Simply Sewing - - WORKSHOP -

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.


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.

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