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How to Sew a Basic Kick Pleat

Threads magazine - 164 - Dec. 2012/Jan. 2013

In this excerpt from Threads #164 (December 2012/January 2013) contributor Pamela Leggett demonstrates how to sew an essential garment detail: the kick pleat.

A few years ago, I was teaching a sewing class in which the students drafted and sewed their own pencil skirts. I wrote most of the class instructions, but there was one aspect of the class I thought would be easy to find and relate from another source: the directions for a simple kick pleat.

I checked pattern instruction sheets, my sewing books, and DVDs. Surprisingly, I found that in its basic form, this construction detail is overlooked. So I created my own step-by-step tutorial for sewing a kick pleat.

My technique is simple. I mark and stabilize key areas, then sew and press for crisp corners. This kick pleat is a detail you can add to a self-made or commercial pattern. If a kick pleat is included in the pattern you are making, you may want to follow these simple steps for sewing it.

Draft your own kick pleat

A kick pleat is an opening in a seam backed by a fabric fold or extensions from the seam allowances that form a pleat backing. If it is without a pleat backing, it is called a vent. If your pattern doesn’t already include the necessary extensions, it is easy to add them.

1. Add the kick pleat extensions to both vertical seam allowances. The extensions’ vertical edges are parallel to the seam allowances, with the lower horizontal edges continuing to the hem edge. Make the upper extension edges at a 45-degree angle to the seam.

2. Vary the extensions’ size for your garment and style. Kick pleat extensions are typically 1-1⁄2 inches wide and long enough to reach from the hem to just above the knee.

3. Copy the garment pattern, adding the planned kick-pleat extensions to both seam allowances. Or, cut two extensions from paper strips and tape them to the pattern edge.

Sew it simply
Fold the hem, finish the extension edges, then lap the kick-pleat extensions and sew them together at the top. Hem interfacing is optional, but I like to use fusible interfacing strips to reinforce the hemline and one of the kick-pleat extensions. I put the interfacing above the hem so that the blind-hem stitches grab into the interfacing and not the fabric. The key is to use a good fusible interfacing that won’t separate from the fabric and with a weft insertion for the stitches to grab.

1. Mark the hemline on the wrong side. Then, also on the wrong side, draw the seamline on the outermost extension. On most garments, the left kick-pleat side overlaps the right.

2. Fuse a 2-1⁄2-inch-wide fusible interfacing strip around the hem’s wrong side. (Perfect Fuse Medium, available at PalmerPletsch.com or PamelasPatterns.com). Place it with one long edge 1⁄2 inch over the hemline. Interface the extensions on the kickpleat overlap, extending the interfacing 1⁄2 inch over the seamline and to the hemline.

3. Fold the hem along the hemline on both pieces. Press. Fold the kickpleat overlap along the seamline and press.

4. Fold the kick pleat underlap hem allowance to the skirt’s right side. Stitch the hem allowance and the underlap’s vertical edge together with a 1⁄4-inch seam allowance. Press the seam open on a point presser. Turn the hem allowance right side out.

5. Fold the 1⁄4-inch seam allowance above the underlap hem to the wrong side, and finish with a three-step zigzag stitch. Repeat the edge finishing along the kick-pleat overlap’s edge.

6. Turn the kick-pleat overlap extension over the skirt’s right side along the foldline. Stitch along the hem foldline to join the extension and skirt. Trim the overlap, as shown. Press the seam open with a point presser, and turn the hem allowance right side out.

7. Sew the diagonal seam to join the pleat extensions. Pivot the work, and sew the vertical centerback seam.

8. Fold the kick-pleat overlap extension along the seamline. On the inside, the kick-pleat underlap is flat and uppermost. Clip the garment seam allowance just above the kick-pleat underlap so the back seam can be pressed open. Press the seam open and the kick pleat as folded.

9. From the right side, topstitch the diagonal seam. Sew through three layers-the skirt and both extensions.


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  1. User avater
    aidala | | #1

    I have been waiting for this information to appear in Threads for some time now. As soon as I can I'll incorporate it to my next skirt. Instructions make a lot of sense. Thank you, Threads..

  2. sarahcolvin | | #2

    Good stuff. Does this work with your lining instructions given in issue 150??

  3. User avater
    Cyd88 | | #3

    These are the kind of posts that keep me re-checking myself and picking up new tips, so Thanks! The only thing I would suggest is in step #5 where you hem 1/4 inch with a zig-zag, cut some Stitch Witchery tape down to 1/4 inch and press that in the fold, instead. It adds weight, won't curl, the raw edge blends right in like it was lined and it stops any fraying.

  4. diannamc | | #4

    This is an excellent article and an improvement over other instructions I have seen. However, I usually line my pencil skirts and I am not sure how to add lining given the instructions. Do I complete the kick pleat as shown and then add the lining, hand stitching the edges or is there a more elegant solution?

    Please add information on how to sew the lining for a kick pleat or produce a future article on an elegant kick pleat for a lined skirt.
    Thank you.

  5. JoFray | | #5

    I am only an intermediate sewer, and I found these instructions challenging. It was hard for me to visualize how each step was going to work. I photocopied the illustrations and then wrote out each step separately - there are actually 24!

    Then I put the number of each instruction on my copy of the illustration and proceeded to make a sample. The result is truly elegant and worth the effort. Thank you.

  6. Sewer2012 | | #6

    Thank you very much for this detailed tutorial.

  7. User avater
    Sew2pro | | #7

    If you wish to add lining to you skirt but still need that pleat, you may wish to look at my tute

    I'm not sure if this is the best method, but this is how it's been done on an RTW dress of mine.

  8. Lucasmartin | | #8

    Thank you very much for this detailed tutorial of Good stuff

  9. User avater
    desujaalbert | | #9

    Good stuff.

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