Pleats create fullness to your fabric and are a good alternative to gathering. Instead of scrunching up the fabric along the stitch line, you simply create folds.
Pleats can be a lot easier than gathering. They are quick and lie really flat. However, you do have to make sure they are consistently sized and placed, and that can be the tricky part. Often times patterns will have pleat placement guides which indicate the size and position of the pleats! This is really nice and takes out the guess work of pleating. So, as we practice how to make pleats we will use placement guides.
Free Pleating Guide Samples:
If you don’t want to make the pleats by hand you can use a Ruffler foot on your machine. They can be a bit tricky to use at first, but are a great option if you are planning to pleat anything that is really long such as the edging of a pillow, etc.
To create pleats you need two guide-marks, where the pleat starts and where it stops. In the first sample I marked this guidelines with sharpie to make them super obvious (NOT what I would do on an actual project!), but you could do something similar with fabric markers or chalk, something that will wash away.
You can also use pins of different colors as guide-marks. In the second sample, I used green pins to represent the start of the pleat and red pins to indicate the stopping point.
When you pleat, you fold the fabric at the starting point and bring it over to meet the stopping point mark, hiding the fabric between the two marks and following the direction of the arrow.
There are many many ways pleats can be arranged. Common placements include pleats all going the same direction, half going one way and half the other, or two pleats that meet at the same point going in opposite directions. Just be sure to look at your pattern or guide for the correct direction and placement.
Here’s what that process looks like with pins instead of marks.
When sewing pleats in place it is important that they remain flat. As a result, I like to use a sewing tool to hold them in place while I sew. My favorite tool to use is That Purple Thang, but a sewing stiletto or the back edge of your seam ripper also works. Just remember to stay safe and keep your fingers clear of the needle, a sewing tool helps ensure that and protects your fingers.
When you are done sewing, pressing is really helpful! You can press just in the seam allowance, all the way to the bottom of the fabric, or somewhere in the middle depending on your preference or the directions in your pattern. If your fabric is really thick, or composed of multiple layers, it may also be helpful to press before sewing. Just be careful not to press your pins 🙂
In the end, pleats are a quick fun way to add detail and decoration to a project!
Free Pleating Guide Samples:
SKILL BUILDING VIDEO: