Pleats are pressed folds in fabric that control fullness and add texture. Add them to garments, such as skirts and pants, and home-décor projects, such as curtains and tablecloths. Fast and precise pleats require accurate measurements and a few must-have tools.
Knife pleats have all the folds pressed in one direction. Knife pleats have a 3:1 ratio: 3″ of fabric creates a 1″ finished pleat.
To space knife pleats, draw a foldline along the fabric right side, and then draw a placement line 2″ from the foldline. Draw a second foldline 1″ from the placement line. Draw a second placement line 2″ from the second foldline. Continue drawing foldlines and placement lines until the desired fabric length is marked (Figure 1).
Fold the fabric along the first foldline with wrong sides together. Align the folded edge with the placement line; pin (Figure 2). Repeat to pleat the remaining fabric. Baste in place along the upper edges.
Topstitch along each pleat upper-edge fold for several stitches to create a structural pleat.
Box pleats have two folds that face away from each other and underfolds that meet at the center. They have a 4:2 ratio: 4″ of fabric creates one 2″ pleat.
To space a box pleat, mark the desired box pleat centerline on the fabric right side. Draw a line 2″ from each side of the centerline to create foldlines (Figure 3).
Fold along the first foldline with right sides together. Align the folded edge with the centerline; pin (Figure 4). Repeat to fold the second foldline toward the centerline. Baste along the upper edge.
Use different colored pens or markers when marking pleat spacing lines to distinguish foldlines and placement lines.
Inverted box pleats have two folds facing toward each other that align at the center. Inverted box pleats have a 4:2 ratio. The opposite side of a box pleat is an inverted box pleat.
To space inverted box pleats, draw the desired inverted box pleat centerline on the fabric right side. Draw a line 2″ from each side of the centerline to create foldlines.
Fold along the first foldline with wrong sides together. Align the folded edge with the centerline; pin (Figure 5). Repeat to fold the second foldline toward the centerline. Baste in place along the upper edge.
Accordion pleats have very narrow folds that alternate in opposite directions and are pressed along the entire length of the fold, resembling the bellows of an accordion. These are best created by a professional pleater. Or purchase accordion-pleated fabric.
Pleats can be pressed, depending on
the desired look. For soft pleats, press
Lightly, if at all. For a sharp, crisp result,
use steam and a press cloth to set
If pressing creates ridges on the fabric,
insert a strip of brown paper under each
fold; press again.
A pleater board has 1″-wide fabric-covered louvers. Fabric is tucked into each louver and then pressed to create even knife pleats. Let the pleats cool after pressing to set crisp creases. Use pleater bars to help tuck the fabric into the louvers.
Quilter’s tape is a removable tape that holds pleats in place while stitching without using pins.
Ruler tape is a removable measuring tape that’s placed directly on the fabric edge or on a work surface for easy pleat measuring.
Pleating tape is removable and marked with numbered lines at specific distances apart for different pleat widths and types. Fold along one number line and align it with the corresponding number line for perfect pleats.
Pleating pins are 1 1/16″-long and secure each pleat before stitching.
A press cloth specially designed for pleats contains special chemicals that react to heat and steam to set sharp pleats.
A pleating foot, also known as a ruffle foot, is a specialty presser foot that forms and stitches even pleats. Adjust the pleat depth and spacing to create multiple-sized pleats or to create ruffles.
Brother provided the pintuck foot. Nancy’s Notions provided the ruffle foot (pleating foot). Prym Consumer USA provided the pleating pins and quilter’s tape. Therm O Web provided the ruler tape.
Originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Sew News.