Zigzag stitches are stitches that climb up and down the pleats in steps, with a connecting cable stitch at the top and at the bottom. (Referred to as top level cable and bottom level cable).
The more steps you have in each zigzag, the more elasticity you will have in the finished article.

Steps:- refers to the number of stitches made between the bottom level cable and the top level cable. (This will become much clearer when you start doing the trellis stitches.)

Space:- refers to the area between two gathering rows.

Zigzag stitches stretch more easily than straight stitches and for this reason they are often used for the lower rows of smocking. (This is why the waves in any bishop design get progressively deeper towards the bottom of the design. -they allow the fullness of the material to be controlled as the pleats to fan out.) Zigzag stitches are also ideal for things like Christmas balls where ability to mould to a shape is also important.

1. Needle Position

Remember: Always keep your needle parallel to the gathering threads and perpendicular to the pleats and only pick up one pleat at a time.

2. Thread position.

Keep the thread under the needle for
  • bottom level cable stitches.
  • step stitches going up.
Keep the thread over the needle for
  • top level cable stitches.
  • step stitches going down.

3. Spacing.

The stitches are spaced evenly between the gathering rows.

There may be one or more steps depending on the design and the amount of elasticity required.

4.Ending off mid-row.

Always finish off with a top or bottom level cable stitch if you need to start a new thread in the middle of a row. (Not only is it difficult to restart in the middle of a step stitch but it can also result in untidy work with gaps showing in the stitching when gathering threads are removed.)

5. Aligning your stitches.

If you have trouble keeping your stitches straight, either pleat up with half space gathering rows or draw a faint line on top of the pleats to act as a guide, at the midway point between gathering rows, with a soft-lead pencil. (I don't recommend using a blue marking pen for this as the lines can sometimes reappear at a later date ruining your work. Just ask some of your quilting friends.)

Stitches covered on this page

One Step Wave
one step wave
One Step Baby Wave
one step baby wave
Baby Wave Diamonds
baby wave diamonds

One Step Wave (Also know as Full Step Wave or Chevron Stitch)

Step1   1. Begin with an under cable.
step 2
  2. With the thread under the needle, take a stitch in the next pleat in the gathering row above.
  3. Change the thread position to over the needle and pick up the next pleat to make a top level cable stitch.
  4.Keeping the thread over the needle, take a stitch in the bottom gathering row in the next pleat.
  5. With the thread under the needle make another under cable and continue across the row, alternating up and down, watching your thread position all of the time and making sure you pick up the next pleat with each stitch.

One Step Baby Wave(Half Space Wave)

half space wave
  Stitched exactly the same as the One Step Wave, except that the waves are only go half way between the gathering threads.

Baby Wave Diamonds

These are very loose stitches and are made by making a mirror image of your first row of Baby Wave Stitches.

  Stitch the first row of one step baby wave stitches half way down from t(e first gathering row, beginning with an under cable.

  Directly below this first row and beginning with a top level cable stitch, sew a second row of one step baby wave stitches.

half space diamond
This is how the diamonds are formed. The cable stitches should touch each other but should not overlap. Each completed diamond will have two pleats in its center.