Picking floss colors is usually a fun part of the creative process for starting a new smocking design, but when working on a print, it can sometimes be a challenge! You would think it would be simple - just pull colors from the print and you are good to go! But often it isn't that simple, you pick colors, start smocking and find that all your hard work is just disappearing into the print - the goal is to see the smocking! Of course, the smocking should be part of creating a beautiful design and contribute to the overall aesthetic, but we still want it to be noticed! The most difficult time I had picking floss colors was with the lovely Red Rosie Fabric.
My plan was to smock the dress in red. It was only after I had several rows done that I stood back and realized that you couldn't see all my hard work! I tried a different color of red, both darker and lighter, tried several shades of pink, and was just besides myself. I never tried the green because I didn't want this dress to read Christmas. it was my good friend Julie who finally came up with the solution - you might not notice it unless you look closely, but those stems are a dark blue/gray and I smocked the dress with that color!
So what did a learn from this process, and what are some tips for smocking on prints?
1. Prints where there is an even distribution of different colors and and equal distribution of color and back ground can be the hardest to make the smocking stand out, such as the Red Rosie above, but this coral and gray Smocked Bonnet that has much more gray than coral is easily smocked with coral flosses.
2. Rather than matching the color of the print, try shades that are darker or lighter. The gray floss used on the bonnet above is darker than the gray of the fabric.
3. Look for the hidden shade in the print, such as the blue-gray that will stand out and smock with that color.
4. Smocking is most often viewed at a distance, so make sure to stand back and see if the design is noticeable. Also view the color in natural light so that there are no surprises. The color that you picked out during that evening stitching session may look very different the next day.
5. Pleat the fabric before picking the colors. Pleating can bring many surprises and a color or printed area that wasn't that noticeable before may be quite noticeable once pleated. It can also work the opposite way: in the bonnet above, the coral flowers really aren't noticeable in the pleated area.
6. Choose a densely smocked design to help your smocking be noticed. A Cable stitch will show up better than a Trellis Stitch. Multiple rows of Trellis will show up better than one row of Trellis. My friend Kelli went with a dense smocking design to make sure that the smocking can be seen on this vibrant Liberty print.
7. Adding a ribbon as I did with the smocked bishop allowed me to emphasize the red color that I wanted to highlight.
8. Choose a contrasting color that goes with the print, but isn't part of the print as I did with Findley.
I love smocking on prints and I hope that when you smock with your next print, these tips will help as you pick floss colors, and you won't have to rip out as I did with the Red Rosie Bishop!