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February 2009
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How To Make Pleats

Pleats are merely folds in the fabric that provide controlled fullness.  Pleating may be a single pleat, made as a cluster, or around an entire garment section.  Basically each pleat is folded along a specified line, generally called the foldline, and the fold is aligned with another line, called the placement line (see the diagrams below).  Patterns will vary as to what these lines are actually called and how they appear on the pattern.


Most pleats are formed by folding a continuous piece of fabric onto itself.  Typically patterns will have arrows showing the direction of the fold for the pleats, as you can see on the left hand illustration above.  Pattern sections that are to be pleated will normally be cut out as a single layer.

Each pleat is folded along its foldline, as you can see in the right hand illustration, then brought over to align with its placement line.   the folded section between the fold and the placement line is called the pleat underfold;  while its fold is referred to as the backfold of the pleat.

There are several styles of pleats, the most common being the knife pleat and the box pleat, as shown below.  Pleat folds can be soft or sharp, depending on how they are pressed, but any pleat will hang better if it is folded on the straight grain.



As indicated in the drawing above, knife pleats have one foldline and one placement line.  All the folds are turned in the same direction all around the skirt.  Some garments may have one cluster of knife pleats facing one way and another cluster facing the opposite way as a decorative detail of the garment.

Box pleats will have two foldlines and two placement lines.  The two folds of each pleat are turned away from one another, as indicated above.  Some garments may have “inverted” box pleats, where there are two fold lines and one common placement line in front, so that the actual box pleat is hidden and only the under portion is showing.  any type of pleating process will have directions on the pattern package to let you know how to make their specific type for that particular pattern.

Both for fit and for construction, the importance of basting pleats cannot be lightly dismissed.  Bastings should be left in until the garment is finished.

Pressing should come AFTER fit is completely assured and should be a lifting and lowering of the iron, with pressed area allowed to cool before moving the garment.  Only a partial weight of the iron should rest on the fabric.  Avoid making marks or shine on the fabric by using a press cloth when necessary.

This information is an excerpt from Basic Clothing Construction – a book you’ll find to be very valuable in your sewing room.

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Pattern Maker, Instructor & Author

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