Thursday, March 20, 2008

Smocked Silk Blouse, Phase I

Construction on this blouse was done with enclosed seams throughout, whether with a facing or with french seams. With a recent tip on doing french seams with very tiny stitches on the first pass, my seams have gotten much tinier. Thanks Maggie B.! I used a 1.5 stitch length on the first pass, trimmed wicked close with the rotary cutter, and used a 2.0 stitch on the second pass. You can see they are under and 1/8 of an inch. Another elusive goal attained!!!

I used 3 widths of this 45 inch wide silk to pleat for my collar as it is a quite thin fabric. It required me to piece my interfacing, FusiKnit. By fusing interfacing to the silk crepe de chine, I was able to plump up the fabric for nicer pleats. With thin fabrics you could end up using miles of flat fabrics otherwise, which doesn always translate to the prettiest smocking. When piecing the interfacing I used a zigzag rotary cutter to cut the edges of the interfacing and butt them together before fusing. This camoflages the ridge that would be created by butting strait edges of interfacing.

Smockers out there are very familiar with pleaters but many other garment sewistas only know of the cardboard pleaters which have nothing to do with this type of application. So I thought I would show what these little magical machines can do. You can see the pleater takes in the fabric, passes it thru brass rollers and onto curved funky needles, turning it into the most perfect little pleats. On the pleater you can see a needle I have laid there to show you how different they are. The pleater is tilted up on a magazine so that when I take the rollers out the needles don't all fall out. It will be moved for the actual pleating.

Next you can see the fabric rolling onto the needles and then the thread in nice tiny perfect pleats. As you pleat you pull the pleats off the needles and down the threads. Pleating this piece of fabric took me one and a half hours. Here's a closeup of the pleats:

Next I made a copy of the yoke onto sew-in interfacing, overlapping seams and marking the placket area as needed. This was put down on my blocking board. The pleated silk was then arranged on the yoke pattern. It took quite some time to evenly maneauver the pleats to fit. Upon completing that stage I sprayed the silk pleats with a mist of water and then spray starch to set the pleats. The pleats were then left to dry overnight. I always test any silk to see if it will take this treatment. Not all do, particularly dupionis. Here is a closeup of the splayed and sprayed pleats. Now on to the smocking. I am thinking of just backsmocking this. I will see how that looks when done. Bunny

Kristine just asked if I owned this little machine or "had access" to it. I do own it. It is an Amanda Jane 24 needle pleater. It will cost you between 120 and 150 dollars and is very heavy duty. You can find them with a google easily. I would not recommend using Ebay as I have heard numerous stories of pleaters with bent rods being sold for big money. JMHO. I highly recommend getting a pleater that does half spaces. This will really help with your stitch accuracy, particularly at the start. Thanks for your question, KB. I had a feeling, base on what I have seen on PR, that mosts sewistas don't have a clue what one of these pleaters is. I am glad I am able to bring it to your attention.

Lindsey T has so kindly added me to her blog roll. Please check out Lindsey's great blog with a click to the right. Its a nice blend of heirloom sewing, great shopping accounts, garment sewing, and just having fun being a mom. Thanks, Lindsay! Bunny


  1. Bunny - That is some machine! Do you own it, or have access to it? Wow, the things I never knew existed... you keep teaching me new techniques! No wonder I have your blog bookmarked!

  2. I will answer this on the post so all can see. Sometimes I take things for granted.

  3. One of these days...I will smock! Love hearing about it. I'm adding you to my links list, BTW.

  4. Really cool! I loved learning about this process via your blog.


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