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Box Pleats – A New Adventure

As much as I love pleated skirts or tops, I’ve avoided making them. My last attempt at box pleats, specifically, ended up as gathers. I just couldn’t get the buggers straight. Other pleats have never stayed pressed, so what’s the point?

My drawing of the top that inspired my box pleat experiment
My drawing

But my friend Nancy Scott showed me this really cute top that had a collar with box pleats and I wanted to make something like it. I wasn’t going to buy the top she’d shown me – it was for kids. I drew a copy of the top for future reference. Then, my beloved husband got me a professional gravity-feed iron for my birthday this past summer. This sucker presses like nothing else I’ve ever used. Which means the pleats might actually stay and given the design, it could be okay if they don’t.

Which means it’s time to try box pleats again.

The current attempt

So I have. Now, the blouse I’m making is part of a larger project that involves the dress form my beloved spouse got me over a year ago for Christmas. I was, alas, too busy actually draping a bodice on my new dress form to actually take any pictures of me doing so. But I created a pattern block from the draping experiment and drew two patterns off of it, based on a couple tops I’d seen in stores, plus the top that got me working on the pleats again.

The folds of regular pleats usually all go in one direction, like on a kilt. With box pleats, the folds go in opposite directions from the centers. The fold at the top of a man’s shirt is a box pleat.

What box pleats look like, plus my wonderful iron

One of the things that makes pleating a royal pain in the tushie is getting the folds straight. Getting anything straight – seams, topstitching, pin tucks – is not one of my gifts. But I discovered that I had a little giz-watchy that would help. It’s a little seam allowance gauge. I must have ordered it from some catalog, but I do not remember which one and when I got it, did not find it that useful.

I found a use for it. It made it really easy to measure my box pleats, then fold them straight. Okay, maybe the fact that I was putting them into a relatively narrow bit of fabric (the sleeve cap in the photos) probably helped, too.

Folding the box pleats

I started from the center of the cap. Oh. Note that I accidentally narrow-hemmed the edge that will eventually be sewn into the armhole of my blouse. But it won’t show, so I’m good.

I folded the box, then used the gauge to tell me where the next fold should go, then folded the rest of the fabric over the gauge and pressed. You can probably find a YouTube video showing this better than I can, except for using the gauge to keep everything straight. A metal ruler would also work to keep longer pleats straight. You can press metal. Just don’t use plastic. That would melt under the iron.

And that was it. Whether it will look good on the blouse and whether the pleats will stay nice and crisp remains to be seen. But I’m pretty jazzed about what I have so far.

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