Monday, May 9, 2011

Pleats meet your match!

My mom gave me my basic crafting skills and crafting ambitions.  She taught me to embroider and cross-stitch at a relatively young age.  When I was eighteen, we tackled quilting. I learned my rotary cutting skills and how to straight-stitch on the sewing machine from her and applique (which I quite hated in the beginning, but now like).  But I have progressed onto other things, and since I no longer live with her, I've had to figure things out on my own.  Like pleats.  I mean, I figured they would be fairly simple and straight-forward.  Apparently not. 

First of all, where is the course that teaches you where to actually stitch the pleats to make them keep their shape?  Well, I've been trying to figure this out through a couple of tutorials on the web and the book...
Stitch Magic: A Compendium of Sewing Techniques for Sculpting Fabric into Exciting New Forms and Fashions
Stitch Magic A compendium of Techniques for stitching fabric into exciting new forms and fashions by Alison Reid.  Quite the name, right?  I actually love the name, it gives me visions of making the most wonderful things.  It's a compendium.  That's so...official.

It may just be because I am uniformed about pleats, but damn, I found them to be slightly trickier than I had hoped for.  I want to read a book and just know what to do perfectly and then do it.  I don't want to have to practise.  Blah.  It also could be because Alison Reid is a Brit and I am a Yank.  Scotland is right next door to jolly old England, so maybe it's just in their nature to know how to pleat perfectly.  I think her projects are absolutely gorgeous and I want to make pretty much everything in this book.  But I didn't love the sparse explanations she gives on how to do the basics.  (And to be fair, I only tried the pillow, so maybe she gives better directions on other projects).  I'm a girl who needs some basics apparently.  Maybe this wasn't the best book to start out with manipulating fabric, but it's the book I chose.  So, I guess I need to search out fabric manipulation for dummies.  I also found her hand-drawn diagrams to be...hard to decipher.  Maybe as I get better, these diagrams will make perfect sense and I'll wonder how I ever found them confusing.  But for now...difficult.

Here's a basic tutorial and how I found pleating to go.  I don't know if it's technically accurate, but it's what I did and it turned out pretty darn cute.  This is for a criss-cross pleat pillow cover

Cut a nice square of fabric.  Along both vertical sides, mark every two inches.  Start at the top two marks.  Fold fabric and make your pleat.  Pin on either make sure the pleat line is as straight as possible.  How to do this?  Make sure the folded edges of fabric line up with the main piece of fabric.

Put your folded edge aka the pleat on a grid and make sure it is straight all the way across and pin.
Then pin all the way across.  Again, making sure all your lines match up with the lines on the grid.  Vertical and horizontal.  Now sew.
Right side up.  Sew 1/4" along the folded pleat edge.  I wouldn't bother taking the pins out of the fabric as you sew, I found as long as you put them in straight, I've yet to break a needle sewing straight over them.  The needle seems to avoid the pins and this will help keep your fabric as straight as possible.

Do this down through all your 2" marks.

Now it's time for the vertical pleats.  Much more difficult than the horizontal pleats because now the fabric is all scrunched and it's very hard to figure if you've got your fabric I just took my best guess and prayed for straight lines.  It seemed to work okay.  Instead of making vertical pleats the entire length of the pillow case I did 3 on the far left and 3 on the far right leaving the middle with just the horizontal pleats.

Mark where you want your vertical pleats to go on either side of the fabric.

Do roughly the same thing you did for the horizontal pleats only this time I lined up my two pins on both far sides on my grid and pulled the fabric taught and tried to determine how bowed the middle of the fabric was.  Then I'd adjust it until I felt it was straight-ish.  Make sure you pin enough that your fabric doesn't shift while sewing. 

A fun part of this cushion is that you life up the horizontal pleats and fold them over themselves right before you sew over them one at a time. This is so that when you sew the vertical pleats, the middle kind of gives a knotted effect.  I found this to be difficult to get the knots to look right, but it does cause the fabric to lift up in a dramatic way and I really like the appearance of it.  More practise though to get it just right.

This is how my cross-pleats turned out.  Fun right?   I am going to turn this into a pillow for the Modern Quilt Guild that I'm a part of.  Our project is to use a solid and a print in an 18" pillow.  I'll show you the rest later.


  1. Not bad for a yank. Love your work!

  2. Thanks Ryan!! I appreciate your readership and hope to inspire you to make beautiful things.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I'm new to the craft and your blog helps me out a lot. Keep up the great work.


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