There are many types of pleats, but the types below are the most popular and the most commonly used pleats.
In this article I will cover:
What are PLEATS ?
Pleats are folds formed in fabric, usually to contain a wide piece of fabric to fit another one of narrower proportions. Pleats hold the fullness of fabric, create new silhouettes for your garments, and elevate the look to a new level. Pleats make the perfect embellishment for girls’ clothing.
They are different from gathering in that the folds in pleats are wider and are formed and pinned before sewing.
Pleats, those folds we make on clothes, are said to have originated from the Egyptians. Today they are a very popularly used functional and decorative fashion design element.
When you sew your clothes, you create your own couture and have the luxury of making these coveted pleats. What you get in store brought clothes are machine-made pleats, but now you can hand pleat to glory.
Different names for Pleats in fabric
Knife-pleats (Flat Pleats)
These are firmly pressed hand-made pleats, which are all facing one direction.
One side of a knife-pleat will usually be shorter than the other; ie the pleats have one side (usually over pleat) longer than the other (Under pleat). The under pleat will usually be half the width of the over pleat, so the whole thing will lie flat.
Knife pleats are the most used pleats and are mostly seen all around the waistband of skirts.
Read more about knife pleats here.
Accordion pleats are symmetrical pleats, ie. The sides of each pleat will be of the same width. These are usually machine-made knife pleats. The pleats formed by the machine remain permanent even after washing and ironing.
Graduated pleats are flared knife pleats – the width of each pleat increases as it goes down, resulting in a flare. A Sunburst pleat is a graduated pleat.
Sunburst pleats (Sunray pleats)
These are beautiful pleats (graduated pleats) that are narrow at the top and get bigger as it goes down to the hem and will be made with a semi-circular piece of fabric; these pleats give a nice flared effect and is very popular for making skirts.
Sunburst pleating is called that because the pleats will look like the sun’s rays.
These are very fine knife pleats usually found in tuxedo shirts. These are narrow, sharply pressed pleats set at 90-degree angles from the fabric – and will measure just 2 or 3 mm on both sides.
Box pleats are knife pleats formed in opposite directions. They can also be formed one on top of the other (stacked), forming double box pleats. These pleats are full-length pleats that are rectangular in shape.
Read more about box pleats here.
The inverted pleats are formed by placing two knife pleats facing each other. You can also call it a box pleat inside out.
Learn more about sewing inverted pleats here.
Kick pleats are inverted pleats joined along the fold edges a short distance from the top. In skirts, the kick pleats are joined to the hips, and released at the lower edge.
Learn more about kick pleats here.
Mushroom pleats are very narrow pleats like those seen on the underside of a mushroom or the kind you make for smocking.
These are the puffy, voluminous pleats. Usually refers to those seen in long skirts.
Pleats in fancy shapes, ofcourse.
Cascade pleats/ Sari pleats
Cascade pleats are thin pleats (Sunray pleats) formed from one point and flare toward the bottom of the fabric. They fall like a waterfall/cascade.
Sari pleats are usually placed in the center of the garment.
There are many kinds of pleating which I think is best attempted by professionals. Some of them like pinch pleating, contortion pleating all create interesting effects. But as of now if you are a beginner, start with these pleats and they will not disappoint you.
Tips on sewing pleats
Always mark the pleats and sew. The pleat lines should be marked with chalk at the fold and center mark. You can draw 1-inch mark for this.
Pin all the pleats – Use plenty of pins to pin the pleats together.Use the pins vertically. If there are two folds together as in an inverted pleat, use one each on either side o the folds.
Press the pleats in place after pinning. Pressing will keep them in place and you will be able to sew neater pleats because of the crispier folds you get after pressing with a steam iron.
Basting is an optional step that you should do if you feel even a small doubt that you will make a mistake when sewing.
Basting stitches can be easily removed (use a stitch length of 4-5) and saves you lots of time that you will spend removing the stitches if the pleats shift despite the pins. The basting stitches should be done 1/4 inch from the fabric edge.
Learn more about basting stitches here.