Sunday, December 12, 2010


    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)!



  1. Thanks so much for the post on how to pleat and for the comment on there is no right way to face your pleater. I am going to tell the girls in my smocking chat group about your blog. Some of them are nervous about using a pleater, but they really want to smock. I think your post may give them the boost of confidence they need.

  2. I hope to have a pleater some day, for now I am lucky to several ladies in our local smocking guild have them and are willing to pleat for a donation to the Wee Care Gown fund!

    I am bookmarking this tutorial for the lucky day I get my own! Thanks for posting!

  3. I hope this does help! Pleating doesn't have to be scarry - you just have to practice! I will be the frist to admit I had to have an extra stock of 'spare' pleater needles when I started out, butonce you get the feel of it, the needles stay in shape! I am going to be going over a few basic smocking stithces in the next few weeks and then we will start smocking and constructing a yoke dress after the first of the year - new project for the new year!

  4. I am glad this has helped! Smocking doesn't have to be scarry = you just have to practice! I will be the first to admit that I had to have supply of 'extra' pleater needles when I started out! Once you get the feel of the pleater, though, you don't have that many problems. I will be going over a couple of basic smocking stitches in the next couple of weeks, and then - new project for new year - I will start a step-by-step tutorial of smocking and constructing a basic yoke dress!

  5. I just started to smock and I really love to do it. The only thing is, in Belgium I find no magazines or paterns to make beautifull things for my grandaughters or my self. One little question: how tight most the pleats be before I can start to smock.
    Thanks for your help on the wax paper