For years, I have been making pleats by hand; marking off the length, folding and pressing. They always come out a little wonky, but I didn’t know there was another way. Until now.
When I mentioned to my publisher that I wanted to use pleats in one of the projects in my upcoming book, she asked, “Do you have a Perfect Pleater?” I replied, “What’s that?”
She then took me over to their booth and showed me this amazing thing:
A couple of weeks later, one arrived for me in the mail!
It looks simple enough to use, but after a couple of attempts (and then finally watching a video) I got much better at using it. I thought I’d share a bit about how to use the pleater in case any of you want to try it.
Before I get to the pleater though, let me tell you about this awesome fabric. I was scooting around Quilt Festival last November, and came upon this booth with a bunch of Japanese fabrics, which I love. I then spied this awesome ombre-dyed violet fabric, which I thought would be so perfect to pleat with. They looked like fat quarters the way they were folded, and because I wasn’t sure how much fabric I would need, I bought about 5 of them. No matter that they were $5.25 a piece; if I were to run out of fabric I wouldn’t be able to get more.
Imagine my surprise when I finally opened up the packets this weekend and discovered that they are half yards. Not fat quarters at all… half yards! So I felt really happy about this unexpected discovery, and then the $5.25 price made a lot more sense. 🙂
The first thing you should do when you get the pleater is to roll it up to loosen the slots. They are really tight, and it can make it difficult to insert the fabric if they are too tight.
Next, you want to anchor the edge of your fabric with glass-head or metal pins:
Now you are ready to pleat! Lift up the first slot, near the center of your fabric, and push the fabric into the slot. (Because of my nails, I have to grab the slot at the outside first to lift it, then I grab the center.)
After each pleat, you want to smooth the remaining length of your fabric. It will start to go a little wonky, but just smooth it as best you can. Because of the tendency to go wonky, I always cut my fabric about 1″ wider than I need it.
Now it’s time to set the pleats. When you are using 100% cotton fabric, you need to make your own pressing cloth & solution. I just use a piece of muslin, and a solution of 1 oz vinegar to 8 oz of water.
Set your iron to the linen setting, and press your pleats until the muslin is dry. Once you set your pleats, let it cool completely. Don’t touch it! It’s hard to resist, but just go do something else for 5 or 10 minutes.
Now you can take your fabric out of the pleater. Mine has a tendency to stick to the pleater, but I just yank it out. The pleats are set, so I’m not worried about them coming out. You can reform the pleats by laying it down on a table and just running your fingers up the pleats. They spring back together pretty easily.
To keep your pleats in place, you should stitch the edges, but what I like to do is use a really lightweight fusible interfacing (I’ve been using Pellon 820 Quilter’s Grid) on the back to hold the pleats in place.
I fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the pleats, and then cut the piece to size. As an aside, when you are cutting to size, don’t just cut around the interfacing, re-measure your piece again and cut to the correct size. Sometimes when you are fusing, the pleats can draw up a bit and it changes the size.
Now my pleats aren’t going anywhere! You can still anchor your pleats by stitching in the seam allowance, but I like to do different things, like twisting the pleats to create a different look. For example, if you anchor one edge of the pleats in the right direction, and then stitch the opposite edge against the pleats:
I am having so much fun with this fabric, and with the pleater!