Cloning Designer Garments, couture sewing, creating designer trim, Uncategorized

Create Your Own Custom Pleated Trim

To create this Gucci inspired silk crepe de chine shirt, I needed to find pleated ribbon trim. Where do you find such trim in the right color, width, etc.? It’s much easier to make a custom pleating board and make your own.

Pink Shirt Front closeup

I started with a length of drapery heading. It’s a stiff buckram used to support pleats in drapes and worked great for this. Cut of a length about three times the length of your finished pleater board. You don’t need to make it more than about 4-5 inches long. I started with about 13 inches of buckram.

Pleating lines Pleating folds Pleating folds 2

Mark parallel lines (I used a water soluble marker rather than a lead pencil. I might want to use this for white trim later and was afraid of pencil marks rubbing off). Mine are 3/8 inch apart. Score the lines with scissors to make folding easier. Line one folds up, line 2 folds down, line three is a placement line. Score and fold the length of buckram.

Pleater interfacing Compleated pleater Insert ribbon

Press the pleats flat. Fuse a stiff interfacing to the wrong side of the pleater. The right side will have little louvers that ribbon or fabric can be tucked into. When you’ve inserted trim into all the louvers give it a press, let cool and remove. If a longer length of trim is needed, tuck the last pleat into the left side louver and continue.

Remove ribbon Stitch pleats

Notice the pleats reverse direction. I did this at the center back collar so that the pleats would fold towards the front on both right and left sides of the finished collar.

Complete back collar

Form enough pleats to reach from center front to center back of the collar. Then flip the ribbon over to the “wrong side”, line up your last pleat, and continue with the opposite side facing up. A box pleat will from at center back. I also made sure the pleats on the cuffs were facing towards the back of the garment.

I like to use a finer thread for the buttonholes; 60 weight cotton works well. Hopefully all goes well and the buttonhole foot holds the fabric securely. Sometimes disaster is lurking and the fabric slips.

Buttonholes Bad stitching

Getting those tiny stitches out without damaging the now complete shirt is nerve-racking. I discovered a new use for my furriers knife.

furrier knifeisolate stitches iso;ate stitches 2

This little baby is SHARP and does a wonderful job of precision cutting. I used a fine gauge machine needle to isolate a few stitches, then carefully cut the threads using the machine needle as a buffer to protect the fabric. This works better if you work in sections. This knife is also my new tool for cutting buttonholes. The blade is super thin and makes cutting a narrow slit easy.

threads removed

After the stitches have been removed and fabric pressed there’s almost no sign of the mishap. Work a new buttonhole and the disaster is averted. I also found that increasing pressure on the buttonhole foot helped avoid this happening in the first place.

A couple of my blogging friends have explored the world of pleating. Jacqueline of Words to Stitch By mentioned this book: Complete Pleats by Paul Jackson. There is a chapter detailing his method for making pleating molds and steam setting pleats in fabric. Doing yardage is probably best left to the pros, but I’m excited to try a few of the ideas on smaller sections of fabric.

Poppykettle just wrote about her visit to the pleating shop in Melbourne. Melanie posted some wonderful photos of the process. I’ve used International Pleating in NYC for large projects like the skirt for my mother-of-the groom dress a couple of years ago. The pleats have stayed perfect even after being covered with dust and sand and a douse in the sink to clean. Use synthetic fabrics only if you want to try a pleated project. Natural fibers will pleat but the pleats won’t last through the cleaning process.

Pleating Front Pleating side



23 thoughts on “Create Your Own Custom Pleated Trim”

  1. Mary, I enjoy the many facets of your personal genius–creative, mechanical and verbal, to be sure. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. The instructions on making pleating board were fascinating in their simplicity, a hallmark of superb planning. Cotton thread comes in different weights? Where do you find it? What is a furriers knife and why did you happen to have one?

    1. Red Rock Threads carries Aurifil 80 weight cotton and Mettler 60 weight. I often use a finer weight for edge finishes, hemming and other times I want a very fine thread. A furriers knife is used when working with furs, either faux or real. You cut only the backing or skin leaving the hairs intact. Thanks for reading.

  2. Extremely informative as always. This is the first time I have read in a sewing blog about using a furriers knife. I took fur sewing classes just after getting my apparel design degree, and my old lovable, coke bottle be-speckled instructor would use that knife like a surgeon. I still have the 1908 vintage fur sewing machine he helped me purchase back in 1980. Do you actually work with real fur? I never bought a real furriers knife, I just buy the large quantity packs of razor blades from WAWAK, and change blades frequently when cutting leather. Again, wonderful blog info, please give us more!

    1. I don’t do fur coats but have done fur trims such as collars and cuffs. The furriers knife is made of brass and has a nice weight and feel to it. The pointed blades seem a little thinner and more precise than regular single edge razor blades. I sew by hand with Silamide thread as I don’t do enough to warrant a fur machine. Is yours a Bonis? Thanks for reading.

  3. Hi Mary!
    This silk blouse is just gorgeous, and yes, oh so Gucci!! I have lately noticed an appearance of silk blouses in many designers’ collections, and seeing these incorporated with higher waist treatments on skirts and trousers. It’s very exciting to see this shift in fashion. What intrigues me about the work on your own silk blouse is how you can customize details such as this fabulous pleat-work you’ve incorporated into this piece. And that centering detail at the back of the neck, the orientation of the pleats on the cuffs, well, such attention to design elements such as these so raise the work to that couture level that I admire so much.
    I like the template you created for producing the pleat-work. I’ll have to keep in mind the use of a stiff buckram that you used to mold the pleats with. Thanks for that info! Pleat work is another means of expression in a personally designed garment and I’ve often felt pleats to be overlooked as a fashion element to incorporate creatively in modern design. It’s so nice to find designers such as Gucci re-intrepreting pleats/patterns/&colours – and this comment from a person who wears black 98% of the time!
    Your formal gown is also fabulous! I do love an open back. Very fine work!


    1. I’m loving the book you mentioned and am looking forward to trying out some new techniques. In the how-to-do-this-at home chapter, he mentions using two layers of heavy paper to form the pleats. To me pleats look a little more tailored than ruffles or flounces and are a look I prefer. I enjoy watching your creations take shape. Thanks.

  4. Mary, your work is amazing. One of your older posts was a Chanel style black and white plaid jacket in which you added studs to it. The fabric was a black and white boucle. Do you happen to remember which pattern you used. I am also a size 38 in a pattern and love the design of that one. Thanks. I seem to remember reading you altered the pattern. Do you sell the design by chance? Thanks for all your inspiration and knowledge.

    1. Thank you Wendy. I think I used Vogue 7975 as a starting point and drafted the bias inset. Email me at mf953 at aol dot com and I’ll try and help either by walking you through the draft or doing a custom pattern for you.

  5. Always worth dropping in to see what cool things you are working on and this week you did not disappoint, Mary. Removing sloppy buttonholes is just so tedious and using your trick of a fine needle under the stitches and a fur knife (yes I have one too) is genius! Pleats…we need more!!!!! Happy new year!

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