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16 November 2011 @ 09:24 am
Damn Pleats  
I love pleats, but I hate making pleats.
Now, cartridge pleats are my favorite—they look amazing and they are easy to make. Very mathematical, so easy to place the needle in the exact right spot and draw them all together so they are perfect looking.
Knife pleats seem the easiest, but man I can never ever get them right. I love perfectly even perfectly spaced pleats. I do not have the skill set to make them how I like them. I don’t know why. I can do the math with a calculator so I know exactly how large each pleat and return should be. It never works out because there is a problem somewhere between the calculator and the fabric. (That would be me and my thick fumbly fingers) Even when I try really really hard and pay close strict attention—I still can’t get them perfect and end up trimming out some of the fullness or re-pleating or giving up and gathering instead.
I need a pleating machine. I need something to make these “simple” little pleats as perfect and as quick as can be. Quick is the operative word, I guess. I spent all day yesterday just pleating the back part of the underskirt.  I thought I’d have the whole skirt done by noon. Such a foolish foolish woman I am. Nope. Still not done.
AM I DOING IT WRONG? Is there an easy peasy method I am just not aware of? Am I missing something here? It’s certainly possible. I am completely self-taught, and what I don’t know about sewing technique could fill a library. Does anyone out there have a quick and easy knife pleating method they are willing to share? Does anyone have experience with any of the pleater boards that are out there? Has anyone ever designed a custom one? I would love nothing better than to shove fabric in a slot, swipe with an iron and sew the perfect little pleats down. Is that even possible? Am I just in sewing la la land looking for a cheater solution where there is none?
I want a smocking pleater so badly it’s killing me, but that won’t help with this. I usually have so much fabric that the returns have to be pretty large compared to the pleat, like a ¼ inch pleat and a 2 inch return. Right now, I just measure, fold and pin. It works, but it’s very time consuming and never looks perfect on close inspection. Like so:


If anyone is looking at that photo and thinking “Oh, honey, no. Just no.” Then please please let me in on the secret!
Love, Angela
crowcorbaegirl on November 16th, 2011 05:36 pm (UTC)
Most of the pleating boards commercially sold are for relatively small pleats, but they work really well. I've had good luck for larger pleats using a wood or metal ruler the width of the pleat, as a gage. You fold the fabric over the width of the ruler, press it down, and then pin it down and sew it. I have a long metal ruler that is two inches wide, so that is the width for most of my large pleats.
starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 16th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
I've always wanted to buy a pleater board, but never pulled the trigger, and then when I need one I'm all pulling my hair out that I didn't. Like now. I think I need to make my own, one that can adjust to the different depths and widths that alway pop up in costuming. Nothing ever seems to need the same dimensions. I like your ruler idea. hmmmmmmmm....
(Deleted comment)
starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 16th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
I adore that doublet, and I remember the stories. I took pictures of it a few years ago at the Drea seminar at LCC, and I think he is so talented. Hell, if someone like him can't pleat to satisfaction, I don't feel so bad anymore.
mr_nice_gaiusmr_nice_gaius on November 17th, 2011 05:50 pm (UTC)
heh, in all fairness I gave up fairly quickly. I didn't have a pleating board and I knew that I needed a ton of pleating done, in the end I pleated something like 9 yards of fabric down to 3 yards :(

The only time I've been really successful at pleating has been for collars and ruffs where I made a card template for it, and even then, they were short pleats and no one looks too closely at them.


After reading down further, I love the meat fork idea, I might use that myself next time.
crowcorbaegirl on November 16th, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
I've had really good luck using pleater boards, but I still press and pin everything, and baste if necessary.
the_thread_ladythe_thread_lady on November 16th, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC)
For knife pleats, I only worry about making the visible part of the pleat even.

That way I can vary the return depending on how much fullness I want in the that part of the skirt. (usually less in the front, increasing amounts as I go around to the back)

If I want tiny knife pleats, I start like I am making cartridge pleats and then just fold them over, pin and press.

Meat fork from a carving set works great for heavy, rolled pleats.

starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 16th, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC)
Meat fork! Dang it I don't have one of those. I have campfire hot dog forks, but those are *not* touching my fabric. I'm going to pick one up next time at Fred Meyer/Target and then mess around to figure out the methodology of that. That could be brilliant!
starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 16th, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC)
AHA!! I found one in the BBQ drawer. 1 inch width. I just gave it a go, and it worked brilliantly. It made pleats that looked exactly like the ones I just toiled over for 2 days, and it took just minutes. That's wonderful!!

