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How to sew Pleats


Pleats are folds of fabric that are sewn in place at the top edge of skirts and trousers to add fullness or ease. Pleats can be partially sewn down inside the fold, edgestitched (page link) on the surface or simply folded with the fold secured in a crossing seam and allowed to hang freely. Press pleats along the fold for a crisp look or leave them unpressed to create soft folds. Pleats can be sewn with an underlay fabric hidden beneath the pleat so when the pleat opens up, the contrast fabric is revealed. Sew pleats in groups or pairs, sew one single pleat or make pleats across the entire width of a skirt. There are different types of pleats, including box pleats, knife pleats and inverted pleats. The fabric is folded differently for each type of pleat, but they are sewn in the same manner.

Skirt with pleats (McCalls 5803)

Skirt with pleats (McCalls 5803)

Pleat detail

Pleat detail


Pleats add volume, take in fullness and add interest to the silhouette of a garment. Pleats work best made with fabrics that will hold a crease or have enough body to keep the shape of the pleat. Crisply pressed pleats require fabric that can be pressed to a sharp fold. Sew pleats instead of darts (page link) for a softer look.

Tips + Notes

  • Pleats too puffy or adding too much volume? This can happen on pleated skirts where the pleats are secured at the waistline but open all the way down. Edgestitch (page link) or topstitch (page link) along the pleats from waist to hip to flatten them out for a yoke effect.
  • Change darts (page link) to pleats by folding along the dart lines and basting across the raw edges. Or sew 1″–2″ (2.5cm–5.1cm) down the dart line but leave the rest of it open to form a pleat.


How to sew Pleats (1)

Fold fabric along the pleat line, and bring it to the placement line.

How to sew Pleats (2)

Pin in place, and baste along the raw edge to hold the pleat in place.

How to sew Pleats (3)


Some pleats are partially sewn along part of the pleat and open up to release the pleat. For these types of pleats, sew along the marked sewing line, backstitching (page link) at both ends.

Source : The Sewtionary An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques + Definitions
About the Author : Tasia ST. Germaine