Have you ever walked into a needlework store, seen all the colors of variegated and hand dyed floss and thought, "I LOVE it, it's gorgeous, what on earth do I do with it?" Well when it comes to smocking there are more ways to use variegated floss than you might have thought!
Of course, obviously you can use it to add some color and variation to a solid, or almost solid color outfit.
But believe it or not, you aren't limited to a solid fabric! Variegated floss can also look amazing on a print. Both of these prints would look fantastic smocked with this pink and green hand dyed floss.
Don't believe me? I used this very floss and the fabric on the left to make a smocked sundress for my niece. The effect was subtle, but she was older - beyond the age that many will wear smocked clothing, and she loved it! Subtle is often what you need when smocking for the older child or an adult.
But, by far my favorite use of variegated and hand dyed floss is with picture smocking! The gradual shifts of color can often replace color changes in the design, and make it much easier to smock, especially for the beginner. I used a variegated floss for the grass in the smocking plate Mama and Baby Giraffe.
The three brown flosses pictured on the left in the picture below, could all be used to stitch Mama or Baby Giraffe. Yes, you would loose the "spots" of the giraffe, but you would still have a color variation, and without all the work of the color changes! The orange variegated floss in the middle would be great to smock pumpkins, and the fall colors with the green strand flowing through in the floss on the right, would be fantastic to smock fall leaves!
As a further example, I started smocking the free smocking plate Blooming Rose on a doodle cloth using a pink variegated floss. Again the detail is lost, but the shifts of color create interest and I think it would still "read" as a smocked rose.
When using variegated and over dyed floss, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, not all over dyed floss is color fast, (Yes, I found this out the hard way!) so make sure to test if first. If the floss isn't color fast, a salt and vinegar bath will usually fix the problem. If the floss is just giving off a bit of dye, a Color Grabber sheet thrown in with the laundry works fantastic ( and is a great bit of insurance even if you have used the salt and vinegar bath). When stitching, over dyed and hand dyed floss from companies such as Thread worX and Caron seem to have more frequent color changes than variegated floss from the floss companies such as DMC and Presencia. I personally like the color changes coming more frequently, but of course, this is a personal preference. If you want the color to changes to be more frequent than the floss is providing, stitch with lengths from different areas of the skein. I hope you will give these threads a try. They are a great way to add some fun and variety to your smocking!