Monthly Archives: October 2013

The road to a new project is paved with speedbumps and potholes.

So its time for a new major project. I have done some smaller ones over the past few months, but nothing that required a huge amount of research and planning. It’s amazing how an idea sounds good and looks good and you get all excited about it and then the work starts and it hits you: what the heck did I just get myself into. Especially when things start going bumpy.

In my world, for a project to work its got to have The 5 rights of project work:  

  • Right inspiration
  • Right materials
  • Right technique (can I do it)
  • Right design
  • Right time ( or enough time)


This new project is near and dear to my heart. It is a new pleatwork piece, which is what I call period smocking, something I have been researching for over 10 years.

I actually asked a friend if I could make a garment for him, and he graciously said yes. The deal was he supplies the linen and I go have fun. It was delayed a number of times and he was sooo patient but its now time to get it started.  So here we go.

1. The right inspiration: The inspiration for the project is  “Portrait of a Man” by Franciabigio c 1522

File:Franciabigio - Portrait of a Man - WGA08191.jpg

2. The right materials: And we hit our first road bump. My patron, found lovely 2.5 oz linen from District 96 Fabrics . Its a good close weave with reasonably fine thread thickness vs some linens that get the low weight by making it a lower thread count. However its still not fine enough. To get the look in the portrait it needs to be done in a very fine fabric in the weight of a fine batiste, but it is almost impossible to fine a true linen batiste anymore. I have done 3 test pieces and I am still trying to get the tension to work on the pleats. More to come.

3. The right technique:  This will be pattern darned. The exact pattern is not yet picked out.  A bit of a bump, It’s a very easy technique to do. It is a type of counted embroidery in which you draw the fabric either over the pleat or through it. The challenge is the pattern.  So onto the right design.

4. The right design: You can certainly try to chart a pattern if the artwork is clear enough to actually identify the stitches which is very rare. I prefer to use extant patterns such as Nicolas Bassee’s New Modelbuch. This is where the bump comes in. It takes me hours and hours to go over the patterns. You have to look at them, envision how they will look on the pleating, test them out if you have to and then find a new one if it doesnt work out.  And yes, I am still looking. More to come.

5. The Right Time: Ahhh my pot hole. I have a deadline of November 16th. A regional competition. So far I  have put in about 15 hrs into it, and managed sew together the front back and 2 sleeve sections at the top edge (4 inches down from the top). Fold the top edge over and put in a small running stitch hem. And put in 2 rows of pleating stitches on a body and sleeve section 3 times, then tear them out again. Yes, here is my pot hole.

Why am I posting this? Because, I so very often hear from novice artisans that they don’t try things out because t5. hey look at the finished items and are very intimidated. I have explained that they don’t ever see the miss-steps, the hours of trial and error, the piles of ruined materials from the errors and the learning that comes from the journey to the end result.

See you in a few days….