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Five Tips for Perfect Pleats

By Allie

Allie is the co-founder of Indiesew and creator of all things pretty on the site. Follow Allie and receive other Indiesew updates by subscribing to the blog.

Five Tips for Perfect Pleats | Indiesew Sewing Tutorials

Today’s tutorial covers a standby sewing technique, one that you’ll use over and over again. Like darts, or gathers, pleats provide a neat way to tuck extra fabric away. If you’re a brand new sewist and have been sticking to straight, simple seams, pleats are a great next step in your sewing journey. If you’re an intermediate or advanced sewist you’ve likely sewn more pleats than you can count. Today I’m showing you my five favorite tips for picture perfect pleats, every time.

Pleats are one of the most common sewing features found on garments today. In fact, we have nearly twenty patterns in the Indiesew shop that feature pleats! A few of our favorites are the Marbella Dress, the Ella Top and the City Girl Frock.

Indiesew Patterns with Pleats |

Alrighty, are you ready? Let's go!

1. Mark Your Fold Lines

Most sewing patterns have pattern markings and step-by-step instructions to show how to place your pleats. My first recommendation when prepping your pleats is to mark your pleat lines by drawing 1 to 2" lines at the fold and center marks.

Mark Pleat Lines | Five Tips for Perfect Pleats

I always mark my pleat lines on both sides of the fabric. This ensures you can see your pleat lines when matching them up right sides together.

Mark Pleat Lines on Both Sides of Fabric | Indiesew

I use a tailor's chalk pencil for my pattern markings. It rinses away in the wash!

2. Pin Often

I say it all the time, and for newbie sewists it is necessary. Pin more than you think you need to! Even if you feel confident sewing most seams without pins, pleats require ample pinning. I place one pin on each side of the pleat center. If your pleats are larger than 3" you might consider placing more than one pin on each side.

Pin Pleats | Indiesew Blog

Are you sewing several, evenly spaced pleats? You'll be using a lot of pins. But trust me, it's worth it.

Indiesew Pleat Tutorial | Pin Evenly Spaced Pleats

3. Measure Between Your Pleats

Some patterns feature several evenly spaced pleats, like the Josephine Top or the Caroline Dress. When sewing these types of patterns, be sure to measure the distance between your pleats, first when marking them.

Measure Pleats |

And again after you've pinned them. It can be a total bummer to sew up your pleats only to realize the spacing was inconsistent.

Measure Pleats with Seam Gauge | Five Tips for Perfect Pleats

4. Press and Steam

The key to crisp pleats folds is using a hot steam iron. Press each side of your pleat as you fold it in towards the center. And press the pleat again once it's pinned.

Press and Steam Pleats | Indiesew Blog

5. Baste, always.

I always, without question, baste my pleats in place before sewing them into the seam. What's a basting stitch, you ask? A basting stitch is a long, straight stitch that holds down pleats, gathers, or darts before sewing the full seam. Often, basting stitches are ripped out of the garment after it's entirely assembled.

There are a few reason I baste my pleats. First, it's a surefire way to keep those pleats tacked down and stop them from shifting around while you sew. For my basting stitch, I set my stitch length to 3.5 and sew with a 1/4" seam allowance.

Baste Pleats in Place | Pleat Sewing Tutorial on

The second reason is so that I can see each pleat while I sew. Presser feet can sometimes grab and drag pleat folds with them as you sew. Basting ensures you can see every pleat being sewed down properly.

Baste Evenly Spaced Pleats |

Once you've basted your pleats down, you're ready to attach them to the rest of your garment! Make sure to sew with a seam allowance larger than 1/4" to cover up your basting stitch.

Finished Pleats | Five Tips for Perfect Pleats

Do you have other tips for perfect pleats, every time? Leave them in the comments below! Make sure you're following us on Facebook to catch future sewing tutorials on the Indiesew blog!

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