I hate cartridge pleats! Box pleats, fine! Knife pleats, piece of cake, but gauging? Looks like I gathered it & slapped it on. What am I doing wrong? ~ Sylvia Shope Byers
Sylvia’s frustration was pouring through her Facebook message.
“I’m trying to make them small and lovely, but I might be making them too big?… Maybe I’m tacking the pleats wrong?”
I knew exactly what she was talking about… and the apparent thwarting of a perfectly pleated skirt by costume gremlins. So what to do for this issue? Here are five tips to follow for beautiful gauging.
1. The closer your pleat markings/dots, the smaller the pleats and the more they resemble gathering. Put more fabric between the vertical dot marks.
How close together your dots are depends on the look you want and how big your pleats turn out visually. Cartridge pleating is a technique for even pleats to draw a large amount of fabric (skirt panels) down to a small measurement (waistband).
If you want a pleated look but with the cartridge method, place your dots further apart, like 3/8″ or ½” or even more. This will take up more skirt width. Here the pleat folds inside will stack on themselves creating a knife pleated look on the outside.
But in the other direction, dots closer than ¼” will produce a very small pleat fold that “crushes” easily against the others and resembles gathering.
Play with a few dot widths on your fabric to get it right. Which leads to #2…
2. Take your fabric into consideration for pleat width.
A sheer dress looks lovely when finely cartridge pleated to the bodice waistband. If you peer closer, those pleats nearly look like they are gathered.
Some fabrics, like lightweight cottons & linens, despite smaller pleats simply gather up closer together. One solution is to add another skirt panel so you can widen your pleats a bit for a less gathered look and one more of pleating, which is what you want, right?
On the same hand, you’ll want to allow for wider dot placement with thicker fabrics such as wool. Too narrow markings will leave wools looking gathered.
3. Start your top row of dot markings about ¼” from the top edge of the skirt.
The closer that top row is to where you sew it to the waistband, they more it will likely start looking like gathering. Keep the rows down from the top enough. You want the pleats to be precisely formed.
4. Have two or three rows of stitching.
This may seem like a “duh” but seriously. If you only put in one row – even if it’s perfectly set at ¼” from the top and each dot ½” apart – it’s going to come out looking like gathers.
Because that’s what gathering is: the in-and-out motion of thread that the fabric is then slid upon to scrunch the fabric together. Cartridge pleats are formed BECAUSE of the two or more rows the fabric is sliding on.
5. Tack the pleat folds on the INSIDE of the waistband (19th Century skirts).
Put right side of skirt to right side of waistband and sew the outer pleat fold to the waistband edge. To further escape the gathered look, pin first at quarter marks and spread the pleat folds away so they are all even along the line.
Pleats on the inside allow them to “pop out” away from the hips giving you a nice, even fullness to your skirt at that level. Gathering, even when very full, still has a sort of “flatness” to it when on the top of a skirt. Cartridge pleats give you that wonderful visual depth.
How has your success been with cartridge pleating? What are other issues you’ve experienced?