A bit of stitching and smocking

I suspect many people reading this will, like me, feel the need to be doing something with their hands during dead time, such as sitting on a bus, or when apparently otherwise engaged, such as watching TV.

For me this is usually shibori stitching on scarves before dyeing them, but I’m having a short break from indigo dyeing after the pre-Christmas production line. Call it an indigo detox if you will. 😉 So I’ve had to find something else to do while watching the second series of The Bridge on Saturday nights.

As wet felting is not really an option (ESP objects to soapy splashes from wet bubble wrap), the alternatives are usually knitting or crochet. However, I’ve been looking at a lot of Japanese boro recently, especially this board on Pinterest. And I suddenly remembered that I have a large stash of shibori samples that I made at Morley College when just starting out. So I thought I would try patching some of these together, but using the kantha technique for stitching through several layers to create a 3D effect.

kantha boro1kantha boro2

I’m not quite sure where this is going yet, but if anything comes of it I’ll let you know!

colette wolfI was also inspired by a post on Stitch in Science about American smocking (among other things). American smocking differs from English smocking in that it’s not done on pleated fabric – the fabric is manipulated directly by the stitching. It’s explained in Colette Wolff’s comprehensive  The Art of Manipulating Fabric, which I bought a couple of years ago but as usual got sidetracked onto other things.

Seeing the photos in Avril’s post brought to mind the origami tessellations I’d looked at when I was experimenting with pleating – and I had a eureka moment about how the fabric could be directly manipulated rather than relying on paper moulds and steaming. It seems I’m not the first to make the connection between smocking and origami – I just don’t know why it took me so long. 😦

Here, for example, is a piece of lattice smocking I did which, when held up to the light, could be an origami paper tessellation.

lattice smocklattice smock light

I’m not sure where this is going either, to be honest, but I would love to work out how to use this in shibori dyeing in some way, and also experiment with using felt as the medium.

Looks like a busy start to 2014! 🙂

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Flextiles uses shibori, ecoprinting and felting to create original, one-off upcycled pieces. Extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by 20-30%.

5 thoughts on “A bit of stitching and smocking”

  1. Hi! I came across your blog through a pin.
    In theory, any origami tessellation can be made out of fabric, but for the most complex ones, it would take stitching the fabric in different layers.
    You can see a few I’ve done on my Flickr, after realizing that smocking and origami tessellations are pretty much the same thing.

    You don’t need to fold a grid for the smocking, but you need to find the points where the different layers will be stitched together. I did that by folding the tessellation on paper and then unfolding it to find those points.

    For dyeing purposes, I think that more complex tessellations will give you a more interesting result, since there will be more layers on the back. Joel (origamijoel) created a few that might give you an interesting result after being dyed with indigo.

    If you’re still interested, I can send you some of the unfolded tessellations with marked points that you can transfer to fabric. Feel free to email me.


    1. Hello Jane,

      Thank you for your interest and your very kind offer – I’ll certainly be in touch!

      I’ve had a look at your Flickr page – you have some very complex origami on there (as well as some stunning knitted lace!). I hope my smocking skills are up to it. 🙂


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