smocked jack-o-lanterns w By Tess Ellenwood

By Tess Ellenwood
Materials List
Picture Smocking Plate
Pumpkin Construction
7" x 45" of orange quilting cotton for
pumpkin body
Two 31" square scraps of green cotton (print
or solid) for leaf
3" square of fusible webbing
Skein of black DMC
Skein of orange DMC to match fabric
1/3 yd green braided cording about 1/8"
diameter for stem and vines
Spray-on fabric stiffener such as Aleene’s
Stiff’n Stuff®
Fabric or craft glue (optional)
Acrylic craft paints (very small amounts):
lt brown
dk brown
4" foam ball
5/8" dowel
Fat pencil (kindergarten size) or very large
knitting needle (about size 13) to push a
hole through Styrofoam™ ball
ho says picture smocking is
just for children’s clothing?
Tess Ellenwood originally shared
her unique smocked pumpkins with
Sew Beautiful readers as an email
exclusive in 2003. When we started
planning our Pumpkin Parade article,
we decided to revisit this adorable
holiday project. Tess smocked her
jack-o-lantern face; then gave them
3D appeal by wrapping the smocked
piece of orange fabric around a
Styrofoam™ ball. You can set them
out on a table or windowsill or hang
them as ornaments. Everyone will
enjoy your not-so-scary Halloween
Spiderweb doily is available at
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. P l e a t t h e o r a n g e f a b r i c
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.
prepare pieces
Leaf and Vine
1. Fuse the two green fabric scraps
wrong sides together with fusible
2. Trace the leaf pattern onto the
fused fabric and machine satin
stitch around the outline with
matching thread.
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
Actual size:
1-3/4" x 2-1/4"
Sew Beautiful September/October 2009
center of the leaf with the extra
length hanging from the broad
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.
Foam Ball
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!
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
f irst 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. –SB
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,
About the Designer
Tess Ellenwood is owner of
Tess’ Heirloom Needlework in
Southern Maryland where she
designs and teaches heirloom
sewing. She also teaches
English at the local community
college and tries to keep up with her husband, kids,
and menagerie of pets.