How to Sew A Pleat

How to sew a pleat.

pleat is a type of fold formed by doubling fabric back on itself and securing it in place. It's commonly used in clothing and upholstery to gather a wide piece of fabric to a narrower circumference.

Pleats are  pressed,  ironed or otherwise heat-set into a sharp crease, or unpressed, falling in soft rounded folds. Pleats sewn into place are called tucks.

Learn how to sew a pleat for better fitting clothes

In this tutorial "how to sew a pleat",  a washable marker was used. Just a dab of water, and the ink disappears. Since pleats are usually front and center, make sure what ever you mark them with is washable. Darts can be done using this same technique.  

How to sew a pleat.

Push the pin through the tip of the pleat

Mark each little black circle on the dart the same way as the first.

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Lift the pattern piece & Mark the tip

In this example there is a cardboard table top under the fabric, which helps to hold the pin in place when poking through each of the layers. Push the marker up to the pin and mark. Even a piece of cardboard would help.

How to sew a pleat.

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 Pull back pattern
and connect the dots with ruler

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Looks like this after sewing & pressing

Once the dots have been connected, press the pleat closed, lining up both sides of the pleat, and sew as shown here.

How to sew a pleat.

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Types of Pleats

Knife pleat

Accordion pleats or knife pleats are a form of tight pleating which allows the garment to expand its shape when moving. Accordion pleating is also used for some dress sleeves, such as pleating the end of the elbow, with the fullness of the pleat gathered closely at the cuff. This form of pleating inspired the "skirt dancing" . Accordion pleats may also be used in hand fans.

Box pleats

Double box pleats

Box pleats are knife pleats back-to-back, and have a tendency to spring out from the waistline. They have the same 3:1 ratio as knife pleats, and may also be stacked to form "stacked-" or "double-box pleats". These stacked box pleats create more fullness and have a 5:1 ratio. They also create a bulkier seam. Inverted box pleats have the "box" on the inside rather than the outside.

Cartridge pleats

Cartridge pleats are used to gather a large amount of fabric into a small waistband or armscye without adding bulk to the seam. This type of pleating also allows the fabric of the skirt or sleeve to spring out from the seam. During the 15th and 16th centuries, this form of pleating was popular in the garments of men and women. Fabric is evenly gathered using two or more lengths of basting stitches, and the top of each pleat is whipstitched onto the waistband or armscye. Cartridge pleating was resurrected in 1840s  fashion to attach the increasingly full bell-shaped skirts to the fashionable narrow waist.

Fluted pleats or "flutings" are very small, rounded or pressed pleats used as trimmings. The name comes from their resemblance to a pan flute.

Fortuny pleats are crisp pleats set in silk fabrics by designer Mariano Fortuny in the early 20th century, using a secret pleat-setting process which is still not understood.

Honeycomb pleats are narrow, rolled pleats used as a foundation for smocking.

Kick pleats are short pleats leading upwards from the bottom hem of garments such as skirts or coats, usually at the back. They allow the garment to drape straight down when stationary while also allowing freedom of movement.

Organ pleats are parallel rows of softly rounded pleats resembling the pipes of a pipe organ. Carl Köhler  suggests that these are made by inserting one or more gores into a panel of fabric.

Plissé pleats are narrow pleats set by gathering fabric with stitches, wetting the fabric, and "setting" the pleats by allowing the wet fabric to dry under weight or tension.  Linen chemises or smockspleated with this technique have been found in the 10th century Viking graves in Birka.

Rolled pleats create tubular pleats which run the length of the fabric from top to bottom. A piece of the fabric to be pleated is pinched and then rolled until it is flat against the rest of the fabric, forming a tube. A variation on the rolled pleat is the stacked pleat, which is rolled similarly and requires at least five inches of fabric per finished pleat. Both types of pleating create a bulky seam.

Watteau pleats are one or two box pleats found at the back neckline of 18th century sack-back gowns and some late 19th century tea gowns in imitation of these. The term is not contemporary, but is used by costume historians in reference to these styles as portrayed in the paintings of Antoine Watteau.

Kingussie pleats

Kingussie pleats, named after the town in Scotland, are a very rarely seen type of pleat used in some Scottish kilts. They consist of a single centrally located box pleat in the rear of the kilt with knife pleats fanning out on either side.

How to sew a pleat.

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