Skill Level: Pleats~

July 23, 2019 0 Comments

Dear Diary~

One evening last week while playing solitaire and watching TV with RD, when what I was really thinking about was the next version of the Alder Shirtdress I would make before retiring this pattern…(do I have at least one and maybe two more reiterations of that pattern before I fold it up and tuck it away into its little manilla envelope?)…

And as I tapped the Queen of Hearts onto the King of Clubs, I said to myself “You know, Jyps, what would really be cute here is a pleated skirt.” 

That very same night, this video showed up in my recommended YouTube list.

Even more interesting is because RD was sleeping, I watched this video with the sound off. Hypnotizingly intriguing!

Ok. Let’s do this. 

Before starting, I went back into YouTube to watch a How-To, watched it thru and…yup….I got this.

This post is strictly about pleating the skirt and it’s a story in pictures with commentary. I  want to fully take onboard here the confidence I have in my skills these days. When just learning, trying to figure out how to get this piece here attached to that piece there…I always felt like I was Forest Gump-ing my way through and had a lot of self doubts about how/what I did. Only to find out later that my instincts were spot on. I’d read about a technique in a book or a sewing blog, or watch a YouTube vid and be pleasantly surprised that what I figured out on my own was the right way to do something. Also, fabric being fiddly is what fabric does and there’s no shame in having to play and manipulate fabric (even under the presser foot) to make it behave. 

Ok, without further ado…here we go…

First thing I had to do is properly resize the panels as the original pattern calls for a gathered skirt, and one cannot gather a pleated skirt. I matched up sewing lines, in this case the *correct* sewing line as I have dropped the waist every time I’ve made this pattern up. I dropped the waist another 3/4” this time. So, match up the latest sewing line to sewing line on the skirt/panel to get the correct width.

Draw in the new side seam. 

I also added 2.5” to the length. My first Alder Shirt dress (here: AlderTheFirst ) ended up being a wee bit too short for me. It’s fine when I’m standing up, looks like a nice little summer thing but God forbid I go water the garden in it. And when I sit down, the back skirt rides up waaaaaaaay too high. The side panel not only needed a new width, but a new length.

I drew out a pleat line pattern. I didn’t quite know how to start and decided to leave myself a good space to be able to connect the side panel to the front bodice smoothly. If I do this in future, the entire skirt, from one side panel thru the back to the other side may be one continuous pattern piece. I don’t know if this is possible, but I’ll circle back to this in a second, as it depends on the width of the fabric.

After drawing pleat lines, I pleated the pattern paper…

I ran the iron over the pleated pattern paper to crisp it up…

Overlaid the new pattern piece onto it…

Traced the new pattern piece over the pleated pattern paper and…voilá! There ya have it!!! (Now I’m getting excited!)


Repeat for the back…resize to take out the gathers…but!!

What I’m not sure about is the curve at the top of the back skirt panel. Is it there because that’s how the pattern is drafted or is it there as a consequence of the intended gathers? Because the bottom of the back bodice is straight. In the end, I left it in the new pleated pattern piece. I added extra length at the bottom (just in case I don’t need that curve for the pleats vs gathers) and if I need the top of the pleated skirt to be straight to match the bottom of the bodice, which is my educated guess here…because trying to fit a curved line into a straight line…will create gathers…I can draw a line and cut it straight, no harm, no foul. If I’m wrong about this, and that piece does need to be curved up, then I’m golden. Because as one can see, after pleating some pattern paper, overlaying the original, albeit corrected for width w/o gathers, that curve seems to be all but gone. Interesting.

Pattern work done, moving onto fabric.

I ran into a problem with the fabric not being wide enough to double and cut the skirt piece out in one piece. I had to unfold it to a single layer and cut 2 pieces. Because a piece of fabric this wide:

>>|——————-|<< becomes this wide >>|/////|<<  after pleating. Now comes the fun part. How does one join two panels of pleated fabric to make it look like it is only one panel, without any disruptions to the pleats? How indeed.

