Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pleating Without A Pleater

Before pleaters for smocking became popular in the mid 1980's, we pleated the fabric by hand. Since recent changes in the sewing industry have made pleaters harder to find, it is time to look back at this method. Patterns that called for smocking had dots that were transferred to the fabric to form a grid for pleating. You can make your own grid for pleating by using a quilter's ruler and a wash-away marker to mark the fabric. Gingham fabric is great to start with, since it practially has a built in grid.  

First, starch and press the fabric.  The horizontal lines are 3/8" apart and the vertical lines are 1/8" apart.  Using quilting thread and a hand sewing needle, knot the thread at one end and following the horizontal lines, bring the needle and thread up through the vertical lines and back down.

After all the stitching is completed, draw the threads up to about 15 pleats per inch and knot the thread. You now have a piece of fabric ready for smocking. *The fabric is drawn up to about a 3 to 1 ratio, so 9" of fabric draws up to about 3".

If you are new to smocking or need to brush up on an old skill the "Beginning Smocking Book" will take you through step by step and includes several smocking designs.



Arlene G said...

The first smocking I ever did, I had to pleat my own fabric. I think it was a Simplicity pattern and it came with a row of "dots" that you transferred to your fabric. I had forgotten all about that until I saw your post Michie. Having girls night for MOPs here at my house next Thursday evening(17th) at 6:30....hope you can make it.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog and was delighted to see your comments on smocking before
pleaters. I learned to smock in the mid 1960's. We used sew on Grace Knott dots.
White tissue with blue dots printed on the material..They then went to iron on
dots that were not quite a good. My mother finally bought a pleater when
visiting the US one winter holiday, I own it now and have continued to use it
but I do still occasionally make my own sew on dots. Grace Knott gave smocking
lessons in Toronto and my mother took lessons from her in the late 1950's. Alas
her company now in the hands of her great grand son has now closed. Keep on
Blogging, I love seeing your patterns.
Best Regards, Carolyne-Marie

Kathryn said...

Thank you for this info. I pleated the skirts for my daughter's Easter dress with iron on dots a few months back and it wasn't as hard as I thought. It definitely wasn't as neat and even as a pleather, though - I had a few puffy pleats.

I am wondering one thing. From your photo, it looks like you took even stitches in the fabric, as opposed to the long/short that my mom's pleather does to put the pleating thread toward the back. Do you find that you catch the pleating threads when you smock?


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