katherine summer * couturière

Fine Dressmaking in the San Francisco Bay Area

17 January 2013

Best Cartridge Pleat Tutorial Pt. 1

Did you see my other post about Discarded to Divine?  Did you?  Did you?  Huh?

I haven't settled on a finalized design for the gown, although I'm pretty sure about the coat.  But I do know that I'll be utilizing cartridge pleats, which were used extensively in historical costuming from the 16th century onwards.

You can see them on the back of the outer garment in Girl with a Pearl Earring, which is the inspiration image for this year's event.
Vermeer De Young

 It is the technique used to create Elizabethan ruff collars.
Cartridge pleat technique

There are contemporary uses as well.
cadet blue skirt

Cartridge pleats are fabulous for creating fit and then volume.  For instance, the seafoam faille that I am using is 49.5" wide.  When I gathered it with 3/8" deep pleats, that amount compresses down to 5".  So approximately every 10" of flat fabric pleats down into 1".  This means that if you have a fitted waistline of 25", and you do 3/8" pleats, you will have 250" of fabric, which is 6.9 yards.  So thank goodness I have a ton of this stuff.

 You must determine how big you want your pleats.  You can do all the math before beginning, but I personally prefer to create a sample, measure that, and then go from there.

One of the fabulous things about cartridge pleats is that you can stitch the edge down in multiple ways for different effects.  You can situate them so that the flat edge created by the pleats is flush against the surface.  As you can see, they stand out quite a bit when you do it this way.  Since my sample is short, it doesn't fall at all, but if this were a skirt, it would stand out a bit from the body before the fabric would break and fall.  The type of fabric that you use also determines how much resulting volume you will achieve.
 pleating sample

Or you can lay them flat like this.  The small flat egde stands out, but then the fabric falls down without breaking.

positioning pleats

The most common method used for creating cartridge pleats (the only method that I found for numerous online tutorials as well as in my my fabric manipulation book) involves applying two or more rows of evenly spaced gathering stitches, which look like this:

stitching cartridge pleats

I made the marks with a pencil because my white wax crayon doesn't show up well enough on either the muslin or the faille.  This means that the marks are permanant and must go on the underside of the work.  See how the stitches are evenly spaced front and back?  They run on one side for 3/8" and then on the other side for 3/8".

pleats through the center

Here you can clearly see how the gathering threads sit directly in the center of the pleats once compressed.

bad pleats

This was my first sample.  I was experimenting with different pleat depths.  It is 1/2" on the left side and 1" deep on the right side.

The problem was that it was difficult to handle once the pleats were created.  They were shifty, and I felt like I needed to stabilize the fronts and backs.  

pearl grosgrain ribbon

There are certainly good reasons for creating your pleats with this method.  Check out this statement necklace that I found on Pinterest.  In this case you can see that the folds of the pleats need to be loose.

I've been imagining creating trims for this project that are  exactly like this.  The beaded trim that I made a long time ago also has this fan shape with the central spheres.

What I really like about this is that the chunky pearls look to be the same size as the pearl earring in the painting.  Now I just need to find chunky pearls this big and in a grey to match the lace or a seafoam to match the faille. 

amazonite beads 

I had been considering doing the cartridge pleats on the coat with a very similar method as well, thinking that this would be a beautiful detail near the sleeve hem and where the body of the jacket attaches to the yoke, but I didn't care much for the way the sample came out.  Maybe I'd like it better if I had multiple pleats between each bead instead of a 1:1 separation.

best way to cartridge pleat 

Back to basic cartridge pleats.  This is the other way to do it, where the gathering stitches run close to the foldline of the pleat.  I work with 2 threaded needles at once instead of doing the first row of gathers and then the second.  Long thin beading needles pierce the fabric more easily than my regular needles.  They slip right between the weft threads of the faille.

Working with 2 needles like this as opposed to working your stitches around the entire piece of fabric (which is probably huge since it compresses so much in the end) makes it easy to pleat as you go. Your thread length is more manageable this way too.

best pleat tutorial 
When the pleats are gathered at the edge, that edge is more stable and easier to stitch to whatever you end up stitching it to.

The back side of the pleats are unsecured, but if you really want to be psycho, you can run gathering threads through the back of your pleats too.  Even so, I still find this method more stable than the other way.

best pleating tutorial 
As you pleat, this is what it looks like on the right side--the side that will show on the outside.

marking cartridge pleats
This is the wrong side.  You can see my stitch placement marks.

Voila.  50" compressed down to 5".

gathering ratio

So this was part 1 of my cartridge pleat tutorial.  It was all going to be one tutorial, but it was getting so long, so I decided to break it into two parts. Part two deals with more specifics of how to do the measuring and marking for a sample, and I'll link to it as soon as I get it up. 

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