I measured the width of the pleats and drew a line. Leaving myself aaaaaallllll that extra fabric on the edges was brilliant. Anyway, THIS is where I need the piece to be attached to look like another pleat. I made the same measurement, drew another line on the other side…THIS is where I need the fabric to fold to look like a pleat.

I hand basted the two pieces together…at the exact edge of what will be the pleat fold. Then I serged the two pieces together behind that basted, all important edge. This has the added plus of the serged seam will be hidden behind a pleat. {By the by, I used my brand new Juki serger for this as Esmé the Evolution is still in the Serger Hospital. This new Juki? Wow. Wow. Wow. It will be named. I. Love. Her.}

After serging the seam, I went back to the iron and pressed that pleat back into position, double, tripled checked my work….

…Removing the hand basting….aaaaaannndddd

….Bob’s Your Uncle. There you have it. Perfect. The join is there where the red pin is. You can’t tell. It looks like it’s one piece!! So much happy over here!! ♥️ ♥️ ♥️ 

I machine basted along the top of the pleats where it was joined together to secure it.

Now I have to join the side panels onto the back skirt panel. Sigh. Biggest problem here is that I didn’t have the epiphany to leave extra fabric where the pleats meet until I started considering that problem with the two back skirt panels. I considered it with the side panel meeting the straight edge of the front, but not the pleat to pleat of side to back. So…what to do?

I ended up ironing out pleats where the side and the back meet.


I followed the same steps, measured where I needed the joined pleat to be, drew lines, hand basted, turned it over to double/triple check pleat placement (notice how the tops match up perfectly here)…but…

When I folded both pieces out…the side panel is 1/2” higher than the back. Knife pleats, amirite?? I just pulled the basting thread out, shifted the side panel down to the correct position, rebasted. I just had to clip a piece of the back panel off to get it straight.

The only difference between joining the side panels to the back from the join of the two back panels, is because I did not leave any extra room on the pattern piece where the sides/back meet, the edge of the pleat is the sewn seam. In my head, I was thinking about fly zippers where you have to cut a piece of the fly off but then sew the exact same piece (with a seam allowance) back on because it creates a very sharp, crisp edge. So, I was hoping that would be the effect here. 

Not bad, if I do say so myself. If you know what you’re looking at, you can see the serged seam showing thru where I ironed the living daylights out of that pleat. I learned that when you’re messing around with pleats, you are constantly repositioning the pleats back into place while ironing. Need to iron just this one line? Not so fast, sister!! You will reposition at least 6” to either side of the line you need to iron so you don’t mess up any pleats!! This requires patience.

So there’s one side attached to the back. I’ll attach the other side today. Looking at it now, it was a good call to leave the curve in. Look how gracefully the skirt curves around! I’ll correct for the extra length in the back panels when I hem it, which should be fun. 

No, seriously, I love hand stitching so I’m looking forward to a nice quiet evening just hemming this one stitch at a time. Grokking about life and how happy I am these days! Both kids doing great! Thank you, God! We’re all healthy, none of us are worried about where our next meal is coming from. Raymond is promoting at work and getting raises. He even won a charity raffle at work, won a rifle but he donated the cash equivalent back to the charity because he has a great heart. 

RD says Raymond is getting promotions & raises, winning raffles. RD says he is one good luck stroke away from meeting the retired stripper that needs a place to stay there in his little town. Maybe she’s originally from that little dirt spot in the road and her family won’t take her back in. You…have to understand RD’s sense of humor to get that. I’m rolling my eyes over here so hard I’ve sprained an eye muscle.

The daughter, Sharon Jean, should be closing on their house any day now. I’ll go down there and help out with the kids while they move. She’s 7 mos pregnant and needs all the help she can get. Someone has to sit on the couch with the kids to keep them distracted while she & her hubs move boxes!! I’ll yell at the the kids “Hey! Y’all get back over here and stay out from underfoot! And bring Mimi some more candy corn!” at them.

Coz that’s what mamas do for their kids. They help out. 

Just kidding about the candy corn. I’ve lost 15-18 lbs so far by cutting out the sugar. All sweets these days is fruit. 

Onto my day. Later!!

Jyps  🦋 

Jypsea Rose