Before you can smock, you have to have a piece of pleated fabric to work on! The easiest and quickest way to do pleat something is with a pleater (vs. pleating by hand). To get started, I have my pleater needles in my pleater. At this point, I will put as many needles as I need (one needle = one row of pleating) and make sure they are nice and straight. Bent needles can cause them to pop out of the pleater bars and can be very frustrating.
The next thing I like to do, especially if I have not pleated anything in a while, is to run a piece of wax paper through my pleater. Please note that the needles are NOT threaded at this point! I take a piece of wax paper that is about 12 inches long and 'pleat' it. This helps to lubricate the needles and the fabric seems to glide right through. You can save the wax paper and use it again.
Thread your pleater needles. I have my pleater sitting on a Thread Caddy - it helps me keep my threads untangled, especially if I am doing a lot of pleating (kits for a class, etc.). Thread the same number of needles as rows of pleats that you need, and don't forget your holding rows! I like to have 2 holding rows at the top and one at the bottom for a total of 3 holding rows.
Note: to help guide your fabric through, I usually follow the guide for the next full space row that is not threaded. As you can see, I have 15 needles threaded, so I lined the fabric up with row 16 and used that as a guideline.
Once you know where to line up your fabric, start it through the pleater. It does help to have 3 hands (or a kid or a husband), but lacking those, it is possible to feed the fabric through evenly. Remember this is not a race! It also helps to know your pleater. I have several pleaters that I use, and they each have their own personality. The more you pleat, the more you will get to know your pleater. Don't be afraid to pleat something for practice!
Note: I pleat with the needles in the front, the handle on the right side with the fabric feeding through from the back. That is the way I learned! I know there are people who pleat with the handel on the right, the fabric going away from them. There is not really a right or wrong way - whatever is most comfortable for you.
As the needles fill with fabric, pull the pleats off and then pleat again until the needles are full. Repeat this until all the fabric has been fed through the pleater. Remember, slow and steady! Watch the fabric and keep it straight so that the pleating theads are on grain!
Once the fabric is pleated, CAREFULLY pull the thread out of the needles. Make sure you are pulling out the end that is not still attached to the spool. Once all of the needles are unthreaded, pull the pleated piece out so there is (at least) a good 18 inches of thread at the pleater end. It is better to have too long than too short! You should now have long tails of thread at each side of the pleated fabric. At this point, cut the threads, and tah dah! your pleated piece of fabric!
Next lesson is blocking the fabric.
Don't forget to name my size 3 dress form! I have had some cute names come in - drawing is soon!
Happy Stithcing (and pleating)!