Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mary of Hungary smock progress

Well, saying "progress" might be a bit over-blown but I think I have figured out the stitching on the smock at any rate, which means I will shortly be able to make some real progress on the actual smock.

Close up of original shirt from A Flight of Fancy
The original smock has a deep band of embroidered pleats around the neckline, originally worked in silver thread which has now tarnished to black.  There are apparently similar bands at the cuffs, though I have thus far been unable to find any pictures of the cuff that might shed more light on the stitching.  Initially I had thought this might be some kind of smocking, which would have to be put on a supportive band to maintain the tight gathers seen on the original.  In doing more research on this, I now believe that the original was done with pattern darning over pleats.  Pattern darning gives a similar look to the stitching on the original (uniform, slightly raised stitching without any obvious diagonal lines) and it does not stretch which means the pleats will remain tight.

After a considerable amount of dickering around with pleats and graph paper, I think I have just about got the neckline design worked out!  You can see from the picture that pattern darning is giving nice, neat surface embroidery which still controlling all the pleated in fullness.  This will also let me pleat a lot more fabric into a smaller area, which makes sense given the dimensions of the original smock.  I've done the partial sample shown (I will finish it to show the full pattern) in black embroidery cotton, but I think it will work well in a metal thread.  Unlike true smocking, the thread is only traveling in one direction, which should be less damaging to the metal thread.

The only problem I have at this moment is that my pattern is coming out slightly smaller than the original (6 cm on the the original and I will be lucky to hit 4.5 on mine).  I suspect I have based my pattern on a smaller stitch length, so I might be able to enlarge it by working over 3 or 4 threads as a basic unit rather than 2.  I am not 100% sure I care about this, once I have a better idea of how the proportions of the whole thing will work on my body I can make up my mind.  Now that I have a chart to work from and some idea of how much space each row of pattern covers, enlarging it should not be too difficult.

Here you can see part of my daring pattern,
charted out on the smallest graph paper I could find.
Actually working the pattern is quite simple and progresses must faster than I thought it would.  Even though the lines of stitching have to be placed close together, as long as you are careful with your pleat counting it's not hard to do.  Using washable fabric marker to make the dots certainly does help, as you can see from the pictures it gives nice evenly spaced guidelines to keep the embroidery straight.  Washable marker is certainly not period, but as pencil does not wash out well and chalk rubs off easily, this is, to my mind at least, an acceptable compromise.

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