Clever Charlotte

Charlotte's Sewing Studio Basics: Pleats Please

In the Workroom, Tutorials, Wren Dresscarla macklinComment
Pleats Please by Issey Miyake
Pleats Please by Issey Miyake

Don’t worry, Clever Charlotte’s patterns aren’t as complex as the likes of Issey Miyake but we do have a few garments that involve some simple pleating details. With these tips, you should be able to tackle them with ease.

Step 1: MARK CAREFULLY. While you can use various marking pens on the market, I find that using a thread mark works the best.

How to sew a pleat
How to sew a pleat

To mark a pleat, pin the pattern piece to the fabric. Thread a needle with a long thread in contrasting color to your fabric. Do not put any knots in this thread. Insert the needle into the pattern piece at the pleat mark (circle, square, etc), piercing the pattern piece and the fabric. Pull the needle through the other side of the fabric so that a ‘tail’ of thread is left on the side where you initiated the hole (the pattern side). Cut the thread on the back (fabric side) so there is a ‘tail’ approximately equal in length to the tail on the paper side.

If you are marking a single thickness of fabric, use about a 2” tail on each the paper and fabric side. You can mark two or more layers of fabric at a time in the same manner, but you must increase the length of the tails to approximately 4” on either side. Once the thread goes through the paper pattern and the two layers of fabric, pull it so 4” is left on the pattern side and trim the ‘tail’ on the back side to 4”. After carefully removing the pattern from the fabric and making sure not to pull out the threads, open the two layers of fabric slowly and trim the thread between the two layers, leaving two 2” tails sandwiched inside the fabric.

Once the thread markings are complete, remove the pattern piece and handle the fabric pieces carefully so you don’t accidentally pull a thread out. I have done this numerous times and found it frustrating to have to realign the pattern piece on the cut fabric to remake the marking.

Step 2: FOLD CAREFULLY. After marking the pleats, fold each pleat together, matching up your marking points, then press the folds. When doing this, make sure that you are aligning the markings exactly where the thread enters the fabric. Place pins in place on either side of where you plan to stitch so that the pleats do not open up on one side or the other.

In most cases, Clever Charlotte’s pleats are marked with a pleat direction. While it’s not the end of the world if the pleat is sewn backwards, its best if the back of the pleat (the folded part on the wrong side of the fabric) lays towards the side seam on front pieces and the center back on back pieces.

Step 3:SEW CAREFULLY. Once the pleats are pinned, stitch them closed. This step is pretty straightforward, but one thing to note as the feed dogs cross of the pleats, they often have a tendency to open the pleat slightly. You can minimize this effect if you (1) sew slowly and (2) leave the needle in the down position as you lift the presser foot up onto a pleat. Or, alternatively, you can hand-tack the pleats in place with a basting stitch.

How to sew pleats
How to sew pleats

Step 4:PRESS CAREFULLY. After the pleats are secured by stitching, press them again to make them crisp. It’s up to you how much below the stitch line you press. By pressing only to the stitchline, your pleats will be softer and fuller than if you press beyond the stitch line.

Pleats? Yes, please!