I was never one to make a box pleated garment. I actually dreaded box pleating. It always seemed too complicated. Too much fabric would be required. And the biggest factor was that I didn’t have a clue about how to start.
Or perhaps I was too lazy to put in the work. Secretly.
A few years ago, box pleated school skirts made a comeback with a huge hit. If it was anything else, I would have jumped on board and added my own spin to it in a DIY. But nope! I turned to the more simple type of pleating, such as the knife pleats. I found the process to be more simple. It was a way to be certain I wouldn’t mess up or waste precious fabric.
I actually dreaded box pleating.
One afternoon, I was planning out DIY projects and going through my stash of fabrics. I pulled out a fabric with a black and white floral print. Upon close inspection, one could see a very fine mesh layer on top of the thicker fabric underneath. The mesh layer was attached to the bottom layer with an adhesive, such that both layers formed a single piece. The black and white floral design was printed right on top.
On the edges, the mesh layer had begun to unravel. At one point, I even thought about pulling the two layers apart partially. The mesh fabric would have its own body. It could exist naturally, hovering around the bottom layer. It could be art in the form of a garment!
Then I also thought about pleated skirts. The floral fabric was just the right amount and length. I think had structure, but was still flowy and fluid.
I chose the latter. And so the pleating began.
An Unconventional Pleating Process
There are several different methods for creating box pleats. One common method is to mark the fold and placement lines. The fabric would then be folded on the “fold” line. The folds would then be placed on the “placement” line.
I’ve also seen a rectangular board used as a guide. The rectangular board is moved along the fabric at various intervals. The board is placed either above or below the fabric, with alternating placement. The fabric is folded over or under the board and eventually creates even box pleats.
The method covered in this post is similar to the first method above. But it bypasses all the different markings and having to baste the marks. It is intended for creating equal box pleats that are placed right next to each other.
I like simple. So we’re going to work simple. To better illustrate this unconventional method for making box pleats, I will use an example of a skirt that has a 40-inch waist when finished. The box pleats on the example skirt will be 2 inches wide.
For this project, you’ll need the following sewing materials:
- Fabric with the length of your choice
- Fabric marking tool
- Pins or sewing clips
- Basic sewing tools
Find the amount of fabric required.
First, determine the target width of the area that will be be made up of the pleats.
Next, determine how wide you would like each pleat to be.
Multiply the two numbers above to determine the total width of fabric to use. Add seam allowance to all raw edges.
Example: A skirt that has a 40-inch waist and pleats that are 2 inches wide will require: 40 x 2 = 80 inches of fabric plus seam allowance
Mark equal intervals along the fabric.
Mark the seam allowance on the raw edges.
Divide the rest of the fabric into equal parts. Each part should be equal to the width of the pleat you will be creating.
Example: For the skirt in our example, each pleat will be 2 inches. Therefore, each part between the seam allowances will be 2 inches wide.
Pinch every two intervals together.
Place the fabric down with the wrong side facing up. Starting at one edge, match Mark 1 with Mark 2. Pin or clip in place.
Match Mark 3 to Mark 4. Pin or clip in place Match Mark 4 to Mark 5. Pin or clip in place.
Continue in the pattern above. This sequence creates sets of two pinches on the wrong side of the fabric. The two pinches make up 1 pleat on a the right side. The exception is the single pinch on the very edge. This single pinch can be joined against the other single pinch to make one full pleat. Details for joining the pleats together are outlined in Step 5 below.
Baste the pleats in place.
Open up each set of pinches. Fold either of the pleat down. The folded edge should sit right against the next folded edge.
Baste the pleating in place with a wide straight stitch. Sew slowly and make sure to smooth out the pleats as needed. This will ensure that the pleats lay flat.
Now you can attach the pleated fabric to a waistband, bodice, yoke, or whatever it is that your heart desires!
How to join pieces of pleating together.
Ideally, there should be one full pleat on the raw edges that will be joined together. On the wrong side of the fabric, the full pleat will appear as one single pinch as in Step 3. But on the right side of the fabric, it will appear as one full pleat.
Keep at least 1/2 inch seam allowance on the raw edges. Match with raw edges together so that the fold of the full pleat meets up with the fold of the other full pleat. Stitch the seam closed. Take care to not catch the pleat into the seam when sewing.
Sometimes, the target width of the garment may not allow for full pleats at the edge. You might end up with a half pleat instead. No worries! Where there is a will, there will be a way.
To join this with other pleats, make sure the adjoining raw edge also has one half pleat. Both raw edges should mirror each other. Keep at least 1/2 inch seam allowance on the raw edge. Using the existing pleats as a guide, line up the raw edges together and sew. When joined together, the two half pleats will make up one full pleat. The sewn seam is now the middle part of the full pleat. This type of joining is better placed at the back of the garment instead of on the front or side.
Finish the seam allowance as usual.