LEARN THE TECHNIQUE
Pleats are folds of fabric that can be made in different ways to add fullness. They are often used for fabric to be full in one area but fitted in another and can add shape and movement.
Pleats are ideal for soft furnishings where you want to add a little fullness around the bottom of a chair cover, for example. They work really well when used as part of a bag construction as they add fullness as well as being a feature.
The key to accurate pleating is measuring very carefully and pinning and pressing as you go – but they’re well worth the effort.
Some fabrics pleat better than others and the thickness of the fabric can be used to its advantage when pleating. Thinner fabrics pleat well and will add just a little fullness. Crisp cottons and linens will hold the shape of the pleat for more dimension. Slippery fabric such as silk and viscose won’t hold the shape of a pleat, so pleats will just add body. Thicker fabrics don’t pleat as easily but add a lot of body. Consider all these qualities when choosing a fabric for your pleated project.
When you’re pleating fabric, all pleats are marked in the same way. They all have an outer fold line, an inner fold line and a placement line. The outer fold line is placed on the placement line when the pleat is made. On pattern pieces you’ll often see the fold lines marked as dotted lines and the placement line as a solid one. Mark these lines onto your fabric either using tacking stitches or an erasable pen.
If you want your pleats to be sharp and to hold their shape, then a good tip is to spray a cloth with half water and half white vinegar, then place this over your pleat and press.
WHAT PLEAT TO CHOOSE
You can add a lot of shape with pleats – big pleats lay flatter and give a more structured look, whereas a number of small pleats are better for looser designs. Stitching just a few small pleats will add a little fullness where needed.
Knife pleats all lie in one direction. They are the simplest to make and often used in kilt making. Step one Decide how deep you want your pleat to be then double this to calculate how much extra fabric to add.
Step two Measure and mark both sides of the depth of the fabric you want to pleat with a pin then fold one pin over to the other and pin into place.
Step three Repeat this across your fabric, remembering that all the pleats should lie in the same direction and be the same depth.
Step four Tack your pleats across the top edge to hold them in place.
Inverted pleats are made by having two pleats facing towards each other.
Step one Calculate how deep you want your pleats to be and allow four times this depth for each pleat. Step two Each pleat has two outer fold lines, two inner fold lines and a placement line. Mark these lines in pencil on the wrong side (WS) of your fabric. Step three Mark with chalk or tack along these lines, using one colour thread for the fold lines and another for the placement lines to help you to distinguish between them.
Step four Fold the fabric right sides (RS) together along the placement line, matching inner fold lines and outer fold lines.
Step five Tack the outer fold lines together then press the pleat flat so the tacked outer fold lines match up with the placement line and the inner fold lines become the outer edges of the pleat. Tack the pleat down across the top before you machine stitch in place to complete.
Box pleats add a little more bulk to the fabric and are often used singly. They are made in exactly the same way as the inverted pleat but, in step four, fold the fabric WS together rather than RS together.
Once you’ve stitched your pleats you can stitch them together across the top to hold then construct the rest of your garment, or you can topstitch down part of their length on the RS.