'stringy'. I do use DMC when the color is better than Anchor. But I ALWAYS use Anchor whites and black.
2. The fabric. Fine fabrics like Swiss batiste can look nice with 2-3 strands of floss. Fabric with a pile like corduroy might need 4, 5, or 6 strands! How do you know how many? Make a few stitches! Yes, yet again, make a sample! Sometime colors needs an extra strand to pop. Once you stitch on that particular fabric with those colors, you will see what looks best.
3. Type of stitching. Geometric smocking usually uses 3 strands of floss and picture smocking 4 strands. BUT! See #1 & 2. How is the coverage?
I like to 'set the design' to start my smocking. Therefore, I start at the center two pleats on the Row that has the most significant design motif. For this design, it is the bottom Row, center of what will become a heart motif.
I opted to use 4 strands of Anchor floss for this dress because the fabric is a Kona cotton weight and the fabric colors are bold. I needed the extra strand to make the smocking obvious. I have my stripped 4 strands of floss and threaded them into my size 7 crewel needle (bigger eye).
This is the center front portion of my dress. See the green tack marking the center two pleats? I start smocking with a cable on the center two pleats at the bottom Row. I know it is hard to see but it is just to the left and below my needle tip.
NOTE: my really long floss? After I make the front center cable, I even up my floss ends. Now I will be using about 20" of floss to smock from the center pleats to the right hand side. (Remember, I am right handed.) The second half of the floss is left dangling at the back of the dress. Here you see it sticking up at the top to show you the floss is there.
Now I will smock only the rest of the front section with this stitch. Once I get to the front seam, I park the floss. To 'park the floss' simply move out several pleats and take the floss to the back on that Row. You will pick the floss up later to continue the Row.
Get your Fig Newton's because this is the tricky part!
Turn the dress upside down in your hands so the neckline is downward and dress upward.
Remove the original cable stitch with the eye of the needle drawing the floss tail to the front. Thread the needle. Replace the cable. Now, working once again from the center to the right (just upside down!) stitch the second half of the base line.
Again, smock to the first seam then park the floss.
Repeat this process for all the Rows completing the front center section first.
NOTE! my pleats are standing tall like soldiers in formation for all of my stitches. I am NOT fanning them out as some teachers insist. Remember, it is the combination of the smocking design and the mass quantity of fabric that will allow the flair at the shoulders for a bishop. By smocking with the pleats next to each other, you achieve uniform size stitches and spaces between stitches for a much more pleasing effect.
The reason I prefer to smock my entire front section first is to 'set the design'. If I make a mistake, I will catch it early on. There is nothing worse (well, really there is, that is just a saying, ya know?) than having to unsmock a large portion or even worse, continue with a mistake through all the Rows. And really, if that happens, it IS OK. I'm just trying to teach you the right way ;)
Thanks for all the comments! I knew you all were still following along.
Enjoy the evening!