I am a person that works best with only guidelines, I do not like being constricted to patterns, making each of my items more unique than the last. Working this way means learning some techniques and skills that allow the creator to manipulate the fabric to his or her desire. One thing that allows you to do that is pleating. It gives two dimensional items a three dimensional appearance and character. Adding depth, shape, movement and character. This is my simple worded and plain explanation of different ways to pleat. Hopefully this will spark some creativity in all of you and you will be able to add this to your personal arsenal of skills and techniques. You can use any of these in variations in your sewing and tailor it to your style, creating gorgeous items out already beautiful items.
What you will need to consider
One thing to remember is that when deciding to pleat is that certain fabrics pleat better than others. A nice crisp cotton or linen will pleat wonderfully, creating nicely formed folds, and irons up beautifully, whereas something a little more slinky or slippery like satin will not hold those folds so beautifully. So keep in mind crisp fabrics work great and slippery fabrics are difficult.
Pleats are great for adding shape to any item. If you are going for a sleek look, using large pleats are a great asset. It will help the fabric lay flatter and help create a clean overal look. Small pleats throughout a garment can help create a look that is loose and empire waist design.
Adding pleats will help give your item movement, creating the illusion that the garment itself is moving instead of just the person inside of it. You will also need to remember you adding fabric to create this characteristic in the garment. Remember as children how we would spin around and watch our dresses poof up, well this is the same movement you are putting into every item you add a pleat to. Use that inner child and create something spectacular for the child or woman that is going to wear that item. Help her to feel like she can release her inner child and go with that. Movement is a great way to help you and her express herself. Sorry If I sound corney here.
As you are considering what sort of movement and shape you want to add to your garment, you need to also think which direction you want this to go in. You can fold your pleats all in one direction or fold them in facing each other or even have them going in all directions.
I like to turn my pleats facing the direction that that side of the garment is facing, right side of item, means my pleats face right, left side goes left, but hey I am peculiar that way.
Making a pleat
This is basically a very simple process of folding, pinning, ironing, and then sewing everything down. You may want to start off with keeping your pleats even, unless you like to make things look off center and having it all different measures. That is me. Make sure to keep your iron hot, you will return to it several times. You may want to hem your item before you add your pleats, it will prove to be slightly difficult when you go to hem your item after you have added your pleats, epecially on short items or long pleated items.
Now there are several types of pleats and ways to create these pleats. I am will try my best to describe these and I hope you can use these after you have read this.
Pleating with topstitching
Find the center of the front of the garment and then fold your pleats outward, evenly and toward the side of the garment they are facing. Pin your pleats as you go, and iron them all down really well to make the pleats crisp and flat.
Sew your pleats down on the fabric. At the point where you want the pleats to seperate from the fabric, stop sewing them down and topstitch each pleat beyond the point of anchoring.
To do this find the middle of your fabric, pick to equally distant points and bring those points together, pin and iron in place. Flip over and sew the edge of each side of the pleat down with what will be a hidden stitch. This will help hold the shape of the pleat as well as fasten your contrasting fabric to your garment. Then anchor the pleat at the top, fold over the top edge and sew across. To get a differant look do the same thing but in the reverse.
Here you just sort of make folds in which ever size you want and then anchor it with a stitch across the top.
That is it ladies, go and incorporate this into your items and see how much more definition this gives them and whatever the result make sure you are having fun.