Now, they are not perfect-- maybe with more care and precision they could be. This method still requires a little brainwork, but man it's better that what I did yesterday! THANK YOU!!
the_thread_ladythe_thread_lady on November 16th, 2011 11:36 pm (UTC)
*bows modestly* It is one of those tricks that just makes you grin.

However, I can't take credit for the idea. "EB" (Elisabeth Braidwood) showed me how to do it a few years ago.
starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 17th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
I just did more practice, more carefully, and the pleats were P E R F E C T. I just needed to refine the technique is all. Of course, I can only make a 2 inch return with this fork, but I have complete control over the pleat width. Now everywhere I go I will be on the lookout for other meat forks of differing widths. Soon I will have an entire array to suit all my needs.

Many thanks to Elisabeth Braidwood! I don't know who you are, but you just made my sewing life a little easier!
countess_ecountess_e on November 16th, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
Sing it, sista. I love/hate pleats too.
starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 16th, 2011 09:14 pm (UTC)
oof. yeah. There's GOTTA be a way to make them quick and easy. I absolutely cannot spend two days pleating (and repleating) a darn skirt. It should take 30 minutes, tops! I have to make a tool. I'd rather buy one, but there aren't any that really suit my needs!
Christy Leechristylee on November 16th, 2011 06:31 pm (UTC)
I hear ya. I've heard of pleating with a fork but never tried it. I just eyeballed my natural form dress.
starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 16th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
Darn it, Christy! Your pics aren't showing up, and now I'm dying to see your natural form dress. Fix it! You have a fan who needs to see what you made!
Christy Leechristylee on November 16th, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
~snort~ Not sure why it wasn't working.

starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 16th, 2011 09:37 pm (UTC)
aaaah, that's better. That's so nice! Is it finished yet or a work in progress? And how did your cowboy hat conversion go? Inquiring minds, you know. A cowboy hat!
Christy Leechristylee on November 16th, 2011 09:48 pm (UTC)
The dress was finished, missed event, lost weight, then altered. I believe I'll be wearing it finally come January at the Mad Hatter Tea Party, nearly a year later, if I everything works out.

The hat which will be worn this weekend at the 18th cent picnic.

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starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 16th, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
There's nothing wrong with you, I looooove and admire perfect pleats. They are such a thing of beauty and skill and patience. BAH! I want them done perfectly in minutes without using my brain at all. Is that too much to ask? I wonder how I can make that happen... everything I create seems to have some sort of pleating going on, I might as well make a permanent solution!
TudorLady: costumingtudorlady on November 16th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
Same here - but I don't measure. I suspect that I'm actually doing some sort of complex pleating algorithm in my head, but some part of my brain knows that it's better not to explain it to the rest of my brain ;D My rule for pleating is "make it fit into this space, and make it even" - the rest is just fiddly work.
(Deleted comment)
starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 16th, 2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
I am so jonesing for a smocking pleater. I trawl craigslist and ebay all the time for one on the cheap. So far, no luck. I want to use it for making camicias out of linen or batiste or voile-- you know, all those lovely itty bitty gorgeous pleats at the necklines and shoulders and wrists-- sigh. Someday!
TudorLadytudorlady on November 16th, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)
jillwheezul has one, and I'll bet if you asked nicely, she'd let you use it :)
starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 17th, 2011 12:42 am (UTC)
I don't know Jillwheezil, but I probably *should* as I see her name all over the local ladies' journals. Of course if I introduce myself now, she will always suspect I only friended her for her smocking pleater. Thanks a lot, Tudorlady!

TudorLady: Snakeborg sleevetudorlady on November 17th, 2011 02:38 am (UTC)
You should know jillwheezul. She's awesome with awesome icing and baby weasels. And I don't think she'd mind lending you the pleater if she doesn't have something on it at the moment ;)
starlightmasquestarlightmasque on November 17th, 2011 04:17 am (UTC)
I absolutely need more awesome with awesome icing and weasels in my life. I'm sending her a message right now.
jillwheezuljillwheezul on November 17th, 2011 04:53 am (UTC)
Aww you guys you are too sweet.

Honest to goodness I was just preparing a post about what I learned about my smocking pleater this week!

I love to have people over for pleating, tea and goodies. I think Kateline wants to work on a chemise too for12th Night. Maybe there could be a party soon :)
jillwheezuljillwheezul on November 17th, 2011 04:55 am (UTC)
Etaine Pommier(Westie doing German Ren) told me at Sport of Kings that she just lets the extra fabric hang down between the pleats instead of rolling them and tacking them all together. I wish I would/could have looked at the inside of that. I think I'll message her and ask for a picture of that put onto LJ to share :)