Pleats have been with us for centuries as a functional and/or decorative way to reduce the size of a piece of fabric. They are firmly ensconced in fashion sewing, but are also perfect in numerous home décor applications, like bed skirts, window treatments, and table linens. We’ve even incorporated them as unique embellishments on a petite purse and a decorator pillow. Their only drawback… they are rather “fussy” to create; your measuring, marking, and folding have to be very precise (read: very time consuming). But where challenges exist, the creative brains of the sewing world step in with a solution. Our friend, Claudia Buchanan of Home Sewing Depot sent us her Quick Pleater tools to test. Read on to see how we made quick work of both knife pleats and box pleats.
This is a fun and easy tool to use. In fact, it’s easier to use than to explain – very intuitive as soon as you have it in your hands. And, mastering the spacing is a snap, giving you even pleats every time. Below, we show the basic steps for tiny knife pleats and pretty box pleats. Our box pleats were tested by narrowing the skirt of a toddler’s jumper to fit its bodice. We then created even knife pleats within the narrow trim for a kitchen towel.
A few quick Pleating Pointers: Each pleat has three layers of fabric folded into a single pleat. To calculate the amount of fabric needed, multiply the desired length needed by 3 then add seam allowances. For example, if you need 12” of finished pleats and are using ½” seam allowances, your formula is 12” x 3 + 1” (final width x 3 + plus ½” seam allowances at the start and end) or 37". Multiple lengths of fabric can be joined to achieve the desired final length. This equation works for all sizes and types of pleats, but as always – err on the side of cutting a bit more if unsure. The depth of the pleat will be determined by your pattern and/or the overall look you want to achieve. Below we wanted a narrow ½” knife pleat and a generous 2” box pleat.
Knife pleats are created from folds of fabric that all lay in the same direction. The finished size of the pleats is determined by the size of the pleater chosen.
Box pleats are created from folds of fabric made in pairs. They alternate in direction with the pair of pleats meeting in the middle to form the full box pleat. We show a standard box pleat below, which finishes with a flat front and the pleats coming together at the back. An inverted box pleat is simply the reverse – folded in the opposite direction so the pleats come together at the front. Since each box pleat is made of two individual pleats, chose a pleater half the size of the finished box pleat.
Both the Large and Small Quick Pleater sets are in-stock and available for immediate shipment from Home Sewing Depot. Each three-piece set is just $34.95, and there is a nice video at the HSD site that shows the Quick Pleaters in live action. Save $15 when you buy both sets (all six Quick Pleaters) together for $54.90.
Knife Pleats with the Home Sewing Depot ½” Quick Pleater
We started with a 2½” strip of fabric to create a narrow trim along the bottom of an off-the-shelf kitchen towel. The strip was folded, wrong sides together, and pressed. We wanted a tight pleat and so selected the ½” Quick Pleater from the Small Quick Pleater assortment.
Place the fabric under the foot, 1” from the raw edge. This allows extra at the head and tail for a finishing hem. Insert the Quick Pleater with the fork closest to the needle under the fabric strip and the fork closest to you on top of the fabric strip. For the ½” pleat, the space between the needle and the inner fork of the Quick Pleater should be about ½”.
Lift the Quick Pleater up and towards you.
Continue turning the pleater towards you, which rolls the fabric under. Once you complete the fold, the Quick Pleater will be laying right side down against your machine bed and the innermost fork will be next to your presser foot. Adjust as needed to make sure the folded edges and the raw edges of the fabric layers are even.
Slide out the Quick Pleater and stitch forward to secure your first pleat.
To make the next pleat, re-position the Quick Pleater ½" from the first pleat.
As above, lift up and roll under to form the pleat.
Adjust the position so the second pleat just touches the first pleat, and as above, make sure the folded edges and raw edges of the fabric are even. Stitch forward to secure.
Continue in this manner to make even pleats along the length of your trim.
You can leave the head and tail of the pleated strip raw in order to insert them into a seam. Or, to create a clean finish, tuck under the end of the strip, using the Quick Pleater to maintain the ½” width.
Press well… your perfect pleats are done.
Standard Box Pleats with the Home Sewing Depot 1" Quick Pleater
Our box pleats were created in the skirt of a child jumper. The width of the jumper bodice with which we were working was 24”. Using the formula above, that meant our skirt panel needed to start at 72”wide plus additional fabric for seam allowances. We used the 1” pleater from the Small Quick Pleater assortment to create 2” box pleats (Remember: you choose a pleater half the size of your desired finished depth for box pleats).
Place the fabric under the foot, ½” from the raw edge (for a ½” seam allowance). Insert the Quick Pleater with the fork closest to the needle on top of the fabric strip and the fork closest to you under the fabric strip (yep… this is the opposite of what you just did above for the knife pleats).
Lift up the Quick Pleater so it faces away from you, toward the needle.
Continue turning the Quick Pleater until it lays flat, then adjust the position so the folded edge of this first pleat aligns with the seam allowance.
Stitch forward to secure the first half of the box pleat.
For the second half of the box pleat, insert the Quick Pleater with the fork nearest the needle under the fabric and the fork closest to you on top of the fabric. Since we are using the 1” pleater, we used a 1” space between the first half of the pleat and the second half of the pleat.
For this half of the pleat, lift up the Quick Pleater so it faces toward from you, away from the needle.
Roll the Quick Pleater over and adjust its position so the second half of the box pleat touches the first half.
Stitch across to fully secure the first box pleat.
To start the next box pleat, insert the Quick Pleater about 1” (the width of the Quick Pleater) from the first pleat with the fork closest to the needle on top of the fabric and the fork closest to you under the fabric (just as you did to start the first pleat).
Lift and roll as above so the new fold touches the edge of the previous pleat.
The second half of this box pleat is made in the same manner as above: insert the Quick Pleater with the fork closest to the needle under the fabric and the fork closest to you on top of the fabric. Roll the pleater under the fabric and stitch across to secure.
Continue in this manner across the width of your panel.
If you are working with more than one panel of fabric, joining is easy with the help of the Quick Pleater. When you reach the end of the first fabric panel, use the Quick Pleater to roll the raw edge of the fabric under the pleats and slide the next panel of fabric into position.
Stitch across to secure.
Continue adding pleats until you reach the end of your second panel.
Flip the pleated panels so they are wrong side up.
Pin the panels together along the seam line.
The two seam allowances may not match; one will likely be wider than the other. If so, after pinning in place, trim the seam allowance so both sides are flush.
Stitch the full vertical seam to fully secure the panels; your seam disappears behind the pleating.
The Quick Pleaters, and lots of other great sewing tools and accessories, are available at Home Sewing Depot.
While you’re waiting for your set, you can also check out our Box Pleat and Knife Pleat tutorials, which show step-by-step instructions for marking, measuring, and folding by hand. After that, you’ll be even more excited for the Quick Pleaters to arrive.