Pleats are huge right now. It’s impossible to walk into any trendy store and not see micro-pleats, knife pleats, or multiple sizes of pleats on one garment. I too, love pleats. When designing the skirt for Gwen, I had originally decided for large box pleats because I thought it would be easier. After my first muslin, I decided that knife pleats a) looked more sleek and fashion-forward, and b) I wanted to learn something.
So, I researched, practiced and conquered knife pleats. If you’re looking to get in on this trend, I suggest you read on!
First, do your self a favour – make a pleating board.
I had heard about pleating boards from a sewing instructor and set to work googling. It turns out all you have to do is accordion-fold thick paper, shove your fabric into it, and press. I opened up a paper shopping bag, marked one-inch strips, folded and pressed using my iron (but no steam). Here are a few tips if you’re thinking of making one:
- Be careful of glue. If you are are, indeed using a paper bag, be careful of glue used to attach handles. The heat of your iron will melt it and stick to your fabric.
- Be careful marking in pencil. The lines I drew to guide my folds came off all over my hands and my fabric. Luckily, it was just the muslin!
- Invest in wide, sturdy paper for longer skirts. Because I was only doing a short panel, my pleating board didn’t need to be too long, but you need your pleating board to be as long as, or longer than the fabric you’re pleating.
- Use a ruler to check your pleats, even when using the board. As the hem of my pleats panel was significantly thicker than the rest, I used a ruler (and the stripe in the fabric) to make sure that my pleats were parallel. It’s really easy to pleat away only to get to the end and realize it’s all a little bit crooked.
- Press hard and long with a lot of steam. Then, let use a clapper or let it cool a long time before taking your fabric out of the pleater. The reason why a wooden clapper or a paper pleating board work to make crisp pleats is that the fibres absorb the moisture in the fabric (the steam from your iron). The longer you wait the better. I gave the pleats in the wool Gwen skirt ten minutes of cooling time, but I’d give fabrics that don’t press as well (i.e. synthetics) much longer.
- Pin and baste immediately. Liberally baste your pleats and leave them basted until you’re ready to wear. You will have lovely, crisp pleats!
What had me the most puzzled about pleats was how to finish them. It turns out it’s easiest to hem before you pleat. It is possible to hem later, it just involves opening up your pleats and re-pleating the bottoms. But I promise you, hemming first is a cinch – you just need to make sure you know exactly the length you want.
Lining was another aspect that made me do some research. Yes, you can pleat your lining and pain-stakingly attach all of the pleats together, or you can try one of my two pleat-lining hacks.
- Use a slit. For the Gwen skirt, I only had a small panel of pleats in the back. Instead of pleating the lining, or doing a sort of cut out, like I was suggested, I put in a slit extending a teensy bit higher than the tops of the pleats. Super easy and still allowing for mobility.
- Line with jersey. Here I plan on totally copying my favourite pleated skirt from Forever 21. This genius skirt has an elastic waist and a stretchy tube skirt inside. It is ridiculously comfortable, easy to move in, and absolutely the item in my closet I get the most compliments on. These are all reasons I plan to clone this skirt in black and white polka dots very soon.