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playing with pleats

Dictionary.com defines a pleat as "a fold of definite, even width made by doubling cloth or the like upon itself and pressing or stitching it in place."

I just have to ask, is there anything like fabric?

Throughout this lesson, I'll show you how to make the pleats, and how they drape. We'll discuss:

Cartridge pleats
Box pleats
Inverted pleats
Rolled pleats

Now, it seems to me that pleats can either stand up or lie flat.  In the standing up category we have accordion and cartridge pleats.  Accordion pleats are made with some type of fancy machinery that I don't own, that crimps the fabric into permanent folds all the way down the length of the fabric. 

Cartridge pleats are created, essentially, by a long running stitch down the edge of the fabric that's then pulled up to create tight little standing-up pleats.  These are the type of pleats used in smocking, and here are some:

You can see the gathering threads there on the left.  I did not create these cartridge pleats with a needle, thread, and long running stitch, rather, I used a smocking pleater.  It does the same thing, but it does it with many threads at once, and it does it with gears.  Anything that can be done with gears gets my vote.  And takes a fraction of the time. 

Here they are from the edge. 

These pleats don't lie flat, rather, when you're finished pleating, you bind the edge.  If you were using cartridge pleats at the top of a skirt, you'd bind them with the waistband.  These are intended to be at the neckline, so they'd be bound with bias binding to become...the neckline. 

And here's how the cartridge pleats drape. 

They take up more or less fabric depending on the bulk of the fabric itself.  It would take a lot more batiste to make the same width of finished pleating than, say, velveteen.  I do not know, nor can I seem to find out, why they're called "cartridge" pleats.  It seems like there ought to be a good reason.  If anybody can enlighten us, please feel free to do so.

In the lying-flat category, we have knife or side pleats.  These are pleats that are all laid to the side.  Like this:

These pleats need 3 times the fabric of the finished pleated area.  So, for one inch of pleated fabric, we'll need 3 inches of fabric to start with.  Because each half of the actual pleat takes up 1", and the fabric over the pleat is 1".  If we were doing half-inch pleats, we'd need 1/2" for each half of the pleat and 1/2" on the face of our pleated panel. 

Since we're doing 1" pleats, we'll start by folding the fabric and placing a pin 1" from the fold:

See how that takes up 2"  Now I'll baste down the fabric, 1" from the fold.  Then I'll press the pleat to one side, like this:

Then, to do another pleat, I'll measure 2" from the center of my first pleat. 

2", because it'll take 1" to clear the first pleat, and 1" to go down inside the next one.  The pin is where I should fold it.  Then I'll baste, and press it to the side like the first one. 

And so on, until I end up with this:

Here you can see how 1" knife pleats drape. 

The top half of this shows pressed pleats, and the bottom shows what happens when you leave them unpressed. 

The next two types of pleats are really the same thing.  Box pleats and Inverted pleats are like identical twins, only one likes to play the piano, the other the violin, one keeps a tidy room the other's an incorrigible slob, and so on.

I won't tell you which one's the slob.  In fairness to all pleats.

Here are box pleats: 

And, once I flip them over, they become inverted pleats!

The process for making these is the same, but you make the difference when you make these on the right or wrong side of your fabric. 

Again, we'll make 1" pleats. 

Fold and mark it the same as for knife pleats:

Baste it, and press the pleats, not to one side, but evenly on both sides of your basting line. 

To add another pleat, measure 2" from the center of the first pleat and put a pin.  2", because it'll take 1/2" to clear the first pleat, then 1" down into the next pleat, and you'll press that on both sides of the new basting line, taking up the remaining 1/2". 

When you press the second pleat, it should just touch the edge of the first. 

Until you get a row of pretty little boxes, like this:

Ah! C'est magnifique!

Here they are, pressed and unpressed:

And our inverted pleats:

I might point out here, that if you did an entire panel of inverted pleats, it would only be on the edges that you'd be able to tell them apart from box pleats.  See how the space between the inverted pleats made little boxes?

Long view:

Just for kicks, let's do one really wide inverted pleat.  It seems we often see inverted pleats alone.  On the back of a skirt or a coat, for instance. 

Oh, yes, I like that very much.

Another thing you can do with box or inverted pleats is stack them.  Here I've made stacked inverted pleats:

Once I had the basic inverted pleat, I just folded another pleat in on top of it:

and pressed that.  Then I basted across the top to keep it in place. 

To make another next to it, I measured out 3".  Because this pleat takes up 2" more fabric than a basic 1" box pleat, and I'm measuring half of it here.


The last type of pleats we'll discuss today is rolled pleats

They are, well, rolled. They take up five times the fabric of the finished pleat.  So, for a one inch rolled pleat, we'll need 5" of fabric. 

Now, these are difficult to explain, but easy to do, so stick with me here for a minute, and it'll become clear what we're doing, k?

I mark off 5" on the wrong side of my fabric.  The two pins at 1 and 5 are my ends. 

The pin at 1 shows where the finished pleat will lie.  The pin at 3 shows the first pleat fold.  You with me?

I fold it on the first pleat fold (3), and the pins at 1 and 5 come together. 

Then I fold the 3 pin to the 1 and 5 pins. You see where we're going with this?

Then I fold the roll I'm forming to the 0 pin. 

Then I open the pleat up, and pin it in place.  To one side like a knife pleat.  

What I end up with is a roll of 4" of fabric underneath 1" of fabric.  See?

Baste across the top of this bad boy to keep it down. 

Now, to add another, I'm measuring 5" out from the edge of the previous pleat.  That'll give me enough fabric to do the whole mad thing over again. 

After rolling/basting, rolling/basting, rolling/basting, I've got a little row of them.  As you can see, in anything but the thinnest fabric, this is going to make a very thick seam.

Now, why would you go to all that trouble?  Because rolled pleats take up a ton of fabric, they drape beautifully:

I'm not sure they're the type of pleats you'd press, so much.  

Now that we've discussed how to make all these fun pleats, I'm sure you're dying to get busy fiddling with some yourselves.  I won't keep you any longer.  Go pleat!



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