Easy Pleated Skirts
by Kicki S. Wehlóu
from Threads #64, pp. 40-42
A stylish and well-fitted pleated skirt, like those shown below, is a staple in the wardrobes of most women.
From playful to demure, the mood of the skirt is determined by the length and fullness you choose for it. And with the arrival of microfibers and other contemporary polyester fabrics that are almost indistinguishable from silk, the perfect pleated skirt is surprisingly easy to make and even easier to maintain. Since heat will actually change the shape of polyester fibers, you can set permanent, wash-proof pleats using just an iron and a press cloth.
|Washers and dryers can't harm these pleats. They're permanently heat-set with an ordinary iron.|
When you add a clever pressing aid called the Perfect Pleater, the pleating is as quick to set up as it is easy to press in place. In fact, the entire skirt-making process should take less than an afternoon. If you don't use the pleater, you can still make pleats by pinning and folding on a padded surface; however, the process will be less accurate and more time-consuming.
No pattern needed
It's isn't necessary to use a pattern to make a pleated skirt, since all its pieces are perfect rectangles. All you'll need to do is measure your waist and hips and choose a skirt length. Three to four skirt lengths of 45-in.-wide material is usually sufficient. Any all-polyester fabric will work, from the cheapest stuff to the most extravagant. You'll also need fusible interfacing for the waistband (I prefer lightweight knit fusibles for polyester), buttons for the side closure, and a piece of thin, cotton fabric about 1 ft. wide and a little longer than your skirt length for a press cloth.
You'll need to cut a waistband the length of your waist plus overlap (2 x 1-1/4 in. = 2-1/2 in.) and seam allowances (2 x 5/8 in. = 1-1/4 in.), and twice the width of the finished band plus seam allowances. Interface the band so that the skirt can be pinned to it after pleating. You can usually save yardage by cutting the waistband on the crossgrain, depending on the fabric.
Pleat individual panels, not the whole skirt
Here, in a nutshell, are the steps for making a pleated skirt: Pleat individual rectangles of skirt-length fabric and join them to make up the desired circumference. Attach a waistband, join the ends into a tube, and add a button closure.
How long is each panel?-Once you settle on a skirt length, add 1-3/8 in. (which equals the waistline seam allowance plus a 3/4-in. hem). To make sure that your fabric panels are perfectly on grain, tear the fabric across the grain instead of cutting it (snip the selvage at the measured length and tear across).
How many panels?-Using the skirt-length Perfect Pleater from Clotilde, you can choose pleat widths in increments of 3/4 in. (3/4 in., 1-1/2 in., 2-1/4 in., and so on), all with 1-1/4-in. returns (the depth of the folded-under part of the pleat). I typically choose 3/4-in. pleats, which will reduce a 45-in.-wide fabric to about 17 in., including seam allowances at each end so that the panels can be joined invisibly. I want a total of 38 in. of pleated width at the hips (including 2 in. of ease), so two full panels and one partial panel give me the required width.
The number of whole or partial panels you'll need depends on your figure and the pleat width you've selected. To test, pleat a paper strip that's cut the width of your fabric.