When we talk about picture smocking, we’re usually referring to adorable children’s garments – but picture smocking can be used for other great projects as well! These cute smocked pumpkins are the perfect example. Tess Ellenwood, owner of Tess’ Heirloom Needlework in southern Maryland where she designs and teaches heirloom sewing, originally shared these unique picture smocked pumpkins with Sew Beautiful readers as an email exclusive in 2003. To design the project, Tess smocked her jack-o-lantern face, then gave it 3D appeal by wrapping the smocked piece of fabric around a Styrofoam™ ball. The result is an adorable home decor project perfect for fall. Follow Tess’ step-by-step tutorial below to create your own smocked pumpkins:
The face design is worked over 72 pleats; the entire pumpkin covers 168 pleats. Using additional or fewer pleats is OK, but you need multiples of eight if you want the cap line (smocking wave) to match at the back.
1. Pleat the orange fabric lengthwise with 16 rows, placing the first row about 5/8″ from the edge. Use a strong thread (like upholstery thread) for Rows 1 and 16 so it can be gathered up very tightly during assembly without breakage.
2. Backsmock Rows 2-15 using two strands of floss to match the fabric. This step is rather tedious; but because the piece is small, it travels well and can easily be stitched at soccer practice, the dentist’s office, etc.
3. Begin smocking at the nose. To center the nose, move seven pleats left of the center valley on Row 8. Using four strands of black floss throughout, begin with a down cable and work 13 cables. Complete the nose working up to the tip, then use the nose as a guide to place the eyes on Row 9. Again, work from the base of the eyes to the tips.
4. For the mouth, move 16 cables left of the center valley on Row 6 and begin with an up cable. Work 31 cables, then turn and finish the lower part of the mouth according to the graph. To form the upper part of the mouth, work the next two cable rows (noting changes on graph for second row) above the beginning one on Row 6 and continue up one side of the mouth to finish at Row 9. Complete the opposite side in the same manner; from bottom to top. Finally, add the teeth following the graph from bottom to top.
5. Use four strands of floss to form the cap. Work a cable at line 11-1/2 directly above the top nose cable. For the next stitch, skip two pleats to the right and move up to Row 13 to work another cable. Skip two more pleats and return to Row 11-1/2 for the next cable. Being careful not to pull the thread too tightly and pucker the work, continue in this zigzag pattern to the end of the fabric. Turn the work over and begin at the center again to complete the opposite side.
6. Remove the guide threads from Rows 2-15. Roll the fabric end to end with wrong sides to the center. Matching the smocking rows, push the seam allowances to the inside and hand whipstitch from top to bottom forming a tube.
Leaf and Vine
1. Fuse the two green fabric scraps wrong sides together with fusible web.
3. Carefully trim away the excess fabric from the outside of the leaf. Using a zigzag stitch, couch a 4″ piece of cording down the center of the leaf with the extra length hanging from the broad end.
4. Saturate the remaining cording in fabric stiffener (simply spraying it just won’t do the job). To make the vine curl, coil the cord tightly around a standard pencil and leave on wax paper or some other nonstick surface to dry completely before removing the pencil. HINT: If the vine loses its spring after a time, simply dampen with water and wrap it around a pencil again until dry.
1. Using a regular pencil, push a hole clear through the center of the Styrofoam ball. Next, using the fat pencil or knitting needle, push again through the same hole.
2. Working inside a trash can or cardboard box (because the foam gets everywhere), slightly flatten the bottom of the ball with sandpaper. It may be advisable to wear a dust mask while using the sandpaper.
3. Shape the top of the pumpkin to form a gentle slope down to the center hole (like an apple) so that the sharp edges of the hole are softened and will accept the bulk of the smocking. This is easily achieved by wrapping the index finger with sandpaper, placing the tip of the finger at the hole, and turning the ball while resting the finger across the top. Don’t agonize about shaping the ball! This is not an exact science; every pumpkin is different.
1. Cut one 2″ piece of 5/8″ dowel (bottom stem) and one 3″ piece (top stem). The 3″ piece should have a 45-degree angle at one end. If using a saw is intimidating to you, many hardware stores will do the cutting free if you buy their wood; just ask.
2. Sand the ends of the dowels slightly to take off some of the rough edges and paint both pieces light brown.
3. Paint one end of the short piece and the angled end of the longer piece with dark brown. Still using the darker color, paint irregular striations down the longer piece to simulate the look of a natural stem. Again, perfection is not a requirement! This is for fun!
1. Slide the smocked tube over the shaped foam ball and pull the top and bottom smocking guide threads very tightly, but be careful not to break them! Tie them off and shove the raw edges into the top and bottom holes. NOTE: I did not use glue, but if you would like a more secure pumpkin, you may place glue in the hole (not on the fabric) before stuffing it. Test stuffing the fabric first then stuff the dowel to see if the hole needs any adjustment before you glue. The dowel should fit tightly.
2. Once the fabric is stuffed, insert the leaf stem and vine ends into the top hole, then push the top and bottom dowels into the holes simultaneously. The bottom dowel should be flush.
For more fall sewing fun, check out these autumn embroidery designs.