Auxiliary Reference Information | Drafting | Pleats

Pleating is used as a design feature to control volume into a garment and can be used in a variety of different ways. They can be simple, complex in design or functional, for example they can be used in lining to release extra fabric for wearing ease.

Pleats in simple terms are fold of fabric but to look really good they must be accurately measured.

Pleats can also be stitched down or left to hang free from a Seam or a Waistband and either hang softly or pressed crisply. It is important to consider fabric choice as some fabrics will hold the pleats shape better than others.

There are many different types of Pleats, here are the main ones;

  • Inverted

  • Box

  • Accordion

  • Knife

  • Tucks – although not technically a Pleat it is still folded fabric that is sewn to control volume so I include it in this list.

Inverted Pleats

Inverted Pleats consist of two folds that face each other on either side of Pleat. The volume excess is controlled behind the Pleat.

Inverted Pleats are usually used in Skirts, Pockets or to control extra fabric for a Yoke of a blouse or shirt. They are smaller than Box Pleats and therefore you may need multiple Inverted Pleats if you have lots of volume to control.

It is drafted by creating three lines a Central Pleat Line and two lines parallel to this Central Line on either side that form the Folds for the Pleat.

Here you can see how one side will fold into the middle.

The same happens on the other side and the bulk of the fabric would be pressed down at the back and shared across both sides.

If we look at what this now looks like when opened up, you can see that by folding the front Folds there has to be a back Fold to allow the fabric to return back. So all Pleats have a fold and a return.

In this photo I have drawn in the fold at the back in black pen and showed the direction of the fold using an arrow.

There are a number of measurements you can therefore use in a Pleat the distance from the Centre Line to what I would call the Return Folds in this case in the back and then the distance from the Centre Line to the Front Folds that sit on the Front.

Box Pleats

A Box Pleat is a reversed Inverted Pleat in that the two Front Folds fold away from each other on the face of the fabric to give a wider vertical pleat. As the Pleat is wider then it is more important to ensure that the measurements for each side are as accurate as possible.

A variation on this is where a Box Pleat is inverted i.e. it is placed on the inside of the fabric, essentially this is a larger inverted pleat when placed on the inside.

Accordion Pleats

Covered in more detail in Module 6 - Create the Flexible Pattern - 5. Drafting Skirts this pleat is usually used instead of a Split as it helps give a little volume for movement in a Straight or Pencil Skirt. It is called Accordion because it has multiple pleats that stack up on top of each other.

Knife Pleats

Knife Pleats are basically folds of fabric that all lie in the same direction and any number of them can be used, a skirt can even be covered in knife pleats all the way around. As above they may hang free or be stitched down.

You would need to measure out the width of each Knife Pleat.

Then they would be pressed and folded. Three of the columns will make one Dart, one column spans across the garment on the outside the other two columns are folded to create the folded pleat that sits on the inside.

Then stitched down to secure them along the top, they can also be stitched at any point from the top down to secure them further and reduce the bulk a little more.


Just to straighten a point out here a Pleat is a fold in fabric that is made by doubling the fabric over on itself in which case fabric can be sewn at a point and then allowed to be released you could almost say that this is a form of controlled measured gathering, a Tuck is a fold that is stitched down its length individually and thereby shortening the fabric for decoration or to control fullness and they have a tendency to stick up especially for the smaller Pin Tucks which are very narrow Tucks. Tucks are folds of fabric sewn at regular intervals to add textural interest to a garment. They are usually sewn all the way down but can be left free on one end. They can be vertical or horizontal and are usually grouped together. The width of a Tuck is a design choice.

The position and size of the Tuck is marked on the Fabric either using Tailor Tacks or Thread Tracing. On the draft you would mark each Tuck with a Notch top and bottom, or if the Tuck does not go all the way down the pattern piece you could use an Awl Point to mark the bottom of the Tuck.

Each Tuck is ironed from top to bottom.

Each Tuck is then stitched down its length at its base to secure it individually. Also Tucks can be positioned one way or the other rather than sticking up and stitched down in the Seaming.

For smaller Pin Tucks there are special feet that you can buy for your sewing machine which can assist you to get regular Pin Tucks if you prefer.

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